Sunday, July 30, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, July 23, 2017

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

Sunday, July 16, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sunday, July 9, 2017

July 9, 2017
The Fourth Sunday after Trinity
(Abbot Gentzsch’s birthday!)
Have you ever shaken a bit of dry parmesan cheese from a can onto your spaghetti and meatballs and mused that it kind of looks like (and maybe even tastes like) sawdust, well, it turns out the parmesan cheese you're putting on your spaghetti might not be cheese -- or at least not all of it. Some cheese factories have been busted recently for marketing "100% real cheese" that, in addition to cheese, contains fillers like wood pulp. Yes, instead of parmesan cheese in your mouth, you have a mouthful of sawdust. It's sometimes hard to tell the real from the fake, and in an era of fake news, this is no surprise. 
Jesus reminds us that discerning the real from the phony is a problem when it's people we're talking about. It takes an expert! 
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently busted a cheese manufacturer in Pennsylvania for marketing its product as "100% real parmesan" when it actually contained no parmesan at all. In reality, consumers were sprinkling a mixture of imitation cheese and trimmings of other cheaper cheeses like Swiss, white cheddar, Havarti, and mozzarella on their pasta. 

As if that weren't sneaky enough, however, the FDA discovered that Castle Cheese, Inc., was also adding filler material to the cheese, the bulk of which was cellulose -- better known as wood pulp.

To be fair, a lot of cheese manufacturers do use cellulose in their parmesan because it acts effectively to keep the cheese from clumping (and saves consumers from taking the time to grate their own cheese). The problem for Castle Cheese and other corner-cutting manufacturers is the percentage of cellulose they actually use. The cheese industry considers 2 to 4 percent cellulose as an acceptable and safe level, but some of the parmesan you might be buying off the shelf at your local grocery store may contain as much as 8 percent. That's way too much filler (though maybe not enough for discerning cheese experts to detect hints of maple and oak in their tasting). 

The whole business stinks like Limburger and has cheesed off a lot of consumers who only want the real thing.

Of course, this isn't the first time that we've seen potentially harmful or misleading ingredients mixed in with the real thing. "Extra virgin" olive oil is often mixed with not-so-virginal olive oil. Tea might contain lawn grass clippings, or chopped-up fern leaves. (Go online and see the report yourself! Avila, Jim and Serena Marshall. "Group finds more fake ingredients in popular foods." ABC News Website, January 22, 2013.) The FDA is constantly on the lookout for food manufacturers who cut corners. (At least one government agency is [sort-of] doing something productive!) It also does its best to make sure that foods actually contain what their labels say they do -- no more and no less. Sometimes it takes an expert to tell the difference between what's real and what's fake.
Cheese making was a big deal in Jesus' day, so much so that the Jewish historian Josephus named the ravine between Mount Moriah and Mount Zion in Jerusalem the "Valley of the Cheese Makers." But Jesus didn't tell any parables about cheese, probably because none of those cheese makers ever thought about adding wood to their Gouda

However, he did say in the Sermon on the Mount, according to Matthew, "Blessed are the cheesemakers." Oh sorry, that was Monty Python. Jesus said, "Blessed are the peacemakers." 

The problem of contamination by alien ingredients could not be more serious than the threat it posed to a daily staple: their daily bread. And worse, wheat was one of the most susceptible of the staples of life, and to mess around with it was very serious business. 

When Jesus wanted to illustrate the difficulty of separating those who would be part of the kingdom of heaven from those who would not, he turned to the wheat fields where the difference between the real and the fake (and harmful) ingredients was very subtle and took an expert to discern at the harvest. 

Jesus sets the parable on a large commercial farm of the period, where wheat was the cash crop. It was common during that time for rival landowners to mess with each other's crops in hopes of increasing their own profits at the market -- a problem common enough that Roman law specifically forbade the sowing of poisonous plants in another's field. The poisonous plant in question here is "darnel," a kind of ryegrass that looked like wheat in its early stages and could only be distinguished from it when the heads appeared on the stalk. 

Slaves and field hands normally weeded the fields in the spring before the roots of the darnel became intertwined with the real wheat, but in the story that Jesus tells, a rival enemy snuck into the fields "while everybody was asleep" and intentionally sowed the weeds among the wheat. By the time anyone realized the treachery, the fake wheat had already become entangled with the good stuff, which could lead to disaster for the crop and damage the reputation of the landowner. 

So much of the fake crop was present that the slaves were amazed at its proliferation and wondered from whence it came. After all, the master had focused on sowing only the best seed. The landowner knew that this invasion of noxious weeds didn't happen by accident. "An enemy has done this," he told them. 

The landowner's staff volunteered to head out into the fields and pull up the counterfeit wheat by the root, thinking of themselves as kind of a primitive version of the FDA. But the farmer understood that this had the potential to do more harm than good. The real wheat could be damaged, given the intertwined nature of the roots. It would be better to wait until the harvest when the real experts, the reapers, could separate the real wheat from the fake. 

Actually, it would be fairly easy for the reapers to tell the difference at that point, because darnel doesn't grow as high as wheat when it matures. The harvesters could cut the wheat just below the head and leave the darnel to be cut separately. Even then, the darnel would serve a purpose. In a land where wood was scarce, the weeds would be bundled and used as fuel for actually baking the bread that the real wheat made possible! 

This parable, of course, comes in the midst of a rapid-fire series of stories that Jesus uses to illustrate the nature of the kingdom of heaven. It's interesting, however, that Jesus only gives an explanation to two of the parables: the parable of the sower; and this parable of the wheat and the weeds. In both cases, the explanation is given only to the disciples and only after they ask. 

In the case of the wheat and the weeds, they ask for a specific explanation and Jesus gives them one in private. We might imagine their confusion. Why wait to uproot evil from among us when we have the chance? Why would we not get rid of the harmful ingredients so that our daily ration of the real bread of life might be pure? 

It was tempting for many in Jesus' day to take one of two approaches to the problem of evil in their midst. On the one hand, there were those like the Essenes, who went out into the desert to separate themselves from the culture and set up a "pure" community of faithful people. In their case, the idea was that "the cheese stands alone." On the other hand, there were those like the Pharisees, who saw it as their job to pluck evil by the root by pointing out those individuals who were obviously violating God's law and assigning them to the fire of judgment. 

These approaches are still tempting to disciples of Jesus today. In a post-Christendom age, many want to separate themselves from a culture that is increasingly secular and even hostile to people of faith. They'd rather maintain a pure crop, so they'll wall off the field and watch for interlopers who might sow bad seeds among the faithful wheat. It would be better to create their own culture rather than be corrupted by the evil around them. 

On the other hand, some Christians have taken the role of judge and jury, pointing out the evil in others and rooting it out publicly. 

Both approaches are destructive, however. Communities that try to wall themselves off from the world eventually atrophy in their mission and are not sustainable. The weeds still infiltrate and the sinful nature of humanity is hard to hold at bay. The Essenes eventually died out, as have many other sects that have tried the isolationist approach. 

The Pharisaic approach is equally destructive because it can damage the good seed while rooting out the bad. Many are the people who have been harmed by well-meaning Christians on a moral crusade who have led with judgment rather than grace. What we might see as a deplorable orientation toward evil in another person might actually be an opportunity for God's grace to grow within them and change them. If we consign them to the fire before the harvest, we do more harm than good. It is one thing to point a “general error” among the population, but it is another entirely to point to a specific individual and place yourself as their judge!

The point of the parable seems to be that it takes an expert to know the difference between real and fake ingredients, and that difference is only revealed at the time of the harvest. The harvest is often used as an eschatological metaphor in the Scriptures, the time of final reaping of both good and bad. Jesus warns the disciples that it is only at the harvest that the truth will be revealed about each one of us. Until then, the weeds grow with the wheat and some could go either way. It's not up to us to start acting as a spiritual FDA, but rather to be faithful in our own growth, share grace with our neighbors with whom, for good or ill, our roots are intertwined, and trust in the expertise of the master and his reapers to sort it all out in the end. 

Jesus will actually demonstrate how this works. Notice that he spends much of his time with people whom the righteous might consider to be "weeds" while offering his critique of those who would go charging off into the fields on a moral crusade to uproot evil. Jesus understood that the harvest was "plentiful" but that the workers who would do the right thing and follow his example were "few". The wheat and the weeds grow together until the harvest, but in the meantime it is up to the workers to maintain the field, nurture the wheat, and offer transforming grace to even the worst of the weeds. 

Castle Cheese filed for bankruptcy after it was found to be a manufacturer of fake cheese. Its factory stands empty and shuttered because what they claimed to be selling on the outside wasn't actually happening on the inside. 

It's a cautionary tale that Jesus would have certainly embraced. Do our lives reflect the authenticity of a relationship with Christ, or are we harboring our own weed-like tendencies? Are we full of Christ or do we harbor a lot of religious filler that looks and tastes good to the rest of the faithful, but is ultimately not nutritious or satisfying to a world hungry for the gospel?
I think we all could find some ingredients in ourselves that might need to be purged on the inside.
Let us pray.
That the church will be a place of mercy freely given where everyone can feel loved, forgiven, and encouraged to live the life of the Gospel. We pray to the Lord. (R. Lord hear our prayer.)
That, in a world torn by strife, God’s people may shine forth as a prophetic sign of unity and concord. We pray to the Lord.
For refugees and those exiled from their homeland; that they may receive a loving welcome wherever they may go. We pray to the Lord. 
For an increase of vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life. We pray to the Lord. 
For those burdened by poverty, hardship, oppression, and persecution; that God will rescue them and lift them up. We pray to the Lord.
For our friends and family members who are suffering from various illnesses; that the healing Archangel Raphael will visit them and comfort them. We pray to the Lord.
That those who feel unwelcome, outcast, and have been refused the sacraments in other churches; that they find our humble church and come to us where we strive to welcome all of mankind. We pray to the Lord.
For the grace this week to live by the Spirit of God in every way. We pray to the Lord. 
Loving Father, make us faithful in following Your law of love, and bless us with Your peace and mercy. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
God Love You +++
+ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Universal Catholic Church
San Diego, Ca.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Boring sermon week ... :(

July 6, 2014
St. Junipero Serra (Transferred)
Independence Day
Feast – Patron – Diocese – Archdiocese - Veneration – Bishop – Archbishop – Apostle – Liturgical –Province
July 1st was the feast day of St. Junipero Serra. St. Junipero is our patron saint for our diocese – Diocese of the West. Today we celebrate this feast day transferred.
I've just rattled off a few terms some of you are familiar with and some of you may not be. So, today, I thought I would do another “lesson” day as opposed to a sermon. I know you all are just bursting with excitement! Suffice to say, that one might want to know why we have a patron saint over a diocese and how all these other titles seem to relate to one.
First, what is a “feast day” of a saint?
The Catholic Church assigns one date out of the year for each saint — known as the saint’s feast day, or “festival”. The saints are remembered on their individual feast days with special mention, prayers, a scripture reading, and sometimes great events, such animal blessings for St. Francis Day. The feast day is that day where we place special honor and veneration for a specific saint in thanksgiving for their holy lives and for their continued prayers and intercessions to our Lord.
Some saints’ feasts are only celebrated in the particular saint’s town or country. Others are internationally celebrated. Some saints have churches, missions, various forms of organizations, monasteries, convents or dioceses named after them in their honor. Some Bishops may ask a particular saint to watch over their ministry and even include that saint in the bishop’s coat of arms.
Now, what is a Diocese?
Originally the term diocese (Gr. dioikesis) signified management of a household, and later an administration or government in general. This term was used in Roman law to designate the territory dependent for its administration upon a city. During this time, because the Christian bishop generally resided in a city, the territory administered by him, being usually shared with the juridical territory of the city, came to be known by its usual civil term, diocese.
From roughly the Fourth century on, the Church has used a “diocese” as an official form of designating areas of governance by a bishop.
What is a Bishop? Why are they considered the Successors to the Apostles? What is Apostolic Succession?
Bishops generally hold all authority in their designated area or diocese. Most liturgical (Catholic, Anglican, Episcopal, Orthodox, etc.) churches have some form of hierarchy and hence bishops. They would equate, in comparison to civil jurisdictions, as something similar to mayors or governors. All bishops and archbishops have a formal salutation or “formal” address known as “His Excellency” or “Your Excellency” (Some use “His Grace” or “Your Grace” though less common).
An archdiocese is usually more significant than a diocese mainly due to its geographical size or population. An archdiocese may have or have had importance due to size or historical significance and is thus presided over by an archbishop. The archbishop may have metropolitan authority over other bishops and their dioceses within his ecclesiastical province. Such as Los Angeles or New York are both Archdioceses. An Archbishop’s formal address is the same as that of a bishop.
Or as in our denomination, Archbishop Bekken is our Presiding Bishop. As Presiding Bishop, he automatically ascends to the designation of Archbishop. Unlike the Pope in the Roman Catholic Church, the Presiding Bishop is considered first among equals and has some limited powers to make decisions governing our denomination when required. He works in collegiality with all the bishops, carrying out what the majority of bishops have voted on and thus mandated. He can, and sometimes does, makes decisions as defined by canon when there is an urgent need and all the bishops cannot meet immediately to make the decision needed. Hence, his role would be similar to that of a president of sorts.
Additionally, the Presiding Bishop holds office for a term of four years and can be re-elected. The Presiding Bishop is elected by a majority vote by all the bishops of the denomination. The Presiding Bishop oversees any and all areas not otherwise governed by another bishop. Such as the Province of the United States would be part of his jurisdiction. Any area not governed by another bishop would fall under him and is called a Province. The Presiding Bishop is our Patriarch. His official address is, “Your Beatitude” or “His Beatitude”.
Since I have touched on it, what is Patriarch?
A Patriarch is very simply a bishop who is an Archbishop and holds authority over entire countries or of a specific “Rite” within the church. The Catholic and Orthodox churches all have patriarchs. In our case, the Presiding Bishop “rules” or governs over the entire United States and of a branch of the Liberal Rite churches, of which we belong. In many of these cases, these patriarchs are acknowledged by Rome, but do not submit to their governance.
Bishops are considered the direct successors of the original Apostles. As we know, the Apostles were specifically chosen by our Lord and told to continue to carry out the ministry He started while among them. As we have read in the Scriptures they were given various powers, “gifts” and graces by our Lord and the Holy Spirit came upon them to carry on this work – not all having necessarily the same Powers, “gifts” or graces. As such, they were to carry on in His stead.
As we also know from history and the Scriptures, many of the Apostles traveled to various countries and areas carrying out this continued ministry. They, in turn, to ensure this ministry continued and because the Holy Spirit directed them to so do, they laid hands upon men who were to follow in their path and also continue this same ministry. It was the intent of the Apostles to transfer some of their grace and call down the Holy Spirit upon these new successors to be empowered with the same authority and powers given to them by Jesus himself.
That said, Apostolic Succession is the method in which the ministry of the Catholic Church is held to be derived from the Apostles by a continuous succession through a series of bishops. This series of bishops, each consecrated by other bishops themselves consecrated similarly in a succession going back to the Apostles. One could suppose that every bishop could trace his ordination back to a specific Apostle if one were of the patience to trace it. Christians of the Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Old Catholic (of which we are part of), Anglican, Moravian, and Scandinavian Lutheran traditions maintain that "a bishop cannot have regular or valid orders unless he has been consecrated in this Apostolic succession."
Apostolic succession is also understood as continuity in doctrinal teaching from the time of the Apostles to the present, which in most Catholic churches, this is known as “Tradition” with a capital “T”. This means, we hold that there are matters of faith (beliefs or teachings) that were handed down by the Apostles orally that are not found in the Scriptures, but still support what we read in them.
St. Clement, who was Pope in the years 92 to 99 A.D., explicitly stated that the Apostles appointed bishops as successors and directed that these bishops should in turn appoint their own successors. So, it was the direct will of the Apostles to continue this succession that Jesus started.
Lastly, to simplify – Bishops, like the Apostles, are meant to be spiritual leaders, or spiritual fathers if you will. As we know from Scriptures, Moses was the leader of the Israelites. In a different way, the Prophet Elijah too was a Spiritual leader by virtue of his proclaiming God’s commands to the people of Israel. In essence, God has always chosen leaders of his people, and in a form, this would be the bishops today.
Earlier I said most liturgical churches have some form of hierarchy and hence bishops. Briefly, what is Liturgical?
Liturgical, simply put, is a church like ours. Liturgical churches are those that have a set tradition and set of practices for their form of worship. Meaning, as example, we have the Mass. The Mass is virtually the same year round. It, as you’ve all heard me say at some point, is derived from the ancient Judaic form of worship. If you were to attend a service at a Jewish Synagogue, you would find similarities to our service. As such, to some small degree, we still carry on the ritual as it was handed on to the Jewish peoples by God through Moses. So, we are in keeping with the earliest periods of human existence in some fashion. In comparison, the Rock Church here locally in San Diego, or some other independent churches, do not normally have a set pattern of worship or rituals, which is to say they are not a “Liturgical” church. Their service, in theory could vary from week to week, and ours stays relatively the same.
What is a Saint?
The Christian church as a whole, based on St. Paul’s letters, believes that all believers who are in heaven are “saints”. This was a generic term in Scriptures that St. Paul used to describe various believers, most especially those who have died and thought to be in heaven.
However, what is usually implied in our time when one says “saint” is that of one who it is believed to have led a very holy and devote life before God and His Church. They were those who were exemplary models, extraordinary teachers, wonder workers, sources of benevolent power, intercessors, lived a life often refusing material attachments or comforts and had possession of a special and revelatory relation to God, to name but just a few. They were people, who the church has declared, led a life of great holiness in some fashion and are thus in heaven with Jesus. As examples in more recent times, they would be people such as Padre Pio, Mother Teresa, Pope John XXIII and John Paul II and Junipero Serra.
The Church declares a person to be a Saint normally after a long and difficult process. Their life is thoroughly examined – anything they wrote, where they worked, any correspondence (if still available) they may have had – every possible facet of their life. The investigation looks to ensure there is nothing found that would be considered evil, scandalous or otherwise in contradiction to Christ’s teachings; and if they lived a heroic life of virtue and holiness; the Church will usually require two proven miracles attributed to their intercession and if these are found, the person is declared a Saint, and thus in heaven with God.  (This is a simplified understanding. We shall go into this deeper in future “Mini Catechisms” we do each Sunday.)
Why are saints important to us and why does the Catholic church hold those declared a Saint in such high esteem?
Saints act as our guides. They can act as our role models. Every saint is known for something. As examples: St. Jude Thaddeus is the Saint of Difficult causes. St. Matthew, the tax collector turned Apostle, is the Saint of bankers and tax collectors. St. Christopher, not only is still a saint, but he has always been the Saint for travelers. (No, the Catholic Church did not “un”saint him. He was simply removed from the calendar of regular feasts. Some dates have too many saints to appropriately honor, so a more current or prevalent saint may now be listed, but certainly older saints may be used and honored.)
What is a Patron?
Most usually, the saint is a patron of something related to their life. When we call a Saint a “patron,” we mean to say they are the protector or guide for something. They can be a patron simply by virtue of being honored for whatever it is they are named a saint of. As an example, as I mentioned a moment ago, St. Matthew was a tax collector who became an Apostle, and is therefore the Patron Saint of bankers and tax collectors.
Thus, because we believe the Saints are truly in heaven before us, we believe they have the “ear of God”, if you will. They are close to God – much closer than we – and are thus able to obtain favors and/or have been given special powers to minister in God’s place in matters on earth. They are not “mini gods” and are NOT worshipped ever. They are still mortal souls who worship God, but due to their proximity to God, are able ask God on our behalf of the needs we may present them. When we say we “pray to a Saint”, we mean to say we ask them to pray with us and obtain a favor for us from God. We believe that the soul of a holy person lives on in heaven; while their body be buried here, their soul lives on.
As you may have heard it explained before …. If as a child you wanted something and you went to one of your parents and he or she said, “No”, what did you do? You went to the other parent hoping they would say, “Yes”. Many times it worked. Sometimes not. However, the principal here is the same. Additionally, we remember Jesus saying in Matthew 18:20 "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." Hence, because the saints have led holy lives and are in heaven and thus closer to God, we believe that when we pray and ask the Saints to pray with us, thus we have two or three praying even if it is only you and a Saint or two.
Saints are also known as protectors, like the Angels. Due to their holiness and status in heaven, they have the ability to protect and guide those of us on earth. As such, we name a Saint as a patron over a church, or a monastery or even a diocese. The said Patron Saint is believed to look out for this ministry, protect and guide it – most especially in the manner in which the Saint may have done on earth during their life or as prescribed by the assignment dedicated to the Saint by the church.
Lastly, why do we say we “venerate” saints?
Simply put, only God is worthy of being truly worshipped. No person or other created being is worthy of being worshipped; only God deserves worship. However, God indeed wants us to honor the saints, because of their great holiness and faith, in a manner befitting another mortal being. Thus, we “venerate” them. By "venerate” we mean, we given them great honor. We offer up prayers and Masses for the desires of the saints. We light candles before them. We name schools, churches, etc. after them. We give them great honor, but never worship.
As example, we venerate St. Francis by naming him the Patron Saint of our church. We venerate him by having statues and icons of his likeness throughout the church so that others may honor him. Additionally, we use statues and icons so that our eyes can have a visual of who we are asking to pray with us. They act as a way to bring to mind this person, never to worship. These are mere images. We venerate them by trusting in their ability to intercede – to pray – for us and our needs as a church. Like with St. Francis, he will guide us in our ministry much like he carried on his own while still on earth. As a “thank you” for our honor toward him, and because we named our church after him, he looks out for us and intercedes with God on our behalf.
Okay, so now to St. Junipero Serra. Let me give you a brief biography.
He was a Spanish missionary. Born in 1713 on the island of Majorca off the coast of Spain. He took the name Junipero when he joined the Franciscan order in 1730. He taught for more than a decade before going to Mexico in 1749.
After working as a missionary in Sierra Gorda and Mexico City, St. Junipero Serra was sent to California. He made the trip by foot despite having terrible sores on his legs. Once he reached California, he established his first mission, San Diego de Alcalá, in 1769. Yes, the one on Mission Gorge Rd here in San Diego. He built eight more missions over the next thirteen years: San Antonio de Padua; San Gabriel, Archangel; San Luis, Obispo de Tolosa; San Juan Capistrano; San Francis de Assisi; and San Buenaventura. He worked tirelessly to maintain the missions and is credited with helping the Spanish establish a presence in California.
The missions were primarily designed to convert the natives. (There has been some controversy to both sides of this, that we do not have time to go into here.) St. Junipero pushed for a system of laws to protect natives from some abuses by Spanish soldiers, whose practices were in conflict with his. Other aims were to integrate the neophytes into Spanish society, and to train them to take over ownership and management of the land. As head of the order in California, St. Junipero not only dealt with church officials, but also with Spanish officials in Mexico City and with the local military officers who commanded the nearby presidios (garrisons).
St. Junipero Serra died in 1784 at Mission San Carlos Borroméo de Carmelo located in present-day Carmel, California.
At the creation of this Diocese on the date of my consecration (ordination) as a Bishop, I formally recognized and established Junipero Serra as a Saint and worthy of veneration as the Patron Saint of our Diocese (he was not yet formally recognized as a saint in the Roman Catholic Church, so our Diocese would have been the first). The intent was to have St. Junipero intercede on our behalf to help spread the word of Jesus Christ to all. He will help us in our ministry endeavors, in imitation to his own missionary ministry over two centuries ago.
The reason for choosing him is simple. He is a Saint who formed the Missions of the Church here in California. Further, he followed the Church’s direction of ministering to the Native peoples of California and started parishes and thus brought the Church to California. He braved unknown territory and unknown peoples who were not exceptionally trusting of outsiders. He successfully established Mission Parishes in the midst of these unknowns. He willingly traveled from his home country to unknown territories and unselfishly gave his life to spreading the Gospel message. Therefore, if he was able to do this, he most certainly will act as our guide, protector and intercessor in our growth on the West Coast and help in guiding me as its Bishop.
It is especially momentous that the date set as his Feast day for both our Denomination and the Roman Catholics is July 1st, three days from the celebration of the founding of our nation in 1776. St. Junipero Serra, just seven years prior established his first Mission right here in San Diego in 1769. Divine providence? Could be!
May we always look to St. Junipero Serra to be our guide in helping the Diocese of the West grow as a church for all – welcoming all!
Let us pray.
For all those You have called to preach and teach Your Word; sustain them in courage and zeal. We pray to the Lord.
For all those You have called to labor through physical illness; sustain them in patience and hope. We pray to the Lord.
For all those struggling to forgive those who have harmed their loved ones; sustain them in love and humility. We pray to the Lord.
For the Diocese of the West and the Universal Catholic Church to whom You sent St. Junipero Serra; sustain them in holiness, justice and peace. We pray to the Lord.
That on this anniversary of America’s independence we will remain true to our nation’s founding principles and always work for the common good. We pray to the Lord.
That God bless and protect our nation’s armed forces, those serving now, those who have come home, and those who have given their lives in service. We pray to the Lord.
God Love You +++
+ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Universal Catholic Church
San Diego, Ca.