Tuesday, August 27, 2019

August 25, 2019
The Tenth Sunday after Trinity
(Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-13; Luke 13:22-30)
In our Gospel today, Jesus is on the road to Jerusalem. He is about halfway through the journey that he began in our Gospel reading from a couple weeks ago. Along the way he meets Samaritans, women, men, children, Pharisees, scholars, people who are lame, people who suffer from leprosy, people who are blind, a rich official and a tax collector. To each of these diverse groups, Jesus proclaims the same message; the kingdom of God is at hand. In all that he does Jesus speaks the kingdom and lives the kingdom.
Today’s Gospel gives us another vision of what this kingdom is about. The way to enter is “narrow,” but inside the kingdom we find people from every race, nation, and tongue. We might be surprised about who we don’t find, however. Archbishop Fulton Sheen once said (paraphrased), “I am only certain there will be three surprises in Heaven. First of all, we will see some people whom we never expected to see. Second, there will be a number whom we did not expect to see there. And – even relying on God’s mercy – the biggest surprise of all may be that we will be there.”
God is not one to be fooled or outdone. (Even though, in the news, I hear that someone thinks of themselves as the “chosen one!” Let’s just hope he strictly meant in regard to his dealings with China!) Jesus issues the warning that some of those who knock on the door and tell the Lord, “We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets,” will not find welcome inside the kingdom of God. Instead the master of the kingdom will say, “I do not know where you are from.”
Entry into the kingdom is not dependent on one’s physical proximity to Jesus. Even those who spend their lives in the church, eating and drinking at the table of the Lord (example, only attend Mass on Sunday and ignore God the rest of the week), cannot stop there, passively living a faith that demands much more from us, our very selves. In order to enter the kingdom, we must be from the kingdom. Our words and actions must proclaim this kingdom as Jesus’ did. We must follow in his example.
Nobody likes disappointment. Dealing with it can be a difficult lesson that many of us learn in childhood, and some still struggle to learn as adults. We can avoid disappointment in a number of ways including being prepared, having proper expectations, and knowing a given situation. When we do these things, sometimes our disappointments diminish. For example, we don’t expect a friend who is chronically late to be punctual. It’s a matter of managing expectations.
Today’s Gospel gives us a somewhat troubling story of those who most assuredly were disappointed upon hearing Jesus’ words. Can we imagine standing, knocking on the door to the house only to be told by the master, “I do not know where you are from?” or even more, “Depart form me, all you evildoers!” Most of us would be far more than just disappointed to hear these words, yet this is precisely the story Jesus tells someone who asks whether only a few will be saved.
The Gospel of Matthew (7:21-23; 25:31-46) tells a similar story and we are thereby reminded that simply knowing the Lord is not enough to be saved. Jesus tells the man to enter through the narrow gate. Further he is told to not wait too late, for there will come a time when the master will lock the door. We do not know the day or the hour whereupon Jesus will come the second time.
This passage and others in the gospels like it remind us of an uncomfortable, and possibly even disappointing, truth. The effective answer to the man’s question about salvation is that many will attempt it but not be able. And some of those who know the Lord, who ate and drank in his company, are those who will be shut out. In other words, it takes more than merely saying, “I believe.” Such a message is far from feel good, open wide, broad path to salvation that we might imagine. And the warning to those who know the Lord should fall squarely with us.
Still, those who will be saved may not be those who expect it, for in an echo of Mary’s canticle and early Gospel of Luke themes, there will be a reversal of fortune. Some who are last, will be first. And some who are first, will be last. Salvation is not limited to a particular group of people for many will come from all directions to recline at table in the kingdom of God.
A relationship with Christ is not an insurance policy whereby we pay our premiums and expect to receive a settlement when needed. This relationship with the Son of God is not transactional that we do x, y, and z and Jesus in return grants salvation strictly by our works. Salvation is a free gift, undeserved, no matter how much we feel we might deserve it. If we are not living the kingdom now, no matter of good work will help; if we do not believe now, no matter of good work will help.
The master locks the door on the evildoers, barring entry to them. The frightening thing is that some of those locked out know the Lord. Would they consider themselves evildoers? Not likely.
Are we open to disappointment? Or do we need to be prepared, manage our expectations, and know the given situation? Salvation is for all; many attempt to enter but some are simply not strong enough. Jesus urges his followers to “enter by the narrow gate,” but this constricted entrance leads to an abundant gathering that included people from the four corners of the world. All people are welcome in the kingdom of God. Not because of their lineage, race, gender, or ancestors, but because they have followed the narrow way of peace and love; the way of Christ.
Can we be found among the poor, vulnerable, and the lost? Do we offer welcome and hospitality to all we meet? We must not only eat and drink with our Lord, we must follow in his steps as well. This is what he expects. We are called to be kingdom people. We are called to make our religion – Catholicism – a way of life, not just a religion. We are also called to put forth the same radical love that Jesus put forth!
Let us pray.
That the church be a sign and symbol of inclusiveness of the kingdom of God. We pray to the Lord.
That the nations will come together to stop the fire raging in the Amazon and protect three million species of plants and animals, and the one million indigenous people that rely on the rainforest and is vital to their existence – and ours. We pray to the Lord.
That those who experience racism, prejudice, and bias of any kind in daily life have their dignity and worth as children of God recognized by all they encounter. We pray to the Lord.
That we all here be given the drive to embrace radical hospitality – like the radical love of Jesus – for the kingdom of God and become kingdom people. We pray to the lord.
We pray for those who may feel they are beyond God’s mercy, that His great love be revealed to them and that they may know the welcome extended to those who change their ways. We pray to the Lord.
For our Church, that we may be as welcoming as Jesus was to outcasts, sinners, and all who approach with a sincere heart. We pray to the Lord.
For those on our parish prayer list, that they may find consolation through Christ’s healing presence. 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, we ask for grace to enter through the narrow gate. May your Holy Spirit guide each of us to live with a life of forgiveness, compassion, self-control and acts of service so that our lives may manifest the reign of your kingdom. Faithful and merciful God, you call all people to yourself. Hear our prayers that we might build communities of welcome and refuge. We further ask, Heavenly Father that you inspire in us to not just seek your kingdom on Sundays, but each and every day and to make purposeful efforts to set aside time to sit with you in prayer and acts of faith directed toward you. We ask all these things, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
God Love You +++
++ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Chapel
San Diego, CA.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

August 18, 2019
Assumption Sunday
(Revelation 11:19, 12:1-6, 10; Luke 1:39-56)
I want to start today with a little poem. I have had a printed out copy of this about a couple decades or so ago and it can easily be found on the net. It has nothing really to do with my sermon topic; it merely was in a packet of notes I was rustling through while searching for something I was looking for related to my sermon. I paused at it as if an inner voice was telling me to use it for today’s sermon. Maybe it is meant for a follower of mine on Facebook, who knows …. But here we go, relevant or not.
Two traveling angels stopped to spend the night in the home of a wealthy family. The family was rude and refused to let the angels stay in the mansion's guest room. Instead the angels were given a small space in the cold basement.
As they made their bed on the hard floor, the older angel saw a hole in the wall and repaired it. When the younger angel asked why, the older angel replied, 'Things aren't always what they seem.'
The next night the pair came to rest at the house of a very poor, but very hospitable farmer and his wife.  After sharing what little food they had the couple let the angels sleep in their bed where they could have a good night's rest. When the sun came up the next morning the angels found the farmer and his wife in tears. Their only cow, whose milk had been their sole income, lay dead in the field.
The younger angel was infuriated and asked the older angel how could you have let this happen? The first man had everything, yet you helped him, she accused. The second family had little but was willing to share everything, and you let the cow die.
'Things aren't always what they seem, the older angel replied. 'When we stayed in the basement of the mansion, I noticed there was gold stored in that hole in the wall. Since the owner was so obsessed with greed and unwilling to share his good fortune, I sealed the wall so he wouldn't find it.' 'Then last night as we slept in the farmers bed, the angel of death came for his wife. I gave him the cow instead.
Things aren't always what they seem.' Sometimes that is exactly what happens when things don't turn out the way they should. If you have faith, you just need to trust that every outcome is always to your advantage. You just might not know it until some time later..    
 Yesterday is history.
 Tomorrow a mystery.
 Today is a gift.
 That's why it's called the present!                
 Never take away anyone's hope, That may be all they have.
Hopefully that helped whomever it was meant for. Okay, now on with the Assumption. Why is the Assumption important?
At the core of our faith is the belief, based on the biblical accounts, that Christ experienced a bodily resurrection from the dead and ascended, while still in bodily form, to heaven. The Assumption of Mary confirms that this extraordinary reversal of death is not limited only to Christ. If Mary can end up in heaven, body and soul, so can we who share in her humanity.
This isn’t something that should be surprising to you. Jesus’ message has many references in which he is telling us how we shall obtain eternal life, and thus, entry into paradise.
One of the peculiarities of the Old Testament, at least from a Christian perspective, is that it did not have a well-defined concept of heaven. When people died, even the righteous, they ended up in Sheol, the shadowy underworld that is the Hebrew equivalent of the Greek Hades, and thought of as Gehenna in the Talmud. The ancient Israelites did understand that there was a heavenly temple from which God reigned. This is beautifully depicted in Isaiah’s vision. But they didn’t necessarily view heaven as a destination for saints. Enoch, Elijah, and Moses were exceptions to the rule.
The Assumption of Mary clarifies and confirms that the heaven of the New Testament is a place where the saints experience the presence of God. She is the first one to enter under the New Covenant. In a way, Mary opened up heaven for rest of the saints (aka believers), just as she opened up the earth to the fullness of God’s Incarnate presence.
The whole point of the dogma is its emphasis on Mary’s bodily assumption. Otherwise there would be no need for it. Arguing that Mary’s soul went to heaven at the end of her earthly life is to claim nothing different than what happens to every other person who died in a state of grace. Of course, those who aren’t “saints” would have to make a pit-stop in a state of cleansing, commonly known by Catholics as purgatory, before entering into the fullness of heaven, but still the overall point holds.
Mary shares in Christ’s mission. This is based upon her role as the New Eve to His New Adam, which is evident in Simeon’s prophecy and her presence at the crucifixion. Mary’s Assumption to heaven is the final reversal of the evils of sin and death unleashed by the Fall.
Mary’s assumption means that there are no bones or tombs of Our Lady to venerate. This means that, contrary to the Protestant accusations, Marian veneration is particularly Christo-centric. Thanks to the Assumption, it is impossible to think of her without thinking of her being in the fullness of Christ’s heavenly presence.
Some protestants go so far as to say there is no proof. I usually answer by saying, “Yes and no.”
First of all, while it is true that the early Christian writers do not explicitly mention the Assumption of Mary, there is an ancient and curious silence about her bodily remains that cries out for an explanation. Sometimes, it is said, "silence" can be "deafening."
We know from Tradition and apocryphal books that Joseph had died prior to Jesus’ ministry. We know that after the crucifixion Mary was cared for by the Apostle John (Jn 19:26-27). Early Christian writings say John went to live at Ephesus and that Mary accompanied him. There is some dispute about where she ended her life, whether in Ephesus or back at Jerusalem. Neither of these cities nor any other claimed her remains, although there are claims about possessing her (temporary) tomb. Why did no city claim the bones of Mary? Apparently because there were no bones to claim, and people knew it.
In the early Christian centuries, relics of saints were jealously guarded and highly prized. The bones of those martyred were quickly gathered up and preserved. There are many accounts of this in the biographies of those who gave up their lives for the Faith [for example, the bones of St. Peter and St. Paul were widely known to be preserved in Rome, and the sepulcher of David and the tomb of St. John the Baptist are both mentioned in Scripture]. Yet here was Mary, certainly the most privileged of all the saints ... but we have no record of her bodily remains being venerated anywhere.
Surely, as important as Mary was to the new movement, her relics would have been preciously guarded, if she had not been bodily taken into heaven.
Explicit mention of the Assumption of Mary begins to appear in the fourth century. We have an account of the event given by St. John Damascene in a copy of a letter he preserved from a fifth century Patriarch of Jerusalem named Juvenalius to the Byzantine Empress Pulcheria. The Empress had apparently asked for relics of the most Holy Virgin Mary. Patriarch Juvenalius replied that, in accordance with ancient tradition, the body of the Mother of God had been taken to Heaven upon her death, and he expressed surprise that the empress was unaware of this fact (implying that it must have been common knowledge in the Church at the time).
Juvenalius joined to this letter an account of how the Apostles had been assembled in miraculous fashion for the burial of the Mother of God, and how after the arrival of the Apostle St. Thomas, her tomb had been opened, and her body was not there, and how it had been revealed to the Apostles that she had been taken to Heaven, body and soul. Later, in the sixth century, belief in the Assumption was defended by St. Gregory of Tours, and no saint or father of the (Catholic) Church thereafter disputed the doctrine.
In fact, one can argue that the mystery of the Assumption is right in the very place we would most expect to find it if the doctrine were true: namely, in the writings of the Apostle St. John, the one into whose care our Lord placed His Mother at the hour of His death on the Cross, and especially in what may be the last of the New Testament books to be written, a book almost certainly written after Mary's earthly life was over, the Book of Revelation.
In his book Hail Holy Queen, Dr. Scott Hahn shows conclusively that the story of the Visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth in St. Luke's Gospel, chapter one, bears numerous and remarkable similarities to the account in the Old Testament of King David bringing the Ark of the Covenant up to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6). The similarities are too many to be accidental: St. Luke is telling us that Mary herself is the new Ark of the Covenant. Just as the Ark in ancient Israel contained the tables of the Law, and some of the manna-bread from Heaven — signs of the Old Covenant — so Mary's womb contained the sign of the promise of the New Covenant and the true Bread of Life: Jesus our Savior Himself.
Thus, it was already believed by the Apostolic Church that Mary was the new Ark of the Covenant.
Now, keep in mind that the old Ark of the Covenant had been lost for many centuries, and none of the Jews knew where it could be found. (It remains missing to this very day). With that in mind, look what we find in today’s Epistle reading at the end of chapter 11 of the Book of Revelation:
“Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant could be seen in the temple. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings, and peals of thunder, an earthquake, and a violent hailstorm.”
What an audio-visual spectacular! The Ark had been found! But look what the Revelation tells us next:
“A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was with child.... She gave birth to a son, a male child, destined to rule all the nations with an iron rod.”
Clearly, what St. John was shown in his vision, recorded here in the Book of Revelation, is that the (new) Ark of the Covenant is now in Heaven as a "woman clothed with the sun" whose child is the Messiah. In fact, several of the Church fathers saw this passage as a reference to Mary, the Mother of our Savior, including St. Ephrem the Syrian, St. Ambrose, and St. Augustine, among others.
So, while all this may seem to be trivia to some, it is vitally important to Catholics. With Mary’s Assumption, we can feel confident of our own entry into paradise. We do well to remember Jesus’ words: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life” (John 3:36). It is Jesus who says if we, “shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself” … we shall have our mansion in paradise, just as Mary has before us.
We do well to honor Mary. Everyone surely remembers the old joke (who knows, maybe it’s true?) of Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s that I have repeated on occasion - One day our Blessed Lord was walking in his kingdom and he was noticing souls who seemed to have won entry into heaven quite easily. So, the Lord said to St. Peter, "How are all these people getting into heaven?" "Don't blame me, Lord" St. Peter says, "Every time I close a door, your Mother opens a window!" That she does, no joke or doubt about that!
Let us ask her to open one for each of us!
Let us Pray.
That Our Lady Mary, Mother of the Church, will guide and support all church leaders with maternal love. We pray to the Lord.
For all those who have left the practice of the faith, that through the intercession of the Queen of Heaven they receive the grace to return the Church and the Sacraments. We pray to the Lord.
That the Assumption of Mary into heaven will fill all Christians with an ardent desire for sanctity and the life of heaven. We pray to the Lord.
For an end to gun violence of all kinds in our country, and for victims and those who mourn them. We pray to the Lord.

For our parish and our entire parish family that we may always take an active role in caring for those in need and offer the hope that comes from Jesus Christ. We pray to the Lord.
For those on our parish prayer list, that they may find consolation through Christ’s healing presence. 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.
Loving Father, you have raised up the Blessed Virgin Mary to share in your communion of love. Accept us into that holy embrace through the sacrifice of our prayers. Dear Father, we recognize that proclaiming your gospel is especially challenging at this time of cultural and social upheaval. We pray that we ourselves be strengthened by the Holy Spirit to proclaim and live your message proudly and with charity to those who would deny you. We ask all these prayers, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
God Love You +++
++ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Chapel
San Diego, CA

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

August 11, 2019
Transfiguration Sunday
(2 Peter 1:16-19; Luke 9:28-36)
When Neil Armstrong hopped off the ladder of the lunar module Eagle and put the first footprint on the surface of the moon on July 20, 1969, the world became a very different place.
From that point on, generations of people would point to that event as the pinnacle of human achievement and subsequently wonder why everything isn’t easier by comparison.
If we can put a man on the moon, for example, then why can’t we cure cancer? End world hunger? Or keep certain individuals in leadership off of Twitter?
All are worthy, if not apparently impossible, goals, but we have to remember that every “moonshot” goal, as we now know them, began with a dream.
In their book The Moonshot Effect: Disrupting Business as Usual, Lisa Goldman and Kate Purmal define a moonshot goal as a big idea project that harnesses human aspirations. It’s a turn away from business as usual, and involves —
•new processes,
•audacious innovation
•and collaborative teamwork.
The value of such goals is often found in the aftereffects — elevating new and heroic leaders and enabling ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary things.
Think of the massive numbers of steely-eyed missile men (and women) with slide rules and those first plucky astronauts at NASA who invested their lives in the Apollo 11 mission and its predecessors and you get the idea. As an example, three brilliant African-American women at NASA -- Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson -- serve as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in history: the launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit. (There’s a great movie about these three women called, “Hidden Figures” I recommend it!) A moonshot goal looks impossible on the surface, but determined people with a clear vision can make what seems impossible become a reality.
The disciples of Jesus didn’t seem all that interested in going to the moon, but that didn’t stop them from having stars in their eyes and their own.
They had left behind their former occupations to follow an itinerant rabbi around Galilee because they were compelled by his vision of the kingdom of God. For first-century Jews, that vision was not the peaceable kingdom of Isaiah, but the social justice of an Amos or Joel. It was gritty and political. For many of them, moonshot thinking was the thought that someday their Roman occupiers would be overthrown, God’s anointed king and messiah set on the throne, and God’s presence returned to the temple.
It was a vision of freedom from oppression with peace and security for all. It seemed like an impossibility given the number of Roman spears and warhorses that patrolled the roads and streets. But then again, there was this Jesus who seemed to fit the mold of the kind of leader who could make it happen. He had performed amazing miracles, drawn huge crowds and become somewhat popular with the people. Maybe he was the one who could shoot the moon, reverse their fortunes and transform them from paupers into princes.
It didn’t take long for Jesus to correct them of that notion. His vision of the kingdom and how it would come to be was quite different than theirs.
In Matthew 16:13-16, Jesus asked his disciples who they thought he was and Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus, however, would define the Messiah’s mission in far more graphic terms than Peter and his mates could have imagined. Before being fitted for a crown, Jesus would need to embrace a cross. It was an unimaginable scenario.
This is not moonshot thinking. This is moonbeam thinking.
Eight days later, Jesus pulls his executive team of Peter, James and John aside and takes them up on a mountain for a corporate retreat. It’s on this unnamed mountain that Jesus gives them a glimpse of his ultimate moonshot idea by revealing his own heavenly glory.
The high mountain in this passage has been surmised by historians as Tabor or Hermon, but probably no specific mountain was intended by the Luke. Its meaning is theological rather than geographical, possibly recalling the revelation to Moses on Mount Sinai (Ex 24:12–18) and to Elijah at the same place.
While Jesus was praying, his face and clothes were transformed into a kind of heavenly brilliance. It’s an image that recalls a similar account of Moses’ meeting God on Mount Sinai (Exodus 34). Moses’ face became so brilliant that he had to cover it with a veil afterward.
In Luke’s account, Moses is not only mentioned, but he actually shows up to converse with the glorified Jesus along with the prophet Elijah.
How did the disciples know it was Moses and Elijah? It wasn’t that they were wearing nametags like one would on a corporate retreat!
Instead, they knew their Scriptures and the tradition. According to Deuteronomy, Moses died and was buried by God before the Israelites entered the Promised Land, but some traditions had said that Moses hadn’t died at all and, like the prophet Elijah, had simply been taken up into heaven (Deuteronomy 34:1-8; 2 Kings 2). (There is also a Scripture from Jude 1:9 which indicates that St. Michael and Satan have a disagreement over Moses body, though it is not clear as to what specifically. Additionally, in a Jewish apocryphal, called the Assumption of Moses with reference similar.) Moses and Elijah, many believed, would someday return as forerunners of the Messiah. If Jesus was the real Messiah, as Peter had discerned, then it made sense that these two glorious figures should appear beside him in his glory, representing the Law and the Prophets.
The key here, however, is not so much the appearance of the two towering figures of the Old Testament, but the conversation. Luke says they were speaking of Jesus’ “departure” which would soon to take place in Jerusalem. The Greek word for “departure” is “exodus,” which puts Jesus’ mission into the larger context of the biblical story.
In the days of Moses, the Israelites were set free from slavery in Egypt — a moonshot vision for which they had prayed some 400 years. Their freedom was signified and subsequently remembered by the Passover meal and the blood of the sacrificed lamb that saved them from death and pointed the way to new life and a promised land.
Jesus was about to initiate a new exodus, but in this case, this exodus would deliver all of humanity from the enslaving power of sin and death itself. That deliverance would require a new Passover and a new once-for-all sacrifice as Jesus himself became the Paschal Lamb.
This was Jesus’ moonshot mission and destiny: the salvation of the whole world. All that Moses and Elijah represented, the witness of the Law and the Prophets, had been pointing to this goal.      
The sleepy disciples saw most of this dazzling vision, but it still didn’t sink in that Jesus was more than they imagined and his mission more comprehensive than a political coup.
Peter piped up with an idea: “Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” Luke adds that Peter didn’t really know what he was saying.
Peter’s construction plan essentially put Jesus on the same level as Moses and Elijah, which tells us that he still didn’t get who Jesus was. It took the cloud of God the Father’s own presence and glory and his voice to set Peter straight: “This is my chosen Son; listen to him!” It’s a moment that reminds us of the Father’s voice at Jesus’ baptism. The voice says, in effect, that this is the Son of God, not just another prophet. He is preeminent — not over and against the Law and the Prophets but as the one who interprets and fulfills them. He is the ultimate fulfillment of the covenant promises God made to Adam, to Abraham, to Moses and to David. He is the one who will crush the serpent’s head and the one through whom all the nations of the earth will be blessed.
In this revelation of glory, we learn along with the disciples that the God who could rescue his Son from suffering confirms that his mission will nonetheless go through the cross. He will not go there because it is easy, but because it is hard, to borrow a phrase from John F. Kennedy. It is a challenge he is willing to accept out of love, one he is unwilling to postpone and one that he will win for all of us. It’s the ultimate moonshot, but one that will be accomplished by the very God who put the moon there in the first place!
The disciples still don’t get this right away. In the next scene, there is the dilemma about casting out a demon, which they can’t seem to accomplish. In the next, they are arguing cabinet positions in the coming administration. It will take the death and resurrection of Jesus to bring things into focus and help them realize that God’s project was more audacious than anything humans could ever conceive. God could have done something easier, but it would not have the impact we needed.
But it’s not just a moonshot goal that we admire as a historical reality. Like any great moonshot, its value is found in the aftereffect. To know that Christ has died, Christ is risen, and Christ will come again reminds us that anything is possible.
We are followers of the one who has beaten sin and death and given us the freedom not only to imagine God’s kingdom of ultimate peace, redemption and renewal, but to begin living it out in the present. When we look at the world as it currently is, with its constant cycle of bad news and what seems to be an increasingly broken way of life, we remember that this is not the way things will always be. We live and work in the present in light of the future made possible by the death and resurrection of Jesus.
To that end, Jesus invites us to dream of our own moonshot goals for the places we live and serve. Often we have dreams, ideas and goals that are too small and too easily attainable — goals that look good on a stat sheet.
Jesus, however, invites us to dream of the transformation of the world and the community around us. A transfigurative experience empowered by moonshot thinking may take some cross bearing, sacrifice and commitment to make it happen.
We follow the ultimate visionary leader, however, who promises to be with us always and offers us the power of the Holy Spirit.
We humans have put a man on the moon.
God raised a man from the dead and “seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion and above every name that is named, not only in this age but in the age to come” (Ephesians 1:20-21).
This is the God-man, the Christ, the Son of the living God, about whom the voice on the mountain declared, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him” (v. 35).
When we follow Jesus, there is no moonshot too imaginative, too daring, too audacious for us to consider.
Let us pray.
That we commit ourselves to always meditate on the moonshot goal that Jesus accomplished for us, and to this end, we know and believe that all things are indeed possible through Christ our Lord. We pray to the Lord.
That we will see the transfigurative light waiting for us when Christ calls us home to him. We pray to the Lord.
For national and local leaders, may God’s wisdom inspire and guide them as they seek ways to confront, and eliminate, violence in our communities, and to ensure the safety of all people. We pray to the Lord.
For victims of gun violence throughout our country, especially all who were killed by the senseless and evil shootings (and stabbings) this week, may they rest in peace. May the family and friends left behind be comforted. We pray to the Lord.
That our governmental leaders stop the separation of immigrant children from their parents, and use more appropriate moral and ethical treatment of undocumented immigrants than what is currently being employed. We pray to the Lord.
That the two sisters from Israel studying at the University of Indiana who returned to their dorm to find two swastikas on the wall may find compassion and support and that religious tolerance be spread amongst all humankind. We pray to the Lord.
For those on our parish prayer list, that they may find consolation through Christ’s healing presence. 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.
Sovereign Lord, forgive us for choosing violence instead of grace. Give us the courage to trust that the cross is more powerful than the sword. We thank you for the assurance that, in the end, love wins. Help us to live without fear in the light of your promise. Holy God, we confess that we have betrayed the Good News by turning inward, serving ourselves first. We have not taken up our cross and we have been too quick to build up worldly possessions for ourselves. Forgive us for not helping to reveal Christ to the world. Forgive us for not living into Christ’s example and serving those in need before serving ourselves. Draw us back to the way of Christ, so that we might know the reign of God is drawing near – an everlasting moonshot goal! We ask all these things through Christ our Lord. Amen.
God Love You +++
++ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Chapel
San Diego, CA

Monday, August 5, 2019

August 4, 2019
The Seventh Sunday after Trinity
 (Colossians 3:1-5, 9-11; Luke 12:13-21)
Walk into your average middle school in America and you’ll encounter some of the most self-conscious people on the planet — eighth-graders.
These kids are a jangle of nerves and emotions. They’re on the cusp of high school and want desperately to know someone in high school. Eighth-graders are those kids with whom no self-respecting high schooler wants to hang out. They’re often arrogant, hateful and sometimes both. They’re emotionally sensitive. They eye roll a lot.
Eighth-graders are denizens, according to some, of Dante’s fifth circle of hell. There is a quote on the web, which I could not determine the author, that goes like this:  “A grotesque wasteland where underqualified teachers and posers alike turn defenseless 12-year-olds into vapid shells of their former selves. After about three years of this methodical torture, these poor souls are shipped to the sixth circle of hell, otherwise known as high school.”
A typical eighth-grader wakes up and goes to the closet to pick out clothes for the day believing that every fashion choice is a critical one. After all, everyone else is watching! A fashion faux pas can be humiliating, so it’s important to make a statement with what you wear. (It hits me too! Every time I prepare for Mass, I worry if my outfit will be just right! LOL)
But then imagine these same eighth-graders walking into an art class and noticing that their teacher has worn the same boring outfit day after day for months! Like, really? Aren’t art teachers supposed to be all colorful and stuff? Is she weird? Or has she been around tempera paint and hot glue a little too long?
Actually, she is one of the coolest teachers in the school, and her fashion statement really rubbed off on these adolescent consumers.
Meet Julia Mooney, an art teacher at William Allen Middle School in Moorestown, New Jersey. At the beginning of the 2018 school year, she put on a simple gray button-down dress and then wore it every school day for 100 days straight.
It wasn’t about being weird. For Mooney, it was about teaching her students about the growing “culture of excess” that has filled American closets to overflowing with cheap clothing that isn’t ethically sourced or manufactured and that, most of the time, eventually winds up in a landfill.
The typical American now buys 60 percent more items of clothing than they did 15 years ago and keeps them half as long. Mooney thinks this is a major problem on a lot of levels. “There’s no rule anywhere that says we have to wear a different thing every day,” says Julia. “Why do we ask this of each other? Why do we require that we each wear something different every day and buy more clothes and feed into this fashion culture?” (Talk about bursting my bubble with my Mass ensemble!)
Instead, Julia advocates for what she calls “sustainable fashion”: wearing clothing that’s made in an eco-friendly way; buying fewer, but better-made pieces of clothing; wearing the same clothes more often; and making sure they’re recycled when they are replaced or no longer needed. (I will have you know, I do not discard my Mass outfits! That’s just rude!)
And Julia’s not alone in her thinking. More and more clothing manufacturers are making clothing out of recycled materials and eschewing unsustainable products such as petroleum-based synthetic rubber for corn-based materials in things like shoes. Buying better-made products and wearing them longer is the new fashion statement!
Rather than rolling their eyes at her, Mooney’s students seem to be on board with the trend she set. Some of them began their own experiment of wearing the same clothes on consecutive days (though not for 100!), while some of their teachers got into the act as well. And, yes, in answer to the obvious question, Julia does wash her dress frequently! It’s not about hygiene — it’s about wearing something of quality for the long haul while making a difference in the world.
For Paul, however, this fashion isn’t so much about what disciples of Jesus put on their bodies but about how they clothe their “minds.” Because Christians have been “raised with Christ,” we should “seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.” It’s about a mindset that seeks to sustain the life that is “hidden with Christ in God” until Christ is revealed. For Paul, the only label that matters is the one put on us by the risen Christ!
Mooney bucked the trend of most of the world that seeks to wear whatever is trendy and expendable. We live in a culture where people seem to change their minds as much as they change their clothes. If you are what you wear, then Paul says that we are fast, cheap and easy when it comes to our spiritual clothing as well. If you’re going to live sustainably, then you have to be willing to first do a purge of whatever you’ve been hiding in the back of the closet. “Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly…” says Paul. Get rid of the junk that you’ve been keeping that doesn’t fit anymore: “the old self with its practices” when you were living life apart from Christ. Dump things like “immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry.” These are the things that the rest of the world puts on and displays regularly as a way of comparing themselves to one another.
A new mindset, a sustainable mindset, begins with stripping off “the old self with its practices” and replacing your spiritual wardrobe with a new one — a “new self” that is “being renewed, for knowledge, in the image of its creator.”
In other words, the wardrobe we’re called to wear is the one we were given from the beginning when God created humans in God’s own image (Genesis 1:26-27). Remember that those first humans started out “naked and unashamed” and it was only after their sin that they began comparing themselves to one another and “knew that they were naked” (Genesis 2:25; 3:7). Paul reminds us that the character with which we were originally outfitted was the very character of God, which bears no shame. Christ, the perfect model of that divine character, enables us to put on our original wardrobe through his defeat of sin and death in his crucifixion and resurrection.
Unlike a few trend setters and designers in the fashion world who set the agenda for what the rest of the world buys, the renewed and sustainable wardrobe of the Christian, says Paul, is universal and designed to be worn by all kinds of people. Whether you’re a gentle soul who prefers to wear tweed or a slave to fashion or a teenage boy, what matters is not what you wear on the outside but what you’re wearing inside. “Christ is all and in all,” says Paul, and when Christ is in you, then your spiritual clothing and mindset will reflect him regardless of whether your outer clothes come from Walmart or Prada.
So, what does that sustainable spiritual wardrobe look like? It is in the verse immediately after the last line of our Epistle. Like most of our closets, it needs to have some basic pieces that are the foundation for everyday wear. “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” (v.12).
Notice that Paul says that we should clothe ourselves with these things, which means that they are a conscious choice. Just as a person stands in front of his or her closet every morning and wonders what to put on, Paul suggests that we who have been “raised with Christ” make a daily choice to put on his character for display to the rest of the world. We are to “bear with one another” and “forgive each other” as the Lord has forgiven us (v. 13).
But over all these things we are to put on love which is, “the bond of perfection” (v. 14). Love is the characteristic that completes the ensemble and marks us as belonging to the Jesus brand. It’s the article of our spiritual clothing that becomes more broken-in and comfortable with extended, everyday use. It never wears out, and it never goes out of style. We’ve been given the perfect pattern of love in Jesus, and when we let the “peace of Christ” rule in our hearts, we become “one body” that can influence the world to dress like we do and to become part of Jesus’ brand as well. Our teaching, our worship and our every word and deed are commercials that point to Christ.
Mooney understood that what we present to the world from our inner selves is far more important than what we drape over our outer selves. What really matters is that we are living to make a better world. It’s a daily choice to move away from the culture of excess to the culture of enough. (Okay, fine, but I am not giving up my plush Mickeys!)
When we make the daily choice to put on the character of Christ even before we put on our clothes, we make a fashion statement that the world can’t help but notice! “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (v. 17).
Brand Jesus is the only one that is sustainable forever!
Let us pray.
In all today’s readings, it is made clear to us the uselessness of pursuing material wealth in this life. We pray for the wisdom to recognize that life on this earth is short-lived and that our time is best spent in preparing for eternal happiness, in the presence of our God in the next. We pray to the Lord.
Lord, help us to realize when pride, covetousness and greed enter into our lives. We pray that we be freed from the unholy and unhelpful grip of selfishness and greed and that we recognize our Christian duty to look after those most in need. We pray to the Lord.
That those who devoted themselves to the pursuit of wealth and power know the fulfillment found in Jesus’ path of service and generosity. We pray to the Lord.
That we all listen to the voice of our Good Shepherd calling us to become rich in what matters to God. We pray to the Lord.
For victims who were murdered in the El Paso and Dayton shootings; may they rest in peace eternal. May the families and friends left behind be carried in the palm of God’s hand and be comforted. We pray to the Lord.
That legislators will wake up to the need and pass legislation that will help stop this endless bloodshed this country has been experiencing. We pray to the Lord.
That fervent devotion to the Eucharist will cause the church to grow in numbers and holiness. We pray to the Lord.
For those on our parish prayer list, that they may find consolation through Christ’s healing presence. 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.
Loving Father, help us to put away the old self and to be renewed in spirit, recreated in righteousness and holiness of truth. God of life, you sent your son to lead us to you, our true treasure and source of all peace. Hear our prayers that we might be freed from the desire to always have more, and instead invest our time and resources in building the kingdom of God. Amen
God Love You +++
++ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor - St. Francis Chapel
San Diego, CA