13th Sunday in Ordinary Time [B]

The Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time [B]
Wisdom 1:13-15; 2:23-24  ―  2 Corinthians 8:7,9,13-15  ―  Mark 5:21-43
July 1, 2012

“For God formed man to be imperishable;
the image of his own nature he made him.”  [Wisdom 2:23]

                In the fall after he was elected to the papacy, Pope Benedict spoke on the topic of the Word of God.  In this context, he spoke about the practice of lectio divina, the Church’s practice of praying the Sacred Scriptures (not studying the Word of God, but praying the Word of God).  Towards the end of his address, Pope Benedict insisted to those listening to him that:  “If [the ancient tradition] of lectio divina is effectively promoted, I am convinced that it will bring to the church a new spiritual springtime.”[1]
Lectio divina begins simply with choosing a brief passage of Scripture to pray over.  But once you’ve chosen the passage of Scripture for your lectio divina, the next step is to listen.  Listen to the Word of God.  Listen, either by speaking it aloud and hearing your own voice, or by reading it silently and hearing the words in your mind.  But in either case, even though it’s your voice that you hear, it’s God’s Word that you listen to.

11th Sunday in Ordinary Time [B]

The Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time [B]
Ezekiel 17:22-24 ¾  2 Corinthians 5:6-10  ¾  Mark 4:26-34
June 17, 2012

“With many such parables he spoke the Word to them
as they were able to understand it.”  [Mark 4:33]

                Last month, one of the many craftsmen in our parish—and one of his three sons—made by hand a pamphlet rack for the vestibule.  Another craftsman from our parish stained it to match the beauty of the vestibule.  In this pamphlet rack, among the several that cover different topics of our Faith, is a pamphlet titled, “The Secret to Making Scripture Come Alive: The Practice of Lectio Divina”.
                Lectio Divina is a form of praying Sacred Scripture:  not just reading Scripture, but praying it.  At first glance, we might not think there’s any difference between “reading Scripture” and “praying Scripture”.  However, there is potentially a radical difference.  It’s the same difference that exists between knowing Scripture and believing Scripture.   Just imagine for a moment a dedicated atheist.  This atheist sees himself as doing battle against religion.  So like any warrior, he puts into practice one of the most basic principles of combat:  “Know thine enemy”.

Sacred Heart [B]

The Sacred Heart of Jesus [B]
Hosea 11:1,3-4,8c-9  +  Ephesians 3:8-12,14-19  +  John 19:31-37

               Today we celebrate the “Sacred Heart” of Jesus.
               Jesus’ Heart is “sacred”.  To be “sacred” means “to be set aside for a special purpose.”  So, then:  what is the purpose of Jesus’ heart?  The heart is obviously a human element of who Jesus is.  It certainly expresses the love of God the Son, for as Saint John the Divine tells us, God is love.  As God, in his divinity, the Son of course has no physical heart—we can say only that the Godhead possesses a heart in a metaphorical sense—but in His humanity Jesus of course possesses a heart, beating within His Body, pumping His life-blood to all its parts.
               What does it mean then to say that Jesus, as human, has a heart?  It means that He is capable of suffering.  To have a heart means to be able to be broken, to be weak, to be vulnerable.  This is the breadth and length and height and depth of Christ’s love:  that He would carry a Cross and die upon it for us, in order to open the gates of Heaven for our darkened, sinful hearts.
               This is the special purpose of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the reason for the Incarnation—this is what Jesus’ heart was set aside for:  that it would be broken, that it would be pierced.  But far be it from us to simply worship the image of the Sacred Heart as an image to be given thanks.  The Sacred Heart is a person to be imitated.
               We do not celebrate the feast of “the Sacred Intellect of Jesus”; nor do we celebrate the feast of “the Sacred Memory.”  We celebrate the “Sacred Heart” because the greatest of the capacities of God (and man) is the capacity to will, to choose, and God’s will always chooses love, because God is love, and because love consists in this:  not that we have loved God, but that He has loved us, and has sent His Son as an offering for our sins.
               The Sacred Heart is a person to be imitated.  The heart pumps blood to the entire body, and as His members we share in that Most Precious Blood, most especially as we share in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  This celebration of the Eucharist:  this sacred meal is “set aside”:  its purpose is our sanctification, that our hearts might grow more able of being broken for the salvation of others, and—in the words of St. Paul—attain to the fullness of God Himself.

Corpus Christi [B]

Corpus Christi [B]
Exodus 24:3-8  ―  Hebrews 9:11-15  ―  Sequence  ―  Mark 14:12-16,22-26
June 10, 2012

“…how much more will the blood of Christ… cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.  [Hebrews 9:14]

Sister Joseph Mies, Sister Assumpta Betzen, Sister Donata Kerschen.  You recognize their names….  Sister Denise Mohr, Sister Mathias Schneider, Sister Sophia Stockemer.  You recognize their last names, if not their first, because they grew up in our parish.  They were baptized here at St. Mark’s:  Sister Catherine Girrens, Sister Celestine Roths.  Some of you, or your parents, were classmates with them:  Sister Melina Strunk, Sister Wilfreda Stump.  Some of your grandfathers danced with them at Andale High before they entered the convent:  Sister Ellen Thome, Sister Rosalia Voegeli.
               As little girls, they knelt against this Communion rail, and received Jesus for the very first time in Holy Communion:  Sister Caritas Betzen, Sister Helena Lies.  At their First Holy Communion, they probably had curls under their veils.  When they became sisters, their curls were cut before they put on their religious veils:  just one small sacrifice of many made during long lives of sacrifice for Jesus.  Sister Anslema Voegeli, Sister Dolores Strunk:  they attended Mass with their families every Sunday at St. Mark’s, sitting in the same pew, week after week until that day when they woke up, and heard God ask them to spend the rest of their lives on earth as consecrated religious.  God loved them so much, that He asked them to leave this parish, to follow Him, and to serve His people wherever there might be a need.
               St. Mark’s sisters left their families and their parish to serve elsewhere.  This week, the Lord is rewarding their sacrifices, by sending sisters into St. Mark’s Parish, to live here, and worship here, and to serve your children and grandchildren by word and example:  to lead your children and grandchildren closer to the Jesus they love with all their hearts.
X   X   X
               The beauty of a diamond is even more clear when you hold it up to the light of the sun.  Turning the diamond in your hand, it makes the sun seem even more brilliant than usual, which we might not think possible.  The sun’s brilliance shines through every facet of the diamond.  Both the diamond and the sun shine more brilliantly because of the diamond’s nature.
               Today the Church throughout the world is celebrating the Mystery that even today is known by its Latin name:  Corpus Christi, the Body of Christ.  This phrase, Corpus Christi, is like a diamond.  The light of our Catholic Faith shines through the Body of Christ to let the brilliance of God’s love shine in our world.
If you were to say the phrase “the Body of Christ” to any Christian, the first thing to come to mind might be one of many different things, because the Mystery of the Body of Christ has many different facets.  If you were to say “the Body of Christ” to a group of Catholics, most of them likely would think of the Holy Eucharist first.  Maybe some of those Catholics, as well as other Christians, might instead think first of the Church, or perhaps the Sacrament of Marriage, based on Saint Paul’s teaching of the Ephesians.  He explains to them that “no one hates his own flesh but rather nourishes and cherishes it, even as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.  ‘For this reason a man shall leave (his) father and (his) mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’  This is a great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and the church.”[1]
               As the Church celebrates this Holy Day in honor of Corpus Christi, she wants us to enjoy the brilliance of this Mystery.  The primary focus of this feast is the Sacrament of the Eucharist.  But the Church doesn’t want us to stop there.  She wants you to appreciate this Mystery in its fullness, so that you can grow in your love for the Body of Christ.  The more you grow in this love, the more the love of Christ will have space to grow in you.
               The fullness of the Mystery of Corpus Christi can’t be seen until we see that all of its facets are related to one another.  We can see that the phrase “the Body of Christ” refers to the Holy Eucharist, and to the Church, and to the Sacrament of Marriage.  But we don’t see the fullness of this Mystery until we see how each of these three relates to the other two.  These three are all inter-related.
               This year, as we here at St. Mark’s celebrate the Mystery of Corpus Christi, focus on just one of its particular facets:  the witness of women religious within the Body of Christ.
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               Even if you’re not a Mies, Betzen, Mohr, Schneider, Stockemer, Strunk, Stump, Voegeli, or any of the other families from which our parish’s sisters have come, you may have been taught by the sisters who came to St. Mark’s.  You may remember one of our own, Sister Assumpta Betzen, who served here for many years.  But how many of our young parishioners today have been blessed to see a religious sister each week?  to hear them tell about the Jesus they love:  the Jesus who wants our children and grandchildren to experience His love?
               Religious women—consecrated sisters—are an indispensable part of the Mystery of Corpus Christi.  Of course, since the Second Vatican Council, their presence in the Church has greatly diminished.  But during that time since Vatican II, some new orders have flourished.  The Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary of Wichita didn’t exist as its own order until 1976.  In that year, in Los Angeles, three IHM sisters made the difficult decision to form an offshoot of the IHM order.  The IHM’s in Los Angeles had given up the religious habit, abandoned many of the disciplines of daily religious life, and strayed from Catholic teaching and liturgy.  But those three IHM sisters who came to Wichita at the invitation of Bishop David Maloney were determined to live faithfully the life they had vowed to God.  And they did.
The Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary of Wichita have been serving throughout our diocese—and growing within our diocese—for the past 36 years.  And now the IHM sisters want to move their motherhouse from Wichita to St. Mark’s.  In my conversations with her over the past few months, Mother Mary Magdalen at least twice has mentioned to me for how long the sisters have been looking for land in this “Fertile Crescent” of Catholicism that stretches northwest of Wichita.  They want their order to sink roots in our parish.  Will you help welcome them into our parish family?
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               This Wednesday Mother Mary Magdalen will sign the documents to take possession of eighty acres within our parish boundaries.  Next Sunday, Mother will describe for us the sisters’ tentative plans in a letter inserted in our bulletin.  I don’t want to give away all their plans, but their initial hope is to build their novitiate on their St. Mark’s property over the next year.  Then, the IHM’s novices, and the professed sisters in charge of their formation, will live in our parish and attend daily Mass here.  The reason this would work out so well is because the professed sisters who teach have to attend Mass early in the morning in order to get to their schools on time.  The novices, on the other hand, follow a schedule completely at the discretion of their mother superior, and so they have more flexibility in their daily routine.
               One Sunday next month, all of the IHM sisters will attend 10:00 a.m. Mass here at St. Mark’s, and Mother Mary Magdalen will speak to us after Holy Communion about their move into our parish.  Following that Mass, the Altar Society will host a reception to welcome them.  In the meantime, you can show your hospitality to “our sisters” by bringing non-perishable items from their wish list.  If you didn’t get a copy of the wish list last weekend, there are copies in the pamphlet rack in back.  There are two drop-off boxes under the tables in the back of church, and one in the parish  hall, next to the office.  These boxes are blue with the image of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
               This week a new chapter begins in the life of St. Mark Parish.  A hundred years from now, when your grandchildren’s grandchildren read about the “early years” of our parish, they’ll note certain years as pivotal.  1875:  St. Mark the Evangelist Parish is established.  1887:  the Diocese of Wichita is established.  1903:  the current church is dedicated.  2003:  the Parish Life Center is dedicated.  2012:  the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary move into St. Mark Parish.
               This is a new chapter, but not the final chapter.  There are many more chapters to be written, and on those pages will appear the names of many other religious sisters, faithful laypeople, and their pastors:  praying and working together, to let the love of the Body Christ grow in our corner of the world.

[1] Ephesians 5:29-32.

The Most Holy Trinity [B]

The Most Holy Trinity [B]
Deuteronomy 4:32-34,39-40  ¾  Romans 8:14-17  ¾  Matthew 28:16-20
June 3, 2012

“…you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear,
but you received a Spirit of adoption….” [Romans 8:15]

               During most of the Church year, we celebrate the “drama” of Christ’s life.  For example, when we celebrate the feasts of the Christmas season, it’s easy to picture in our hearts the drama that begins with the angel Gabriel confronting young Mary with good news from God.  Nine months later, ends with the perilous journey to Bethlehem, the birth of Jesus, and the frenzied flight from the murderous threats of the jealous King Herod.  All of these events show faithful people doing extraordinary things for God.
               Similarly, the end of Jesus’ life is marked by high drama.  We can see in our minds the events of Holy Week:  Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem, his last meal, at which He instituted the Holy Eucharist, his retreat into the Garden of Gethsemani to pray to His heavenly Father, and His arrest there, having been betrayed by one of His apostles.  He is tried under the Roman Empire, sentenced to death, and crucified on the Cross.  But on the third day a miraculous event is announced:  Jesus of Nazareth has risen from the dead!
This is the good news of the Christian faith:  life is more powerful than death!  When we look at the Cross, we know that Christ, by choosing to die, conquers death.  This is the point of the Christian drama, and this is the message that Christ makes known throughout the forty days following His Resurrection.  After His Ascension to Heaven, the apostles gather with Mary in prayer, and ten days later they are filled with the Presence of the Holy Spirit, sent down from Heaven by the Father and the Son.
               All of this drama of salvation history, which we’ve celebrated during the past few months, has led us up to Pentecost, the birth of the Church.  All of this drama is only a prelude, as it were, to the story of the Church, a story that has been unfolding ever since that first Christian Pentecost almost 2000 years ago.  From the moment that the Holy Spirit filled the apostles’ hearts, minds, and souls, it became their mission to preach the Gospel throughout the world, and to do great things for God.  From that point on it was their mission to tell the whole world, through their words and actions, that life is stronger than death.
And throughout these past 2000 years, the drama of Christ’s life has been lived out in the lives of the saints.  Countless men and women have, in every century and in every country of the world, preached the good news about Christ’s Death and Resurrection, making sacrifices for the Faith.  Throughout the Church year, every saint has his or her own feast day, on which we recall the drama of that particular saint’s life.
All of this action and drama can be impressive, but it can also leave us wondering about ourselves.  We can begin to second-guess ourselves, and wonder, “What does my spiritual life amount to?  What have I done that amounts to anything spiritually?  Does my role in the drama of this Church really amount to very much?”  If you have ever wondered about this, then today’s feast of the Most Holy Trinity has something important for you to reflect on.
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                Our Catholic belief in the Trinity becomes very complex when we try to explain it.  But at its heart, this belief is really most simple, because the life of the Trinity amounts, when all is said and done, to one simple word:  “love” (perhaps better put as “charity”).  When we speak the word “love,” different people in the world might interpret this word in many different ways, but the Church has always said to the world that there is only one real type of love, and this love—caritas or “charity”—is the love that defines Who the Most Holy Trinity is.
               The Blessed Trinity—God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit—are infinite Love.  St. John says simply in his first letter:  God is love.[1]  Love is based on relationships, not on things given to others, nor on things done for others.  When we consider all the dramatic events done by the apostles, the prophets, and all the other saints throughout the ages (not to mention our Blessed Mother and Our Lord), we might be tempted to consider a person’s worth as being based upon his or her accomplishments in life.  Then it’s very easy to wonder why there is, relatively speaking, so little that we have accomplished spiritually.
               But this is putting the cart before the horse.  The reason that certain people have been saints is because of how much they loved, not what they accomplished in their lives.  Those who love God and others with their whole minds, hearts, and souls do great things for others, but those deeds flow out of their love.
At times we have to be reminded of this order of things—that we must love first and do things second—just as Jesus reminded Martha that while what she was doing—busying herself with the chores of the home—was all very good and necessary, what Mary had chosen—to sit in the presence of the Lord—was the better part.[2]  When we pray (whether in our homes, or in Adoration here at church), we dwell in God’s love.  By doing that, we grow in God’s love.   The more we grow in God’s love, the better equipped we are to deal with all the sacrifices of daily life that come our way during the week.  Without Him, we can do nothing.  With Him, and in Christ, we can love with an extraordinary love, and live the life of a saint.

[1] 1 John 4:8.
[2] Luke 10:42.

The parish I serve

<b>The parish I serve</b>
St. Mark the Evangelist Parish in Colwich, Kansas (Diocese of Wichita)