Sunday, March 31, 2019

March 31, 2019
The Fourth Sunday in Lent
Refreshment Sunday
(2 Corinthians 5:17-21; Luke 15:1-3, 11-32)
You’ve all probably heard the story of man named Abraham and his 13 year old son Isaac who was sent home from school again for bad behavior. Abraham was at his wits end and didn’t know what to do. So, he talks it over with his Catholic neighbor Frank.
“I don’t know what to do with him,” says Abraham
“Why don’t you send him to a strict Catholic school?” replies Frank. “Those nuns know how to handle boys like Isaac.”
Abraham is not thrilled with the idea of sending his Jewish son to a Catholic school, but none of the Jewish schools will take him because of his reputation as a trouble maker. So Abraham sends Isaac to the Catholic school.
After several months at Lady of Our Perpetual Help, there is no problem whatsoever.
So Abraham asks Isaac, “Why is it that you now behave so well?
“Well” says Isaac, “the first day there they showed me this Jewish boy on a cross and then I knew that those nuns mean business.”
In our Gospel, Jesus gives us a parable illustrating the abundant mercy of God. The father in the parable respects his son’s freedom. He gives him the inheritance he requests and lets him go. But he never stops watching for this son to return home. And when he does catch sight of his wayward son, the father does not wait for the son to complete his journey or to speak the words of contrition he had so carefully practiced. It’s as if Jesus wants to tell us that we need only turn toward God for our merciful Father to run out to meet us and usher us home.
In our Epistle, Paul’s words in his second letter to the Corinthians are perfect partner to the gospel of the Prodigal Son and the forgiving father. St. Paul counsels us to “be reconciled to God.” Not only are we called to personal reconciliation but also to become messengers of this reconciliation to the entire world. God waits and watches for each of us individually, and also the world as a whole to come to our senses just as the prodigal son did and realize who we truly are, beloved daughters and sons of God.
Oftentimes we hear today’s gospel referred to as the story of the Prodigal Son. The New American Bible has a different title for this story, calling it the “lost son.” I think “lost son” is very appropriate, even though I still use the title of “Prodigal Son,” mostly so people will readily know which story I am speaking about. Almost everyone knows the story of the Prodigal Son. The term “prodigal” means “wastefully extravagant,” as in, “My vacation spending this summer was especially prodigal, as I was having a good time after working so hard during the previous year.” The word has a different historical meaning from “prodigy,” which means “one endowed with exceptional abilities.” So when we refer to the Prodigal Son it might be worth the time to clarify what we actually mean by the term prodigal.
In the parable it is easy to focus on the characters of the two sons. We can relate with the younger son, mired in sin, who realizes his need for repentance, or with the older son who is so focused on comparing his behavior with that of his brother’s that he is unable to appreciate the love the father continues to gift him with. But what happens when we turn our attention to the father?
Ultimately, if you think about it, the story is not so much about lost or prodigal son. It’s not even so much about his brother, though we could call it the story of two sons. In reality, the story is about the loving father, how the father is a personification of God, and the kind of love God has for us.
It is good to consider the father as the protagonist in today’s parable. Instead of the shame of the younger son or the bitterness of the older son taking center stage, our attention might be focused on the tender love of the father who yearns for his children to be close to him. In fact, it is the remembrance of his father’s love and care for his servants, which leads the younger son’s repentance. And hopefully it will be the father’s gentle invitation to join the celebration that will induce the older son to be reconciled to father and brother alike.
The story is sometimes also interpreted so that the sons represent Gentile (lost) and Jewish (favored) identities. In this, the Gentiles have lost their way and lived generally wanton lives of decadence, wheras Jews have followed the wishes of God. But in the end both sons, Gentile and Jew, receive the same reward.
In today’s telling, the story is often interpreted literally, or at least personally, as referring to a wayward person who has ultimately been redeemed. The story is particularly meaningful to many who have lived lives of regret or shame. Only to feel the loving embrace of God, a community of hope, a family, or even church upon turning away from their wayward life.
One of the advantages of a story like this is that it has so many possible interpretations. And this story is told only by Luke. Without him we would know nothing of the Prodigal Son, and certainly nothing of the many works of art inspired by the parable, such as Rembrandt’s “Return of the Prodigal Son.” There is no sole or singular point to this story. The parable is polyvalent and ought to make us ponder it, as the church has done for centuries. Certainly, Jesus had a main intent in its telling, but can only speculate using the context of the story around it.
Redemption and forgiveness are powerful themes, and they are articulated in today’s gospel in a particularly dramatic way. These themes are also favorites of Luke, who uses the term “forgiveness (of sins)” more than any other New Testament author. The apostle Paul, for example, never says the word “forgiveness.” Maybe he should have, because it is much easier to grasp than “justification”!
Additionally, Luke is a master storyteller, he crafts a brief but memorable narrative here. The characters are stock; we probably know a few people like the sons in today’s gospel. Do we know people like the father? Would we react like the father? Do we react like the father? Though we might or might not have lost wayward children, there are many opportunities to express mercy and loving kindness, and share reconciliation and forgiveness with another. When we behave this way, we are acting like the father, acting in a way that God acts.
Lastly, as apropos in this season of Lent, if we were to refer to this parable as that of the “Prodigal Father,” for his abundant compassion – it gives us an opportunity to look at how we examine our conscience. Some of us recall in our Catholic upbringing as children, our preparations for making a good confession by going through some kind of list of questions that helped us see where we failed to live up to the commandments. Such lists were helpful in preparing for the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Here in Liberal Catholic Churches, every Eucharist we celebrate, we recite a Confiteor, which is our time to examine our conscience and thus put our failings in the hands of God. We do this to acknowledge our sin to prepare us to celebrate the sacred mystery of the Eucharist and receive our absolution from the priest celebrating the Mass for us. We therefore experience the mercy of God – our “Prodigal Father” - each Sunday.
So, whether we relate to the “Prodigal Son,” the “Prodigal Brother,” or the “Prodigal Father,” there is truly a number of lessons that can be learned. Forgiveness, repentance or the love of a father, Lent is the perfect time to read this parable and see how we ourselves fit into one or more of these three characters. As long as we come out of our fitting to one or more of these with a renewed outlook on ourselves and our treatment of others, then we have done exactly what Christ was intending we do in the hearing of his parable. Let us each make the effort to hear the parable and adapt the changes we need this Lent.
Our weaknesses are they very occasion for  graced certainty; God loves us not because we are good, but because he is good!
Let us pray.
We pray today that all who have lost their faith may return to the arms of our loving Father. We pray to the Lord.                        
We pray for the grace to forgive those who have wronged us and for a spirit of reconciliation among feuding families and neighbours. We pray to the Lord.                        
We pray that this season of Lent be a time of renewal for all Christians and that our efforts to draw closer to Christ draw us closer to each other. We pray to the Lord.      
For government leaders: that God will inspire them to act justly and promote the truth. We pray to the Lord.
For an increase of vocations to the priesthood and the religious life, especially within our diocese. We pray to the Lord.                      
For those who struggle under the pain of abuse or addiction: that they may come to see the visible signs of God’s love and mercy that surround them. We pray to the Lord.
For those on our parish prayer list: that they may find resolution and comfort through our prayers and God’s grace. We pray to the Lord.  
That whether we find ourselves as the “Prodigal Son,” “Prodigal Father,” or the “Prodigal Brother,” we receive the grace this week to return to God the Father in true contrition and confession of our failings. We pray to the Lord.                
We bow our heads and remember in silence our own personal intentions and the intentions of those who have asked for our prayers (pause). We pray to the Lord.  
Father God, it is only right that we should celebrate and rejoice, because you invite us to the fullness of eternal life. May we who have strayed from your friendship also experience your forgiveness and the answers to the prayers we have placed before You today. You are rich in mercy, because of your great love for us, You brought us to life with Christ even when we were dead in our transgressions. Let us always live by that life, knowing in complete confidence of your eternal and loving mercy towards your creation. We ask these things, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
God Love You +++
+ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Universal Catholic Church
San Diego, CA

Sunday, March 24, 2019

March 24, 2019
Annunciation of Our Lady
(Third Sunday in Lent)
(1 Corinthians 10:1-6, 10-12; Luke 13:1-9)
Today I have chosen to celebrate the Annunciation of Our Lady liturgically but using the readings and the sermon for the third Sunday in Lent. The Annunciation is not a holy day of obligation; however, I like honoring Mary when appropriate.
In the late summer of 2012 the Mars rover named "Curiosity" landed on the surface of the red planet. It took just seven minutes for the rover to enter the atmosphere and touch down successfully -- less time than a ride on Splash Mountain at Disneyland.

While the world tuned in and took notice of this amazing feat, many overlooked the fact that it was a long time coming -- a very long time in fact. NASA engineers spent roughly 8½ months simply waiting.

They had no choice. There was nothing they could do. They had to wait for more than eight months for Curiosity to travel the millions of miles between this planet and Mars. In that time there was certainly much work to be done, much monitoring of progress and planning for landing that took place. However, the primary task of every NASA engineer involved in the project was simply this: to wait, to wait and hope that every dollar spent building it and the dreams of epic Martian discoveries hinging on it would not be lost. And in this day and age, 8½ months is a long time to wait. However, the wait was worth it, because even today this rover is still studying the surface of Mars, sending back scientific information of the planet.

You could argue that waiting is a lost art in today's world and that as an art form, waiting is an experience best understood by the expectant mother. However, you can bet that if anyone finds a way to safely speed up even that process, many in this world would pay top dollar for it.

We're all part and party to an impatient, "now" culture. It's a culture that can't fathom living in the days when sending a letter from the East Coast to the West Coast took several months, and the Pony Express, which guaranteed delivery from St. Louis to Sacramento in 10 days or less, was the closest equivalent to text messaging.

We want the laptop that boots the fastest -- 20 seconds is too long -- and the ER whose wait is the shortest. Even drive-thru fast-food is too slow for many.

We're a people who increasingly expect -- and downright demand -- a world without waiting, which can make being a follower of Jesus Christ incredibly frustrating.

The longer you're a part of God's family, the more you begin to realize that God is not beholden to our obsession with efficiency or competition with others to improve turnaround. Our Father who art in heaven, whose name we hallow, and to whom we belong and by whom we are beloved through Jesus Christ his Son, is not troubled with things taking time. His time is not our time, we often hear.

This is especially true, and most vividly illustrated, in how God chooses to deal with sinful, broken people. You know, the sister-in-law who you wish would get her act together today, the daughter who you wish respected you now or the unbelieving spouse who you wish were with you this morning, the friend who betrayed you who you wish would see your hurt. You've been praying for them, working on them, being patient with them, and you just wish something would change with them. Truth-be-told, you're angry that God hasn't finally "landed the rover" with them. Ever felt that way?

That's why today's gospel reading is so important. Jesus is in the middle of a riff on repentance, in particular the importance of Israel, God's people, recognizing their need for a savior lest they experience the judgment of God. In doing so he relays a parable about an unfruitful fig tree, a tree that in the estimation of its owner has been given more than enough time. But rather than cut it down, Jesus tells us of a gracious vinedresser who intercedes for the tree saying, "Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it."

It may seem insignificant but this one sentence from Jesus is an essential reminder to how God does his most important, yet often painfully slow, work of changing lives. When examining these words, most people immediately jump to the verbs, to the action. The vinedresser (Jesus) wants to dig and fertilize. In relational terms we could think of this as the essential components of truth and love. To bring about change, God tills the soil of our hearts and minds with his truth -- ripping out the weeds of lies and the old roots of sin and making way for good things to be planted. He then adds in the fertilizer, or in real terms love, the truth of the gospel and the promise of his unrelenting compassion in Christ, which serves to enrich our soil, begins to take root and spurs on new growth. Life change takes truth and love.

But do not neglect what the vinedresser says first. "Leave it for this year also." There is a third component to life change. It doesn't only take truth. It doesn't only take love. It takes time. Truth, love, and time. A lot of time. Think about it; tilling soil around a single tree doesn't take forever. Adding fertilizer could be done in a day. Yet the vinedresser asks for an entire year for new growth to occur. Clearly this is an essential, irreplaceable part of the process.

This means that as members of God's family, we must not only learn how to wield his truth and comfort with the gospel, but we must be among the few who practice and perfect the lost art of waiting. We must wait so that the trees -- the people we love -- do not get cut down too soon or abandoned early. We must learn to wait so that this world can be as fruitful and as beautiful with the work of our good God as possible.

While waiting might not be an easy aspect of discipleship to live out in this day and age, the good news is that God's word is packed with insights and encouragement on how one can faithfully wait on God's work. First, we must wait with the golden rule in mind. In Matthew 7:12, Jesus tells us this: "Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets." We must constantly keep in mind not simply the level of patience God's requiring us to have with others as he does his work, but first and foremost the level of patience God has had with us as he's done his work. We're each beneficiaries of God's incredible patience and are quick to ask for more as we slip and stumble in this world. When we're tempted to rail that God is taking too long to fix others, let us remember how long he has worked on us and aim to afford them the same luxury.

Second, we must wait also with God's goodness in mind. It's tempting to think that what we're waiting on God to accomplish is the most pressing of issues, with no understanding of a how a truly good God could fail to grant it or tarry one minute. But to do so is to downplay the truly countless number of blessings -- each of which is undeserved and an act of utter mercy -- God has already afforded us, and continues to give without hesitation.

There is an old Jewish proverb that suggests every believer should carry two pieces of paper on him at all times -- one in each pocket. The one in the left should say, "I am dust and ashes." And the one in the right should read, "For me the world was created."
The goal of one is to keep us grounded, to remind us that the trouble we're facing is light in comparison to most, and that we might not be as important and deserving of immediacy as we think we are.

The other is to remind us that at the very same time God has given us all of creation to enjoy and all the blessings it bears. We are loved, we are valued, and we -- believe it or not -- aren't forgotten. "For you the world was created." Maybe an even more appropriate one now would be, "For me Christ died." We are dust, but we are already immensely, immeasurably blessed, no matter how long what we're waiting for takes to come through.

Lastly, we must wait with an end in mind. Notice the vinedresser asked for a year, but he didn't demand forever. Jesus' point in the parable was that eventually time would run out for the unfruitful trees, the unrepentant Israel, and God would prune them -- judge them -- accordingly. We must wait knowing that we will not sit with our noses to the screens waiting forever for the rover to land. Eventually something will happen. God will act, either in ways that make us cheer or in ways that make us wonder, but always in ways that are ultimately, according to his mysterious sovereignty, good. We will not wait forever.

This truth can also be instructive and freeing for us as God's people, seeking to know how long we should hold in a particular situation. We must feel free to set boundaries as we love people and wait for them to grow and change. Yes, we must extend them the luxuries of truth, grace and time, well beyond our initial impulses to throw in the towel. But we cannot wait forever. At some point it's okay to wish them well, pray for their change, but shake the dust off our feet and move forward. In fact, many times simply knowing that you have the freedom to move on from a situation gives you the strength to keep going in that situation.

Waiting is inevitable. Sure, we boot our computers and share our data faster. But babies still take nine months, Mars is still 350 million miles away, and God is still giving broken people bountiful amounts of truth, love and time. For everything that comes to pass right now there is something else that remains a "not yet." Our existence on this planet is one of waiting. This means if you haven't learned to wait, you haven't learned how to live.

May we be a people who afford others the same luxuries and patience we've received from the Lord. May we hold on to his goodness while we bemoan his seeming tardiness. May we trust that though we tap our toes impatiently, eventually a good and gracious end will come. Until then we wait.
Let us pray.
In today’s gospel, with the parable of the fig tree, Jesus reminds us that we too will be called to account for the fruits we produce in our lives. We pray for the grace and commitment to have a greater love and dedication to our communities, our families and our church. We pray to the Lord.
For the Church, that we may be faithful to the mission of Jesus, living out the gospel and bearing fruit in the world. We pray to the Lord.
For national leaders, that they may cultivate a spirit of kindness and compassion among their people and lead by their example. We pray to the Lord.
For those who make their living off the land, that the seeds they plant this spring may bear fruit sufficient to feed all who hunger. We pray to the Lord.
For immigrants, refugees, and migrants, that they may be kept safe and healthy as they struggle to find a home. We pray to the Lord.
When confronted with someone with whom we disagree and/or want to help change, that we remember that we must plant the seeds and allow the person to grow in their time and God’s time. We pray to the Lord.
For Sydney Aiello who had been close friends with Meadow Pollack, one of the victims of the Feb. 14, 2018, mass shooting that left 14 students and three staff members dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, and graduated last year. She had been suffering from survivors’ guilt and PTSD. She took her life over the weekend. May she rest in peace and repose for all eternity. We pray to the Lord.
We bow our heads and remember in silence our own personal intentions and the intentions of those who have asked for our prayers (pause). We pray to the Lord.
Lord, our God, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, God of all generations, have mercy on us in our sinfulness and hear the prayers we make today. Walk with us, we pray, O Lord, as we make this Lenten pilgrimage. May we open our hearts to more truth and be more generous with love, always knowing that your time is not ours and that we all fail in some way and thus should always be empathetic to those different from us and our expectations. Most merciful Father, you have manifested your love for us through Christ who died for us. Let us remain faithful to that love. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
God Love You +++
+ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Universal Catholic Church
San Diego, CA

Monday, March 18, 2019

March 17, 2019
The Second Sunday in Lent
(Philippians 3:20-4:1; Luke 9:28-36)
Head down to South America during Lent and drop into a restaurant on a Friday night and you’ll likely be confronted with a curious menu choice. In these largely Roman Catholic countries you might expect to see some kind of fish listed, given the Catholic practice of abstaining from meat on Fridays. But, you will not find fish.

In the seventeenth century, South American Catholics who found themselves in a unique environment outside the abundant fishing waters of the North Atlantic decided to petition Rome for a different dining option during these holy days — something they longed for like Americans look forward to turkey on Thanksgiving.

That dish you’re enjoying on a Friday night in Caracas? Well, it does spend a lot of time in the water, it swims and dives really well, and it has webbed feet, so it’s kind of like a fish — except that it’s a mammal — a rodent, to be exact. It’s a capybara, a 100-pound water-dwelling rodent of unusual size.

I’m guessing it tastes like chicken. Seems to be what people say most of these odd delicacies taste like, so I suspect this would be the same. We seem to have a lot of things that “taste like chicken” in the world!

You can imagine the folks in the Vatican scratching their heads about this request when it came in nearly four centuries ago. They’d probably never heard of a capybara. Neither have most people outside of a visit to a zoo or some obscure nature show on Animal Planet. It’s a delicacy in South America, though, so you can see why people would want to celebrate the holidays, or observe Lent, by sharing some roasted … well, you get the picture. I am sure they turn their noses up at our hamburgers.

That’s not the only bizarre feast item that our faithful Catholic friends around the world have petitioned to add to their Lenten menus. Over the years and in different places, beavers, geese, puffins, assorted marine animals and even muskrats have been approved, though as one Michigan bishop put it, anyone who is chowing down on muskrat is “doing penance worthy of the greatest saints.” I personally think that is true of all the aforementioned menu items. I would add chopped liver and fish to this list. Yuck!

It’s interesting to read how the natives and colonists of lands far from the center of the Christian world began to indigenize their practices and diets to suit their present surroundings. But while the forms and menus change and adapt, it’s the message that remains the same. Lent reminds us that what goes into our bodies is less important than what we take into our spirits/souls and that no matter where we find ourselves, whether dining on muskrat in Michigan or capybara in Colombia, we are all part of one kingdom made possible by the sacrifice of one Lord. We do well to remember that we all eat something that someone else would detest.

Lent is a time to remember who we are. Nothing wrong with observing Lent by observing certain practices and disciplines — even those that may involve eating water hogs. What’s critical, however, is that we remember where we come from.
Like anything that we read in the Scriptures, we some context and background to the passages, and today’s Epistle reading is an example of one.

Paul’s letter to the Philippians is essentially a word of encouragement to fledgling Christians living the colonial life. In 42 B.C., about 100 years before Paul put pen to parchment, Roman generals Antony and Octavian (who became known later as Augustus, the emperor at the time of Jesus’ birth) had won a great battle near Philippi during the Roman civil war, which occurred after the death of Julius Caesar. Having won the battle and with no further fighting necessary, the two generals found themselves feeding a large army which had nothing to do. Rather than risk taking that many soldiers back to Rome in the midst of a volatile political environment where loyalties could easily shift, the generals gave the soldiers the land in and around Philippi as a reward for their service, thus making it a colony of Rome.

Paul himself had planted the Christian church in Philippi and understood the colonial dynamics at work. Acts 16 reveals the wonderful story of the merchant Lydia who first responded to the Gospel (Acts 16:11-15) but also the conflict that Paul and Silas had with the city officials over their conversion of a local fortuneteller — a conflict that landed them in jail, from which the two missionaries were miraculously sprung by an earthquake.

Rather than take their escape, Paul and Silas refused to leave. As Roman citizens, they claimed the right to a fair trial from the officials in this Roman colony. The very mention of their Roman citizenship caused the magistrates to change their tune very quickly and the missionaries were escorted away from the prison (Acts 16:16-39). It was salvation by citizenship!

When the Philippians opened this letter from Paul, they would have understood that he was indeed one of them, be they Roman citizens, Jewish converts or subjugated people. Paul was a worthy example. While Paul’s words here sound a bit self-important to our postmodern sensibilities, we have to remember the context. Paul himself is trying to imitate Christ, who is the primary model for the life of faith. For Paul, imitation wasn’t about flattery, but about faithfulness.

Apparently, though, some of the Philippians had skipped the lesson Paul was trying to teach. Rather than embrace the example of Christ, they became “enemies of the cross” through their self-indulgence, gluttony and by “setting their mind on earthly things” (3:18-19). Paul’s accusation reflects a similar argument he laid out in 1 Corinthians 5-6, where members of the church held Christian beliefs but engaged in immoral practices, gorging themselves in self-indulgent lifestyles rather than following the humility and emptying spirit of Christ.

By contrast, Paul reminded the faithful Philippians that their identity was not to be bound up as citizens of a sinful and self-serving world, but to remember that their “citizenship is in heaven” (3:20). To put it another way, they were colonists who were living in this place but still faithful to their homeland. That’s not to say that as the faithful, we’re simply slumming it here on earth, biding time until we go back to our true home in heaven far away.

As citizens, we are to colonize earth with the culture of heaven. And, as Paul said, it is from heaven that “we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,” who will ultimately defeat the powers of this world that assail us, transforming “the body of our humiliation” to conform to “the body of his glory.” Therefore, Paul urges the Philippians (and us) to “stand firm” and continue to live and work as citizens of God’s kingdom.

Lent is about opportunity. Lent gives us a significant opportunity to renew our heavenly citizenship papers no matter where we find ourselves on earth. It’s a time for us to check in, put aside those tempting indigenous treats, and ask God for guidance with our own appetites. Fasting and abstinence can be helpful disciplines for doing that, but rather than just thinking about taking things away during Lent, we should be adding some as well — like prayer and journaling, serving others intentionally, or engaging other disciplines that get us thinking beyond ourselves.

We may not jump into Lent by asking for permission to eat capybara à la king, but we should be asking for new perspectives on how we might bring a bit more heavenly culture to our little corners of the world. It’s not a time for splitting hairs about what we can or cannot eat, what we can or cannot do, what we must or must not give up — although these are certainly not bad things to explore. Instead, it is more about a re-examination of what it means to be faithful in a “land” where we’re essentially misplaced citizens.

Lent is also an opportunity for Christians to discuss what it is that unites us rather than divides us. While we work in different denominational tribes and colonize different patches of ground, we need to recognize that we are all citizens of the same kingdom. Lent may be a great time to look around and invite others from different denominations and churches to join in a celebration of citizenship. It is also a time for us to reexamine our prejudices of non-Christian faiths – such as Muslim as is apparent by the terrorist attack in New Zealand.

So to repeat what I said earlier: Lent reminds us that what goes into our bodies is less important than what we take into our spirits and that no matter where we find ourselves, whether dining on muskrat in Michigan or capybara in Colombia, we are all part of one kingdom made possible by the sacrifice of one Lord.

After all, as Paul reminds us, we are all looking for a Savior — the One who was, who is, and is to come. Someday, we’ll all be sitting down together at a great banquet table with the King as the host.

Can’t wait to see what’s on that menu! Maybe Brownies – a la – mode!
And BTW – Happy St. Patrick’s Day!! Luck of the Irish to you me lads and lasses!
Let us pray.
For the victims of the terrorist shootings at the Al Noor and Linwood Mosques; may the victims rest in peace eternal, the survivors heal quickly and completely both physically and emotionally and that all families involved be comforted. We pray to the Lord.
That governments take a more asserted stance and action to stop terrorism throughout our world. We pray to the Lord.
That the Church will stand before the world without stain or blemish, holy and obedient to God’s word. We pray to the Lord.
For the whole world; that our days may truly become the acceptable time of grace, salvation, and peace. We pray to the Lord.
For sinners and the neglectful; that in this season of reconciliation they may return to Christ. We pray to the Lord.
That this season of Lent will be a time of deeper conversion for our parish. We pray to the Lord.
For those who are downhearted or are burdened with difficulties; that they may experience the transfiguring power of God. We pray to the Lord.
For the grace this week to keep our eyes on Jesus, and truly live as citizens of heaven. We pray to the Lord.
We bow our heads and remember in silence our own personal intentions and the intentions of those who have asked for our prayers (pause). We pray to the Lord.
Most merciful Father, you did not spare your own Son but handed him over for us. May we always listen to him, and trust that you will always give us what we need. Help us this Lent to know that what goes into our bodies is less important than what we take into our spirits and souls. And in so doing, we become much closer to you and your Son and the Holy Spirit. May our week ahead be a blessed act of contrition and observance of humility toward you and all we meet. We ask all these things, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
God Love You +++
+ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Universal Catholic Church
San Diego, CA

Sunday, March 10, 2019

March 10, 2019
The First Sunday in Lent
(Romans 10:8-13; Luke 4:1-13)
On this first Sunday in Lent, we are entering a season that lasts 40 days. Forty days recalls various periods of preparation in the Old Testament, including the forty days Moses spent fasting and with God on Mt. Zion at the giving of the Law (Ex. 34:28), the forty days the Israelites spent spying out the Promised Land (Num. 13:25), and the forty years that the Israelites spent wandering in the wilderness before entering the Promised Land (Num. 14:34).
It also is the time Jesus spent in the desert, fasting and being tempted by the devil. (The Greek word used here for temptation (peirazo) does not indicate that Jesus had the disordered desire that we refer to in English as temptation. Instead, it means "to try," "to attempt." Here the devil tries to get Jesus to sin--and fails.)
Forty days. That's a long time to fast, eating "nothing at all." A long time to be tempted by Satan.

Fortunately, Jesus was "full of the Holy Spirit" during this period, and he was "led by the Spirit in the wilderness." As grueling as these 40 days were, they had a purpose -- God knew that Jesus had to let go of some things, and hold onto others. Jesus also had to reverse the trend of “40 days.” In contrast to those who had once provoked God during forty years in the desert, Christ reveals himself as God's Servant, totally obedient to the divine will. He had to reverse the bad trends with a perfect one. To right a wrong. To change something that was lost, into something found.

In the desert, Jesus was going to the Lost and Found.

All through history, important items have been lost and found. Some are good and some are bad -- a book called Found lists some of them: Discarded valentines, ransom notes, to-do lists, diaries, homework assignments, even a letter written on the back of an airsickness bag. What do you think the letter said? "You make me sick"? The plane or the significant other I wonder?

Important items are lost and found all over, from deserts to mountaintops. One list of items that have been lost concern stuff lost exclusively on trains. Not on planes, buses, taxis or ships -- just trains.

Lost: A rare Buddhist scripture. A Tibetan scholar accidentally left his laptop on the London Tube, losing nearly 1,000 pages of rare 17th-century Buddhist scriptures.

Found: A boa constrictor named Penelope. In 2011, a woman lost her 3-foot-long pet serpent on a train. Authorities looked for it, and then confidently declared that "the trains are absolutely snake-free." One month later, Penelope was found in the next car.

Lost: A violin concerto. A British composer spent a whole year writing his first violin concerto. Then he lost it at London's Victoria Station. Starting from scratch, he took another whole year to finish Violin Concerto No. 2.

Found: A 300-year-old Stradivarius violin, worth millions of dollars. In 2013, a musician lent his Stradivarius to a friend so that he could play it at a birthday party. But the friend lost it on a train in Switzerland. Don't you hate it when that happens? Fortunately a good Samaritan turned it in.

Lost: Ernest Hemingway. Well, not the author, but all of his early fiction. Hemingway's wife packed all of his papers in a suitcase and boarded a train in Paris. She hopped off the train to get a bottle of water, and when she returned, the suitcase was gone. None of the work had yet been published, so it was lost forever. Hemingway said, "All that remains of my complete works are three pencil drafts of a bum poem."

And finally, a valuable find: Pete Seeger's banjo. The folksinger had carried his instrument on many trains, but, in the year 2000, he misplaced it while riding from New York City to Poughkeepsie. Fortunately, someone turned it in to the Lost and Found, and it was reunited with its 81-year-old owner.

Scriptures, concertos and manuscripts. Lost. Snakes, violins and banjos. Found. Some are bad and some are good. Some should be released, and some should be grasped tightly.

The challenge in life is to figure out what should be lost, and what should be found.

At the end of 40 days in the wilderness, Jesus knew exactly what he needed to do.

Luke tells us that Jesus "ate nothing during those days, and when they were over, he was hungry." The devil says to him, "If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread." This is a tempting proposition, since Jesus is hungry, and certainly has the power to transform a piece of marble into a marbled rye.

But Jesus answers, "It is written, 'One does not live on bread alone'."

Lost: A loaf of bread to fill his stomach. Found: The nourishment of the Word of God.

We face a similar temptation when we feel empty inside and look for something physical to fill us up. Maybe it's a piece of Godiva chocolate, a curved-screen television, an item of custom jewelry, the latest smartphone, or the latest plush Mickey (my weakness!). Having such desires is nothing new -- people have been feeling this way for thousands of years.

In the time of Jesus, rich people wanted bigger barns to store their grain and their goods (see the Parable of the Rich Fool, Luke 12:13-21). Today, we desire bigger homes, faster computers and well-equipped cars with the new-car smell. But none of these things provides lasting satisfaction.

Better to follow the example of Jesus who. In the Matthew version of this story, he quotes Deuteronomy 8:3, "One does not live on bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD." This means choosing to "do justice, and to love goodness and to walk humbly with your God" (Micah 6:8). It means following the great commandment of Jesus to love God, and love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:34-40).

Such choices will nourish us and give us life. Much more than a loaf of bread. Or a brand new car.

Next, the devil leads Jesus up to a high place and shows him all of the kingdoms of the world. Satan says to him, "I shall give to you all this power and glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I may give it to whomever I wish. All this will be yours, if you worship me."

The devil has authority over the kingdoms of the world, and he can give it to anyone he chooses. Jesus can have it, if he wants -- all he has to do is worship Satan.

But Jesus says, " It is written: You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve."

Lost: Authority over the kingdoms of the world. Found: Worshiping and serving God alone.

In his book The Road to Character, David Brooks tells the story of Augustine, the fourth-century theologian. Augustine deeply desired fame and status, but found that these things didn't make him happy. Nothing he was accomplishing as a philosopher was giving him the contentment he desired.

"Left to ourselves, we often desire the wrong things," writes Brooks. "Whether it's around the dessert tray or in the late-night bar, we know we should choose one thing but end up choosing another." We understand our long-term interest but end up pursuing short-term pleasures. Even good things such as friendship will leave us unsatisfied if the friendship is not attached to something higher.

In the end, Augustine turned to God and said, "Our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee." Nothing in this world will give us the rest and the peace that only God can give. This is why Jesus said no to authority over all the kingdoms of the world, and yes to worshiping and serving God alone (not to mention that he already has authority over the kingdoms of the world).

Finally, the devil takes Jesus to Jerusalem, the holy city of God. Satan places him on the pinnacle of the temple and says, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you'."

The devil has heard Jesus quoting Scripture, so now he does it himself. In Psalm 91, Satan finds the words that he hopes will change Jesus' mind, words which are followed by the verse, “With their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.”

In this case, quoting Scripture is a truly devilish move.

But Jesus responds with the Bible once again: "It also says, You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.'" That's Deuteronomy 6:16. Jesus hears the devil's quotation of Psalm 91 and counters it with Deuteronomy 6. Yes, it is certainly true that God will send angels to "protect you" and "bear you up" in times of danger -- but not if you willfully put yourself in harm's way and challenge God to save you.

What's lost in this final temptation is a dramatic rescue by the angels of God.
What's found is a right relationship with God, one in which God is served rather than tested. Jesus knows that the verse from Deuteronomy about testing God is followed by the words, "Do what is right and good in the sight of the Lord, that it may go well with you "(6:18).

Do not put the Lord your God to the test. Don't drink or do drugs, and then get on the highway, saying, "Save me, God!" Don't intentionally behave in promiscuous or reckless ways and then say, "Help me, Jesus!"

Instead, do what is right and good.

After all of these temptations, the devil “departed from him for a time.” Jesus comes through this game of Lost and Found by letting go of some things and finding some others. In the end, he finds much more than he loses.

The same is true for us.

We can find real nourishment in the word of God -- in teachings that show us the path to deep and lasting satisfaction. We can find rest and peace by worshiping God alone. And we can find safety and security in a right relationship with God, one that is based on serving instead of testing.

As always, Jesus shows us the things worth finding. And what we should be willing to lose.
Let us pray.
We pray that, during this Lent we too take the time to look into our own life values and our relationship with God, our Father. We pray to the Lord.            
Today’s gospel reminds us that we are all tempted to do wrong from time to time. We pray that we, like Jesus, have the strength to resist temptation and to always do what is right by ourselves and by our neighbors. We pray to the Lord.                        
We pray that during Lent we leave behind our selfishness and self-absorption, and stand beside our brothers and sisters in need, sharing our spiritual and material goods with them. We pray to the Lord.
For the Church; that the Spirit may lead us to a fuller living of the Gospel and greater obedience and dependence on God alone. We pray to the Lord.
That we may slow down, detach ourselves from the busyness of daily life and find a quiet place to listen to God. We pray to the Lord.
For all those on our parish prayer list, that they may find strength and endurance in the love of Christ. We pray to the Lord
We bow our heads and remember in silence our own personal intentions and the intentions of those who have asked for our prayers (pause). We pray to the Lord.          
Father God, at all times let us worship and serve you. We ask you to make all our paths straight. Loving Father, our source of strength in every temptation, hear our prayers and help us to live on your Word. Grant that in all our needs, we may confess Jesus as the only Lord, fore it is in his name we pray. Amen.
God Love You +++
+ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Universal Catholic Church
San Diego, CA

Thursday, March 7, 2019

March 6, 2019
Ash Wednesday
(Joel 2:1-18; Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18)
Today, depending on where we live, we’ll likely see (or have seen) people with ashes on their foreheads indicating that they’ve been to Mass. It might seem strange that we do what the gospel exhorts not to do. When we fast we are not to look gloomy but to wash our faces. We are also told to perform righteous deeds in secret; give alms without letting the left hand know what the right is doing, and pray in an inner room with no audience where only God will hear and see you.
The lesson of the gospel is that our deeds should be done for God the Father, not anyone else. That is something to which we may aspire, but do our actions match our words? How many churches use envelopes for weekly giving? How many annual funds prints names and amounts of donors, sometimes in categories ranked by the amount given? There are reasons for such things, but they seem to contradict a plain reading of today’s gospel. How much has to be stripped away before we are doing deeds solely for the Father rather than to receive the reward of other’s admiration? Much as we may hesitate to admit it, our acts of kindness, deeds of righteousness, and alms of sacrifice may be accompanied by a bit of pride.
The exhortation from Jesus today is a reminder that crowds, neighbors, friends, or fellow Christians are not the audience for our works. In fact, if they are, we have already received our reward. Instead, God the Father is our “audience” and it is He alone that we should seek to impress, to put it in those terms.
There is a temptation among religious people to be seen or perceived as “doing it right.” Many religious people take care to be seen at church. Maybe they want others to know they have fulfilled their duty. That kind of attitude was prevalent in antiquity too. But that approach is not sufficient for a disciple of Christ. Our mission is to perform deeds of mercy for God the Father without seeking glory or attention from fellow human beings.
In the end, Jesus lived this mission as he faced death on the cross. What must that have looked like to those around him? Only those cursed by God were hanged on a tree (Deuteronomy 21:22-23). But to be true to his calling he fulfilled this mission, and received a reward from God the Father, which is life eternal.
As we know, Ash Wednesday marks the onset of the Lent, the 40-day period of fasting and abstinence. It is also known as the 'Day of Ashes'.
The name 'Day of Ashes' comes from "Dies Cinerum" in the Roman Missal and is found in the earliest existing copies of the Gregorian Sacramentary. The concept originated by the Roman Catholics somewhere in the 6th century. Though the exact origin of the day is not clear, the custom of marking the head with ashes on this Day is said to have originated during the papacy of Gregory the Great (590-604).
In the Old Testament ashes were found to have used for two purposes: as a sign of humility and mortality; and as a sign of sorrow and repentance for sin.
Originally the use of ashes to betoken penance was a matter of private devotion. Later it became part of the official rite for reconciling public penitents. In this context, ashes on the penitent served as a motive for fellow Christians to pray for the returning sinner and to feel sympathy for him. Still later, the use of ashes passed into its present rite of beginning the penitential season of Lent on Ash Wednesday. In some country’s ashes are “sprinkled” on the tops of one’s head while in others the making of a cross on one’s forehead.
Putting a 'cross' mark on the forehead was in imitation of the spiritual mark or seal that is put on a Christian in baptism. This is when the newly born Christian is delivered from slavery to sin and the devil, and made a slave of righteousness and Christ (Rom. 6:3-18).
This can also be held as an adoption of the way 'righteousness' are described in the book of Revelation, where we come to know about the servants of God. The reference to the sealing of the servants of God for their protection in Revelation is an allusion to a parallel passage in Ezekiel, where Ezekiel also sees a sealing of the servants of God for their protection:
"And the LORD said to him [one of the four cherubim], 'Go through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark [literally, "a tav"] upon the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it.' And to the others he said in my hearing, 'Pass through the city after him, and smite; your eye shall not spare, and you shall show no pity; slay old men outright, young men and maidens, little children and women, but touch no one upon whom is the mark. And begin at my sanctuary.' So they began with the elders who were before the house." (Ezekiel 9:4-6)
Unfortunately, like most modern translations, the one quoted above is not sufficiently literal. What it actually says is to place a tav on the foreheads of the righteous inhabitants of Jerusalem. Tav is one of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, and in ancient script it looked like the Greek letter chi, which happens to be two crossed lines (like an "x") and which happens to be the first letter in the word "Christ" in Greek Christos. The Jewish rabbis commented on the connection between tav and chi and this is undoubtedly the mark Revelation has in mind when the servants of God are sealed in it.
The early Church Fathers seized on this tav-chi-cross-christos connection and expounded it in their homilies, seeing in Ezekiel a prophetic foreshadowing of the sealing of Christians as servants of Christ. It is also part of the background to the Catholic practice of making the sign of the cross, which in the early centuries (as can be documented from the second century on) was practiced by using one's thumb to furrow one's brow with a small sign of the cross, like Catholics do today at the reading of the Gospel during Mass.
May we all keep a good Lent and act out our penances in the sight of God alone.
Let us pray.
That the season of Lent will be a time of greater prayer and fervent devotion for us and for the whole Church. We pray to the Lord.
That these days of Lent will be marked by earnest efforts at peacemaking throughout the world. We pray to the Lord.
That we be generous in our almsgiving this Lent and attentive to the poor. We pray to the Lord.
That this Lent we will be faithful to fasting and to all the ways that the Lord sanctifies us. We pray to the Lord.
That God will repair all the broken relationships in our life and make us merciful , gentle and forgiving. We pray to the Lord.
That God will rescue all those who live at a distance from him or who left the practice of the faith. We pray to the Lord.
Loving Father, bless our observance of Lent so that we will live as your faithful, holy children until death. We ask all these through Christ our Lord. Amen.
God Love You +++
+ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Universal Catholic Church
San Diego, CA.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

March 3, 2019
(1 Corinthians 15:54-58; Luke 6:39-45)
We have all heard the phrase, the “Blind leading the blind.” Obviously, we know that it comes from a statement Jesus was making in reference to following the Pharisees. “Can a blind person guide a blind person?” The Pharisees, as you recall, have been called hypocrites by Jesus, because they make many rules – heavy burdens – that are too difficult to follow, hence they have no clue how to lead people properly. Reminds me of a joke ….
There was a husband standing on the bathroom scale who was caught by his wife as he was sucking in his stomach. She laughed and said, “That’s not going to help.” “Sure it will,” he replied. “It’s the only way I can see the numbers.”
Not sure why that joke came to mind, however there you have it. Maybe because the husband was blind to his weight until he sucked it up and faced reality? I personally think it is because we sometimes have to “suck it up” or inconvenience ourselves a bit in order to get better. Sometimes, that means following some rules.
There is much to this passage of Luke’s Gospel. However, let’s focus more on the ending today. Jesus is calling us to build our faith on a rock foundation. Although, some would like us to think it is in reference to Jesus telling St. Peter that he would be the rock of the Church, that is not really what he meant.
Yes, the Church was indeed meant to be a rock foundation, and for the most part, it is. It does withstand a storm now and again, but it does not fall. I do not mean necessarily one denomination, but more the Church as a whole. Even with its differences, the Church of Jesus Christ has survived. That said, we do need to heed what the Church teaches.
Just what does (or should) the Church teach? I like to think that we are meant to teach that Christ is our moral compass. It is a shame that so many are falling away from the Church as a whole. Yes, there are some scandals, but not in all places. Christ did indeed institute the Church as a gathering of brethren to learn with and from and to also support and look out for other creatures of God.
We fail miserably at this, truth be told, many times over. The old adage I can pray to God without going to church, apparently wasn’t enough in the eyes of Jesus!  Yet, as we know, there are many instances where the Church is vibrant and alive. Members are getting the nourishment they need in Word and Eucharist and going out into the world a better people – just not as many of us as are needed.
God created human beings to share in his love. God is a communion of Three Persons in love. As such, human beings are made in his image and likeness and therefore have an inherent dignity and gifts of reason and freedom, which bestows upon us the capacity to live in harmony with or to resist our Creator. Scripture and Tradition reveal to us that the first human beings misused their intellect and free will, choosing to turn from God by sinning, which can be defined as disobeying the will of God that had been made known to them. They ate the forbidden fruit and thus sought to be apart from God. Even to this day, mankind draws away from God.
God, however, did not want to leave human beings lost in their sin. From the beginning of time, mankind has rebelled, and God has tried to reunite us to him. However, God has chosen to forgive mankind and to offer a path of reunion with him through Jesus Christ. Through Christ, the new man – the new Adam – mankind which was disfigured by sin has been restored to the beauty that God intended.
Through Jesus’ life, passion, death and resurrection, he not only saves humankind, but also shows us how to accept the offer of salvation: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) So, if one wants to know the meaning and substance of moral living, then one needs to look at Christ.
Many think of “morality” as a set of principles that leads one to right conduct. Many times there are particular sets of principles that are linked to a teacher, such as Aristotle or Socrates. Obviously, Christian Morality is just what it implies and is thus linked to Christ. Like any other teacher, Christ has rules and commandments that he shares with his disciples. Jesus even goes a step further and models this life for us.
Where we sometimes miss out is because we misunderstand that Jesus’ instruction is not simply right living or even happiness (although they are included) but rather the fullness of life experienced in the communion of divine love. We were created for God, and thus our goal should be that of being with God. We were originally in the state of divine love, but we broke away, so now we are being called back home with God.
Therefore, Christian “morality” is not so much an ethical way of life as it is a school of love. The headmaster is Jesus Christ.
Obviously, as we know, Jesus didn’t use terms like “Christian Morality,” however the principles are the same. This is where the Church comes into play. Many people become frustrated trying to understand Jesus’ words – especially his parables. We all need support in understanding his teachings, hence why Jesus established the Church. (Matthew 16:13-20)
The religious leaders of the time had hatred for Jesus precisely because he would set aside the letter of the law in order to heal someone or feed his hungry disciples. Even his Apostles struggled, even though they seemed to recognize the centrality of love in Jesus’ way of life, they wanted to know exactly how much love one had to give. (Matthew 19:27) Jesus answers with the parable of the Good Samaritan, which makes it clear that love does not simply satisfy the law, nor can it be measured. (Luke 10:25-37) Love is the way and the goal.
Love of God and Love of neighbor; you’ve heard me speak of these two commandments often. These two commandments are the substance and meaning of Christian ethics and morality. Jesus tells us that “there is no greater commandment than these.” (Mark 12:31) How much easier can it get? When you think about it, these are really easy. We might make it hard sometimes, but they are really easy.
The fact that Jesus is asking for wholehearted and completely selfless love, can be disconcerting, to say the least. It seems impossible to live by these two commandments. Look at our world – better yet, look at our nation in its current state – does it look like we are loving Christians? Sometimes, but at times it seems to be dissipating.
Created in the image and likeness of God, human beings have two gifts. Reason – which enables them to understand the order of things as they were created by God. Freedom – which enables them to be truly good as part of eternal life with God. Although some would rather not talk about or acknowledge it, human beings still suffer from “original sin” and are thus flawed and fallen to some degree. Our physical bodies are no longer immortal, but through the forgiveness and mercy of Jesus Christ, our souls will live on for all eternity if we but turn to him and make conscious efforts to follow him.
Even though we know these things, it does not make it any easier to act upon the good gifts which are inherently ours. Thus, we have the Church to help guide us in the way of Christ’s love and Christian morality. Even if some of its ministers fail, the Church will never fail, fore we know the “gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18) Hell and its demonic leader has no power to destroy the Church, even when it may seem like he is succeeding!
God is the source of all truth and whatever is good. We, as his creation in his image, have reason and free will and thus able discern what is true and what is good. This is sometimes referred to as “natural law,” for it shows us the way to follow so as we can practice that which is good and obtain eternal life.
The Ten Commandments provide the precepts of natural law. They teach human beings how honor God and how to properly live with our neighbor – all of fellow mankind. The beatitudes spoken by Jesus build upon these commandments. They do so by showing what a person who yields to the grace of God and imitates the life Christ must do in love.
We further believe, as Catholics, that Tradition also helps us in our choices of love. These Traditions are those handed down orally from the Apostles from their time with Christ. Not all we know of God is in the Bible, but a large portion of it is. We must trust that learned theology and oral Tradition helps us to better understand the teachings we have received.
Further we must have good intentions. As an example, let’s say that there is a young man or woman who decides they want to become a medical doctor. Now, if this person states that they must get straight A’s in the class so that he/she can better help the sick, we have a good intention. But, what if they desire straight A’s because they only desire to make a good salary? Obviously, that would be a wrong intention by itself.
Learning to love our neighbors as ourselves, is quite hard, no doubt about it. Does one really need to go through a detailed analysis of one’s actions to be sure they conform to Christ’s teachings and Christian morality? Hopefully, it will become second nature to us that this would not be necessary for each decision we make, but we should be conscious of our motives all the same.
A common reaction to “religious” laws put forth by the Church is that they appear repressive regarding the human person’s free will. Yet the public or governmental laws are seen as helpful to the common good, helping people avoid conflicts and, when used correctly, promoting freedom.
This is certainly the intent of religious laws like the Ten Commandments or the teachings of the Church. They help people from falling too far away from God. As Jesus said, law was made for man. They fulfill their purpose when they help people become freer to practice charity and justice.
For example, the teaching to attend Sunday Mass can sometimes seem a burden, but the gifts received at Mass can actually stir people to desire to be present and active and to bring gifts received to other people. If this happens, the person is no longer simply obeying a rule but participating in communion in its fullest sense.
Let me finish this with a new set of “rules.”
1) You will receive a body. You may like it or hate it, but it will be yours for the entire period of your life.
2) You will learn lessons. You are enrolled in a full-time school called “life.” Each day in this school you will have the opportunity to learn lessons. You may like the lessons or think them irrelevant or stupid. Regardless, the lessons will continue.
3) There are no mistakes, only lessons. Growth is a process of trial, error and experimentation. The “failed” experiments are as much a part of the process as the experiment that ultimately works.
4) A lesson is repeated until it is learned. A lesson will be present to you in various forms until you have learned it. When you have learned it, you can go on to the next lesson.
5) Learning lessons does not end. There is no part of life that does not contain lessons. If you are alive, there are lessons to be learned.
6) From the premise of the “grass is always greener on the other side,” there is no better than “here.” When your “there” has become “here,” you will simply obtain another “there” that will, again, look better than “here.”
7) Others are merely mirrors of you. In most instances you cannot love or hate something about another person unless it reflects to you something you love or hate about yourself.
8) What you make of your life is up to you. You have all the tools and resources you need. What you do with them is up to you. The choice is yours. Remember, God wants you to freely choose him. Not force himself upon you.
9) Your answers lie inside you. The answers to life’s questions are merely one prayer away. All you need to do is look, listen, and trust.
10) Lastly, you will forget all of this!
Let us pray.
For freedom from self-deception; may God heal our narrowness of mind and blindness to the truth through the power of the Gospel. We pray to the Lord.
For the grace of conversion; may God stir all who are drawn to blind hate, bigotry, and violence toward a new appreciation of life and recognize the dignity of each person. We pray to the Lord.
We pray for honesty in our lives so that we can see ourselves as we are and strive to be more understanding, kind and loving with family, friends and neighbor. We pray to the Lord.
We pray for our community that it be mindful of the needs of its weakest and most vulnerable members and that it be a safe and welcoming haven of peace and care for all. We pray to the Lord.                        
In three days, on Ash Wednesday, we mark the commencement of Lent. We pray that our Lenten observances and charitable donations serve to alleviate the suffering and injustices faced by so many.  We pray to the Lord.                      
We pray for families where addictions or intemperance are causing pain and hardships that the Lord give them the patience, the energy and the spiritual support to live through their difficulties. We pray to the Lord.                        
We bow our heads and remember in silence our own personal intentions and the intentions of those who have asked for our prayers (pause). We pray to the Lord.
Gracious God, all that we have is a gift from you. May we tend and cultivate these gifts so they might bear fruit for the glory of your name. Father, we often struggle to do or say the right thing. Help us to not give up on you or the Church, but to always seek out your will through the resources of the Church that your son created. Hear our prayers and give us the joy that comes from sharing the victory Christ has won for us, for he is Lord forever and ever. Amen.
God Love You +++
+ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Universal Catholic Church
San Diego, CA