Sunday, September 10, 2017

September 10, 2017
The Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity
"I owe, I owe, so off to work I go."

That sentiment, plastered on the cars of many people who will be stuck in rush-hour traffic on the way to work Monday, seems to resonate with the majority of American workers. For many, work is a drudgery one must endure, rather than a vocation one can embrace. Certainly, I can relate between the two!

According to a 2016 survey, just 49.6 percent of Americans are satisfied with their jobs, which is actually the highest that number has been since 2005. In an age when job hunting is highly competitive, just landing one is a big deal. According to the numbers, it seems that liking the job you land is icing on the cake.

So what's the biggest downer about going to work?

According to another recent survey, it's not about the money. In fact, wages appear well down the list of things that employees tend to gripe about. What really makes the workday a bummer for many is the fact that their employers don't listen to them, don't really know them and don't take their input seriously. Employees don't feel like they're invested in the company's mission and there's no sense of mutual benefit for employers and employees in determining goals and outcomes. In other words, employees don't feel as though they're part of a team -- they're only worker bees who do what's required. It's the kind of thing that makes an employee feel like an interchangeable part in a machine. You are what you produce.

And then there's the relative value of one employee to another. As job markets get tighter and competition for jobs heats up, it's easy for workers to look around the other cubicles and compare themselves to their co-workers. That recent graduate occupying the next cube might be making as much as you -- even though you have more experience -- or have the boss's ear in a way you never could. All of this doesn't seem fair at all.

And maybe that's what all this dissatisfaction is really about. We want what's coming to us, or at least what we perceive we are "owed" for our work in terms of influence, value and compensation. Maybe it's because that, for us Americans, it's all about fairness.

We want to be valued in a fair way, equal to the standards and rubrics applied to our co-workers, and we especially want those who write our reviews and sign our checks to appreciate us -- fairly.

A disgruntled worker reading the parable of today's Gospel would likely see it as typical of the way the system works. You grind out a full day's work and some Johnny-come-lately gets the same wage as you do for a fraction of the work. To read the parable that way, however, betrays some of the bias we have about ourselves and our relative worth in comparison to others.

What Jesus is trying to teach us, however, is that real value isn't determined by things like one's resume, one's paycheck or one's seniority on the job. In a theocratic economy, real value isn't found by climbing to the top of the corporate ladder, but by holding the ladder for others.

The context for this parable takes us back to chapter 19. In 19:16-22, a rich young man comes to Jesus seeking assurance of eternal life. He's been a good boy, obeying all the commandments. This alone should shoot him to the top of God's list of favorites.

But Jesus crushes his sense of self-worth when he challenges the young man to "be perfect" by selling his possessions, giving the money to the poor and only then following Jesus. It's an invitation to downward mobility but, ironically, it's often within that downward mobility that true satisfaction and worth are found.

Jesus turns to his disciples and gives them the lesson that it's hard for the rich to enter the kingdom because their worth is bound up in their possessions. A person might have the perfect spiritual resume, but until they are willing to be generous toward others, both physically and spiritually, then they will be outside the kingdom of heaven.

This troubles the disciples, who like many people in their day believed that wealth was a sign of God's blessing. Peter then pipes up with the obvious question, "Look, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?" Jesus assures him and the others that their dispossession of family, job, wealth and status won't go unrewarded. In order to be first in God's world, you have to be willing to be last.

So now we arrive at the story! To illustrate this point, Jesus tells the parable of the laborers in the vineyard. The harvest is ready and the landowner, serving as his own HR department, comes to the marketplace to do some hiring. He starts with the early birds who are likely the most eager workers and who probably have a good reputation for getting things done -- or they really need the money. They agree on a wage and he sends them into the vineyard.

Still more workers are needed, so the boss returns to the Manpower office at 9 a.m., and again at noon, again at 3 p.m. and still again at 5 p.m. (Usually, work stopped about 6 p.m.) This last lot seems to have been a day late and a dollar short, given that they hadn't yet been hired after standing around idle all day. The assumption that Jesus' hearers would have, as would we, is that the laborers would each be paid commensurate with the hours they worked. After all, that's only fair, right?

When it's time for the denarii to be distributed (laborers would be paid at the end of each day), the landowner calls the manager of the vineyard and tells him to start settling the payroll with the last group hired. The shocking tale of the pay stub, however, is that they received a huge check for just one hour of work!

This is exciting. You can imagine the murmur going through the line. If these ne'er-do-wells who were lucky to get hired at all, got this very generous amount for an hour of work, imagine what they will get for working three hours, six hours and nine hours!

Yet, as the other workers approach the paymaster, they hear disturbing news. Everyone, regardless of hours, is getting the same amount. Totally not fair!

So we can empathize with the early bird group who, having heard what the others were getting, expected to be paid more since they provided more relative value than the others.

What do they do? What would we do?

We would lodge a complaint, and they did as well. They filed their grievance with HR seeking redress. They saw their labor as being worth more than anyone else's, especially those who showed up last.

But the landowner reminds them that they're getting exactly what they agreed upon first thing in the morning. It's the employer's prerogative to give whatever wage he wants to the others. "Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me?" he asks. "Or are you envious because I am generous?"

Thus, says Jesus, "the last will be first and the first will be last."

According to New Testament scholar Craig Keener, Jewish teachers used a similar parable to describe the day of God's judgment, but used it to make precisely the opposite point that Jesus was making. Israel, who had worked hard and been faithful for the long haul, would receive high wages while the Gentiles, who had come in much later, would receive little. Like the rich young man, many Jews believed that their spiritual resumes should give them priority status and a little extra for their faithful labor over time.

But Jesus reveals that God's economy doesn't work that way. God chooses to be generous and extend the same grace to the least and the last as God does to those who think they've earned it. In fact, in the next few verses, Jesus reveals just how far he will go to identify with the least and the last, giving himself over to both pious Jewish leaders and cruel Gentiles to die for them both.

The point of all this is that following Jesus is to join him in the path of downward mobility. It means giving up our resumes, spiritual and otherwise, and recognizing our own insufficiency and need for grace. It means laying aside our ambition for wealth and power and embracing a life of generosity, finding our satisfaction not in the wealth of our possessions but in the fewness of our wants. And it means understanding that our ultimate worth is found not in titles and power, but in service to others.

If we're really working for Jesus, then Christians should be among the most satisfied of workers, no matter what our earthly profession at which we toil on a daily basis. Whether we're digging ditches or leading a Fortune 500 company, our ultimate satisfaction is found in giving our lives away in the service of others.

What if we saw our jobs not as something to be endured, but as part of our vocation as followers of Jesus? What if we spent every day, not comparing ourselves to others, but doing all in our power to lift others up?
I bet, that those of you who have watched my video yesterday or today can see some intermingling of how we should view others! Seems to be the theme.

Jesus calls us to be part of a team that always needs our input, our investment and our best -- and all for the glory of the rule of God. Joining that team, no matter what our earthly profession, is the key to 100 percent satisfaction!
Let us pray.
That those who are living through and recovering from Hurricane Irma, may find help, comfort, shelter and help with needs during this troubling time. We pray to the Lord. (Lord hear our prayer.)
That those still recovering and rebuilding from hurricane Harvey be given hope, grace, patience and assistance in this time of need. We pray to the Lord.
That by participating in the sacraments and meditating on Scripture, Christians may become more aware of their mission to evangelize. We pray to the Lord.
For the conversion of the world from terrorism, malice, arrogance, and disbelief. We pray to the Lord.
That all may contribute to the common good and to the building of a society that places the human person at the center. We pray to the Lord.
For an increase of vocations to the priesthood to the consecrated life. We pray to the Lord.
For refugees and those exiled from their homeland; that they may be given welcome and shelter.
For the grace this week to love our neighbor as ourselves. We pray to the Lord.
For the family members of our church community, that they find healing, grace and peace. We pray to the Lord.
Loving Father, in Your great mercy hear our prayers and hold us close. We ask all this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
God Love You +++
+ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Universal Catholic Church
San Diego, Ca.

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Sunday, September 3, 2017

September 3, 2017
The Twelfth Sunday after Trinity

He has waded through sewers, peeled roadkill, moved houses, castrated horses, and cleaned up monumental septic explosions. He did the jobs that most of us couldn’t bear to do, although we know how important they are.

His name is Mike Rowe, and he’s the star of the Discovery Channel show called, Dirty Jobs. Though you can occasionally watch reruns, the show ended just a few years ago.

Rowe tried his hand at more than 165 of the dirtiest and most disgusting jobs one could possibly imagine. He served slop to pigs, removed bones from fish, hunted plagues of vermin, and sloshed around in sewers — sometimes vomiting on camera. He would get coached by the people who do these jobs for a living, and gets mocked by them as well.

But there’s something going on here that goes deeper than dirty hands. Mike Rowe has real curiosity about challenging jobs, and respect for the men and women who do them. The show sends a powerful message, such as dignity in hard work, expertise in unexpected places and deep satisfaction in tackling and finishing a tough job.

That’s a message we need to hear today.

In the Gospel of Matthew, Peter walks up to Jesus and says, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus answers, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.”

Forgiveness. It’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it. It’s not necessarily a “dirty job,” but it is a tough job. And, according to Jesus, they’ve got to do it again and again and again and again — seventy-seven times. To make matters worse, the word used by Jesus to describe this extravagant forgiveness can also be translated “seventy times seven,” which means 490 stinking times.

By comparison, sloshing around in a sewer doesn’t seem so bad.

Jesus is calling us to roll up our sleeves and do some very demanding work. In our justice-oriented world, we expect that insults are going to be followed by apologies and crimes are going to be followed by punishments, but Jesus turns this system upside down by saying, “Just forgive!” Notice that Jesus doesn’t even expect the sinner to repent or make amends. Forgive them, orders Jesus — “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.” Maybe 490 times. The point is; your forgiveness should be beyond calculation.

Well, that stinks, doesn’t it? Enduring hundreds of hurts, and then offering hundreds of expressions of forgiveness. Sounds about as pleasant as what Mike Rowe goes through every week — getting seasick in eel boats, attacked by monkeys and lowered into storm drains.

It’s a dirty job.

Now some will object to this open-ended approach to forgiveness, saying that it turns Christians into doormats, fails to hold sinners accountable, and invites abusers to continue their abuse. They’ve got a point, and it’s hard to imagine that Jesus wants us to throw justice completely out the window. But still he says, “Forgive.” Not just seven times, but dozens or even hundreds of times. Jesus is saying that forgiveness is at the heart of life in the church — it creates a distinctively merciful community.

Why is this?

The parable of the unforgiving servant answers this question by revealing the reason we must offer forgiveness to one another. It has nothing to do with the pursuit of justice, and everything to do with the character of God. Jesus says that the kingdom of heaven “may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves.” So Jesus is saying that we can learn a little something about life in God’s kingdom by paying attention to a story about how this king deals with his debtors.

The king begins the reckoning by calling a debtor to appear before him. The man owes him 10,000 talents, which is an insanely large sum of money. A talent is the largest monetary unit of the day, equal to the wages of a manual laborer for 15 years. 10,000 talents would be the wages of 10,000 manual laborers, over the course of 15 years. By comparison, notes biblical scholar Eugene Boring, the annual tax income for all of the territories of Herod the Great was 900 talents per year. Ten thousand talents would exceed the taxes for all of the countries of Syria, Phoenicia, Judea and Samaria. (That’s a lot of coins! St. Francis could use some of those talents right now so we can stay open!)

So this man is more than knee-deep in debt. He’s over his head, drowning in red ink, sinking like a rock. Makes the sub-prime mortgage crisis a few years ago look like a problem with petty cash. (Sounds like your bishop! Geesh, so personal this Gospel reading is!)

The king orders the slave to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, so that a payment can be made. With nothing left to lose, the slave falls on his knees before the king and says, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.” Surprisingly, the king shows pity and releases the slave, forgiving him the entire debt.

That’s the kind of God we have, says Jesus — a king who has mercy on us, and who forgives us our debts. It’s a dirty job, but we’ve got a God who will do it!

Now that’s a pleasant parable, but we haven’t reached the end. That freshly forgiven slave races out of the palace and comes upon a second slave who owes him a hundred denarii — 100 coins basically, each one equal to the daily wage for a laborer. This amount is a significant sum, for sure, but it’s positively microscopic compared to what the first slave owed the king. The first slave seizes the second slave by the throat and demands that he pay him what he owes. The second slave falls down and pleads with him, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you.”

No way, says the first slave. Not gonna happen. He throws the second slave in prison until the whole debt is paid.

Here, the plot thickens. Almost as exciting as prime time television, isn’t it? When his fellow slaves see what has happened, they go ballistic — they run and give the king a full report. The king summons the first slave and says, “You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. You think that was easy for me? I had about as much fun as Mike Rowe performing a whale autopsy. Why didn’t you show mercy to your fellow slave, as I did to you?”

The slave is speechless. He could have hit Twitter running like Trump, but he didn’t. He had nothing to say; he knew he was caught.

Then, in his anger, the king hands him over to spread hot tar on the roof of a church in California, like in Dirty Jobs episode 110. And the slave is tortured by this work until he pays his entire debt. (Incidentally, we don’t need our roof tared, but we could use a new a/c and a little extra to pay the bills.)

The punch line? Jesus concludes with the words, “So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” There’s an unbreakable bond between the forgiveness of God and the forgiveness we are to offer one another, making it illogical and impossible for us to accept the mercy of the Lord and then refuse to extend mercy to others. Jesus summarizes this quite succinctly in his teaching of the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”

Forgive us our debts — that’s what we ask of God. As we have forgiven our debtors — that’s what we offer our neighbors. In the divine economy of the kingdom of heaven, you can’t have one without the other.

Our Lord is a merciful God who is willing to do the dirty work of blotting out our transgressions, washing us from our iniquity, and cleansing us from our sin. That’s a job that would overwhelm a tough guy like Mike Rowe, even if he were walking around in a hazmat suit. But God is betting that we have been transformed by his forgiveness into the kind of people who can do the hard work of forgiving others. God knows that his mercy can have a surprising and wonderful effect — it can create a community of merciful people. We knew the rules and we broke them, yet God continues to offer His mercy and forgive us every – single - time! How crazy is that??!!

God came down to earth and put on human form in the person of Jesus – God humbled himself and became one of us dirty and sinful people; He took on our lowliness. Further still, God is willing to do the most disgusting of dirty jobs — the removal of our sin through his gift of forgiveness. All He asks is that we turn and do the same for others. Seven times. Seventy-seven times. Maybe even 490 times. Even every time!

There’s deep satisfaction in tackling and finishing a tough job.
Let us pray.
That those in civic authority will dedicate themselves to justice, peace, authentic freedom, and generous defense of the poor. We pray to the Lord. (Lord hear our prayer.)
Blessings on all students and teachers as they begin a new school year. We pray to the Lord.
That our parishes, animated by a missionary spirit, may be places where faith is communicated and charity is seen. We pray to the Lord.
For the sick, the hungry, orphans and widows, the homeless, those trapped sin, and those on the verge of despair; that God’s mercy will save them and that their struggles will be lessened. We pray to the Lord.
The grace this week to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Jesus. We pray to the Lord.
We ask You, Lord, to heal the racial unrest that continues in our nation; help each of us to have humble, loving and welcoming hearts. We pray to the Lord.
For the sick family members of our parishioners - Don Kuchka, Barbara Koko and Pattie Maruszewski; that they find healing and peace. We pray to the Lord.
Loving Father, You are our help. Your kindness is a greater good than life. May we bless You in our daily lives, always calling upon Your name. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
God Love You +++
+ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Universal Catholic Church
San Diego, Ca.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Our first video introduction

Monday, August 28, 2017

August 27, 2017
The Eleventh Sunday after Trinity
No matter how you twist and turn your tablet or smartphone, the images manage to move right with you. Thanks to a nifty little thing called a gyroscope, everything stays "right-side up." Don't you wish relationships had a gyroscope? Wouldn't it be nice, if, no matter how turned around things got, there was always a way to get right-side up?

Chances are, the first time you encountered this feature -- now standard on just about every piece of mobile technology -- it made you smile, or maybe even laugh out loud. We're not used to things righting themselves. Typically, if something's out of whack in life, we notice it and try to make it right. Maybe that's what makes the screen on your smartphone so interesting. It's does the fixing itself.

Of course, it isn't magic that keeps our precious screens in sync with us. It's science. Inside your favorite device is a gyroscope, which -- when coupled with an accelerometer -- senses precise motion along six axes: up/down, left/right, forward/backward. It even keeps tabs on the speed with which you move. The result is a phone that not only keeps your pictures facing the right direction, but a phone that can track the number of steps you take while power-walking at the mall, or play some truly immersive video games. It’s amazing how science has evolved with gadgets which would have been science fiction during my youth.

In today's Gospel reading, we hear Jesus urging us to keep our relationships right-side up. The only problem is that, unlike our smartphones and iPads, we don't have a built-in gyroscope making it automatic and easy. However, God has given us something we might call "gyroscopic grace" that unfailingly, and without any merit of our own, rights us back up with God. (It kind of comes with the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation – hint hint to the Baptismal person here today.)

But getting right with each other, that's another story.

In the family of God, people get sideways with one another. Sometimes, it's over trivial things. There are snarky comments made at board meetings and disagreements about just how the youth should fund their upcoming ski trip. And sometimes, we get sideways with one another over truly sinful and downright evil things.

Lies get told. Power gets protected. Promises get broken. Affairs take place. Factions form. Just to name a few possible examples. We’ve all been there.

The picture is turned upside down and, no matter how vigorously we shake the relationship, it's not going to fix itself. We have to take action.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus lays out a basic outline for how we should go about making things right when we sin against one another. What's interesting about his words is the urgency they convey. His first word to us, when sinned against, is to "go". There's no call to let the offense sit for a bit, or to gather advice from a gaggle of others before actually addressing the issue with our brother or sister in Christ.

No, Jesus is pretty clear. If someone has sinned -- done something to offend the heart of God and harm his or her relationship with you -- then you must go. We all know the passage where Jesus speaks about how if someone strikes you on one cheek; let them strike you on the other. However, in this instance Jesus is speaking about a matter that has damaged the Church and its members. He is speaking about breaking the “laws” of the church. We know this, because of Jesus’ statement, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

To put it another way, Jesus wants the church to be a community of individuals who refuse to ignore destructive behavior. This contrasts with how most churches deal with conflict. Let's just say that the greatest spiritual gift at work in many congregations is passive aggressiveness. We pretend problems don't exist and hope they go away. Fear of making things worse, or of hurting someone's feelings, leaves us paralyzed.

The problem seems to stem from a false belief that love equals a lack of conflict; that if love is truly in the air, then there will never be awkwardness or confrontation. But, in fact, the opposite is true. When love is at work, confrontation -- and the residual awkwardness or momentary ugliness -- is inevitable. Love, especially among Christians, is not just a heartfelt affection for one another. It is a passionate championing of the will of God for one another.
Therefore, when we see each other struggling or feel the sting of one's sin, we must go, we must speak up. And yes, it will likely hurt. But all that hurts is not harmful. We should keep in mind the Mercy of Christ, and deal with the problem with openness, compassion, helpfulness and mercy, not with arrogance or “holier-than-thou” type of attitudes. We are ALL flawed, and we must keep that in mind when assisting others.

It's only as a last resort that we widen the circle in order to get things right-side-up with our fellow Christians. And even then Jesus tells us to do so progressively, first with "two or three witnesses," and only after that, to the church at large. It's clear that Jesus' goal for us, at every turn, is to mitigate the amount of damage done to offenders, thus making it as easy as possible when they repent, to return to a joyful life in the community of believers.

Sadly, however, it won't always work that way. Which is why Jesus lays out one final way to get things "right-side up." If the offender refuses to respond to the individual or to the group, then they must be given the opportunity to respond to the church as a whole. Churches and denominations differ on just how and when this type of thing happens. But no matter the form it takes, what Jesus lays out is pretty clear. In extreme circumstances, a boundary needs to be set. And that boundary for acceptable, God-glorifying behavior, although delivered by the church, is to be seen as set by God. Thus, the declaration that "whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven". In Catholic churches, this is referred to as “excommunication.” Fortunately, because we are a church that believes in freedom of thought, I have only had to do this once – it is quite rare in our branch of the Catholic Church; it is meant for the most extreme cases like Jesus describes in the final way.
The idea is that, in calling the sinful brother or sister to repentance, the church is simply communicating a standard, an expectation, for joyful, forgiven and productive life in God's family, and doing so on God's behalf. We set standards as a church on how we are expected love God and our neighbor, and when one breaks that, we must help to “right-side up” again.

Therefore, if the offender chooses not to embrace that standard, it's not the church kicking someone to the curb. It's the offender choosing to walk away from health. The opportunity for relationship was there and still remains, but sadly, sometimes people take a pass. Sometimes they choose to live sideways to God and upside-down with the church.

Lest we get caught up in the details of just how to do this whole thing well, perhaps it's best to end by surveying the context of these words.

Matthew 18 is not a chapter about church discipline. It's a chapter about the danger of sin and the beauty of God's amazing grace. Jesus has already talked about the lost sheep and of a Shepherd who will gladly forsake 99 to locate the one that got lost. We then hear about the servant who was forgiven a huge debt and how the debts we're called to forgive pale in comparison.

This is a God who relentlessly and generously "rights" the image. God is a gyroscope of grace and goodness constantly offering to us an undeserved place at the table.

God shows us our sin, but does so with compassion.

God does not whisper our infidelities to our neighbors, but invites us to return and be restored in full. That’s why we have the Sacrament of Confession. No church should seek to intentionally embarrass someone, but we should mercifully encourage them to release the sin. That is what the priests of the church are here for; to help with the sanctifying grace of God.

It's like magic. No matter how many times we turn or twist our lives away from God's will, God brings us right-side-up, without fail.

These words in Matthew 18 are not a clinical prescription for how we deal with the undesirables in our church. They're merely a call for us to deal with one another the very same way God in Christ deals with us, i.e., with a relentless, gracious pursuit to make things right.

It would be really great if relationships fixed themselves. But they don't without help sometimes. Nothing is so hard, ugly or sinful that it cannot be helped and rectified.

In our relationship with God, it's Christ who turns things around.
Let us pray.
That the church will act as mediator that the church will act as mediator in problems affecting peace, social harmony, in human and civil rights. We pray to the Lord. (Lord hear our prayer.)
For Christian husbands and wives; that the Lord will assist them in their struggles and make them witnesses of Christ’s love. We pray to the Lord.
That our parish will re-dedicate itself to going to the periphery in serving the poor and those in most need. We pray to the Lord.
For those who are unemployed; the God will keep them from discouragement and enable them to find good jobs. We pray to the Lord.
For the family members of our parish members who are ill or in need that they may receive healing and peace. We pray to the Lord.
We pray for healing within this country that is now struggling with racial tensions. We pray to the Lord.
For those who have been in the path of hurricane Harvey; that they may find safety, help and comfort in this time of tragedy. We pray to the Lord.
For the grace this week to confess Jesus as our Savior to all those whom we meet and to even offer information about our humble parish so that people will feel comfortable and welcome to come worship here. We pray to the Lord.
Loving Father, help us to face the challenges of daily life with confidence in Your love and protection. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
God Love You +++
+ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Universal Catholic Church
San Diego, Ca.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

August 20, 2017
Assumption Sunday
Although today is the day we commemorate the Assumption or Our lady Mary into heaven, it also coincides with something unique this year. The eclipse. Mary desires no worship or fanfare, though, as the Mother of Christ, she certainly deserves some, but in her sinless nature, by the grace of God, she is humble and desires nothing that which belongs to Christ. So, given the eclipse, we shall do a little twist of a comparison of Christ the Son to the sun in the outer reaches of space. (And, no, before anyone even goes there; the world isn’t coming to an end. Eclipses have taken place since the creation of the world and have nothing to do with the apocalypse as some subscribe to. However, that’s not the topic today.)
So, as all of you are aware, on Monday a solar eclipse will be visible in the United States, cutting a narrow swath across the country from the Pacific NW in a slightly southeasterly direction to South Carolina.
The Moon is a Mirror; and on Monday, it goes rogue.
As we have all heard by now, a total solar eclipse will be visible in totality within a band across the entire contiguous United States. It will only be visible in other countries as a partial eclipse. The eclipse begins in Lincoln City, Oregon, at 8:46 a.m. PDT and ends in South Carolina at 5:04 p.m. EDT.
Making a buck is at the core of the American experience, is it not? No surprise then that a trinket industry, fueled by hungry entrepreneurs, is springing up faster than weed shops in Colorado. In Lincoln City, for example, hotel rooms are sold out and have been for some time. You can buy eclipse-themed T-shirts, coffee mugs, buttons and more. Even I got in on the action a couple of months ago and bought a few of those disposable “eclipse glasses.” Restaurants and cafes will offer specially-named items on the menu. The eclipse is big business.
What is an eclipse? Quite simple, really: An eclipse occurs when the moon stands in front of the sun, that is, between the sun and the earth, blocking its light. We all know this is not a normal occurance.
And, truth is, the moon doesn't do this very often. The last time in the U.S. was 1979, and the last time the moon positioned itself in front of the sun all the way across the contiguous United States was June 8, 1918, almost 100 years ago.
During an eclipse what you have is a situation in which, basically the moon is photobombing the sun's selfie. For a few hours, the moon is going rogue.
But, by this eclipse, we have a an opportunity of a reminder of our role as followers of Jesus.
Here it is in simple terms. Jesus is the Son. We are not. We are moons. We should not step in front of the Son and block the light.
Jesus used many metaphors to describe himself and his ministry in ways we can relate to in regard to the eclipse. He said: "I am the Bread of Life," "I am the Living Water." "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life." "I am the Good Shepherd." But he also said, "I am the light of the world" (John 8:12).
Question is: How do we sometimes block the light? The light of Jesus will shine, unless we block it. So, what is our role in this?
To be moons ... without going rogue ... without EVER blocking the light ... to be reflective surfaces that bounce the light of God into the dark corners of the world, especially our particular corner.
The moon, then, in a sense, is a mirror. We are mirrors, reflecting the light and glory of the Son of God.
Good mirrors reflect light without distorting the light. Think of the Fun House in a carnival, that place with all the goofy mirrors that make you look tall or short, thin or wide.
As faithful followers of Jesus we should not distort the light, make it into something it is not. There's no bait and switch. We do not make promises about health or wealth. We only promise a cross ... and a crown. Jesus said, "Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:16). In keeping with today’s feast, this is something Our Lady Mary does very well, and we should emulate!
As mirrors, we need polishing and cleaning from time to time. You clean the bathroom mirror, right? Mirrors need cleaning and sometimes polishing.
Here are some excerpts from a report about a certain telescope and its mirror system: "The Giant Magellan Telescope is easily the most ambitious terrestrial astronomy program humanity's ever devised. It has -- quite literally -- been built from the ground up by leveraging a brilliant, unique off-axis design and bleeding-edge fabrication techniques. And nowhere is that more apparent than in the telescope's enormous mirror system. ...”
"It's a very iterative process. We go through 50 to 80 cycles of polishing and measuring. When we measure, we generate a contour map of the errors in the mirror surface. We feed those maps into a computer that controls the polishing tools so that it either spends more time or exerts more pressure on the high spots.”
"It's roughly a year of polishing per mirror. ... We're already beginning work on the second mirror and we're expecting that, once we hit our stride, it will be a year of polishing per segment."
Years of grinding and polishing. Sounds painful. But mirrors, true mirrors, probably just don't "happen."
Mirrors, functioning improperly, can become death rays. This occurs when we misuse the light of Jesus, twist his words and ignore the totality of Scripture. When we do this, our prejudices usually cause injury.
Here's an example of a mirror becoming a "death ray." In London, a new building with a glass exterior was built with a concave shape that led the locals to nickname it the "Walkie Talkie" (because its shape is similar to old walkie-talkies). Martin Lindsay made the mistake of parking his black Jaguar XJ near the building one day and came back to notice that the exterior of the car had melted. Seems that the "Walkie Talkie" was actually more like the laser dish on the Death Star, concentrating the sun's rays on a particular spot on the pavement that made Lindsay's Jag, a panel van, and some pedestrians look like some ants fried with a magnifying glass. A local barbershop reported that its carpet was set on fire by the building's death ray, and the owner of a neighboring Vietnamese restaurant demonstrated what the 196.3-degree beam of light can do by frying an egg for reporters on the front steps of his establishment. Apparently, nobody had bothered to think about what effect sticking a giant concave mirror in the middle of London might have on unsuspecting ants ... er, people. (I didn’t make this up …. Look it up for yourself on the internet!)
Thus, mirrors do not block the light, but reflect it. Robert Fulghum, in his book "It Was on Fire When I Lay Down on It," talks about Alexander Papaderos, a teacher of Greek culture, politician, doctor of philosophy and a remarkably complete human being. On the island of Crete, next to the mass graves of Germans and Cretans who fought each other so bitterly in World War II, Papaderos has founded an institute for peace which has become the source of bridge-building between the two countries. What kind of vision motivates a man like Papaderos to transcend the focus on the individual self and dedicate his life to compassion and peace?
"When I was a small child," he said, "during the war we were poor and lived in a remote village. One day, on the road, I found the broken pieces of a mirror. A German motorcycle had been wrecked in that place. I kept one, the largest piece. ... By scratching it on a stone, I made it round. I began to play with it as a toy and became fascinated by the fact that I could reflect light into dark places where the sun would never shine -- in deep holes and crevices and dark closets. It became a game for me to get light into the most inaccessible places I could find.”
"I kept the little mirror, and as I went about my growing up, I would take it out in idle moments and continue the challenge of the game. As I became [mature], I grew to understand that this was a metaphor for what I might do with my life. I came to understand that I am not the light or the source of light. But light, truth, understanding, knowledge -- is there, and it will shine in many dark places only if I reflect it."
"I am a fragment of a mirror," Fulghum writes, "whose whole design and shape I do not know. Nevertheless, with what I have, I can reflect light into the dark places of the world ... and change some things in some people. Perhaps others may see and do likewise."
So, what does all this I have said today mean? Be a moon. You're not the Son. But, you can reflect His Light.
Let us pray.
That the church will be a place of mercy freely given, where everyone can feel welcomed, loved, forgiven, and encouraged to live the good life of the Gospel. We pray to the Lord. (Lord hear our prayer.)
That those who hold public office will imitate the goodness of the Lord, who secures justice and the rights of all the oppressed. We pray to the Lord.
For senior citizens; that God will help them and their needs and be always close to them in his love. We pray to the Lord.
That artist of our time, through their ingenuity, may help everyone discover the beauty of creation. We pray to the Lord.
For the liberation of those were victims of war, human trafficking, drug running, or slave labor. We pray to the Lord.
For the grace this week to trust in the Lord’s mercy even through our torments. We pray to the Lord.
Loving Father, you watch over each one of us in our troubles. Help us to understand what is Your will, to trust You, and to stay close to You. We ask all these prayers through Christ our Lord. Amen.
God Love You +++
+ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Universal Catholic Church
San Diego, Ca.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

August 13, 2017
The Ninth Sunday after Trinity
As we sit here today, aware of the war of words that North Korea and their allies and our own country and our allies make toward one another, and then reading today’s Gospel reading, I thought of someone from the past who experienced far worse than we have up to this (21st. century) day and hence I will use this as a basis for today’s sermon.
Before he was killed by the Nazis 72 years ago, Dietrich Bonhoeffer struggled with a question that still challenges us today. It was thus, he said to a fellow prisoner, “This is the end — for me the beginning of life.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said these words to a fellow prisoner on April 9, 1945, before Gestapo guards took him away. Then this Lutheran pastor, theologian and leader of the Confessing Church was executed in a Nazi concentration camp at Flossenberg, Germany — paying the ultimate price for his role in the Abwehr plot against Hitler. He was only 39 years old.

Seventy-two years later, as we live out the threats of a new war, we remember this kind and courageous Christian because his witness for Jesus Christ remains a brilliant light for all who seek to be faithful disciples. From the beginning, Christians have studied the lives of those who have died for their faith, whose example provides courage and hope for faithful living, especially in times of duress. Dietrich Bonhoeffer lives in that great company of Christian martyrs; by recalling his life, we gain fresh strength in our efforts to be faithful witnesses for Jesus Christ.

One question mattered more than any other for Bonhoeffer and it pressed upon him throughout his life right to the end. Who is Jesus Christ? It was as if he stood with the apostle Peter hearing Jesus ask him personally, “Who do you say that I am?” How one answers that question was decisive for Bonhoeffer. Today, it remains as decisive for us in a postmodern, post-Christian, post-Constantinian world as it was for Bonhoeffer in the totalitarian world of Nazi Germany.

When he was addressing the question, the church in Germany was confronted with the rise of Nazism and the deliberate, systematic annihilation of Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, mentally disabled people and nearly anyone else who did not fit into the Aryan future. Some feel that the Church as a whole failed that demanding test of faithfulness to the gospel of Jesus Christ. One might think it too harsh to describe the witness of the Church as a failure of faith when there was such a bold witness in the Confessing Church as it was called.

But, that is to forget how shockingly small was the Confessing Church compared to the vast majority of Christians in congregations that ignored the destruction of Jews, tolerated idolatrous allegiance to Hitler and accepted false teachings regarding Jesus and the Christian faith.

Years later, we must never allow ourselves to forget that the majority of German Christians followed elected leaders and followed their church leaders who supported them and followed the path dictated by the policies of Adolph Hitler and the German government. They were followers, followers, followers, much like those in some countries today.

It was a much smaller group who refused to follow and who called themselves the Confessing Church, led by those who resisted the cultural tide. These included Karl Barth, Hans Asmussen, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Roman Catholic priest Bernhard Lichtenberg and others, who sought to remain faithful to Jesus Christ even under severe persecution and who were signatories to the Barmen Declaration of 1934. The first article of the declaration takes up the matter of who Jesus Christ is: “Jesus Christ, as he is attested for us in Holy Scripture, is the one Word of God which we have to hear and which we have to trust and obey in life and in death.”

Honoring the courageous witness of Bonhoeffer and his fellow resisters can never be done at the expense of denying the vast failure of the Church to stand decisively against a culture of death and destruction. The German church, of which the majority of Christians were members, not only failed to take a stand; both pastors and members actively allowed the Christian tradition to be used by the Nazi government for corrupt purposes that directly contradicted the gospel and violated their own creeds and confessions.

Bonhoeffer believed that he must stand with his country in its present suffering if he were to participate in the future rebuilding. It was his passionate conviction that God is the One who left His exalted status to suffer for us in the flesh. This is the pattern Christians are to follow.

Which brings us back to Bonhoeffer’s crucial point, Jesus Christ. How does one discern what is pleasing to God and honors Jesus Christ?
Seeking to provide consolation to his dear friend and former student, Eberhard Bethge, Bonhoeffer wrote from his prison cell, “All that we may rightly expect from God, and ask him for, is to be found in Jesus Christ. The God of Jesus Christ has nothing to do with what God, as we imagine him, could do and ought to do. If we are to learn what God promises, and what he fulfills, we must persevere in quiet meditation on the life, sayings, deeds, suffering and death of Jesus. It is certain that we may always live close to God and in the light of his presence, and that such living is an entirely new life for us; that nothing is impossible for us, because all things are possible with God.” (Letters and Papers from Prison)

Ordinary people wondering how on earth to be faithful Christians have this rather simple prescription: Focus on Jesus. Listen to His teachings, examine His life, notice His relationships, hear His questions and follow His invitation to be His disciple.

For Bonhoeffer, it was a personal encounter with Jesus Christ that was necessary to discover a lived faith and not merely abstract belief in God. The more common notion of belief did not and could not compel persons to risk everything for the sake of the call of God. What resulted instead was a form of religion that had no connection to the transforming power of Jesus Christ. It is precisely the experience of casting oneself upon the living Christ that makes authentic discipleship possible. He wrote from prison, “Encounter with Jesus Christ [is what matters]. Faith is participation in this being of Jesus (incarnation, cross, resurrection). Our relation to God is not a ‘religious’ relationship to the highest, most powerful and best Being imaginable — that is not authentic transcendence — but our relation to God is a new life, existing for others, through participation in the being of Jesus.” (Letters and Papers).

Setting one’s mind and heart on following Jesus might strike some as being too simplistic, especially in light of Bonhoeffer’s intellectual abilities and involvement in complex political matters. Yet, according to Bonhoeffer, it was precisely this straightforward allegiance to Jesus Christ and full dependence on Him that was missing in the church.

In place of a decisive commitment to pattern one’s life after Jesus, the Church had offered vague religious principles or dogmatic statements that could be easily recited without requiring any personal allegiance to their truthfulness. When there is nothing personal at stake in what one believes, belief is easily abandoned or corrupted when threats against it arise.

This is exactly what Bonhoeffer believed would happen whenever the Church has no personal stake in its profession of Jesus Christ. Ideas about Jesus are not the same as personal allegiance to Jesus. The difference is crucial for those who seek to be faithful disciples.

In his commentary on the Sermon on the Mount, The Cost of Discipleship, Bonhoeffer wrote, “Christianity without the living Jesus Christ, remains necessarily a Christianity without discipleship and a Christianity without discipleship is always a Christianity without Jesus Christ .... And a Christianity of that kind is nothing more or less than the end of discipleship. In such a religion, there is trust in God, but no following of Christ.” (The Cost of Discipleship)

Still, is any of this possible for the ordinary Christian — the butcher, baker and candlestick maker, the homemaker and businessman, the plumber and politician, let alone the pastor — or is it only the tale of a courageous hero admired at a distance understanding that no one can emulate him?

Years after writing on the Sermon on the Mount, Bonhoeffer himself reflected on this question. While in prison for his participation with fellow Christians and co-conspirators in a plot to assassinate Hitler, he wrote about the need for a truly human faith capable of living in this world. “I thought I could acquire faith by trying to live a holy life or something like it. I suppose I wrote the Cost of Discipleship as the end of that path. Today I can see the dangers of that book, though I still stand by it. I discovered later, and I’m still discovering right up to this moment, that it is only by living completely in this world that one learns to have faith.”

He went on to describe what this actually means for the ordinary Christian. “One must completely abandon any attempt to make something of oneself, whether it be a saint, or a converted sinner, or a churchman, a righteous man or an unrighteous one, a sick man or a healthy one. By this-worldliness I mean living unreservedly in life’s duties, problems, successes and failures, experiences and perplexities. In so doing we throw ourselves completely into the arms of God, taking seriously, not our own sufferings but those of God in the world — watching with Christ in Gethsemane. That, I think, is faith; that is metanoia; and that is how one becomes a man and a Christian.” (Letters and Papers from Prison)
When Jesus asked Peter, who do you say that I am? (Matthew 16:15), both of them knew that everything was at stake in his answer. Centuries later, in civilized Germany, Bonhoeffer also knew what was at stake in the answer.

“The new situation must be created, in which it is possible to believe in Jesus as God incarnate; that is the impossible situation in which everything is staked solely on the word of Jesus. Peter had to leave the ship to risk his life on the sea, in order to learn both his own weakness and the almighty power of the Lord. If Peter had not taken the risk, he would never have learned the meaning of faith. Before he can believe, the utterly impossible situation on the seas must be displayed. The road to faith passes through obedience to the call of Jesus. Unless a definite step is demanded, the call vanishes into thin air, and if men imagine they can follow Jesus without taking this step, they are deluding themselves like fanatics.” (The Cost of Discipleship)
This brings to mind my sermon from a couple of weeks ago and speaking of St. Peter attempting to walk on the water. When St. Peter asked Jesus to bid him to come out onto the water’s - and Jesus so did - St. Peter stepped out onto the water’s and started walking. What, however, made St. Peter start to sink? It’s quite easy actually; he took his eyes off of Christ. He took into account the waves beneath him, the weather forecast, the CNN commentators, the latest edition of the newspaper and various other forms of information, and because of these things, he allowed his faith to falter because of what he viewed as the reality that he could see. However, the real reality is Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is in and amongst all of this. The problem is, as with all things in life, He is a giving God. By that I mean, we all have free will. And even though Jesus is in and amongst all of what’s going on the world today – He is still allowing us that free will. He is waiting for us to put our eyes back on Him.
When we put our eyes on Christ - and keep our eyes on Him - it is then that we can walk on the waters. It is then that we can say to the mountain to uproot itself from where it is and be thrown into the ocean as Jesus told us we could do.

From the very beginning, faith in Jesus Christ has been distorted, corrupted and abandoned by many. Yet, wherever that faith has been maintained and grounded in following Jesus, a remnant of the Church has stood against the powers of death and reminded the world of the suffering love of God for all, by standing with outcasts, persecuted and those who suffer.

That the Church in our time might do the same is why we remember Dietrich Bonhoeffer. It’s why we remember him, 72 years after his death, and give thanks for the faithful witness of the confessing Church of his time.
Let us pray.
For the protection and strengthening of the Church wherever she is persecuted. We pray to the Lord. (R. Lord hear our prayer.)
For an end to terrorism in the world, and for the blessings of lasting harmony and peace. We pray to the Lord.
For travelers by land, by sea, and by air; that they will be kept safe and arrive at their destinations in peace. We pray to the Lord.
For all those who serve our country in the Armed Forces; that God will bless them and keep them out of harm’s way. We pray to the Lord.
That our government and those governments surrounding North Korea will find a peaceful resolve to the provocations between North Korea and our own country. We pray to the Lord.
That those who suffer will experience the redemptive meaning of suffering through friendship with Jesus Christ. We pray to the Lord.
For the grace this week to live by faith at every moment. We pray to the Lord.
For the needs of those here present and that of anyone that is dear to us that their personal needs and prayers will be answered. We pray to the Lord.
Loving Father, when those who are afflicted call out, You hear and save them from the distress. Please be close to us in our need. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
God Love You +++
+ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Universal Catholic Church
San Diego, Ca.

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Sunday, August 6, 2017

Hello everyone! I did not give a sermon this week, because we had a long ritual to begin our new Third Order, Knights of Christ and the Temple. So, I have included my remarks and words from that. Enjoy ...
Dearly beloved brethren in Christ, Our Lady Mary appeared to three saintly children in a field in Fatima, Portugal, and implored them to pray without ceasing, most especially the Holy Rosary, every day so that there may be peace in the world.
In so much that we live in an ever increasingly chaotic and busy secular life with so many modes of distraction, we too are at war for our souls, and thus Our Lady’s message still holds true to this day. As (each of) you take your vow(s) this day and enter into a sacred third order, Mary calls upon you also to pray unceasingly each and every day for peace. But, not just peace for the world, which is by far very important in these days, but for peace within your soul(s) that the Holy Wisdom Sophia – the mysterious Holy Spirit – sent from our Lord Christ, the same Spirit who entered your soul(s) upon your baptism, may enter into your soul(s) ever more deeply and in such a sublime way, that you may be more protected from worldly distractions that war for your soul(s) and that you may take up in yourself contemplation of our Lord God.
As you enter in Knights of Christ and the Temple, may the Holy Spirit, in the guise of Sophia, help you acquire, learn and grow in love for continuous prayer, contemplation, meditation, and the Holy Eucharist; and that you will become more closely joined with our Savior Christ.
Always rely on your brother and sister knights in times of temptation or tribulations within a world becoming ever so independent from faith, that you may not fall victim to loss of faith or the temptations of great evil known as Satan.
As your Grand Master and Bishop, I welcome you as you join this third order, I encourage you to dedicate yourself(ves) to your new life in which, I hope, will propel you ever so deeper into the mysteries of our Lord God. Be open to the inspirations granted you and never cease to seek out more knowledge and understandings of the kingdom of God and His mysterious workings in the universe. Our Lady Mary is always waiting with an open window to let you in and give you shelter, guidance and love. Never falter in seeking her help in reaching her Son. In growing for love of prayer, and her most Holy Rosary in her honor, you will find yourself enveloped in peace and hope in a troubled world. As Our Lady so implored the three children of Fatima, so I implore you now; pray without ceasing.
In ancient Judaic times, a mantle was the most important article of clothing a person could own. It was used as protection against the weather, as bedding, as a place to sit, in his luggage. It could be given as a pledge for a debt or torn into pieces to show great grief. Elijah put his mantle on Elisha’s shoulders to show that he would become Elijah’s successor. Later when the transfer of authority was complete, Elijah left his mantle for Elisha.
A mantle was most commonly made from camel’s hair. Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and even St. Peter, all felt unworthy of the mantle given them, and for good reason - the mantle was too big. It didn’t fit. But that’s the nature of the mantle. In Hebrew the mantle is called the aderet. Aderet means large, big, great, wide, powerful, excellent, noble, mighty, and glorious.
All of God’s children each are given a mantle, or a calling. And today you receive yours. But remember, your mantle is your aderet, and the aderet always speaks of greatness. So your calling will be too big for you. It won’t fit. It won’t match who you are. And there will be times when you will struggle with that, with its magnitude in comparison to who you are. It will always be greater, more powerful, more noble, more excellent, in more glorious than the one who wears it.
One might ask why does God give us mantels that are too big and don’t fit? The answer is, your mantle is not meant to fit who you are. It’s meant to fit who you are to be, who you are to become. So when you were little child, your parents bought you clothes that didn’t fit, they were too big. It wasn’t to fit who you were; it was the fit who you were to become. So too your mantle must be beyond you, that you can grow into it, that you can rise to it. So never be discouraged at the difference in size. It must be that way - that you might become greater, more excellent, more noble, more powerful, and more glorious than you are now.
Today, you too will receive a mantle of sorts, in the physical reality of a small scapular. The scapular is a Christian garment suspended from the shoulders. For many centuries, monks and nuns have worn the full-size scapular that was often times as large as a mantle. It was meant as an object of piety and to remind the wearer of their commitment to live a Christian life. In the Middle Ages, it became common for Christian faithful to share in the spirituality of the new mendicant orders in an auxiliary sense, sometimes called Third Orders because they were founded after the initial orders of the friars and nuns. Although these people (called Tertiaries) were permitted to wear the "tertiary habit", because they had not taken religious vows they were not usually permitted to wear the full habit of the order. With time, it was considered a high honor and great privilege to be granted a small cloth attached by bands which would be worn over the torso in the same manner as the full monastic scapular.
In time, specific promises and indulgences were attached to the wearing of scapulars. This promise was based on the Carmelite tradition that the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to St. Simon Stock at Cambridge, England in 1251 in answer to his appeal for help for his oppressed order. Our Lady Mary recommended to him the Brown Scapular, under the title of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and promised salvation for the faithful who wore it piously.
And so today, you will bestowed a scapular in this tradition. The scapular is one of the ancient Order of Knights Templar of which we wish to emulate not in a militaristic fashion, but in a mystical fashion. Our Lady Mary assured St. Simon Stock, that anyone who has perished and is found wearing a scapular, said person will not suffer the pains of hell, but would receive salvation.
Additionally, in the 1917 reported apparitions of Our Lady of Fátima the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared "with a Rosary in one hand and a scapular in the other". Sister Lúcia (one of the three Fátima children visionaries) stated that the Virgin Mary told her: "The Rosary and the Scapular are inseparable".
When Jesus walked on earth, whoever even touched the hem of his garment became whole. We praise the Lord, because in His Church He continues to use the humblest of means to show us His infinite mercy. We too can use these means to glorify the Lord, to express our desire to serve Him and to renew our life-long commitment of fidelity made at our baptism.
The scapular has been an instrument, a sacramental, given to the faithful by Our Lady Mary as a means of her motherly protection. As time has passed, Our Lady has inspired many such scapulars in different form and of different devotions. This Scapular of The Knights Templar is a sign of the motherly love of the Virgin Mary, which reminds us of her care for the members of the Knights of Christ and the Temple, especially in moments of great need. It is a love which invites love in return.
This Scapular is a sign of communion with the Order of the Knights of Christ and the Temple and a sign of Our Lady’s protection. With this Scapular you express the desire to take part in the spirit and life of the Order.
The Scapular is a mirror of the humility and purity of Mary: through her simplicity she invites us to live modestly and in purity. By wearing the Scapular day and night, it becomes a sign of our constant prayer and of our special dedication to the love and service in the ways of our Master Christ.
By wearing the Scapular, you renew your baptismal vow to put on our Lord Jesus Christ. In Mary, your hope of salvation will be safeguarded, because in her the God of Life has made His abode and sends His Holy Spirit to rest upon you.

Therefore, receive this Scapular as a sign of the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete who now leads you into a life of love, prayer and service to others. Open yourself ever more to Her direction so that your good works and strong faith may be as a pure offering to The Christ, our Lord and Master. May you ever be mindful of your vocation and be continually strengthened in your resolve to live a life of love, prayer and service.

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Sunday, July 30, 2017

July 30, 2017
The Seventh Sunday after Trinity
Sometimes I'm a slow learner. For most of my life I began each day making a list, therefore I am - and then spent the rest of the day checking it off, counting it twice, seeing if I'd been naughty or nice. I have mentioned for a couple of Sunday’s now, how I keep a pad by me while doing my hour long morning and evening prayers, else I would stay so distracted trying not forget things that came to mind – hence causing me to be distracted so much, that the one hour prayer into two hours.
However, after decades of trying to govern my life by lists, it finally hit me one day that if I can't get even one day according to plan, what am I doing trying to get months and years and even decades to go "according to plan"? (Of course, we’ve seen how well that has gone for me this year!) Think about it. Has there ever been even one day when your schedule has gone the way you planned it? My life has not gone in straight paths. My path has often been in circles.

I wonder if we should begin our day with a different image than that of a list. Maybe, we should begin it with . . . a begging bowl. This idea is from the monastic tradition of the begging bowl. Each day, a monk goes out with a begging bowl. Whatever is placed in the bowl will be his food and drink for the day. The French playwright, Jean Genet, once said he wanted to roam the countryside like a monk holding a begging bowl, trusting life to fill it with what nourishment he needed.

A begging bowl is a very different way to go through each day. A begging bowl invites us to be open like never before to what each day offers and open to a God of infinite surprise. We might ask ourselves: What am I not seeing that I should see? What have I taken for granted? What are people placing in my bowl? How can each item placed there be a teacher for me in my own spiritual life?

Actually, even if you do not go through life with a begging bowl image, you do go through life as a begging bowl. In some sense, each one of us is a bowl, a crusty clump of clay God scooped out of the earth and breathed into with the breath of life. Each one of us "holds these treasures in earthen vessels." So the real question we might ask ourselves: How will my bowl be positioned in my life?

As I see it, there are four ways your begging bowl can be positioned. The first position is upside-down. There are people who are simply not open to new possibilities and surprises of the Spirit. For these people their bowl is more like an umbrella that keeps life and the Spirit away from them. We all have those days, don’t we?

The second bowl position is right-side-up, open to the heavens, but already full. Many of us are so full of our own agendas, so fixated on our own productivity and creativity, that we have little space to receive gifts from God. This too, is one we might all fit in on some days.

The third bowl position is up, open, but riddled with stains, cracks and debris. Whatever gets put into it gets polluted and colored by our pain, bitterness and anger. Or it simply seeps out through the cracks that have not been filled or healed. No matter what good might come, this bowl will never allow positivity to repair the cracks of negativity. Alas, some days we all fit into this bowl also.

The fourth bowl position is up, empty, clear, clean and censed. There may be all sorts of cracks in it. But those broken places are actually where we are the strongest, as God's grace and forgiveness have healed our lives of its fissures and fragmentation. This is the bowl we should be craving to be at all times. The bowl of Christ on the water and we asking to join Him. We all need more of these days – we truly do.
It kind of came to mind yesterday while Trina and I were repotting some root-bound plants. That we often times we are like the pot/root-bound plants with no room to go and when you try to replant them, they do not want to leave the familiarity of their current pot. They don’t want to get out onto the water to meet Jesus; they want to remain in the boat!

Like the disciples in today's lesson, how many times have we been given the opportunity to experience a living personal encounter with Jesus--and yet have failed to recognize his presence before us? In what position is your begging bowl?

The late Lewis Smedes was a professor of philosophy and integration at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. In one of his many best-selling books, A Pretty Good Person, he tells this story:

A few years ago, I spent a hot August day at the Los Angeles county jail, waiting for the wheels of the system to open jail doors for someone I was bailing out. It takes a long time to spring somebody from this mammoth prison, so I had to wait and watch.

I watched the pimps in white suits bailing out their prostitutes; lawyers in black suits bailing out their clients; drug dealers bailing out their peddlers; girls bailing out their boyfriends; and drunks who disturbed the peace the night before slinking out on their own. As I took in the sleazy parade, I began to see everyone in it as a full-time, obsessive-compulsive, addictive, hopeless loser. By noon, I lost any desire to know any more about them than that.

At mid-afternoon, I decided to go out for a cold drink. As I walked out the door, I met a lanky black man wearing a black suit with a priest's collar--a prison chaplain, I figured, on his way out at the end of a day's work of grace. I introduced myself on our way to the parking lot. He gave me the feeling that he had time to talk a while, so I asked him to join me for a drink.

"Glad to," he said. "There's a Denny's right around the block."

It turned out he wasn't a priest; he was an insurance salesman. He devoted one day out of every week to bring a moment of grace to those locked up in the county jail. He wore the cloth so that everyone there knew what he was up to.

I asked him the sort of questions any decent Pharisee would ask.
"Don't you keep meeting the same people, coming in and going out? Recidivists, repeaters, losers?"

"Well," he replied, "every person locked up in that jail has got somebody with a key to let him out. But I meet people in my business every day who are locked up in a cell inside their hearts and nobody on Earth has a key to let them out. So I don't see an enormous difference between them."

"Okay, true enough, but still, aren't most of the men you meet inside this jail hard-core losers?"

"Well, maybe they are, but that's just not the way I divide people up. The only two categories of people I really care about are the forgiven people and the unforgiven people."

He had me.
"I met Jesus today," I told Doris when I came home.

"Oh yeah? What did he say to you?"

"He told me I was a Pharisee. Have eyes. Don't see"

What keeps you from seeing the unexpected Jesus? Is it indifference that keeps your eyes unfocused so that nothing can affect your own life? Is it bewilderment that keeps your eyes darting from one flashing image to the next, unable to sort out one from the other? Is it bafflement that keeps your eyes wide but your mind cloaked in confusion? Is it boredom that keeps your eyes closed because your heart allows nothing to stir it anymore? Is it fear that keeps your eyes averted, afraid to open any part of yourself to new experiences or encounters?

Do you keep to the same paths every day, never varying your life patterns so that the unexpected or the out-of-the-ordinary can never find you? Or do you keep moving all the time--new friends, new jobs, new loves, new lovers--so that no one ever has a chance to really find your heart?
Every single one of us falls into one or more of these categories, but like addicts and alcoholics, we deny that we do.

Just as the risen Jesus refused to stay in the tomb, so the Christ of faith refuses to live only in our church sanctuaries on Sunday mornings. Jesus was raised from death into life--and that life is everywhere and all the time. He is a Living Christ – not a dead Christ!

Christians live with the belief that they are always on "Candid Camera." When we least expect Christ to be present in our lives--there he is!

- Without fanfare, without a choir, without robes or regalia, Christ appears.

- Without warning, without shoes, without a home, Christ appears.

- Without power, without friends, without a chance, Christ appears.

- Without a name, without parents, without health, Christ appears.

- Without fear, without self-concern, without guile, Christ appears.

Is your faith great enough to recognize Christ when he appears before you? The ever transforming and transformative Christ calls on our faith to recognize a presence in our lives, whatever the surprising, unexpected shape he may take. He is still waiting for all of us to get out of the boat; get out of the pot; and empty our bowl so that He may enter in!

By the way, I still make lists. I suspect that is one of my addictions I probably won’t stop – otherwise the distractions during prayer will win – I am sorry, but I’m not letting the cursed devil win.
Let us pray.
That the Church will stand as a living witness to truth and freedom, to peace and justice. We pray to the Lord. (Lord hear our prayer.)
That God will banish violence from our midst and defend us against every attack. We pray to the Lord.
For the spiritual growth of our parish community; that we will commit ourselves to the truth of the Gospel with zeal, self-sacrifice, and hope. We pray to the Lord.
That young people will entrust themselves to the joys of the Gospel, and oppose the illusions of instant and short-term happiness. We pray to the Lord.
For those facing difficult decisions or stressful problems; that God will give them help and serenity. We pray to the Lord.
For the grace this week to live with a burning desire for the kingdom of God. We pray to the Lord.
For continued help, healing, and peace to our family members of this community who continue in illness; send the healing Archangel Raphael to be at their side. We pray to the Lord.
For the peace and repose of Charlie Gard, 11 month old baby in England who had been on life support and has passed on. May he rest in peace eternal. We pray to the Lord.
For the family, doctors, lawyers, and nurses who have helped in Charlie Gard’s care that they may find peace and comfort in this time. We pray to the Lord.
That our government and those governments surrounding North Korea will find a peaceful resolve to the provocations and missile testings from North Korea. We pray to the Lord.
Loving father, when we call, you answer us. You build up strength within us. Help us now in our need. We ask all this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
God Love You +++
+ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Universal Catholic Church
San Diego, Ca.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

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July 23, 2017
The Sixth Sunday after Trinity
“So, how’s everything going?” the doctor asked his patient, George. “Great,” says George. “I’ve found religion. God knows I have poor eyesight, so he’s fixed it so that when I get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom – poof! – the light goes on, and then – poof! – the light goes off when I am done.
Later that day, the doctor calls George’s wife. “I’m in awe of George’s relationship with God,” he says. “Is it true that when he gets up in the middle of the night – poof! – the light goes on in the bathroom, and then – poof! – the light goes off?” George’s wife sighs. “No,” she says. “It means he’s going in the refrigerator again.”
Now, fortunately, none of us have that problem – at least I hope not. But, isn’t it interesting how faith can build merely over something perceived. I know some of you fall asleep during my sermons, so surely some light comes on for you here! We hear people say they can be filled with God’s presence anywhere. But, can they be filled like they would at Mass?
We heard today some words from St. Paul; “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Then we heard of the story of Christ feeding the 5,000 Men – and that was not counting the women and children – so imagine the number of people that were fed that day, and still 12 baskets of left-overs were collected. I don’t know about all of you, but that is an awful lot of left-overs and we know how some of us feel about eating left-overs!
These two readings that we heard today are really encapsulated in our Mass. We listen to one of our first collects, asking Almighty God to “cleanse our thoughts and our hearts by the inspiration of Thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love Thee, and worthily magnify Thy holy Name.”
If we were to read the book of Revelation we would find that it’s filled with prayers of worship, adoration, and praise. Even in the parts that describe the violent upheavals at the end of the world; the Angels and Saints in heaven are still singing joyful songs of victory and love to Jesus. Somehow, in the midst of a cosmic battle, the citizens of heaven never waver in their confidence. They never fear the final outcome, and they never seem to worry about their fate. They know that they belong to the Lord, and that knowledge fills them with joy.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have that same disposition? What a blessing to never be intimidated by difficult circumstances, but to remain lighthearted in every situation! Of course, this won’t happen fully until we join the Angels and Saints in heaven. But we can taste this heavenly joy and happiness here and now as we ask the Holy Spirit to fill us.
Nowhere is the Spirit more active among us than when we gather for Mass. From the formality of the opening procession to the personal intimacy of Communion, God is there, longing to fill us with His truth, His love, and His power. So how can we experience these blessings?
The first thing we can do is check our mindset. Why are we coming to Mass? To fulfill our obligation? Or to meet Jesus and receive His love? Of course, it’s always good to be at Mass, even if we are not deeply engaged, but imagine how much more we can receive when we go with an open heart and an attentive mind. “I am here because I want the Holy Spirit to fill me with every grace and blessing. I’m here because I believe the Spirit has a message for me. I am here because I want to feel God’s love in the presence of my brothers and sisters in Christ.”
These kinds of statements can help us go with the right mindset. They can put us in the right disposition so that we can experience the Spirit filling us up.
So mindset is important. But how do we take it and apply it in a particular way? Here are some possible suggestions.
First, you can begin the moment you walk into the church; when you bless yourself with holy  water, make it a point to recall your baptism. Read the little prayer that I laminated and put above the holy water font. Let both of these remind you that Jesus has washed away original sin. Tell yourself that He can also wash away - right there and then - any distractions, doubts, or fears that might keep you from hearing His voice and worshiping Him.
Secondly, during the Confiteor, offer up to the Lord any sins that might be clouding your spiritual vision. Tell Him you are sorry for the ways you may have hurt Him or the people around you.
Thirdly, as you hear the readings and sermon, imagine that Jesus himself or Isaiah or Moses or Mary is the one proclaiming the word of God. Place yourself in the scene that you are hearing, and expect that the Holy Spirit will help these words come alive in your heart. Imagine what it will be like in heaven, when you finally see your heavenly Father face to face. Every question you have ever had will be answered, and every answer you receive will fill you with wonder at the love your Father has for you.
Fourth, during the Eucharistic prayers, picture yourself right there in the gospel we read today, among the 5,000 that Jesus fed, or among the Apostles and Mary in the upper room, watching Jesus take the traditional Passover prayers and fill them with new meaning. Join Peter and John and James and all the other Apostles and marvel at the miracle unfolding before you; bread and wine are being transformed into the Body and Blood of Jesus. Imagine Him inviting you personally to come to the altar and receive Him - both in your body and in your heart.
Lastly, after Communion, kneel quietly in adoration and worship. You are one with Jesus. He is pouring His Spirit into you. His Spirit has a special message for you. He wants to nourish you and heal you and fill you with His grace. For these few brief minutes, you can have a taste of what heaven must be like!
As the next few weeks go by, maybe try a little experiment. Every Sunday at Mass, trying to walk through each part of the liturgy with the mindset I described just now. Take the steps that I outlined, and see what the Holy Spirit does. Welcome the Spirit, and ask Him to raise up your human efforts and fill them with heavenly insight, joy, and strength.
Some amazing things just might happen to you. During the Confiteor, you may actually feel Jesus’ mercy washing your heart clean. You may be filled with a new sense of joy knowing that Jesus is always ready to forgive you.
Maybe a word or phrase from one of the readings may strike you as God’s own personal message to you. Maybe when Jesus tells someone, “Your faith has saved you,” you will feel a sense of assurance and confidence that Jesus sees how much you believe in Him.
During the sermon you might feel the Holy Spirit urging you to take a certain action like reaching out to a friend who is hurting or committing yourself more deeply to daily prayer. Or maybe during the words of the responsorial prayers the words will warm your heart and make you pray in the same way.
Or maybe during the Prayer of Consecration when you hear the words, “we do also call to mind all who in this transitory life are in trouble, sorrow, need, sickness or any other adversity…”, You may be moved to pray for friend or even an enemy with greater urgency.
When we recite “Holy, holy, holy …” you may suddenly have the feeling that you are in heaven with the Saints and Angels. You may find yourself filled with a new joy and wonder in the presence of the Lord.
As you are kneeling during the Eucharistic prayers, you may have a new sense of how great God is and how much He deserves your adoration and worship.
After receiving Communion, you may feel a new sense of joy and peace because you know that Christ is in you. Words of gratitude and praise may well up inside of you, and you will find yourself telling Jesus that you love Him.
Pentecostal moments are not just for those “other churches” – they are for all of us – even here and now!
Each of these ideas could possibly be a sign of the Holy Spirit filling you up. They all point to His desire to declare to us the blessings and grace that flow from His Cross. They point to the Spirit’s desire to convince us that we are children of God.
As you experiment with taking up this hope filled, expectant mindset during Mass, lookout for ways that your disposition might gradually change in the rest of your day and in the week ahead. Consider writing down in a prayer journal maybe, some of the senses you receive at Mass, and glance over them during the week. If you feel the Holy Spirit is asking you to make a small change in your life - like possibly being more consistent in prayer or to try to share a kind word with someone who is hurting - write that down as a way to remind you.
Whatever you decide to do, pay attention to your actions and your disposition. Maybe you will begin to feel more lighthearted or you may find it easier to remain at peace in stressful situations. You may find yourself more willing to forgive or to reach out to someone who seems to need a hand. You may also find yourself stopping a few times during the day to turn your heart back to God. All of these are signs of what St. Paul called “fruit of the Spirit”. They are all signs that the Holy Spirit is filling your heart.
Isn’t it wonderful to know that the Holy Spirit wants to give you a heavenly disposition? Isn’t it encouraging and comforting to know that He wants to fill you up so that you can have the same courage, joy, and freedom that the Angels and Saints in heaven have? And the best part is that He wants to do this for us over and over again, every time we come to Mass with open hearts.
Let us pray.
That the shepherds of the Church will proclaim Christ, admonishing and teaching with all wisdom. We pray to the Lord. (Lord hear our prayer.)
That our brothers and sisters who have strayed from the faith may, through our prayer and witness to the Gospel, rediscover the merciful closeness of the Lord in the beauty of the Christian faith in our small branch of Catholicism. We pray to the Lord.
For an end to terrorism in the world, and for the unification and peace of all peoples. We pray to the Lord.
That all who are sick, that they may find comfort, peace and healing. We pray to the Lord.
For the homeless, for whatever reason they may be in this state, that resources be made available from government entities and that all people may be more compassionate and less judging of those in this state. We pray to the lord.
For those who risk their lives in order to protect the lives of others; that they will be strengthened, shielded, and aided. We pray to the Lord.
For the grace this week to be just and kind to all we meet. We pray to the Lord.
Loving father, guide us in right paths and give us courage to face the challenges of life. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
God Love You. +++
+ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Universal Catholic Church
San Diego, Ca.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

July 16, 2017
The Fifth Sunday after Trinity
I have a news flash for you. Jesus loves eBay! You know - the online garage sale where you can bid on and buy virtually anything you can think of? Yes, Jesus loves it. Now, to be clear, Jesus is not an avid collector of Star Wars memorabilia or a seller of knock-off Coach purses. No, Jesus loves eBay because Jesus loves a good deal. He's all about the joy that comes from discovering something valuable - possibly priceless - while perusing piles of seemingly ordinary items.

It's the joy that Morace Park, a British antiques dealer, felt after paying $5 for an old film container. Inside he found a never-released seven-minute movie featuring Charlie Chaplin. It was later valued at $60,000.

It's the feeling Philip Gura, an American literature professor, had after paying $481 for a photograph of poet Emily Dickinson. The snapshot is just the second photo of Dickinson known to exist, which makes Gura's discovery priceless.

Kent Devey paid $25 for a used BlackBerry. He later discovered the phone contained the numbers and e-mail addresses of 50 major celebrities, including some Academy Award winners. You can bet someone was willing to pay a pretty penny for that info to be erased or have the phone returned.

Lastly, can you put a price tag on love? Maria Ariz, a nurse from New Jersey, paid $16 on eBay for a pair of jeans. When she wrote the seller to ask about other items, the two fell in love, and have now been married for seven years. Now that's a good deal -- and Jesus loves it!

How do we know? Well, Matthew chapter 13, of course, with its parables about hidden treasures and pearls of great price! A man stumbles across a pile of treasure buried in a field. He's so taken with his discovery, so overwhelmed at its value, that he sells off every other item in his possession to purchase the land and make the treasure his own. You might call it overkill, but Jesus says, "Nope. Heck of a deal."

A merchant who makes his living pushing pearls spends his days scouring the markets for the best of the best. Upon finally finding it, the man mortgages his home and sells his cars on Craigslist all to purchase a single, sparkling pearl. You might think it a waste, but not at all in the eyes of Jesus. For Him, such sacrifice, for such treasure, is well worth the investment.

Jesus is all about the joy that comes from discovering something priceless while perusing the ordinary. In fact, for Jesus, the greatest of such joys, the most magnificent of flea market finds, and unexpected eBay treasures, is none other than the kingdom of heaven. In the parables of Matthew 13, Jesus tells us that the very reign and rule of God, the loving and life-changing activity of God in heaven, has broken into our world and is available now. It's here to be discovered and embraced. Yet, like a Honus Wagner baseball card sitting in a shoebox at some grandmother's garage sale, the kingdom of heaven is found in unassuming places and encountered in unlikely ways. And whatever it costs you to "get" it is well worth it.

So the big question then is this: In what unlikely places do we find God's power and presence? Some think the key to discovering God is in getting mystical and otherworldly. They might espouse some process of escaping the trappings of flesh and world and ascending to some higher plane where God abides. Although quite great in itself, but, that doesn't seem to jibe with Jesus' idea of the kingdom's being uncovered in the ordinary.

Others might argue that the key to connecting with the kingdom is being good enough to gain admittance. You know, help enough old ladies across the street, donate enough money to charity, make a lot of people smile, make very few people cry and when your days are done boom-you're in the kingdom. But that seems at odds with Jesus' own description of the kingdom as treasure being stumbled upon in a field as if it's something freely given. (But, my Facebook friends, don’t stop donating on our link, because there are still millions of souls who need our little ministry we can’t quite reach who could use a church like us!)

No, encountering God, experiencing God's power and being caught up in God's love must be things we can encounter in the ordinary, and access easily.

What about here? Is this the place where we encounter the kingdom? Think about it for a moment. Jesus' ultimate point in the parable is that He was the means by which the kingdom had come to Earth. It was in Him that the love of God, the power of God and a reconciled, right relationship with God could all be received. Christ and His work on the cross are the treasure in the field and the pearl of great price. And this is the place where that very same Jesus is to be encountered today. Do you believe that?

Do you believe that when we gather here, in this unassuming place, that the greatest treasure in the history of God's universe is here for the taking? Do you believe that when God's Word is read here, preached here or sung here, that Jesus is speaking here? Do you believe that when you hear, "You are forgiven of that sin," "You're forever a member of God's family" or "Take and eat this bread that is body, take and drink this wine that is blood" that the power and promises of Christ are taking hold in you and doing something miraculous in you?

By sight and sound alone this seems like the last "field" in which you'd find something so special. This place is filled with imperfect people and we preach a message of forgiveness and hope that to an unbelieving world sounds like absolute insanity. We believe in a Christ that is full of mercy, not condemnation. The apostle Paul said as much himself. "...the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God" (1 Corinthians 1:18).

Here's another one to wrestle with: What if the work of the kingdom is not only found here but if it is also found in you? Have you thought about that one? If you're a baptized, believing follower of Jesus Christ, then the Scriptures tell us that you are now a living, breathing "field," filled with the priceless treasures of Jesus.

Yes, you with all of your past mistakes and present problems. You're filled with the truth of Christ that can change someone else's eternity. You're filled with the Holy Spirit who's given you the same compassion as Christ and a desire, like Christ, to bless others in need Yes, you're now part of a royal priesthood whose very presence has the power to "...proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9).

Yes, we as a community and each of us individually as believers are the unlikely, ordinary and easily accessible places where the greatest treasure in the world can be found and encountered. With that realization comes an incredible responsibility. We - you - are the field for the wandering to stumble upon salvation. We are the marketplace of pearls for the seeker to finally find what he's looking for. We are the online auction where a hurting world can bid on trash and receive untold treasure in the form of forgiveness, unlimited and life-unending.

Knowing such things, what is your attitude toward such things? Do you come to this place each week expecting to hear from God himself and have an encounter with the kingdom? Or have you been blinded by the ordinary facade of the same people in the same pews and the same persons standing up front? Are you inviting others to this field to find the treasure in this field? Are you offering others the undeserved compassion of Christ? Are you ready and willing to answer the seeking or bear witness to the wandering about the life-changing truth of Christ?

Maybe you're here as the seeker or the wanderer yourself? Maybe you’re afraid that our little community here is just like other churches that you either found unwelcoming or too condemning? Nope; not here – sorry – we’re different than the norm and proud of it. Christ wants you to bet your life on this – on Him!

One popular show on cable television some time back was A&E's Storage Wars. It follows a group of men and women who make their living bidding on the opportunity to take ownership of unopened, repossessed storage units, in the hopes of finding hidden treasure. Yes, this is a television show. They've discovered everything from coffins and artwork to the world's most valuable comic book collection, all while paying as little as $10 to take it all home.

If you're here as the seeker or the wanderer, then what you need to know is that you have a lot in common with such modern day treasure hunters. Today you're sitting in a place and among people that may not seem like much, but if you'll open yourself up, untold treasure awaits you. The kind of treasure that only God Himself can offer. Yes, it comes at a cost. Taking ownership of all that God has in store for you through Jesus Christ will come at the cost of confessing your brokenness and your need for a savior. It means saying goodbye to a life of wandering. It means living a life of worshiping Jesus. It will mean that your days of searching are done and finding peace in the fact that you've arrived in God's family.

That might sound to you like chump change. It may be asking the world. But what you'll one day realize is that such sacrifice for such treasure is well worth the investment. In fact, you'll learn that it's such a lop-sided steal that it can only be called a gift. It can only be described as grace.

Some years ago, Pastor Mike Ernst of Hales Corners, Wisconsin stumbled across an old Corvette. As a car aficionado he knew he'd found something unique in this early 1960s', rusted and worn-out Chevrolet. Buying it from the college student who was tooling around in it, Ernst took it to his barn and began the slow work of restoration. It soon became clear that this was no ordinary, old Corvette. Some searching on the Internet revealed that Pastor Mike's old clunker was in fact the world famous 1962 Gulf Oil Corvette - a car that won first place 12 times in races at Daytona, Sebring and beyond. When Ernst found the car, he paid $3,000 for it. It was later sold at auction for $1.5 million.

Jesus loves eBay. Our Lord loves a steal of a deal and the joy that comes from discovering something valuable - possibly priceless - while perusing piles of ordinary items. Why? Because He's offering the most incredible item around: Himself. Free of charge.

May this be a place where the treasure of a Christ is easily encountered. May the treasure of Christ be accessible for the world, in you. May you, wanderer and seeker, find this treasure. Use what you've learned. It's not to be found in expected places; and no matter what the price tag seems to be, it is definitely, undeniably worth the cost!
Let us pray.
That the Church throughout the world may act as mediator in finding solutions to problems affecting peace, social harmony, and civil rights. We pray to the Lord. (Lord hear our prayer.)
For an end to the culture of death so that the dignity of every human person will be revered. We pray to the Lord.
That God will bless and strengthen all families in faith, hope, and love. We pray to the Lord.
That our parish will be a vibrant community of prayer, evangelization, and charitable action. We pray to the Lord.
That the Lord will be close to the poor, the sick, the dying, the lonely, the marginalized, the unemployed, the addicted, and the homeless. We pray to the Lord.
For the grace this week to devote ourselves to the Word of God in its richness and that we will seek the kingdom of heaven at whatever cost it may be to ourselves. We pray to the Lord.
We continue to ask that the Archangel Raphael, the healing angel, that he visit the family members of our parish who have been deeply ill for the past few weeks. We pray to the Lord.
Loving Father, let us see Your kindness, and grant us Your salvation. Give us the courage to seek You out no matter the cost. Through Christ our Lord. Amen

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