Sunday, May 28, 2017

May 28, 2017
Ascension Sunday
In about a month and a half we'll be celebrating the 48th anniversary of humanity's first steps on the moon -- a real life example of the old Star Trek invitation to "boldly go where no one has gone before." Since then, however, we've not been boldly going much of anywhere else in terms of human exploration. Sure, we're sending probes to other planets and mapping the human genome, but finding real adventure in places where few or no humans have been before would seem elusive.
Then again, maybe it's not that there aren't places left to explore; it's just that we have to be a bit more creative, and even aggressive, in finding them. Sometimes, those out-of-the-way places are as close as the edge of town, on the way to work or even right under our feet.
Enter the new phenomenon called "place hacking." If computer hacking is all about gaining unauthorized access to a particular database or hijacking a Facebook account to pose as someone else, place hacking is all about getting into actual places where access may be forbidden or into areas that the rest of the world has simply forgotten about.
Place hacking is a global movement of young urban explorers who sneak into places like former military bases, abandoned factories, decommissioned hospitals or power stations, sewer or subway tunnels and even skyscrapers still under construction. Look it up on the web or even read a book called, Explore Everything: Place-Hacking the City, by Book by Bradley Garrett.
Armed with only a camera, place hackers reveal a whole new world that's rarely, if ever, seen by the general public. "The idea behind urban exploration is revealing what's hidden in the world," says Dr. Bradley Garrett, an Oxford University academic and an apparent renowned place hacker. "It's about going into places that are essentially off-limits and, because they are off limits, have been relatively forgotten. The goal of the urban explorer is not just to explore these places but also to photograph them and share these with others so they can see what they're like."
Despite being questioned by authorities for hacking into an old London bomb shelter filled with old boxes of bank and other records, Garrett still has other places he would like to explore with a team -- places like the Gwangmyeong Ghost Station in North Korea, an abandoned part of the subway system there; Fordlandia, the utopian, rubber-harvesting company town that Henry Ford constructed in the Brazilian jungle in 1928 that's now a ghost town; and the torch of the Statue of Liberty.
Most of us aren't adventurous enough or willing to risk arrest in order to go to some of these places despite the unique opportunity to get a glimpse at the underside of the urban world. But that doesn't mean we can't be place hackers of another sort. In fact, Jesus commands us to "go ... and make disciples of all nations". To do that, we might find ourselves hacking into places and into lives we might never have imagined, even when those places and people are as close as our own neighborhood.
In fact, it's not a stretch to suggest that Jesus' primary way of doing ministry involved place hacking. The gospels are full of incidents in which Jesus was in places that few other "proper" people of his day would ever have imagined themselves.
For starters, he was born in an out-of-the-way barn! He grew up in a backwater town where he got tossed out of the synagogue one day because his neighbors thought he was nuts.
He crashed countless dinner parties where he spent time with people who lived most of their lives in back alleys and hidden places -- prostitutes, tax collectors and a host of other sinners. He ventured into the territory of the Samaritans, where no pious Jew would ever dare to go, and spent time talking at a well with a woman with a checkered past (John 4).
He spent time in the desert wastelands, in small towns and in the big city of Jerusalem. He touched lepers who hovered on the edge of society. He went into the temple and hacked into the commerce system by flipping over the tables of the moneychangers.
He would find himself in an upper room and a garden, and then he hacked into Herod's palace and Pilate's fortress, even though he did it the hard way. He would find himself viewing the world from a Roman cross -- a place where no one wanted to go -- ever.
And then, placed in a tomb, he managed to hack his way back into the world as its risen Savior. Jesus didn't have to go far to explore any of those places, and yet by hacking into them he changed the world.
After his resurrection, Jesus gathered his own crew of disciples together and called them to be place hackers as well. That's what he'd been training them to do all along. He'd already sent them out on a place hacking mission of their own, where they took nothing and left only footprints. Now, he was sending them out even farther: to "all nations". It would be in those places far and near, familiar and not-so-familiar, where they would baptize and teach a new crew of place hackers "to obey everything" that Jesus commanded them. They would then boldly go into the corners of every city and nation to continue the place hacking ministry of Jesus. Not that it would be easy.
It's interesting that when the risen Christ shows up among his disciples, Matthew tells us that "they worshiped him; but some doubted". (Most scholars believe that the ones who doubted, were those outside of the eleven Apostles.) The prospect of being chucked into prison for hacking into the wrong place with the message about Jesus was a real possibility, as the book of Acts reveals. Place hacking for Jesus may be even more physically dangerous in certain parts of the world today than trying to crawl up the arm of the Statue of Liberty. Doubt is a natural reaction when one is confronted with that kind of trouble.
But the early disciples still went as Jesus commanded them, and we are their spiritual descendants. The call of Jesus to "go" is still given to us in a world that still has plenty of dark corners as well as shiny spaces. No matter where we're called to go, Jesus has given us this promise: "I am with you always, to the very end of the age." He's still place hacking and calls us to join him.
Think about where you live. Where are those places that few respectable people would dare to go? Where are the dark alleys and hidden places that shelter people who hide in shame from the rest of the world? Where are the places of need, of opportunity? Have you ever place hacked your neighbor's front porch to begin a relationship that shows them the love of Christ? Sometimes, a simple “hello” can lead to something bigger.
Bradley Garrett says that most people "age out" of place hacking buildings and cityscapes before the age of 40. They get respectable and lose the spark of adventure that caused them to get out and get dirty in the first place. The same could be said of Jesus' followers. After 2,000 years of history, it's become easy for the church to get complacent, to expect people to come to us, to prefer safety and the security of counting butts in pews and bucks in the offering plates. And then we count this as "following Jesus."  (Of course, to be honest, in this day and age even when people are invited – or even commit to coming to church – sad to say, they rarely do.)
But Jesus authorized us to "go," not sit. He asked us to baptize believers, not build buildings. Few people in an increasingly secular culture are ever going try to place hack our churches anyway. The only way forward for the church is to go and get dirty, taking nothing with us but love, and leaving nothing but footprints.
To boldly go where no one has gone before.
Let us pray.
Father God, Your Son told us to go and make disciples of every nation. We are called to spread the Good News to everyone so that they may have life in You. We have been called to baptize them in Your Name, and that of Your Son and the Holy Spirit. Although, most of us believe this in spirit, we do not follow it with our hearts. There should be a sense of urgency to follow this directive You gave to us all. We do not know what tomorrow holds, so we should be ready to meet You today.
Help us, dear Father, to not be afraid to place hack – to speak earnestly and opening about our love for You wherever and whomever we are with. Help us to be courageous in speaking of our faith in You to those we meet. Sometimes, dear Father, we need an extra boost of courage to be open about our faith and we ask that You send Your Holy Spirit during these times so that we will more courageously spread the Good News.
Lastly, dear Lord, help us to be open to “place hacking” in that You created a vast universe with so much to explore. Help us to earnestly love and seek out Your creation and become better acquainted with it so that we can have a better appreciation for what You have created and have allowed us to live in it and have some control over it. May we come to a better appreciation on Your creation and work better at preserving it. 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, May 21, 2017

May 21, 2017
The Fifth Sunday after Easter
When I was younger, I used to love to watch the Olympics. One athlete in particular stood out during some of those years. He was a bit younger than I was; I was well into my first career by the time I was able to watch him compete a second time while he tried to launch his. Derek Redmond was determined. He had to finish the race. Period.

He was a young British runner, one who had sky rocketed to fame by shattering his country’s 400-meter record at age 19. But then an Achilles tendon injury forced him to withdraw from the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, and he endured five separate surgeries. When the Summer Olympics arrived in Barcelona in 1992, Derek Redmond was absolutely aching for a medal.

On the day of the 400-meter race, 65,000 fans streamed into the stadium, anxious to witness one of sports’ most thrilling events. High in the stands is Derek’s father, Jim, a faithful witness to every one of his son’s world competitions. According to ESPN, Jim is wearing a T-shirt that reads, “Have you hugged your foot today?”

The race begins and Derek breaks through the pack to seize the lead. “Keep it up, keep it up,” his father Jim says to himself. Heading down the backstretch, only 175 meters from the finish line, Derek is a shoo-in to win this semifinal heat and qualify for the Olympic finals.

But then Derek hears a pop. It’s his right hamstring. He pulls up lame, looking as if he has been shot. His leg quivering, Derek begins to hop on the other leg, and then he slows down and falls to the track. Medical personnel run toward him as he sprawls on the ground, holding his right hamstring.

At the very same moment, there is a stir at the top of the stands. Jim Redmond, seeing his son in trouble, begins to race down from the top row. He is pushing toward the track, sidestepping some people and bumping into others. He has no right or credential or permission to be on the track, but all he can think about is getting to his son, to help him up. He is absolutely single-minded about this, and isn’t going to be stopped by anyone.

On the track, Derek realizes that his dream of an Olympic medal is gone. He is alone. The other runners streak across the finish line, with Steve Lewis of the United States winning the race. He is orphaned, as it were, a lonely figure on the track, friendless, parentless and alone.

Tears pour down Derek’s face, and all he can think is, “I don’t want to take a DNF.” A Did-Not-Finish was not even part of his vocabulary. When the medical crew arrives with a stretcher, Derek tells them, “No, there’s no way I’m getting on that stretcher. I’m going to finish my race.” And so he lifts himself to his feet, ever so slowly and carefully, and he starts hobbling down the track.

Suddenly, the crowd realizes that Derek isn’t dropping out of the race. He isn’t limping off the track in defeat, but is actually continuing on one leg, in a fiercely determined effort to make it to the finish line. One painful step at a time, each one a little slower and more agonizing than the one before, Derek limps onward, and the crowd begins to cheer for him. The fans rise to their feet and their cries grow louder and louder, building into a thundering roar.

At that moment, Jim Redmond reaches the bottom of the stands, vaults over the railing, dodges a security guard, and runs out to his son — with two security people running after him. “That’s my son out there,” he yells back at his pursuers, “and I’m going to help him.”

Jim reaches his son at the final curve, about 120 meters from the finish line, and wraps his arm around his waist. “I’m here, son,” Jim says gently, hugging his boy. “We’ll finish together.”

Derek puts his arms around his father’s shoulders and sobs. Together, arm in arm, father and son struggle toward the finish line with 65,000 people cheering, clapping and crying. Just a few steps from the end, with the crowd in an absolute frenzy, Jim releases the grip he has on his son so that Derek can cross the finish line by himself.

“I’m the proudest father alive,” Jim Redmond tells the press afterward, with tears in his eyes. “I’m prouder of him than I would have been if he had won the gold medal. It took a lot of guts for him to do what he did.” Together, they kept a promise they had made to finish the race, no matter what. (You can still find it online if you want to see or read about him. Derek is now a motivational speaker.)

We could talk here about God the Father and Son. “I am in the Father and the Father is in me,” said Jesus to His disciples on the night before His crucifixion (John 14:10). They were bound together — bound as tightly as Derek and Jim Redmond — as they approached the finish line at the cross.

But a stronger image emerges. Here are the disciples, who’ve been riding on the back of Jesus for three years. This gravy train, such as it was, was coming to an end. He’s talking about His own death in terms that the disciples don’t clearly understand.

Something is in the wind. But Jesus says to them, as they now begin to feel the tension, that he “will not leave [them] orphaned.” “I am coming to you,” He says, and His coming is in the form of the Holy Spirit or here called in the Greek, the Paraclete, or the Advocate.

The word evokes a juridical drama, especially since Jesus himself is described as a Paraclete in 1 John 2:1. Jesus is our advocate; He stands in court with us, pleading our case.

Here, the Holy Spirit is described as another Advocate. Like Jesus, the Holy Spirit will also stand in for us. The Holy Spirit will strengthen us; keep us on track, because he is the “Spirit of truth.”

So let’s think about this a bit.

The disciples are called to get into the action, to run this race, as it were. But Jesus is there with them. They never could have done it without Him. In their faith run, they’ve never been alone. Jesus has always been there. The very physicality of Jesus has been their source of reassurance. The miracles, the teaching, the leadership. It’s been enough to keep them going.

Now He’s talking of dropping out. The unthinkable is happening. How are they to proceed? Some are no doubt already contacting their fishing buddies to see if there’s an opening in the cannery at Capernaum.

But Jesus says that even after His death He will still be with them. He will still encourage them, plead with them, pray for them, and teach them.

But the nature of His presence will change. “In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me,” He says. He will be present to them in the form of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth. They will not run this race alone; they will not have to cross the finish line alone.

We all have been in those circumstances where we sign on to do something as long as we have someone to help us with it. If we have to do it alone, forget it.

This is the key issue here. The disciples signed on because Jesus was team leader. We signed on because we believed that God would be present in our lives, that God was trustworthy, that God was someone we could count on.

Then, things happen that seem to suggest that God is not with us. That Jesus has indeed left us “orphaned”. And when that happens we’re tempted to take a DNF.

It’s a strong image: orphaned. It’s the feeling that your own parents have rejected and abandoned you. Your parents! Or perhaps the parents are no longer present because of a tragedy. You are orphaned! You do not have even your closest blood relatives alive to support and encourage you.

Jesus told His disciples that He would not leave them “orphaned” - without a “parent” present in their lives.

In his book, A Rumor of Angels: Modern Society and the Rediscovery of the Supernatural, sociologist Peter Berger tells of a priest working in the slums of a European city. “Why do you do it,” someone asked. He answered, “So that the rumor of God may not disappear completely.”

How are we going to react when the rumor of God is fading? When we pull up with a hamstring and no one is coming out of the stands to help us, to put their arms around us? Are we alone?

No. Not for even an instant.

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of life. Because I live, promises Jesus to His followers, “you also will live.” The good news is that Christ has conquered the power of sin and death, and the same God who raised Jesus from the dead will give life to our bodies through His Spirit that dwells in us (Romans 8:11). No matter what tragedies come our way, whether they are academic or medical or vocational or emotional, we can hold tight to the promise that Jesus gives us the gift of life — life in this world, and life in the world to come.
“What is your only comfort, in life and in death?” asks the first question of the Heidelberg Catechism, a Protestant teaching tool that was written way back in 1562. (It is online in PDF form if you’re interested.) The answer is as true today as it was almost 500 years ago: “That I belong — body and soul, in life and in death — not to myself but to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.”

We belong to Jesus Christ, and His Spirit gives us life. This is good news for any of us who find ourselves limping toward a finish line.

The Holy Spirit is also the Spirit of love. “They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me,” says Jesus to His disciples; “and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.” The love between God and Jesus is never limited to a supernatural Father-Son relationship — it spills over into our lives and saturates us with unconditional acceptance and affection and acknowledgment.

Of course, there are strings attached. Jesus does talk about obedience. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” That sounds difficult, demanding, and even daunting. The important thing to keep in mind is that the commandments of Jesus all involve living a life of love. Just a few verses earlier, Jesus says to his disciples, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”

Everything is summed up in this one commandment. When you are feeling defeated, love one another. When the medical test is disturbing, love one another. When a family member faces a layoff, love one another. When there’s a death in the community, love one another. When a friend has been rejected, love one another. “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples,” says Jesus, “if you have love for one another.”

The Spirit of truth leads us into a life of love, thus comforting us and carrying us through anything life throws at us.

“I’m here,” says Jesus, in every time and place and situation. “We’re not taking a DNF. We’ll finish together!”
Let us pray.
Father God, often times we run the race of life and seemingly pop a hamstring andimmediately feeling like we are alone when it happens. We try to follow You, but instead the hamstring of life is just too painful and we collapse. We give in to a DNF.
Lord God, we ask You to help us know that in good times as well as those popped hamstrings, we are never alone. Your Son made it clear He would not abandon us. When we feel abandoned, it most often is because we have not put our trust in You; it is most often when we haven’t followed Your commandment to love one another.
When we put our trust in You unreservedly – when we love one another regardless of who they are – we will never be alone or feel alone. For You are always with us, whether it be in our family, our friends or even our own hearts. Help us to trust in You more, so that we will never fear the race or the popped hamstring, but that we run the good race, regardless of the outcome, because we know that You are there with us – win or lose. We do not have a DNF in our lives, because You are always there to help us across the finish line. 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, May 14, 2017

May 14, 2017
Mother’s Day
Our Lady of Fatima
The Fourth Sunday after Easter
There are all kinds of stories about good news and bad news. I’m sure you’ve heard the story about the doctor and his diabetic patient? He came to his patient in the hospital and said, “I am awfully sorry, but I shall have to take off your leg. So, he amputated it the next day and then came in and said, “I have some good news and some bad news for you. The bad news first. I took off the wrong leg. The good news is the other leg is better now.”
Three drunken men came into the hotel New Yorker and they were assigned rooms on the 45th floor. They went out for the night and came back in even a worse state than before and the clerk said, “I’m sorry but the elevator is broken, you will have to walk up.” The drunks said, “We don’t mind.” The clerk said, “No, we will put some cots up on the mezzanine floor.” “No”, said the first drunk, “we’ll walk up.” He said, “For the first 15 floors I will sing.” And the second drunk said, “For the next 15 floors I will tell funny stories.” The third drunk said, “And for the last 15 floors, I will tell sad stories.” And so they started up, and for the first 15 floors – songs. The next 15 floors – funny stories. And they said to the third man, “Alright, begin your sad story.” He said, “I forgot the key.”
Now that I have your attention, I imagine you are wondering how boring this sermon is going to be? Today is Mother’s Day. And what a wonderful day to be taught about the Blessed Mother. Yesterday was Our Lady of Fatima day. And I wanted to remember Ramon’s mother-in-law in prayer today, so today just works out well. A trinity of mother’s if you will. An extra reason for an especially long sermon! So to answer your question, possibly a little boring to some or too long for others.
There is no better day to talk about Mary than on Mother’s day. Our Lady Mary was the first member of the Church. “How do you know that?” you might ask. It’s simple. On the day of the Crucifixion, our Blessed Lord looks down from the Cross and sees His mother and the Disciple named John. He says to His mother, “Woman here is your son.” He says to John, “Here is your mother.” Scriptures say that from that day on, John took Mary into his home. Christ filled out her membership card for her and John. She was the first Christian by virtue of this and by giving birth to her God.
This situation we’ve now witnessed, which when you think about it, tends to imply Mary had no other children. She remained perpetually virgin. It only seems logical that Jesus said this for two reasons. The first, He knew she had no other children to take care of her. Women did work, at least in the traditional sense we have today, so she needed someone to care for her. Additionally, Jesus was out to teach a theological mandate of how His Mother Mary should be viewed by all Christians – as the Mother of us all!)
She becomes the beginning of the Church. However, this is even bigger than anyone could at first imagine, because as she becomes John’s mother, she becomes the mother of all mankind. That was what our Blessed Lord meant, and that is how it has evolved in time.
Most of you know, from our Sunday morning Rosary recitations that I have a bit of a devotion to Our Lady – especially as that of Our Lady of Fatima and Our Lady Undoer of Knots. Pope Francis has devotion to her under the title of Undoer of Knots also. I actually believe in what is said to have taken place in Fatima. Historically, there were many people who attested to the miracle of the sun. Reporters put it at roughly 30,000, and since the miracle the number grew, because it was found that many more people saw it that were far away and wasn’t interested in the happing’s in Fatima. So the number has been estimated to actually be 70,000 to 100,000 witnesses. And many, many cures and miracles of people who have made a pilgrimage to Fatima in hope of a miracle from Our Lady. In your bulletin this morning is photo of the actual newspaper recording the happenings and which validates the story as true.
The Blessed Virgin Mary is venerated under this title following apparitions to three shepherd children — Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco — in Portugal in 1917. The message of Fatima included a call to conversion of heart, repentance from sin and a dedication to the Blessed Virgin Mary, especially through praying the Rosary.
According to the 1962 Missal of St. John XXIII the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, today is the feast of St. Robert Bellarmine. (Just as a bit of useless information, Robert Bellarmine was the saint I chose at my confirmation many years ago.) St. Robert was famous throughout Europe as a theologian, and as a strenuous defender of the Faith in controversy with Protestants. He joined the Society of Jesus, and was later made Cardinal and Archbishop of Capua. He died in 1621, and was canonized and declared Doctor of the Church in 1931. His feast date has been moved to September 17, to make way for the feast day of Our Lady of Fatima who first appeared to the children and May 13, 1917.
The famous apparitions of the Virgin Mary to the children of Fatima took place during the First World War, in the summer of 1917. The inhabitants of this tiny village were mostly poor people, many of them small farmers who went out by day to tend their fields and animals. Children traditionally were assigned the task of herding the sheep.
The three children who received the apparitions had been brought up in an atmosphere of genuine piety: Lucia dos Santos (10) and her two younger cousins, Francisco (9) and Jacinta (7). Together they tended the sheep and, with Lucia in charge, would often pray the Rosary kneeling in the open. In the summer of 1916 an Angel appeared to them several times and taught them a prayer to the Blessed Trinity.
The Trinity prayer goes like this, “O Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore Thee profoundly. I offer Thee the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifferences by which He is offended. By the infinite merits of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary I beg the conversion of poor sinners.” I have a copy of it on a holy card that I keep here on the altar that I leave beneath the corporal that is under the chalice. I leave there to remind me to say the prayer, because I feel there are indeed sacrileges committed against the Body and Blood of Christ.
On Sunday, May 13, 1917, toward noon, a flash of lightning drew the attention of the children, and they saw a brilliant figure appearing over the trees of the Cova da Iria. The "Lady" asked them to pray for the conversion of sinners and an end to the war, and to come back every month, on the 13th.
Further apparitions took place on June 13 and July 13. On August 13 the children were prevented by local authorities from going to the Cova da Iria, but they saw the apparition on the 19th. The children were treated poorly, mocked and ridiculed – people were downright nasty to them. Church authorities accused them of all sorts of sin and forbidden to continue with the false story. The children, however, were full of faith and knew what they saw to be true and would not recant and continued to go on the designated days. On September 13 the Lady requested recitation of the Rosary for an end to the war. The Lady had promised the children that she would perform a miracle on her next visit so as the people would believe the children.
Finally, on October 13, the "Lady" identified herself as "Our Lady of the Rosary" and again called for prayer and penitence.
October 13 was a very rainy and horrible weather of a day; however it did not deter the children or the people from going with the children for chance to see if this Lady was real. On that day a celestial phenomenon also took place: the sun seemed to tumble from the sky and crash toward earth. The children had been forewarned of it as early as May 13, during the first apparition. The large crowd (estimated at 30,000 by reporters) that had gathered around the children and were able to see the phenomenon and came away astounded. Additionally, when the phenomenon was over, everyone was dry, the ground was dry – there was no evidence that it had been raining at all.
Official recognition of the "visions" which the children had at the Cova da Iria came on October 13, 1930, when the bishop of the local diocese - after long inquiry - authorized the cult of Our Lady of the Rosary at the site. The two younger children had died: Francisco (who saw the apparition but did not hear the words) on April 4, 1919, and his sister Jacinta on February 20, 1920. Sister Lucia died just shy of her 98thbirthday, on February 13, 2005, at her Carmelite convent in Coimbra, Portugal, after a long illness.
Through the children, Mary urges prayer for sinners, recitation of the Rosary, and works of penance. On October 13 she said: "I have come to exhort the faithful to change their lives, to avoid grieving Our Lord by sin; to pray the Rosary. I desire in this place a chapel in my honor. If people mend their ways, the war will soon be over."
But Mary also confided several "secrets" to the children, some of which Lucia subsequently transmitted. There was prediction of another war in the near future (WW II) and a request for special veneration of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The final secret Lucia is thought to have entrusted to Pope John XXIII. (I will not go into the “secrets” today. With the third “secret” there has been a bit of controversy since the assassination attempt on JP II and its revealing.)
Fatima has brought crowds of visitors. Pilgrimages, which began in the summer of 1917, have experienced growing success, not only among the Portuguese themselves but also among people from other countries, including the United States. The national pilgrimage following ecclesiastical recognition of the apparitions (May 13, 1931) is said to have drawn many millions of participants even up to this day.
Popes have shown exceptional favor toward Fatima, Pius XII, Paul VI, John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Pope Francis just this weekend all making a visit to the shrine. The papal interest and the basilica built at the site of the apparitions have helped to swell the summer pilgrimages to Fatima. In a rustic setting, pilgrims hear the message repeated that Mary spoke to the children: prayer, works of penance, recourse to her Immaculate Heart. It’s on my bucket list, that I suspect will remain so to my death.
And so on Mother’s Day we acknowledge one the most famous women in all of human history. She’s loved, cherished, and adored by millions. Even the Muslims have some devotion to our Lady.
But the real Mary was a lot different from the Mary that we imagine her to be. She was Jewish. And she most likely was never called Mary. Her name would’ve been Miryam. She was born to Anne and Joaquin. What little information we have of this comes from the deuterocanonical gospel of James.
She was named after Miryam of Egypt; the sister of Moses, the one who was most critical act was to keep watch over her baby brother as he drifted down the Nile River. Her mission was to protect his life. Moses would grow up to become the deliverer to set his people free from bondage. But it was Miryam who ensured that he would survive as a baby in order to do that. Her calling was to usher the life of the Redeemer into the land of Egypt where he would bring salvation. Over thousand years later, another Hebrew child would be given the same name, Miryam …. and the same calling.
Miryam’s calling was to usher in the life of the Deliverer, the Messiah, Yeshua, Jesus, into a fallen world. We do well to remember that Yeshua’s name means salvation. And so it is through another Miryam that ushers in salvation.
In Egyptian, Miryam means love. So Yeshua is born of Miryam, born of God’s love. In Hebrew, Miryam means something very different. It means bitterness and rebellion. And although that doesn’t sound good it actually is.
God causes Miryam to give birth to Yeshua. So too God causes a world of bitterness and rebellion to give birth to salvation. He causes Yeshua to be born in us … The other miracle. He even takes lives of rebellion and causes them to bring forth blessing and new life. And when does that life come? When does that miracle happen? Mostly it comes in times of trouble, crisis, fear, or sorrow … In bitterness. So through Miryam is born Yeshua.
And so through bitterness is born salvation. Even through us. And if salvation, Yeshua, is born of us, then we are all Miryam.
There is a story that made its way down from heaven that Venerable Archbishop Sheen used to tell: One day the Lord was walking around the golden gates of Heaven and He saw some souls that got into heaven very easily. And He went to St. Peter and said, “Peter I have given you the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. You are to exercise that power wisely and judiciously. Tell me Peter, how do these souls gain entry into My Kingdom?"
"Don't blame me Lord," St. Peter says, "Every time I close a door, Your Mother opens a window!"
Don’t we all want a mother just like that? So, on this Mother’s day, and following what we know of Our Lady of Fatima, let’s take the message out into the world and honor our mother’s while so doing.
Let us pray.
Dear Lady of Fatima, we come on bended knee, to beg your intercession,
for peace and unity. Dear Mary, won't you show us, the right and shining way, we pledge our love and offer you, a Rosary more frequently than we currently do.
You promised at Fatima, each time that you appeared, to help us if we pray to you, to banish war and fear. Dear Lady, we ask your guiding hand, for grace and guidance here on earth and protection for our land. We ask you, Dear Lady Mary, help our mothers to be attentive and loving with their children and to teach them how to pray, how to love your Son Jesus, and to grow up to be good Christians and stewards of this creation. Ask your Son for a blessing on all mothers this day and all your children who desperately need to hear the message you so long to give.
Lord Jesus, the miracles, prophecies and prayers that Your Mother brought to us at Fatima amazed the whole world. We are certain of her closeness to You. We ask through the intercession of Our Lady of Fatima that you graciously hear and answer our prayers. 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, May 7, 2017

May 7, 2017
The Third Sunday after Easter

Today I have a “demonstration” of sorts for you. In your bulletins, you will find a copy of what I have here in my hand. For those of you who did not grab a bulletin, I hope you can read the one I have. Take a minute and read it over.

Dad@hvn, ur spshl. we want wot u want &urth2b like hvn. giv us food & 4giv r sins lyk we 4giv uvaz. don test us! sAv us! bcos we kno ur boss, ur tuf & ur cool 4 eva! k?’

Got it?

For the uninitiated among us, this probably looks like a new form of transliterated Near Eastern hieroglyphics. For the younger demographic, however, this one’s a no-brainer.

It’s the Lord’s Prayer — or at least a shorthand and post modernized version of it. This particular version by York College (U.K.) student Matthew Campbell won a contest put on by the online Christian magazine Ship of Fools in which entrants were encouraged to update the oft-repeated prayer to read in 160 characters or less — the average length of a mobile phone text message.

Here’s the “literal” translation of the prayer Jesus taught us, err, texted us: “Dad in heaven, you are special. We want what you want and earth to be like heaven. Give us food and forgive our sins like we forgive others. Don’t test us! Save us! Because we know you are boss, you are tough and you are cool forever. Okay?”

Welcome to the world of Generation Text, where the English language, like most everything else in the realm of communication, has been reduced to the smallest of parts.

Text or “instant” messaging (also called SMS, or Short Message Service [No, I didn’t know that. I had to look it up for this sermon. I just assumed it had something to do with something of that nature.]) is rapidly overtaking e-mail and voice as the primary means of communication among adults in many areas of the world. Users can type a quick, shorthand message and instantly fire it off to a friend or coworker’s cell phone — no need to wait for the phone to ring.

A survey by the once Internet giant AOL shows that 59 percent of American Internet users are “texting” each other, with the largest number of those being in the 13-21 age bracket (90 percent of them use it). As with most youth culture trends, text messaging has brought a new and, for some, disturbing transformation of the language.

Take, for example, an essay handed in by a 13-year-old Scottish student describing her summer vacation that was texted beyond recognition by her teacher.

Her teacher was not amused. “I could not believe what I was seeing. The page was riddled with hieroglyphics, many of which I simply could not translate.” Others, like the publisher of a new dictionary, have decried similar shorthand writing as a “degree of crisis” among university students, indicating a serious decline in the proper use of spelling and grammar.

In the post-resurrection experience of the Apostles, the world was being turned upside down. And the first sign of it was that people were hearing and seeing things they couldn’t understand.

The advent of the Holy Spirit was — as it were — the beginning of instant messaging. Jesus had given them a heads-up about this — that the Spirit would translate and disseminate Jesus’ message to and through them: “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you” (John 16:12-15).

Now, as this new matrix begins to unfold, Peter, speaking boldly and using language far beyond his own previous skill and capacity, texts a sermon straight from the Holy Spirit and the Hebrew Scriptures — a wi fi, fired up translation of Israel’s history into “His-story” — the story of salvation through the death and resurrection of Christ. “Therefore the entire house of Israel knows with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Peter’s proclamation of Jesus as the Christ was short, to the point, and tremendously effective: God has made Jesus Lord and Christ.
In a message that’s tighter than today’s modern blue jeans, you get an impression real quick:

Peter: God has made Jesus Lord and Christ.

People: What shall we do? (2:37).

Peter: Repent.

As with any txt tlk, the message itself can be fleshed out.

Peter argues to the crowd gathered in Jerusalem for Pentecost celebrations that God is the agent of all the changes being seen here. He notes, in the text prior to today’s passage, that it’s the same God who had spoken through the prophets, Joel, in particular.

It was God who worked miracles by empowering Jesus to do them (2:22).

It was God who delivered Jesus into the hands of his enemies (2:23).

It was God who then raised Jesus from the dead (2:24).

It was God who made the covenant with David.

It was God who gave the promised Holy Spirit who has now been “poured out” among us (2:33).

Further, God made Jesus Lord.

It’s a word that was typically not associated with messianic promises, but reserved for God himself. God revealed Jesus to be God, or Lord.

And it was God who made Jesus the Christ, or Messiah.

God. God. God. That’s powerful text.

And disturbing text. The response of the people is quick and brief: “What shall we do?”

It is an appropriate response for all of us. If it is God who gave Jesus power to work miracles, and who delivered Jesus into the hands of his enemies, and raised him from the dead, and who promised us and delivered to us the Holy Spirit, what other question is there for us except, “What shall we do?”

Do we continue to live as though God does not exist? Do we stumble through life in pursuit of earthly pleasures and possessions as though the most important thing is to die with more toys than anyone else? Do we try to shoulder the burdens and responsibilities of life as though there is not a divine Presence to help us with those burdens? Do we live as though we are alone in the universe?

What shall we do? The short answer is “repent.” Metanoia. Change. Turnabout. Turn around. Stop going in one direction and go in another. Do an about-face.

The fruit of that repentance is that we receive the Holy Spirit who mediates the presence of God in our lives.

The Holy Spirit acts for us like a text message from the Trinity — the power and word and activity of God given to us in a moment in order to clearly communicate the truth and good news of Christ.

Peter also makes it clear that this movement of the Spirit is going to be widely broadcast across generational and national borders, making this language of good news available to everyone. The disciples were now set to translate the story of Jesus for the rest of the world. They did it in a world where walking was the primary mode of transportation and messaging consisted of rolls of parchment and months-long mail service. We can do it in a world that has become progressively smaller because of technology that enables us to transmit a thought in less than a heartbeat.

In other words, we are hard-wired to use the gift of the Holy Spirit himself and the gifts of the Spirit within us to mass communicate the love of God through Christ to a world where nearly everyone is in reach.

But the core message is simple: God has made Jesus Lord and Christ.

In response, we repent — and begin a new life text-messaging, or life-messaging the Good News to others.

Let us pray.
Father God, You created all things – even those of mankind that created modern communication technology. Through the Holy Spirit, You have been communicating with man since on the sixth day that You created us during creation of the earth. Much has changed since that time, and in Your perfect omnipotence, You have changed how You communicate as well.

The key to Christianity is in those adherents spreading the Good News of Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. As time has evolved, the message has continued to spread in sometimes remarkable ways and speed. However, we know that there are still many who have not heard of the Good News – or heard it completely – so that they too can follow St. Peter’s advice to repent and be baptized.

In a world where instant message is so common, help each of us to be bold about sharing our faith and helping others to see Your Son as the answer to all the world’s needs. Help us to articulate the message in ways that helps to bring peace to a world that seems to never cease having unrest and hatred. As we continue to evolve, help us to find new and constructive ways of bringing the message of Christ into a world of great 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.

Monday, May 1, 2017

April 30, 2017
The Second Sunday after Easter
I have to admit, I was having a writers block and decided to take a nap before writing this and I was startled awake with a particular catchphrase on my mind. I’m sure most of you in your lifetimes have heard the catchphrase, “They knew him in the breaking of bread.” And let us keep that thought in mind for a moment
In the book of Genesis we read about that which is inside the Garden of Eden. Inside that Garden grew a tree that was very special amongst all the trees that were in there. There grew the tree of knowledge of good and evil. It was the one tree, of which the fruit mankind was not to eat. Yet we know that is exactly what happened; mankind ate of the fruit of the tree of good and evil.
Because of eating of that fruit, we now have sin and death. Through that one tree came the fallen nature of mankind.
Recently, we went through a period of time along with a period of celebration in which we are taken back in time to help us try and witness the death of Jesus Christ. And why did Jesus die? The answer is to bring salvation, and to end sin and death. He came to undo the fall of mankind.
And what did He die on? He died on the cross - cross made of wood - cross that which is a tree. There is a very good reason for that. Because the cross that He dies on, is a second tree. Through the first tree mankind fell. Through the second tree, sin ends, and mankind rises again.
Through a living tree came death. Through a dead tree comes life. The partaking of the first tree we all die. In the partaking of the second tree, we come alive. And as God placed the first tree in the center of the garden, so He placed the second tree in the center of history - the center of the world - so that all can partake of it and find life. And the more you do partake of the tree, the more alive you will become.
And so today we read in the Gospels that two of Jesus’s disciples were walking to Emmaus from Jerusalem. There’s some interesting things about this little story. First, Jerusalem to Emmaus was a seven mile journey. Secondly, only one of the disciples is named – Cleopas. The other is not. In this case, not to be confused with the Apostles.
Let’s talk about the seven mile journey for a second. It seems somewhat strange that they would not recognize Jesus. The gospel says thier eyes were prevented from recognizing Jesus. The gospel doesn’t elaborate how or why this is. But I suspect it’s this.
These two men spoke painfully of the story of Jesus as they walked. It is very obvious that their hearts ache for this loss. They thought that he was going to be the Messiah that would redeem Israel that Scriptures had talked about and that everyone had hoped Jesus was going to be. All their hopes are dashed when Jesus is crucified. And they become even more confused when on the first day the week the tomb is empty.
Jesus joins the two of them, and listens to them explain what they were talking about and discussing. Jesus gently scolds them for not knowing and understanding what the prophets had spoken. It was necessary for the Messiah to suffer these things and then enter into his glory.
Jesus was with them, but they still didn’t recognize Him. He was opening the Word to them, and explaining it to them, but they still didn’t recognize. He was risen from the dead, but they still had not experienced it for themselves, so they didn’t believe.
The other mystery is just who are these two disciples? We don’t know for certain. The one called Cleophas, in Catholic and Orthodox traditions, it is believed that Clopas who was believed to be the brother of St. Joseph, is the one and the same as Cleophas. If we read in the Gospel of John 19:25, it says, “But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, in his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.”
We do not know for certain that Mary had a sister, and from most accounts that we do have, it would seem that she did not. However, by handed down word of the Apostles, Joseph had a brother named Clopas. And Clopas’ wife was at the cross - hence Mary’s sister-in-law - the sister. So is this disciple the brother of St. Joseph? We do not know, but that’s what Tradition holds. As for the other disciple, there is much speculation, but nothing that’s been held in writing or in Tradition.
So, as they are walking along and they get to their destination, Jesus acts as though he’s going to continue on, but the two disciples invite Him in, and Jesus agrees. They sit down to meal, and in the breaking of bread they recognized who he was. In the moment of the Eucharist, they know the Lord!
It was at that moment they completely forgot about the meal, forgot all about their exhaustion, forgot all about their despair and their fear, and they immediately ran back to Jerusalem to tell the others. And when they arrived there and told them, they say we know! He’s already appeared to some of the women. And for them to believe the women takes a great step of faith, because a women’s word was not taken in that day. But they believe and they run to the tomb, they find it empty, and they believe.
It says that the 11 Apostles tell the two that Jesus had appeared to Simon. Nowhere else in the Gospels is this talked about. The only place of reference, other than this passage, that Jesus appeared to Simon Peter alone, was in I Corinthians 15:5, in which Paul relates that Jesus had appeared to Simon Peter. Strange that it was not told in more detail, but we know that after Simon Peter’s embarrassing rejection of the Lord, he becomes a far more humble man than before, and so the Church has speculated that He did not want it told that Jesus appeared to Peter alone. But, it indeed makes sense, because Jesus told Peter he would be the rock of the Church.
It may seem strange that the two disciples only came to know Jesus in this particular way - in the breaking of bread. Very interesting source of revelation. More vivid than his countenance was his breaking of bread. More penetrating than the scriptures he expounded was his breaking of bread. Or is it strange at all?
How often have they seen Jesus break bread. Jesus had distinguished himself as a hearty and even controversial eater. He brought down the wrath of the religious elite upon himself because of his dietary customs. He ate food with strangers and tax collectors and in violation of the sanctimonious taboos of the day. When He was hungry on the Sabbath, He proceeded to help Himself to the standing but forbidden grain and teach His disciples to do the same. Choosing the celebrated feast rather than the somber fast as the hallmark of His ministry. A forbearing of His commandment on the Eucharist.
From that day until now, Christians have met to hear the Scriptures explained and to know Jesus in the breaking of bread. These two elements are the essence of the Mass. Christians come together and discern the spirit of Jesus and each other. They listen to the word of God in their hearts burn within them as they hear it. In the breaking of bread they recognize Jesus himself actually present, given for them.
The coming together is vital; it is only in the Church that the Mass can take place. And I do not mean necessarily a special church building, although of course that would help. It doesn’t necessarily mean that it has to be on a particular occasion, although that would be desirable also. It means that the Mass is celebrated within the unity of the one Church, and that the celebration is not private, but conscious union with the Church throughout the world. The Mass is when two or more are gathered in His name to celebrate the breaking of bread – the eating of His Body and Blood.
What I feel is missed in so many other Christian denominations is this very essence. Jesus commanded his Apostles to break bread that in memory of Him. We need this. The world needs this. If we can see Him no other way, then we need to see Him in the breaking of bread. We need to see Him in every single human being that walked through these doors and is seeking Jesus Christ.
It has been taught since the time of the Apostles that Jesus did not mean to celebrate the Eucharist in a metaphorical way and thus the Catholic Church has continued through these millennia the teaching that the unleavened bread that we use in the little wafer - in the wine that we use – that they miraculously literally and truly become the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Not in some sort of bloody cannibalism, but in a divine miraculous way. A way that the eyes and body may deceive, because the little wafer still looks smells and tastes like a wafer; and the wine still looks smells and tastes like wine; but in God’s omnipotent way, and by Jesus’s word, it becomes the literal Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Isn’t amazing that we read in the gospel account that they Apostles and disciples are sad and confused after Jesus’ crucifixion? He gave them the command to celebrate the Eucharist, but they do not understand that they are to see Him in the Eucharist. It is only after all the explaining and showing of Himself that they understand.
And as such, each Sunday, we do not need to be like the two disciples that were downtrodden and running away from Jerusalem. We can be happy disciples, knowing that our God is still present with us each and every day. He is present with us in a tabernacle in every Catholic Church. He is present with us at each Eucharistic celebration. He is present with us in each member of the clergy of the church. And He is even present with each and every one of you in these pews today.
This event on a Sunday in Emmaus need not be an isolated event of revelation. Nor has it been. It has been the testimony of the centuries that not only the devout have recognized him anew, but that also those of the world have come to know him when bread is broken. When bread is broken, Jesus is known in the hands that break the bread. He is known in the hungry who take the bread. He is known in the bread that is broken and taken.
He still calls us today and judges us when we fail to respond. What we lost in the first tree, has been gained by the second. In His name - in His person - we are called to live in His example. It is ours to be the continuing agents of our Lord’s ministry. Through the breaking of bread, and through that second tree, we have the gift of everlasting life and the ability to see Christ each time we come to the table of our Lord.
Let us pray.
Father God, we often times fail to see You in ways we should. Like the two disciples, we get caught up in what, how and where we think You should be, that we lose sight of You in obvious ways and ways You taught You would be present.
Lord, You created the Church that we might have You with us at all times and to be of service to our neighbor, and we fail to see You in them. We have You present in the holy Eucharist, yet we have weak faith and fail to see You there. We have You when we should see You in the imprisoned, the sick, the homeless and the hungry. We should see You in the different race, the refugees, the war-torn, the victims human trafficking and so many more.
Help us, dear Lord, that our eyes, like that of the disciples, to be opened so that we can see You more readily. Help us to see You in those around us – near or far. Most importantly, help us to see You in the holy Eucharist that You instituted and commanded so that we might see You yet we have too small of faith to do so. Your children all over the world long to see You. Give us faith. As the father of the sick boy said to You, help our unbelief! 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, April 23, 2017

April 23, 2017
Low Sunday
(First Sunday after Easter)
In Middle Eastern countries - especially in the Middle East - if you are to look up at some of the mountains, you would see a tomb or tombs. The type of tomb that people are buried in. This was relatively common in that time; there existed various grave plots, but more prominently, the dead were usually buried in a tomb in one of the mountains.                                                                                            
Tombs are a place of death. And something about them is amazing. They are the place in this world which is the most hopeless, the most depressing, the most sorrowful, the most despairing, and the most forbidden. And yet on this earth that is where something great begins. Redemption begins in a tomb.
Redemption begins. Faith begins. The Good News begins. The word of Christ the Messiah begins. Salvation begins. The Gospel begins. All this and more begins at a tomb. And who would’ve ever thought of such a thing? None of us here would think of starting our new life inside of a tomb; yet in many ways we all have.
The tomb is a place where our hopes, dreams, our life and everything ends. The tomb is a place of ending. But with God, the tomb known as the place of the end, actually becomes a great beginning.
The kingdom of God can work in unexpected ways as we’ve learned through Jesus Christ. With God, the journey does not so much go from life to death, as it does from death to life. The end is the beginning this case. And so, for any of us Christians to find our life, we must find our tomb - the tomb of Jesus Christ. We must go to a place symbolizing death for us to be able to find our life. We must go to Easter.
It is only when we come to the place of the end that we can actually find our new beginning. For it is in Christ, in the end of His life in the tomb, that we find a new beginning. It is in that tomb of hopelessness that we can find hope. It is in the place of sorrow that we find true joy. In the place of death that we are born again. So with God in a tomb we find our birth.
In the Old Testament times, as most of us know, there was a ritual in which a goat was chosen in a red thread was tied to its horn and was set free into the wilderness and called a scapegoat. This scapegoat took the sins of the Hebrews out into the wilderness. They were freed of their sins, because that scapegoat took them – all the people’s sin - out into the wilderness. And for them that was their new beginning each time this took place.
There’s something interesting, however, in Judaic history that lends credence to the story of Jesus - not intentionally mind you, but it is there. Let me explain a little.
In the holy Temple in Jerusalem, there were two partitions or barriers, if you will, to separate the holy from the unholy - or to put it another way - separating God from mankind. One of the partitions consisted of two massive doors of gold and these were the doors to the holy place. The doors separated the holy place from the temple courts. And then deeper inside was a very large veil or curtain called a parochet that separated the holy place from the holy of holies and through which only the high priest could enter on the day of atonement. The day of the scapegoat.
These two partitions would represent separating of each of us from God - the Chasm him between sinful and the most holy. And as I’ve talked recently in a couple of my sermons, the veil of the holy of holies was torn in two - torn in two from top to bottom - which as we learn could only be done by God himself for a human being could only tear it from bottom to top. It was far too large and high for a man to be able to tear it.
And all this may seem like interesting trivia to someone who’s in anthropology or history, but in reality, it’s important to us as Christians. The reason that is the case is something that is significantly implied by some things that happened. By the veil to the holy of holies being torn in two. This tearing of the veil implies the barrier that was between mankind and God was removed!
However, some might say that there’s still the second barrier; the two golden doors. These doors are a second witness to the barrier between mankind and God being removed. Let me explain it differently and show you the significance.
The holiest day on the Jewish calendar … is Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement).  From the days of Aaron to AD 69 (with the exception being during the Babylonian captivity), the high priest would on this day cross over the veiled barrier and enter into the Holy of Holies and present the sacrifice on the Mercy Seat of the Ark of the Covenant in order to make atonement for the Jewish people (Leviticus 23:26-32; Leviticus 16; Exodus 30:9-10).
There are many legends about this most holy of days, including the one about the high priest having a rope around his waist.  According to the legend, the rope was used to pull the priest out if God judged him unworthy and struck him dead for his sins.  However, and regardless of the validity of the legend, the holiness of Yom Kippur required the priest/intercessor to face God with the people’s sin and allow the blood of the sacrifice to cover our errors and restore us to a right relationship with God ….  Sound like something or someone we know?
Interestingly enough, and according to Tractate Yoma 39B of the Talmud, two unique aspects of Yom Kippur observance ceased to occur around AD 30. First,  the inability to adequately select via lot the sacrificial goat for the Day of Atonement and secondly, the scarlet cord at the Temple never turned white as a sign of the forgiveness of sins.  But just what ceased to occur around that year?  What happened that would negate the necessity of another Yom Kippur sacrifice?  Jesus!
What is interesting is that there were two threads, and that their use had nothing to do with atonement. On Yom Kippur the Torah states that two goats are to be taken, one for a sacrifice to purify the tabernacle and a second to be sent into the wilderness. Tradition required one thread placed on the horns of the goat sent to the wilderness, and a second was placed around the neck of a second goat to be sacrificed in the temple. The use of the thread was not a requirement from the Tenach (Hebrew Bible) at all. It was done for a very practical reason. Since two goats were chosen for that day, and they needed to be identical, in order to know which was chosen to be sent to the wilderness and which was to be used for a sacrifice in the temple, threads were placed on them. This way one could not be mixed with the other after the process of choosing which was to be used for what purpose had been decided. One red thread was placed around the throat of the goat to be sacrificed, to show that it was to be slaughtered. The other was placed in an obvious place, to show it was to be taken out to the wilderness. The changing colors, was a miracle and not a requirement of atonement, either Biblically or Rabbinically.
When we look at these miracles we see every one of them has to do with the priests and their temple service. When the priests were righteous and led by a righteous High Priest they merited to have miracles occur for them. But, as they failed to fulfill their duties righteously and properly, they failed to have miracles performed for them. They were no longer worthy of them.

We see that all the miracles stopped during this 40 year period. What is so important about these 40 years? If one looks at the historical sources, like Josephus, we see that by that time Jerusalem looked worse then any decadent modern city, with random acts of violence being common.  Josephus describes the Sicarii, who used to mingle with the crowds and stab people with short knives killing them.  Those behind the lawlessness were the priestly class who had close relations with the Roman overlords.  Clearly no miracles could be performed for such people.
At the moment of Jesus’ death on the cross we are told the Temple veil separating the Holy of Holies from the people was torn in two from top to bottom (Matthew 27:51-53; Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45).  This separation between God and mankind had been completed and/or realized with the death and resurrection of Jesus (Hebrews 9 and 10).
Jesus, while dying and living again during the spring feasts of Passover, Unleavened Bread, and First Fruits, is also our Yom Kippur sacrifice.  He offered the final sacrifice necessary for the forgiveness of sins.  He accomplished it all!
In the Talmud, the rabbis record that before the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, a strange thing began to take place in the temple. The second barrier, large golden doors, began to open by themselves. The rabbis record that began to happen about 40 years before A.D. 70, which means A.D. 30. Which just happens to be the same time that Jesus died as the final atonement and thus remove the barrier between mankind and God.
The rabbis themselves bear witness concerning the removal of the second barrier, and thus, that at the time of Christ’s death, that which was separating God from mankind was removed and that the way to his presence is now open.
So, our holy Scriptures hint at something that the jewish rabbis of the time confirm. The veil was indeed torn, but they confirm something mysteriously left out of our Scriptures; that of the two gold doors opening miraculously on their own each year for 40 years. I need not explain the significance of “40” due to home many times God has required a period this long between events.
So, from our Christian perspective, we have been freed to approach God freely and without any further “sacrifice”, because Christ was the ultimate and last necessary sacrifice to free us all from our sins, inadequacies, failures and flaws. We no longer had to wait a year for our forgiveness; we merely go to the priest and ask our forgiveness from God, thru the priest.
God is always approachable. No longer do we need to wait until the “proper” time. No longer need we wait to approach God and receive the love and grace He has for each of us. Easter is our freedom; Easter is the opening of the tomb; Easter is the opening of the Holy of Holies that all may now enter – both now and in the life to come!
Let us pray.
Father God, on Easter morning we are reminded of the wonderful gift Your Son gave to each of us – freedom to approach You and freedom from our sins.
Help us to contemplate and absorb the importance of this. Thru You, miracles happen. Thru You, the miracle of Yom Kippur took place each year. Yet, at the time of Christ’s death, You changed they way a miracle took place. You wanted to show that Savior had indeed arrived, but was killed by the corrupt  authorities of the time. Further, You showed that a new priestly class was now given in the persons of the Apostles. During the 40 years after Jesus resurrection, the veils were torn and open, so that all may know that You have no barrios between us and You.
We thank You, oh Lord that You have given Yourself to us and that we need not go thru the veils to find You and receive Your grace. Help us all to know that we can approach You at anytime with out worry “red tape” keeping us from You.
Help us to continue on our Easter path and allow ourselves to be open to the nudging’s of the Holy Spirit, in subtle and not so subtle ways in which You are asking us to change and show the grace of the resurrection to others we meet. 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, April 16, 2017

April 16, 2017
Easter Sunday
Happy Easter everyone. I’m quite certain that after all the additional activities that we’ve had to participate in this morning some of you are probably hoping that I will be short winded instead of my usual long-winded. Well I’m not going to tell you you’re just going to have to sit on the cushions and get your “tusshies” comfortable. 
But seriously, it is a glorious day it should be. The remembrance of the resurrection of our Lord and the salvation that that means to us is a great day indeed. What we experienced this morning is almost like a pilgrimage of sorts, and rightly so. Our spiritual centers need to be mystically recharged each year and this is the perfect day to do it.
There is a deeply traditional pilgrimage almost all Americans feel pulled to make at least once in their lives - to America's new heartland, Disneyland or Disney World.As most of you know I tend to be somewhat of a Disney fanatic, so let’s explore today a little bit with a backdrop from Disney.

Disney's role in America's modern mythology is absolutely critical, even central. Increasingly the world sees Disney as the real symbol of America. Forget the Statue of Liberty, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights - America means Mickey Mouse. The recreational mecca called Disney World has now supplanted America's historical mecca called Washington, D.C., as the nation's most popular tourist site. Some now argue that Disneyland/World is the spirit of America, the nation's key sacred space, the bearer of the images that carry American meaning and mission.

Disney's mission statement is simple and straightforward: "Provide People Happiness." In its quest to meet this goal, Disney focuses all its energies in the realm of fantasy - convincing the whole country that to find happiness involves escaping reality.

When you visit the Disneyland, its central image is the Castle of Sleeping Beauty. Its graceful, soaring storybook towers and turrets preside over the rest of the theme park below. Yet unlike all the other attractions in this wonderland it is only a hollow shell - void of content. Except for a few novelty shops along the walkway that cuts through it, and winding passageways where the tale of Princess Aurora and the evil Maleficent is toldthis beautiful symbol of Disney's fantasy world come to life is empty. The attraction opened on July 17, 1955 with Disneyland Park. The castle’s design was based on the real Bavarian castle. Guests could not actually walk through the castle’s interior until 1957. The famed drawbridge has only been lowered twice—once at the opening of the park in 1955 and again in 1983 at the rededication of Fantasyland. Its sister castle resides in Hong Kong.

But its very emptiness is full of meaning. For that is precisely the function of Disneyland - to empty us of the harsh realities of life and render us unconscious to those things which are too hard to bear. That is part of the experience of Disney - to become "unconscious" of the real world and to enter a never-never land of fantasy and fakery. Fittingly Sleeping Beauty's Castle - a monument to a trance-like sleep - serves as the portal to this plane.

If Disney entices participants to fall asleep in order to escape life, the church's mission is to urge people to wake up - in order to experience an authentic and full existence. Easter is a revival call to all believers announcing the dawning of our new relationship with God through Jesus Christ. This is a radically new reality. The message of Easter wakes us, not just from a stuporing slumber, but also calls us forth from tombs of sin, bound in grave clothes of despair, to wear robes of righteousness and hope! Easter is not an empty Disney fantasy. Easter is the rousing, transforming power of God shaking each and every one of us awake to a life in Christ, a life eternal.

But how lackadaisical the church can be in the face of this miraculous gift. We would rather slumber on in a fog than be awakened to the promise of the future. Even this morning - Easter morning! - finds us sitting here to rejoice in the Good News with eyelids heavy and attentiveness droopy as a result of late night preparations and sunrise service celebrations as you pray I shut up soon.
What galvanizes and mobilizes us more - Sleeping Beauty's empty castle or Jesus Christ's empty tomb? The mission of the church then, is to make Jesus Christ as magical and mystical as Disney has made Mickey Mouse.
Easter is that time of year when many of us who may seem aimless and on a path to somewhere we don’t know, we need to be reminded that we are not alone. We are reminded that there is a purpose for each and every one of us. It’s that time of year where we awaken to a God who is not some sort of tyrant such as some think of from the Old Testament, but of a loving God that we see in the person of Jesus Christ who took our sins upon himself and nailed them to the cross through His Body. 
The Holy Spirit speaks to us like a symphony. Sometimes we don’t hear it; sometimes it’s faint and we are not sure what we’re hearing; and sometimes it’s very loud and clear. As the hymn that we will sing after this sermon tells us, when you near it, you can almost hear it. It’s like a symphony; just keep listening … And pretty soon you’ll start to figure out your part. Everyone plays a piece; and there are melodies in each one of us. When I am feeling out of place and wondering how I fit into this world, I listen to this hymn we will sing in a few moments. 
One of things that we are very proud of here at St. Francis, is the openness in which we carry out the Sacraments that our Lord Jesus Christ and the Churchinstituted. We are all different; and rightly so, and as such- just as the hymn says - in each of us is a melody. Each of us has a different melody; a different part to play, but through Christ every part is important.
Easter is that time year in which we need to keep listening. We need to keep listening to the nudging of the Holy Spirit. None of us are perfect. We are all flawed in some way. In some cases the world views us as flawed when in actuality we are not. We are just as God wants us to be. It is here at St. Francis that we remind everyone, that if you have sinned - if you come with true repentance in your heart - there is absolutely no sin that God will not forgive. 
The mercy of Jesus Christ is infinite. So, as were figuring out our part, we come here to church and we experience the Sacraments each and every one without limitation so long as we come with an earnest heart. It is Easter time when were reminded that race, nationality, gender,divorce, disfigured, ill, short, tall, thin, stout, sexual orientation – or Abbot Gentzsch’s buzzing hearing aid -nor any other thing that you could possibly add to this list will hinder the mercy and love of Jesus Christ.
As our mission statement says, “Love Christ, Keep His Commandments, Receive the Spirit. We merely need to do three things, and when we do those three things wholeheartedly and completely, we can feel confident that we are walking right with the Lord. Because the other thing that we very prominently like to say here at St. Francis is, Catholicism is not just a religion - it’s a way of life.” And the two most important commandments, as our Lord Jesus Christ taught us, is simply to love your neighbor as yourself and to love no other God but our God. We merely need to remember that our neighbor is every single one of the human inhabitants of this earth without exception.
And Christ doesn’t want you to stop your life merely for that, he only wants you to bring your Catholicism along with you - fore you are welcome as a guest in His house at any time. And this should be the message that the worldwide Church should have on this most glorious day.
And some of you may feel that the pomp and circumstance of the beginning of this Mass was all fluff and puff, but in reality it is far more than that. We need Easter and we need Easter to remember us. Christ died on the cross for every living creature, and we need to remember that and reawaken our spiritual sense with all that fluff and puff.

And so I say: Wake up, church! Christ is risen from the dead! Wake up to the power the risen Lord brings to your life. Wake up, church. Open up to the power of the Scriptures to speak to your life. As Jesus called Mary's name to finally stir her soul to consciousness, so Christ sends a personal wake-up call to each of us. Easter morning is an annual wake-up call addressed to Christ's own body, the Church. Body parts that have fallen asleep must be shaken back into circulation. If you are asleep or lounging about life, it is time to end your hibernation and get those tusshies” that are currently glued to your pew and get moving. Wake up, get up and sign up. Let's bring the whole world back to life!
There! I bet you thought I was going to make this twice as long as normal?! Ha. Happy Easter and don’t let it go to your head!
Let us Pray.
Father God, today we mark the magnificent and glorious resurrection of Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. We welcome the day with pomp and circumstance as we should, with renewal of heart, mind and spirit. 
Let us awaken today to Your great gift – that of our salvation and promise of our own resurrection – that You and Your Son gave us with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit as we renewed our vows and beliefs. Let us not have empty shells as that of the Disney castle, but in the mimicking of Disney of knowing that in the Resurrection, we truly can be happy and leave “reality” aka: the world, behind and fill ourselves with Your saving grace.
I ask that You bless everyone this day, with You mighty grace, mercy and love. Be with the many homeless of the world, the many sick in the world, the many suffering from terrorism and/or war in the world. Fill the world with Your peace – the peace that only YOU can give; filled with that grace, mercy and love that Your Son showed us while He walked upon this earth. We ask all of this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.
God Love You +++
+ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Universal Catholic Church
San Diego, Ca.