Sunday, February 26, 2017

February 26, 2017
Quinquagesima
“Let’s Go on a Diet.” No, not the kind you’re thinking of. In early politics, a diet was a formal deliberative assembly. The term is derived from Medieval Latin dietas, and ultimately comes from the Latin dies, “day.” The word came to be used in this sense because these assemblies met on a daily basis.

Or at least this is what we learn from Wikipedia. Webster seems to agree, if you read the definition far enough along.

In March, 1529, the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, Charles V, called a council of the religious leaders and the princes to deal with the growing rebellion against the established church.

They met in the German town of Speyer, and the gathering itself was called the second Diet of Speyer, to distinguish it from a previous diet held in that city three years earlier.

The first Diet of Speyer had provided a measure of religious tolerance, and in the interim between the two gatherings, the princes of several of the states in the empire had actually encouraged the reform movement in the churches in their jurisdictions.

But now, at this second council, Emperor Charles, who had never been a supporter of the reformers, announced that he would no longer tolerate disobedience. The diet quickly moved to reinstate previous sanctions against Luther and to outlaw the changes he and others had proposed.

Among those changes were such things as allowing the laity to receive the cup and not just the bread during Holy Communion, permitting priests to be married, recognizing the authority of the Bible as opposed to that of the pope, dropping prayers to saints, and several other matters.

However, there was a deal breaker. One of the big doctrinal changes the reformers called for was the rejection of good works as a means of salvation and the adoption of a new theological understanding — something the reformers called justification by faith.

Our reading from Romans today is a foundation Scripture for that position.

In it, the apostle Paul argues that keeping the Law of Moses — which the reformers saw as a form of good works — does not put people right with God. Paul asserted that even if we could keep the law perfectly, we would not be justified by it because its purpose is rather to define sin, to teach us what it is.

He then states what does put us right with God: “The righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe” — justification by faith.

To further emphasize the point, Luther added the word “alone” to Paul’s statement about faith — we are justified by faith alone — because he felt that showed Paul’s actual intention in these verses. The reformers were not against good works, but they didn’t want people to view them as the pathway to salvation, when clearly, in their view of the reading, the Bible says that faith in Christ is the way.

The reformers sent their “Protestation” along with an appeal to the emperor, Charles V, who responded by having the bearers of the document tossed in prison.

In the nomenclature of that time and place, that protest document was called Protestatio, and therefore, the entire group of reformers came to be branded “Protestants.” Hence, our present day understanding of Non-Catholics being referred to as Protestants. Put this way, I suppose it puts a bad ring to it, but that’s not my intention – I intend it merely as a bit of history.

Think of any of the major political or social issues in play in our country and you can probably recall that at some point, groups have organized to march or rally in protest against one side or the other of the issue. Some of those protests stay within the bounds of decency and legality, but others turn vituperative and/or violent.

However, protest is not limited to angry chanting and in-your-face demonstrations. In fact, in the 16th century, protest was understood less in the sense it is today and more in terms of being a positive witness.
The reformers understood themselves as witnessing to the authority of Scripture, to the idea that every person could pray directly to God on his or her own behalf, and, as previously mentioned, to the idea that we are saved through faith and not through works.

That was then; this is now. To us today, all of this seems a long way back, and we may well ask what significance, if any, it has for us.

Thankfully, Protestants and Catholics are not at war with each other today — with the possible exception of lingering animosities in some small sections of the world. In fact, we are more aware of how much we hold in common than we are of a few differences in emphases. Many people think of Protestantism and Catholicism merely as slightly different “flavors” of Christianity, but drawn from the same source — belief in Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world. While there is some oversimplification in that statement, it’s essentially true.

In fact, each time we recite the Apostles’ Creed, we affirm our belief in “the holy catholic church,” which refers to the body of beliefs and traditions we have received from the very first followers of Jesus, the apostles.

It’s good to occasionally revisit what we believe. Finally, the positive witness of the reformers helped the church they were protesting against. As the Reformation continued to pull people away from Catholicism, that church reacted by dealing with many of the problems and abuses the reformers’ witness spotlighted. There arose another movement — called by historians the Counter Reformation — in which the Catholic Church underwent a housecleaning in spirit and practice that revitalized it as well.
From these reforms, the Catholic Church developed a better teaching of its beliefs as well as removed abuses that were in place. For our purpose today, one of those changes was a restating of the church’s view on justification by faith. When we read today’s Gospel message, we see that we are either missing something from what Paul was trying to say, or that Paul was possibly answering that we no longer have information on.
By this I mean, when we read the today’s Gospel text, it is clear that what was being reformed during the Reformation was much the same as what Jesus was dealing with in his time. One of the things that the reformers were protesting, were certain acts people were doing that in some ways were done as a method of exchange for salvation.
As an example, last week we briefly talked about indulgences prior to our novena and rosary before Mass. During this time we spoke of indulgences. During the time of the reformation, these indulgences, as you might recall, were sometimes sold. There indeed were some very sinful actions on the side of the Church when it came to these indulgences. In exchange for being granted an indulgence by the Church, someone had either pay for it or do something extraordinary in order to gain this indulgence. They were “selling” indulgences.
We see here in today’s gospel, Jesus is speaking to some of his followers who perform works of healing and exorcism in the name of Jesus but live evil lives. Jesus states that entrance into the kingdom of God is only for those who do the will the father. On the Day of Judgment the morally corrupt prophets and miracle workers will be rejected by Jesus, regardless if they did acts in his name, because they did them for the wrong reasons and with evil in their hearts. One cannot “buy” their way into the kingdom of heaven.
One gives monetarily to the church so that the church can continue its ministry. One should not give to the church in an expectation that they are somehow buying their way into heaven. We should indeed give to the church of course, because we believe in its mission to spread the Gospel. Just as it was appropriate to give money to the temple priests around the time of Jesus so it is right to give to the church, but we mustn’t do it with the expectation that we are somehow buying our salvation in return.
Jesus says in our reading in Matthew today that everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. Jesus is implying here that we do indeed need to do certain works of good but we also must have faith in him. Throughout his entire ministry he’s trying to show by example and in word what the expectation is in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. And often times this seemed to be in direct conflict with the Pharisees and Sadducees of his time.
The Pharisees and the Sadducees often would teach one thing but not follow the teaching themselves. Hence why Jesus frequently referred to them as hypocrites. They would make it so hard on the people yet they made it very easy upon themselves.
The Catholic Church is always taken the understanding, and therefore the teaching, that yes indeed we are saved by our faith in Jesus Christ. But, that faith must be put into action. And we as Catholics believe this because of the words of Jesus that we read in all the Gospels. In those words from Jesus we must go out into the world and preach the Gospel, but we also must minister and help those along the way that need our help.
Therefore we must believe in Jesus; we must believe in the power of Jesus; we must believe that he is the Savior of all humankind, but we must put that belief and faith to work by going out into the world by spreading the Gospel and by helping others. So, from a Catholic standpoint, faith on its own is not complete. Our faith must show by the works that we do and we must do them as Jesus teaches us today - we must do them without feeling as though there was some sort of obligatory response to be expected from God for doing them. Instead, the right action of doing them is because we know we should and Jesus called us to. We do not do good works - or that is a say we should not do good works - with the expectation of getting something in return. We should do them out of faith. Faith, in Jesus Christ, but also in faith that He has called us to do so – not only in His teachings, but also in His example.
This is a topic that is hard to explain in a short exercise, as the theology is long and difficult. So, let’s finish this up with a little exercise.
I want you to envision yourself kneeling on the side of pool of water or Lake. I want you to envision that you’re looking into that spot of water and can see your reflection. Now think of yourself as smiling while looking at the water. Then I want you to make a face of anger while looking in the water. Then open your hand and stretch it over the water as if you were giving a gift. Now, stretch your hand over the water, close it and withdraw it, as if taking something away.
Now for the lesson. When you smiled at the water, there was someone smiling back at you. When you glared at it, an angry face glared back at you. When you stretched your hand out over the water to give, the hand in the water stretched back to give to you. And when you reached toward the waters to take from it, the hand reach back as if to take it from you.
This is the law of reflection. As you do, so it will be done to you. If you bless others, you will be blessed. If you withhold blessing, your blessing will be withheld. If you live by taking, it will, in the end, be taken from you. If you live a life of giving, it will, in the end, be given to you. Condemn others, and you will be condemned. Forgive others, you will be forgiven. Live with a closed hand, and His hand will be closed to you. Live with an open hand, and His hand will be opened to you. What you give will be given back. What you take will be taken back. Therefore, live a life of love, of giving, of blessing, of compassion, of an open hand and heart. Whatever you do, remember what you saw in the water. Live your life in view of the face in the water. Not out of expectation of return, but knowing full well that it indeed could.
Now I realize that I’ve taken something a little bit more esoteric and made it a little bit more Christian but the point is the same.

We belong to a movement born in witness to the positive power of faith in Jesus Christ. We continue to have the privilege of making that witness, a protest of positive faith and light, given in a world in turmoil and darkness. We must always remember that Catholicism is a way of life, not just a religion.
Let us pray.
Father God, during the time of the reformation, Your words and the words of St. Paul were used in a battle for reformation. Both sides were right; yet both sides were also indeed wrong. What came of this protest was a better Church that rebuilt its foundation on rock by implementing Jesus’ teachings in better ways than were being carried out at the time.
We too, dear Father, struggle and mince with word and practice. Help us to see Jesus’ example and to understand His words more deeply that we may go into the world and spread the message of the Gospel in less hypocritical ways. Help us to know that we need to have faith in Jesus Christ, and will receive our justification because of this, however, as Jesus told us, we must put our faith into action. We must believe that when we do good, we do Your work. That when we do good, we are believing in faith, because we believe in You. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
God Love You +++
+ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Universal Catholic Church
San Diego, Ca.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

February 19, 2017
Sexagesima
“Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?”
This question is as apropos today as when Jesus posed it 2,000 years ago. Does worrying do us any good? There is not one of us here today that can say that they do not worry about something at some point in an average week. Just ask me this past month about worry, I have a book full.
It is good to know that, what we’ve put huge amounts of time and energy into worrying about of all sorts of things that might happen, while some do, most of those worries never actually come to pass. Further still, life has been generous in providing us with a plethora of possible problems in which we can invest our anxiety.
But having burned through all that anxiety, what do we have to show for it? Have we, as Jesus asked, added even a single hour to our lives? Certainly, since Jesus asked that question rhetorically, he intended for his audience to answer it in their minds with a resounding “No.” But if you’re at all analytical, another possible answer may occur to you, and that might be, “Who knows?”
As an example, if a man is a worrier and dies at the age of 68 years, 114 days and 17 hours, who’s to say that without all that fretting, he would’ve lived to be only 68 years, 114 days and 16 hours? In other words, his worrying gained him an hour. How can we possibly know?
One can suppose that by setting up a study using the scientific method, we could possibly find out. And it just so happens that that has been done, with the results published in an issue of the Mayo Clinic Proceedings medical journal.
The study does not say whether the researchers even had Jesus’ point in mind — that worry cannot add even a single hour to one’s life — yet the study’s conclusion suggests that Jesus was right. But even more, it reveals a surprising flip side to that argument, suggesting that not being a chronic worrier can actually add not just an hour, but years to your lifespan.
So, it would seem that worrying isn’t likely to add even an hour to your life; get rid of the worry, and you’ll live longer! Easier said than done, of course. None of us are exempt from the bad habit.
Of course, pessimism and worry are not entirely identical. Pessimism is the tendency to take a gloomy view of life and to assume that most things ultimately drift or march toward negative outcomes. Worry is a mental and emotional response of concern or even fear to vague or unspecified threats. To put it another way, we could say that pessimism is an outlook about things in general and worry is a response to possibilities in particular. And can we suppose it’s possible to be a pessimist without being a worrier.
Yet, at root, both pessimism and worry are related to a shortage of hope and trust. Pessimism, which has no confidence that things will work out, can breed despair, and that word literally means a lack of hope. But, are not Christians meant to have hope?
In the New Testament reading where Jesus posed this question about adding to our span through worry, he went on to make clear that what he was calling for instead was for us to trust God. He pointed to the birds that do not sow or reap the fields but are fed by the heavenly Father nonetheless. He pointed to the flowers that do not toil or spin but are clothed in beauty by the heavenly Father anyway.
It’s important to understand, however, that his words were directed to people who did indeed have to sow, to reap, to toil and to spin, and he wasn’t telling them to stop doing those tasks; he simply wanted them to understand that their lives were a lot more than the sum of their sowing, reaping, toiling, spinning, or the length of their Facebook or twitter profile. Someone get Trump on the phone!
Further, Jesus tied the call to not worry to the kingdom of God: “But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” That’s a significant link, because God’s kingdom is the ultimate reason for optimism and hope. The very meaning of the kingdom is that God and those who stand with him are winners. In the end, good triumphs over evil. If you’re a citizen of God’s kingdom — and all who follow Jesus faithfully are — it’s still possible that you might be pessimistic about human activity in the short term, but you’ve got every reason to be optimistic about God’s activity in the long term.
In fact, on another passage, in the Gospel of John, Jesus made that very point: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). And what does “take heart!” mean other than “be optimistic!”?
So by bringing the kingdom of God into the discussion, Jesus reminds us that in the long haul, we who follow him have nothing to worry about. I suppose many of us have some objections that make it hard for us to go along with Jesus on this.
Most of us don’t, for example, live our days in anxiety over how global warming will affect us. We seldom even fret about how or when the world will end.
In fact, most of our concerns are over shorter-term issues like “Will I get a good report from the doctor?” or “Will my kids stay out of trouble?” or “Am I being a good parent?” or “Will I be able to pay my bills now that I no longer have a job?” And while many of us are not pessimists by inclination, we can be pessimistic in the dire possibilities our worries ask us to brood about.
If everyone feels “normal anxiety” from time to time, then surely we should not feel guilty about it. Further, normal worry causes us to take preventative measures against potential problems and even energizes us to make some significant and constructive changes in the way we live. It’s also natural to feel our vulnerability to the forces of nature, to sickness and to death, and we ought not to feel guilty about that either. So, some “normal anxiety” can actually be good for us. We might not make needed life changes without it.
It’s the very height of reasonableness for him to say, in effect, “Since you trust God that all things will ultimately work out for the good, and since you trust that he cares for you even more than he cares for birds and flowers, you therefore should not worry about what you will eat or what you will drink or what you will wear.”
Unfortunately, logic doesn’t rule. We aren’t wired that way. We cannot neatly compartmentalize anxiety and then talk ourselves out of it. Some worry tends to occur despite logical reasoning, for it’s based more in our emotions than in our thinking. And so it nags at us, saying, “This may not work out, that could fall short, so and so may slip up, I may have not anticipated every contingency, whatever can go wrong probably will.” Our minds keep processing those thoughts over and over, building up dread and leaving us uneasy. So we’ve got objections to being told not to worry.
But, what all of these objections really tell us is that we have missed the heart of what Jesus is talking about in this passage. This was not his dissertation on worry. He’s not Dr. Phil giving us a prescription for how to avoid anxiety. His main point is this: “Strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” “Strive” being the key word.
“Strive” means to exert a lot of energy and effort toward a goal. So, far from simply saying we should rely on the eventual coming of God’s kingdom as an antidote to daily worry, Jesus is saying we should actively work for the spread of the kingdom. And as we do, some of the things we fret about are going to become non-issues because we’ve got more important things to be busy with.
None of this is to say that we won’t therefore have some normal worries. We can’t love someone without worrying about threats to his or her well-being. We cannot be sensitive persons without occasional concern that we haven’t done all we should. We cannot listen to the news without some uneasiness about the direction many things in the world appear to be going.
But we can be focused enough on the things of God that we’re able to relax about our priorities and have confidence in God’s providential care. And that’s one definition of “hope.”
Hope actually assumes that the pessimists are sometimes right in the short run, but it ultimately trusts the long-run view that confidence has a way of leaking back into our present circumstances. That’s why, instead of wringing our hands in despair, we clasp our hands in prayer.
Dr. Edward Hallowell is a psychiatrist who taught at Harvard for more than 20 years and has now left academia to devote his full professional attention to his clinical practice, lectures and the writing of books. Back in the 1990s, he was the one who brought Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) to the public’s awareness, but he’s also made a study of worry, which is the subject of one of his books.
Writing about worry a few years ago for Psychology Today magazine, he offered several suggestions for dealing with excessive worry, but finally he said this: “Talk to God when you feel worried.... Brain scans and EEG monitors show beneficial changes in the brain during meditation and prayer. The changes correlate with most of our measures of improved health, including longevity and reduced incidence of illness.”
In his book on worry, Hallowell revealed that he is a practicing Christian, and so in an interview with Psychology Today, the interviewer asked him if that admission was a risk for someone who is renown in the psychiatric community. He acknowledged that it was a risk in that some people might dismiss him, but he added that he often advised patients to develop a spiritual life and, therefore, felt it was important to acknowledge his own. And he said that spirituality is a “very powerful part of the mind.” He concluded, “In my case, a relationship with God is another source of connection. And ultimately, it makes sense of my life in ways that nothing else can.”
You cannot add to your lifespan by worrying, but you likely will when you are open to the divine optimism that is rooted in God’s kingdom. It’s connected to the long term, without a doubt, but its power flows back to us in the present in the form of great confidence in God and energy to work for his kingdom.
Let me maybe, just to make this sermon a little longer put this all in another way.
One of the most important words is the word faith. Without it we cannot be saved. And apart from it, we can’t do anything of heavenly worth. You can’t overcome and you can’t live victoriously. So what is faith?
One might say faith is merely to believe. In Hebrew, the word emun speaks of that which is sure, solid, in true. Add an ah to emun and it becomes the word emunah. Emunah is the Hebrew word for faith. And faith is linked to truth.
Faith isn’t wishful thinking or unrealistic hoping. Faith is linked to that which is rock solid - the truth. Faith is that by which you join yourself, root yourself, and ground yourself to the truth. And the word emunah also means steadfast, established, stable, and steady. The more true faith you have, the more steadfast you become, the more stable, the more steady, and the more established. So faith causes you to become strong in a matter of speaking.
There’s another Hebrew word that also comes from the same root word as truth and faith. And everyone here already knows it. It’s the word amen. It even sounds like emun and emunah. So to say “amen” is to say, “It’s true, I agree, yes.” So, therefore what is faith? Faith is to give your amen to God’s emun, His truth. Faith is the say amen, yes to God - amen to His reality, amen to His love, in amen to His salvation; not just with your mouth but with your heart, your mind, your emotions, your strength, in your life. ‘True faith’ is to say amen with your entire being. And the greater, the stronger, and more confident your amen, the greater and more powerful will be your faith. So give the amen of your heart and your life, the strongest amen you can give to the word, the truth, and the love of God, and your life will become emunah, steadfast, established, and as solid as a rock.
Let us pray.
Father God, as human beings we tend to fret and worry over many things; most especially when life is not going quite the way we would like it to be. You taught us through Your Son, that worry will not only not add days to our life, but very well may not change the circumstances of life either. Faith and hope, however will. Lead us in our daily lives, dear Lord, to worry less and trust in You more. All things in heaven and on earth are under Your control, and thus, in very capable hands.
Father, help us to take time each day to spend some time with You. Many human studies have shown that meditation and prayer actually relieve stress and worry in our human lives. Further, You called upon us to lay our concerns at Your feet and trust in Your provincial care. We ask that You help us to “let go” enough of our daily concerns, by putting them in Your care and thus going about our day knowing full well that You are fully in control of the details and that all things happen with Your knowledge and permission and thus for the good in the long term, and even sometimes in the immediate.  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, February 12, 2017

February 12, 2017
Septuagesima
When faced with an evildoer — or an angry, snorting, 1,000-pound bull — most of us have a natural and understandable reaction: fight or flight.

It’s human. It’s instinctual. It’s a deeply ingrained mammalian response to danger. If you flee, you look for an escape route and run faster than you ever dreamed possible. But if you fight, you look for one thing, and one thing only; 
Blood. There will be blood.

You want to draw first blood and put down the evildoer. The goal is to save yourself, save your spouse, save your children, save your friends. If the danger is more emotional than physical, the response is still the same: You want the offender to bleed. The guy who broke your heart. The boss who fired you. The woman who betrayed you. Pow! First blood. Down they go.

This adrenaline-juiced dance with danger has been going on for centuries in the Latin world’s bullrings. Bullfighting is a spectacle in which a picador on a horse begins the fight by spearing the bull’s neck. Then bandilleros place three pairs of darts in the bull’s back. Finally the matador enters the ring and uses his cape to dance with the bull before he kills it with a sword.

Though I am sure there are those who would disagree with me, but I do not think it’s a sport. It’s a blood-soaked spectacle.

Fans say that “bullfighting is an intricate brush with death for both the bull and the bullfighter,” writes Edward Lewine in Hemispheres magazineIt’s a crucible that reveals the fearlessness of an animal and the bravery of a man.

Whether the bull gores the matador or the matador stabs the bull, one thing is certain: There will be blood.

Jesus reinvented the blood sports of his day when he looked at the tradition of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, and issued a new set of guidelines: “Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile” (Matthew 5:38-41). 

In a world accustomed to an eye for an eye, this is a whole new way of responding to attack. To the natural reactions of fight and flight, Jesus adds a third response: Love. There will be love.

This reaction can be every bit as effective as a flight to safety or a fight that draws blood, but it requires real bravery and commitment. Completely cut off from warm and fuzzy feelings, this love is grounded in a deep determination to respond to danger by acting in a Christ-like way. We’re challenged to be as courageous as matadors, standing without spear or sword in front of a snorting bull.

So what does Jesus say about responding to danger with love? He begins by insisting that love does not retaliate. According to New Testament scholar Eugene Boring, Jesus calls “for his disciples to reject absolutely the principle of retaliatory violence.” 

This response makes no sense unless you see it in the context of the kingdom of God. In this heavenly kingdom, enemies are embraced and turned into friends, not rejected and put to death. “If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also,” says Jesus — demonstrate that you are a follower of the Prince of Peace. “If anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well” — show the world that you find your security in God, not in material possessions. “If anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile” — reveal your generosity by offering them more than they are demanding of you. “Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you” — make a point of helping others as the Lord has helped you.

Love doesn’t retaliate; instead, it seeks the welfare of the other person, even if that person is an evildoer. By responding with nonviolence, generosity and helpfulness, we stand a chance of leading someone closer to God’s kingdom.

Of course, such a Christ-like response is difficult. It takes courage and deep determination. In Uganda, Angelina Atyam’s daughter was abducted in 1996. Rebel troops took her and 29 other girls from a Catholic boarding school. Angelina met weekly with the parents of the other girls to pray for their daughters’ release.

“I was confused, bitter and very deep in my heart I was thinking, ‘How do I avenge this?’” says Angelina. “Yet we continued to pray and call upon the rebels to release our children, protect them, bring them home and make peace again.” 

One day, a priest was leading the group of parents in the Lord’s Prayer. When they got to the words “Forgive us our sins,” the parents suddenly stopped. They couldn’t say “as we forgive those who sin against us.” Realizing they were asking for the forgiveness of their sins yet were unable to forgive the rebels for stealing their children, the parents filed silently out of the church. It was simply too difficult. They couldn’t be Christ-like enough to forgive the rebels’ sins.

The parents went home and began to examine themselves. And something amazing happened: By the next meeting, they started to pray to forgive the rebels. They also began sharing their story of forgiveness with others and became leaders in a national movement to secure the release of abducted children. After seven years of captivity, Angelina and her daughter were reunited.

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy,’” says Jesus. “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” Once again, Jesus gives us a response to adversity that is connected closely to the kingdom of God. He is challenging us to love our enemies not because they are wonderful people who deserve to be loved but because they are children of God — we are to love them because God loves them. After all, says Jesus, God “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.

Then Jesus raises the stakes a little higher, “If you love those who love you, what reward do you have?” That’s an easy kind of love; even dishonest tax collectors do the same. “If you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others?” Even unclean Gentiles greet their brothers and sisters. You can do better than that! 

Love your enemies, insists Jesus. Pray for those who persecute you. Stand up to the danger of an angry, snorting bull with no weapon but the Word of God. “Be perfect,” says Jesus, “as your heavenly Father is perfect.” This means to be complete in your love, not reserving it for neighbors, friends and family. It means to serve God wholeheartedly, focusing on the standards of God’s kingdom. Being perfect does not mean being without fault, in the sense of a psychological perfectionism that impedes healthy, adult human behavior. Rather it means being so oriented toward the values of God’s kingdom that all else is secondary. It is goal oriented and is meant to entice the greater righteousness.

This challenge is enormous because the fight-or-flight reaction is strong. We naturally want to run away or draw blood. But Jesus says no — try love. Try courageous, determined, committed love.

The Jerusalem spectacle wasn’t a bloodless bullfight but, in fact, a gory mess. Not aspiring to be a victorious matador, Jesus “emptied himself, taking the form of a slave… and became obedient to the point of death — even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6-8). He took our sins upon himself and died so we might experience forgiveness and life in God’s kingdom.

But that, of course, isn’t the end of the bloody bullfight. God raised Jesus from the dead, “highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that… every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (vv. 9-11).

When faced with danger, we try to imitate the behavior of our crucified and risen Lord. When tempted to retaliate, we remember that Jesus refused to retaliate. When filled with hatred for our enemies, we recall that Jesus loved his enemies, all the way to the cross.

In the bullfights of our lives, we have three choices: We can flee … fight … or love. 

Let’s do what Jesus did.
Let us pray.
Father God, we often find ourselves in situations where we need to make the choice of fight or flight. Depending on the situation, most of us, when we are honest with ourselves and You, would rather stay and fight. Help us to learn to be less prone to fight. Help us to see that it is better to have our ego bruised and merely walk away.
Since the time when You created mankind, humans have evolved, but some things remain the same. We have seemingly built within us the instinct that fight is always right. Jesus teaches us that this should not be so. We must learn to love not only our friends, but also those we classify as enemies. We must learn that when the shoe is on the other foot, as it were, we would rather the other would choose flight also. Most often times when we are hurt by others, it is unintentional or merely a consequence of a less than perfect situation. Help us to put away our ego and pride and learn from Jesus’ love of enemy. A few minutes of thinking rationally will help us to better respond. 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, February 5, 2017

February 5, 2017
The Fifth Sunday after The Epiphany
As I sat down this week to write today’s sermon, I had many thoughts going through my mind. Some good thoughts; and some not so good thoughts. It seemed like anything that could possibly attempt to make me feel sad would happen and actually come to mind. And surely due to my mood this sermon has come of it, so I apologize in advance.
In my email, I get what is called Weekly Reports from Rome. In it are usually stories about different things going on at the Vatican, the Roman Catholic Church, but predominantly what is going on with and being said by the Pope. And I happened to notice that it had on there the Pope’s prayer intention for February 2017. I read it and I was actually quite moved. And while reading it, it brought to mind something that has been bothering me for well over a week and a half or so.
As most of you know President Trump has signed many executive orders eliminating certain provisions in laws and enacting others. While, without going into great detail some of the things, the church and the Pope find them a bit disturbing, though neither is mentioning anything specifically by name.
However, after reading about the Pope’s prayer intention for the month, I then moved on to researching the readings that were set for today’s Mass.
And after reading the epistle and the gospel for today, I could not help but think about the Pope’s prayer intention. All at once many thoughts and emotions flowed into my thinking processes. It had already been a relatively tough week for me, because I allowed myself to ponder on my own personal situation. I thought of it as God’s way of helping me heal - everyone has to heal - even bishops have to heal. So, I was hoping that by these emotions finally taking hold, I was healing. I think it is still ongoing.
However, I digress. Let me give you a little bit of the background and the story behind the Pope’s prayer intention. Incidentally I would recommend anyone who is able to access YouTube, to go on there and search for the Pope’s February 2017 prayer intention and watch the very brief video. Yes, you can tell that they are actors, but it still will touch your heart.
When Pope Francis celebrated the way of the cross during world youth day last summer in Krak√≥w, he asked questions that naturally arise when we encounter human suffering. And he asked these questions: “Where is God, if evil is present in our world, if there are men and women who are hungry and thirsty, homeless, exiles and refugees? Where is God, when innocent persons died as a result of violence, terrorism and war? Where is God, when cruel diseases break the bonds of life and affection? Or when children are exploited and demeaned, they too suffer from grave illness? Where is God, amid the anguish of those who doubt and are troubled in spirit?”
And the Pope answered his own questions: “God is in them. Jesus is in them; He suffers in them and deeply identifies with each of them. He is so closely united to them as to form with them, as it were, one body. Jesus himself chose to identify with these our brothers and sisters enduring pain and anguish by agreeing to tread the way of sorrows that led to Calvary. By embracing the wood of the cross, Jesus embraced the nakedness, the hunger and thirst, loneliness, pain and death of men and women of all times.”
“We are called to serve the crucified Jesus and all those who are marginalized, to touch his sacred flesh and those who are disadvantaged, and those who hunger and thirst, in the naked, the imprisoned, the sick and the unemployed, and those who are persecuted, refugees and migrants. There we find our God; there we touch the Lord. Jesus himself told us this when he explained the criterion on which we will be judged: whenever we do these things to the least of our brothers and sisters, we do them to him.”
“In the face of evil, suffering and sin, the only response possible for a disciple of Jesus is the gift of self, even of one’s own life, in imitation of Christ; it is the attitude of service. Unless those who call themselves Christians live to serve, their lives serve no good purpose. By their lives, they deny Jesus Christ.”
When it comes to helping the poor, the marginalized and refugees, Pope Francis urged Catholics not to mimic “Mannequin Challenge” by just looking on, frozen and immobile. The video version of his prayer intention for February begins with a street scene of people doing a “Mannequin Challenge.”  (The Mannequin Challenge is a viral Internet video trend where people remain frozen in action like mannequins while a moving camera films them, usually with the song "Black Beatles" by Rae Sremmurd playing in the background. The hashtag #MannequinChallenge was used for popular social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram. It is believed that the phenomenon was started by students in Jacksonville, Florida, on October 12, 2016. The initial posting has inspired works by other groups, especially professional athletes and sports teams, who have posted increasingly complex and elaborate videos.)
The prayer intention and what has started to be called, “The Pope Video” is being distributed by the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, formally known as the Apostleship of Prayer.
The intention the Pope chose for February is this: “That all those who are afflicted, especially the poor, refugees and marginalized, may find welcoming comfort in our communities.”
The Pope goes on to say in the video; “We live in cities that throw up skyscrapers and shopping centers and strike big real estate deals, but they abandon a part of themselves to marginal settlements on the periphery. The result of this situation is that great sections of the population are excluded and marginalized: without a job, without options, without a way out.”
“Don’t abandon them,” the Pope pleads. The video image then shows the previously mannequin like actors reaching out to help a young man who was shivering against the building. And then the Pope goes on to say: “Pray with me, for all those who are afflicted, especially the poor, refugees, and marginalized, may find welcoming comfort in our communities.”
Now after watching this and listening to it I could not help but think of what the current administration is doing in so many ways, not only to the people that are banned from coming into the United States, but even to those here in our own nation already feeling ostracized in some way. I could not help but think that the Pope was thinking of the USA when he said these words: “We live in cities that throw up skyscrapers and shopping centers and strike big real estate deals, but they abandon a part of themselves to marginal settlements on the periphery.”
Now, most of you know that I have not been a fan of our new president. Admittedly one wonders if there was even a candidate out there that would’ve been good during this past election. So I suppose in Trump’s own mind he’s doing what he feels is best for the country. I will at least give him credit for that - even if he is delusional about facts.  However, I cannot help but feel that what he’s done in just these short few days is anything but good for our country; especially the ostracized and marginalized. His aides and cabinet are left to pick up the pieces.
Many of you heard me say many times, and will many more times, that this is a melting pot country. We have been a melting pot country since its inception. We have welcomed those who have needed a new home long before the Statue of Liberty was on its little island in New York City. With Trump’s blessing, it would seem that we are going backwards.
Not long after listening to the Pope, I also had an email feed that was sent to me of a video of a Muslim family that is stranded in Jordan because of the latest law that was signed. This family was granted access to the United States through negotiations with United Nations and now they are stuck in Jordan.
The video goes on to talk about how much this family wanted to come to America and the many good words they had about the loving and open armed view that they had of the United States until this law. It goes on to show one of the young boys crying on his mother’s shoulder. It continues with something that many people have said but somehow doesn’t seem to resonate with the rest of the country, and that is that not all Muslims are terrorists.
When we go back and look in history we can find that we as United States citizens - and we as Christians - have not always been perfect as we sometimes imply by our actions and words against Muslims by labeling them as terrorists, when it is only a small portion of the population of the Muslims who actually are terrorists. We must never forget that we as Christians - we as United States citizens - can be labeled as such anywhere in the world at any given time. We are not exempt. We are not perfect.
I stand with the rest of the United States Catholic bishops in agreeing that this law is not right for our nation. Building a wall to keep our ally and neighbor Mexico out of our country is wrong. Keeping Muslims and refugees out of our country is wrong. I do not deny the fact that some people feel these people take our jobs or use our welfare system and what have you for their livelihood; I certainly understand that; but denying them access to this country and possible access to a better life is not the answer either. Some leave their home country because they feel their lives are in danger. Should we turn our backs on these people?
We as a nation have always prided ourselves on being a loving nation where freedom reigns. We should be looking for ways to help these people not ostracizing them.
To slightly get off my tangent for a moment, let us not forget that we have many people in our own nation who are already citizens who are very concerned about the steps this country might be taking in the next four years. There are many who may lose insurance if the Republicans follow through with what they want to do and if they do not enact some new form of insurance for these people. There are many homeless who are American citizens on our streets. Admittedly for a percentage of these people it’s because of life choices they’ve made. But in most instances that is a small percentage. These people are on the streets for different societal reasons including sometimes medical and psychological. We have people who feel the advancement of the LGBT community will somehow go backwards now. And I could go on with this list, but I am sure you get the point.
Suffice to say that we have a little bit of soul-searching to do as Americans. Let me relate a short story in which, when you think about it, it can be very apropos to what I’m talking about today. You may have heard a variation of it before.
“A young lady was waiting for her flight in the boarding room of the big airport. As she would need to wait many hours, she decided to buy a book to spend her time. She also bought a packet of cookies. She sat down in an armchair, in the VIP room of the airport, to rest and read in peace. Beside the armchair where a packet of cookies lay, a man sat down in the next seat, opened his magazine and started reading. When she took out the first cookie, the man took one also. She felt irritated but said nothing. She just thought: ‘What a nerve! If I was in the mood I would punch him for daring!’ For each cookie she took, the man took one too. This was infuriating her but she didn’t want to cause a scene. When one cookie remained she thought: ‘Ah … What will this abusive man do now?’ Then, the man, taking the last cookie, divided in half, giving her one half. She said to herself: ‘Ah! That is too much! I am much too angry now!’ And in a huff, she took a book, her things and stormed to the boarding area. Later, when she sat down in her seat, inside the plane, she looked into her purse to take her eyeglasses out, and, to her surprise, her packet of cookies was there, untouched, unopened! She felt so ashamed! She realized that she was wrong. She had forgotten that her cookies were kept in her purse. The man had divided his cookies with her, without feeling angered or bitter. While she had been very angry, thinking that she was dividing her cookies with him, he was actually dividing them with her. And now there was no chance to explain yourself, nor to apologize.
There are many thoughts that came to mind when I read this little story. How often we can take this story and turn it around upon ourselves. How often we can blame others for actions of our own. How often we can point out the errors of others, when those same errors are sometimes our own.
There are things that you just cannot recover. The stone after it’s been thrown. The word after it’s been said. The occasion after the loss. The time after it’s gone. And the ability to help someone after they are gone.
Jesus healed those who were ostracized in society. He reached out to certain social classes as well, especially those who were rejected.
When Jesus was dying on the cross we can read in the Scriptures his words, “My God my God why have you abandoned me?”
I have wondered over these words for many years and I’ve come to this conclusion. Jesus knew very well that God had not abandoned him. It was not God that he was speaking about when he said these words. It was about his people. He was asking God why his people had abandoned him. And I wonder at times if he still does not exclaim the same thing - especially lately.
Now we are a small church and in theory we can’t do much. But we indeed can. "Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst." (Matt. 18:19-20)
So, let me leave you with something to think about. And I know this sermon is long but please bear with me.
“Silence is not always golden!” Edmund Burke once observed, “The only thing needed for evil to prosper is for good men to do nothing.” Some years ago an allegedly Christian minister in Florida, publicly burned a copy of the Quran on a Friday, the Muslim holy day. In protest the Middle East erupted in the violent riots resulting in the mutilation and decapitation of several Christians and Jews. There was no shortage of expressions of outrage. Christians and Jews were outraged against this minister’s bigoted and ignorant act, but there was a deafening silence from the Muslim world in response to the senseless violence and murder in the name of God by Muslim mobs. Where was the voice of civilization against this barbarism?
The only thing needed for evil to prosper is for good men to do nothing.
There is little question that fanatic hate filled Muslim extremists represent only a small portion of the world’s Muslims. They are the ones who are constantly seen and heard as that is what the media focuses on, however, so they paint the whole of Islam with their twisted image of a cruel, irrational and hateful God.
We Christians also have our own fringe lunatics, such as the Christian minister I mentioned earlier, and the such as Westborough Baptist Church. (Keep in mind, according to this particular church, every time a service man dies in our military it’s because we have gays in our country.) When they spew forth their revolting heresy, however, Christians immediately cry out that they do not represent us, and that their teaching is repulsive to most Christians.
Fanatics, extremists, and lunatics are easy to recognize and deal with because their words and acts are so outrageous. But there is a far more insidious evil lurking in the shadows. That is a slow erosion of Christian principles that has brought about the demise of Christian influence and authority in the world. Not so long ago to call a man a “good Christian” was to complement his integrity, compassion and generosity.
Today it has become almost derogatory to label anyone “Christian,” implying that he is a narrow-minded extremist. It is true that the term has become co-opted by the very conservative and often close minded group of Christians, though it is not fair to call them extremist or fanatic. Moderate and Liberal Christians have no right to complain, however, because they too have stood by and allowed this to happen.
The only thing needed for evil to prosper is for good men to do nothing.
The German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemoller said, “First they came for the Communists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t in a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.”
The only thing needed for evil to prosper is for good men to do nothing.
And so I ask you today, will we speak out for Christ? Will we speak out for the afflicted, the poor, the refugees, disadvantaged, and those who hunger and thirst, the naked, the imprisoned, the sick and the unemployed, and those were are persecuted and the marginalized? It can be risky to do so. I know it will be risky to post this sermon on my Facebook page on the Internet. (There is still a law, after all, that prohibits ministers from speaking some forms of politics at the pulpit.) If we speak out for Christ and the afflicted and the poor the refugees and the marginalized, it could very well bring scorn, humiliation, and in some places even death. But if we don’t, evil will indeed prosper.
Let us pray.
Father God, we beseech Thee by the Precious Body and Blood of Thy Divine Son Jesus, which He Himself on the night before His Passion gave as meat and drink to His beloved Apostles and bequeathed to His Holy Church to be the perpetual Sacrifice and life-giving nourishment of His faithful people, deliver the souls who have gone before us, but most of all, that soul which was most devoted to this Mystery of infinite love, that soul who is in need of a home, that soul who marginalized and ostracized, that soul who is hungry and in need of medical attention, that soul being forced from their home country, that soul in unemployment – all the souls of Your people in order that they may praise You together with Thy Divine Son and the Holy Spirit in Thy glory forever. Amen.
God Love You +++
+ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Universal Catholic Church
San Diego, Ca.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

January 29, 2017
The Fourth Sunday after Epiphany
A police officer jumps into a squad car and calls the station. “I have an interesting case here,” he says. “A woman shot her husband for stepping on the floor she just mopped.” “Have you arrested her?” asks the Sergeant. “No, not yet. The floor’s still wet.”
After hearing a sermon on Psalm 52:3-4 (lies and deceit), a man wrote the IRS, “I can’t sleep knowing that I have cheated on my income tax. Enclosed is a check for $150. If I still can’t sleep, I’ll send the rest.”
I’m afraid my brain has not been working as well these past couple weeks, so starting out my sermon with a story like I sometimes do just wasn’t working for me this week. So, you got started out with a couple of jokes. Not to mention, I want to be sure everyone is paying attention.
Just like last week, this Sunday’s readings seem to be intentionally scheduled together. When you get right down to it, they speak of the same thing. As human beings we have pride and ego that tend to get in our way at being better Christians. Both St. Paul and Christ seem to be telling us today that humility is of the far greater importance. Let’s face it, we all struggle with this. In some people’s minds, probably even most of ours here, humility is almost like accepting defeat and/or our willingness to take second place in anything.
We all want to be the center of attention. We all want to be loved and liked. We all want to be successful in anything we do. We love to boast about our accomplishments, but we tend to avoid the less appealing things in our life. Yet when we get right down to it, not anyone of us when being completely truthful could ever say that they are the best or the greatest person known to humanity. There’s always someone who is going to be better, like it or not. And regardless of our high opinions of ourselves, there is much that needs to be improved.
B’Resheet Bara Elohim. “In the beginning God created…” These are the very first words of Scripture. The word Elohim is God. Now for those of you that aren’t sure about that spelling let me spell it out for you, E-l-o-h-i-m. Now I want you to think carefully about what I’ve just spelled out to you. Put the word together and meditate on those letters in that order for a moment.
What we need to notice is that it ends with “im”. “im” is a plural word. It’s the word for God, and yet it’s plural. Some of us might ask then why doesn’t it mean “God’s?” And in some other context it could be translated that way. But when we read the first words of Scripture, the word next to it is the word, “created”. In Hebrew that is, bara. Bara is not plural but singular. So we have a plural noun and a singular verb. This would seem to break the rules.
And indeed it does break the rules, from a grammatical standpoint at least. But, it is in the very first sentence of Scripture. And the reason for that is there is something deeper here - a mystery if you will.
The first sentence of Scripture isn’t just about the world being created, it also tells us a little something about God. And it is that God is singular and plural. And from a Hebrew context, when you have a plural word that should be singular, it’s telling you that there something profound about the reality behind that word. And therefore something profound about God.
And what it’s saying is that the reality of God is very transcendent, and so awesome, and so beyond our understanding, that there is no one word in any language that can express it not even the word, God. In fact, as Christians, we additionally believe that part of the reason for God’s plural designation is due to the understanding of God within the Trinity. In the 26th verse of the first chapter of Genesis we also read, “let us make man in our image according to our likeness….” This also implies the pluralness of God. As Christians, we believe this is the case, because the Trinity was already three in one. He did not become three in one upon Jesus’ birth, but always was!
The word Elohim is letting you know that whatever you think God is, He’s far more than that. No matter how good you think He is, He’s better. No matter how beautiful, majestic and amazing, He’s far more beautiful, far more majestic, and far more amazing. No matter how awesome you think He is, He is far more awesome. And no matter how beyond you think He is, He’s even beyond that.
And so what does Elohim reveal? It reveals that no matter how much you think you know of God, there’s always more to know - so much more - so much more than so much more. And this means we should never stop seeking Him, because we will never completely learn about Him. For His name is Elohim, and His awesomeness, there will be no end. So, as St. Paul tells us today, “Whoever boasts, should boast in the Lord.”
If I had everyone here pick up a rock and hold it in your hands, I might ask you all, “what do you feel?” Holding a rock in your hand, what do you feel? And many of you probably would be very puzzled and not sure how to answer. Or you might go into some scientific explanation of what a rock is. Or, some of you might actually start describing the feeling of the rock and how much it weighs in your hand. And yet some of you still might say, “I feel nothing, it’s just a rock.”
Then if I asked you to take your hand and place it on your neck as if you were checking to see if you were still alive, and I again ask you what do you feel. In response to this you would most likely say your ‘heartbeat’, and that would be correct. Of course when we hold the rock in our hand, the rock does not have a heartbeat of course. The rock merely exists to be a rock. He remains in its same size shape and consistency with absolutely no heartbeat. And aside from a glacier or some other event to drag the rock somewhere, it will never change its shape or design.
However, every moment of our existence hangs on a heartbeat. The moment our heart stops our existence is over. That’s a big difference between a rock and our life. God breathed live into us, in that he expects us to live and be part of his creation and using his creation to have life. The rock just exists. It’s just there. But life never just exists. Life strives to exist, fights to exist. Our hearts must always keep beating, for every moment of our lives. Even if we do nothing, our heart still beats. When we are sleeping, it keeps beating every moment so that we can remain alive. If we waste moments on earth, the heart will still keep beating even though we are wasting our time. When we sin, when we gossip, when we covet and hate, our heart still beats all the while we’re doing these things. When we weep and cry, when we give up hope (something I have struggled with this week), our hearts will continue to beat so that even in our tears and despair, it will still fight for us to stay alive and be able to cry again.
So, the difference between our existence and the rock’s, is that we in our lives do not just exist, we strive to exist. Our lives are miracles. Our every moment in our lives is a miracle. Our joys are miracles. Even our tears are miracles. Our life is a gift from God – Elohim. Every moment is sustained by Him. Every moment is a miracle.
And in such, we listen to Jesus talk about the Beatitudes. Admittedly many of us struggle with the Beatitudes. We are being told by Jesus that we need to be happy in these situations. As I mentioned in the beginning of the sermon, not many of us like humility much. So when we read the Beatitudes that Jesus is teaching, when we are honest with ourselves and each other, we will admit that the Beatitudes touch a nerve. You mean we have to be happy when we mourn? You mean we have to be happy when we are persecuted?
Jesus isn’t necessarily saying that we need to be happy in all situations. He’s merely saying that we are blessed when we do experience them. Because when we experience them, with a true humble heart, we can be assured that our reward will be in the next life. When our earthly existence ends, and by God’s grace we make it in the heaven, we are blessed indeed.
So what St. Paul and Jesus are telling us today, is that we need to quit taking our life for granted. We need to stop wasting it, mistreating it, or treating it as something less than the miracle that it is. We need to cease to allow our life to be given to sin and what is less than God’s will. We need to treasure the existence with which we have been entrusted. We need to stop throwing away our moments. We need to treat our life in our time on earth as a treasure. We should treat every moment as if there was a heart beating behind it, striving for that moment to exist. We need to live our life worthy of every heartbeat.
This isn’t always easy to do. And certainly we all know that not every day is going to be a good one. But if we go forth in life living it as we know we are being taught by our good Lord, we can know that even in the worst of times and the worst of days, we are still blessed in life, because life is a miracle.
And so this week let each of us strive to live in a more humble way; striving to remember to live the Beatitudes and know that each moment of our life will be blessed and a miracle if we live it as best as we can.
Let us pray.
Father God, we often take our life for granted. We live each day as if it were completely our own. We live each day not taking consideration of how miraculous our being alive really is.
Help us to become more aware of the value of our life. Help us to understand that even in the worst of times, life is still a miracle. Help us to know that life is not about how many cars we have, how many friends we have, how many awards we’ve earned - it’s about how we have lived, and how we treat each other. Help us to be more humble. Help us to live out the Beatitudes in our daily lives. Help us to know that we do not need to be first in order to be loved, liked or wanted. Because, in the end, life is a miracle -and it’s a miracle that You have given us. So, when all we know is over, what we really should be hoping to have earned is Your love and our place in Your kingdom. Help us to truly appreciate this and live our life by striving to exist as one of Your children in the miracle of live You have given us with Your Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
God Love You +++
+ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Universal Catholic Church
San Diego, Ca.