Friday, December 25, 2020


 December 24/25, 2020


(Isaiah 9:1-6; Luke 2:1-14)

Tonight/Today will be a milestone I would just as soon not remember. It will be the first time in the last 19 years of being the pastor at this parish that I have not celebrated Midnight Mass with a congregation. Sad, to say the least, but understandable. I guess the Blessed Lord will forgive me.

It is in the Midnight Mass that the processional with the baby Jesus is led by candlelight. Last year we were able to celebrate with the lighting of individual candles for the congregation, as it was the first time we did not have carpeting in the church, and thus a safer surface for candle wax. So, this too will be missed.

Many years ago, I fell in love with the tradition of setting candles in windows. My parents were very much Christmas people – at least from the secular point of view. Decorations and festivities for Christmas were always large scale. It is a tradition I carry on to this day. I was actually so excited to have a nice house to decorate again. The last time I had a house large enough to decorate to the ninth degree was while living in Louisiana. And so today, my back and legs will tell you that my roof has some lights – modern day candles. Not Griswold style, but many all the same.

My mother had a large collection of Christmas candles fashioned as figurines of various Christmas theme. Of course, we didn’t burn these, we merely made a Christmas scene much like people do with the village scenes today. Some were quite old and others not so much. As time goes by, the candles sitting in boxes in the shed over multiple summers tend to get misshapen, and so new ones are purchased. She also used to handmake some beautiful Christmas candles herself. A craft, that as a child, didn’t interest me, but now I wish I paid attention to.

When I was younger, we had these candelabra like displays with those little C-7 orange light bulbs in them. Of course, not every window had outlets beneath, but that wasn’t something extension cords could not solve. Modern variations of these are not as plentiful to purchase, nor as well displayed in people’s homes, however they comfort me all the same.

As a youth, I remember how dark hills and roads with houses were lit by a surprising number of such candles, winking warmly at strangers and passersby along the way. I never forgot that feeling of welcome and glowing hope at such a dark time of year, and I have been a devoted user of window candles ever since.

Legend traces the tradition back to Mary and Joseph searching for a place to stay, as well as to the star that leads the Magi on a long journey through a strange country. I don’t know about you, but it’s hard not to feel as though I am also journeying through strange country, every single day in a Covid-19 laced world. Maybe feeling the same way, many folks on social media have talked about putting up their Christmas decorations earlier than usual this year, and so they did. I have seen some up on houses here for a couple months now. These decorations help against the gloom, whether it’s the shorter days, the chaos of the news, or the loneliness of ongoing social distancing fatigue. This year, decorations feel like an act of resistance.

Gloom is not foreign to the nativity story. Scripture tells us Jesus’ birth was a time not only of joy and welcome but of fear, violence, and catastrophe. We tend not to focus on those bits as we hear the story read in church. “No room at the inn” is often played as comedy rather than as a stomach-churning situation for a pregnant mother and a father. We dodge the presence of Augustus Caesar, the emperor looming in the background, or his ruthlessness and absolute power over the Roman Empire and its people. We brush by King Herod, his threats, the massacre of the Holy Innocents, and the flight to Egypt.

This year, however, all these grim and terrible plot turns are what get my attention. They sound less like the plot of a fairy tale, or a news report from another country, or what we used to call a “biblical” scenario (read fantastically unrealistic), and more like current and near-possible events. What I thought was a “civilized” nation seems to no longer be so, and now sounds more biblical (fantastically unrealistic) the past year in particular. Some protests have been less than civilized the past few months. And somehow, for me, this is heartening—because I need even more to know and feel that Jesus is with us, that these sorts of events are not shocking to God, as so much that seemed unbreakable has broken apart in our country.

The tradition of window candles should remind us of the old proverb, “It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.” I think of Midnight Mass, and a singular candle processing in, lighting everyone’s personal candle as it signifies the Light of Christ entering the world of darkness. And I think, of course, of our Christmas reading from Isaiah 9, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light,” but also one that is not a reading for tonight from John 1, “What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”

Setting out lights and decorations this year, is proclaiming the power and love of Christ, which we must try hard to continue to put our trust in. We need to feel hope. Not in the sense of having a good attitude or looking on the bright side, but hope as holding fast to the deep-down belief that God’s love is stronger than evil, violence, and death. Hope is also an action verb. As Austin Channing Brown put it last summer on Twitter, “Black folks connect hope to duty, legacy, the good fight. . . . The freedom movement can’t survive on optimism; there’s too much to mourn.”

So, I’ve placed (electric) candles in my windows instead of cursing the darkness, but that’s not all I’ll do. Window candles do not change policy, rebuild government, feed the hungry, or protect the vulnerable. But symbols and decorations have power, nonetheless. They can be prophetic tokens of resistance, inspiration to keep on keeping on, and a shield against despair.

In the Gospel of John, the most esoteric of the four Gospels, Christ commonly refers to Himself as the light and he asks His followers to walk in the light.

But in our dark times we may wonder: Why is Light (Christ) essential? Why must we seek the Light? What Difference does Light make?

In Many ways, we are aware that our dark times of doubt and despair become comfortable places. We may even grow to depend upon these down times, believing that they are insurmountable. And the longer we walk in dark places, the more distant the light can seem. We may even arrive at a place where the light itself is but a distant memory, or we may come to believe that it doesn’t exist at all.

Our journey that we take during Advent leading to Christmas reminds us that we cannot take the light for granted when Christmas does arrive. Christ is near, and God partners with us, makes covenant with us, and asks us to respond to the light that has come into the world. We may not have to move far, but God does ask us to move, to be bold enough to step out on faith and seek the light.

Even if we are in a dark place this season, Christ reminds us that we can be “children of the light.” Our faith – the expressions of our faith in word and in deed – does make a difference. When Christ is with us, we discover that the light has dawned!

We need the light of Christ most desperately. I encourage everyone to light a candle today. Like the old slogan of a motel commercial, we leave the light on for you; let us leave the light on for Jesus. Jesus will come to the door with the candle. He will come to the house that acknowledges the Light of Christ. He will come to the door and knock. Will you open the door for the Light of the World, or leave Him in the cold and darkness?

My prayer for this Christmas is that we all will feel and see the Light of the Christ Child in such a real way, that He helps the candle of each soul to bring His Light to others. It is a sad and bleak year to be sure, but when we put this aside ever so momentarily and light our candles, we glimpse the peace of God. I have about 400 lights on the roof and a few more on my windows and tree inside, in addition to the candelabras in the windows. I wait inside, near my Grandfather’s manger set, praying to the infant Jesus to fill us all with His light. It is then that the miracles of Christmas take place.

May God Bless you all and have a most Blessed Christmas! +++

God Love You +++

++ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens

Pastor – St. Francis Chapel

San Diego, CA

We are beggars – As the epidemic continues (and even increases again) we continue to need your help. The virus keeps people away and thus donations are down, and bills pile up and insurances are being canceled! Please help, if you can, to keep our ministry alive and vibrant so that there is a place for the those needing respite from a troubled world! God Bless You +++

Monday, December 7, 2020

The Second Sunday of Advent

 December 6, 2020

The Second Sunday of Advent

(Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11; Mark 1:1-8)

As we light the candle of Peace on our Advent Wreath, we continue our passage through a time of reflecting. We have much to reflect in our lives. We’ve had a year of life that has been challenging, to say the least. Although, we each have our own issues to reconcile for, some of those issues may very well have been our treatment of others. Some taking their cue from someone in high office.

We might pause at this time and wonder if this is where karma comes into play. Well, to be clear, Christianity is not based on this Eastern religion teaching, but it has its similarities in Jesus’ teaching that has become known as the “Golden Rule.” Jesus Himself taking it from the Leviticus. However, the Bible is filled with similar maxims. I like to think of this as Christian Karma.

However, as I try to stay away from my obnoxiousness of that, some have asked if we should be concerned with “karma.” Certainly we should be concerned with it, but not so much as it is taught in the Eastern religions and that which leads to reincarnation – traditionally a non-Christian teaching.

Of course, one does not want to return in another life as a cockroach (I am being obnoxious again, but some groups do actually teach this possibility, but fortunately not all). We do not want to have punishment that we probably deserve, especially a punishment that seems a bit much for the crime.

So, just what do we Liberal Catholics think?

Obviously, we are Catholic and Christian, but we are also open minded. Our branch of Catholicism allows for the belief in reincarnation and “karma,”, but we do not formally teach it. That is something our more theosophical brothers and sisters tend to teach.

However, let us briefly explore a Christian “karma” of sorts. Christ was clear that He had mansions waiting for us in heaven. This implies that we will not return as that dad-blasted cockroach, but that our sins – our bad “karma” - has been forgiven and thus we are not destined to repeat our wretched process over a few dozen times. Let’s face it, I would probably not be any better in another life than the one I am currently in. One could say that is pessimistic, where as I call it honesty of my sinfulness as a human being.

When Christ brought up the commandments, especially the two greatest, He wasn’t saying that if we are good we all will become trillionaires, nor if we were bad that life would be horrible. He was trying to express what our Father in heaven expected of us. Let’s face it, we have struggled with the way we treat others since we were created. God has attempted to lift us up, as any good parent, but we sometimes are simply spoiled brats.

So, in comes God’s Son as one of us, and attempts another approach with His children. He wants us all to enjoy paradise with Him. He wants us to know, that when our time on earth is over, we have an opportunity to enter a most glorious place. A place so wonderful, that no human being can possibly describe it, because finite minds cannot grasp it.

Additionally, many will remark that they are attempting to be as good of a person as they can, yet their life seems to be plagued with horrible events and continuous unhappiness. So, either karma is affecting them for their life previously, or God is working in a mysterious way and we await our reward in heaven for suffering here on earth. We cannot understand the workings of God, and sometimes we cannot explain why bad things happen to good people. No theology has resolved this dilemma.

However, Jesus joins Himself to our suffering. Not all our suffering is due to anything we have done, now, or in a “past life.” In fact, we read in the Gospel of John, “Jesus saw a man who had been blind since birth. His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" ... Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9:1-12) Here we see that “karma” wasn’t involved. But, indeed, God was trying to teach others! I am sure this was not comforting to the blind man, however, I am confident he was greatly rewarded in heaven.

And so, as we continue our passage through Advent. Let’s think a little bit about this Christian karma. Whether we come back or go to heaven, is just the point. We want to go to heaven or come back in a new self that is so wonderful it would beyond dreams. And so, we must put to work on our better selves and prepare for the light of Christ. The great star over Bethlehem.

We are given this time of self-examination prior to our Savior’s birth so that we can greet the Prince of Peace. We are to use this time to create some of our own peace. Can we take time to live out the “karma” and treat others as we indeed wish to be treated? Black or white, American or Russian, rich or poor, educated or not so much, liberal or conservative, young or old, woman, man or transgendered, LGBTQ or heterosexual, clergy or layman? Can we? Ultimately “karma” and the Golden Rule requires us to do just that!

Can we resolve to spend this Advent reflecting, not only on our sins of general, but especially in how we treat others? We should all want our next life, in whatever form you feel drawn, to be one that is better than the one we have now. We should all act as though there is “karma.” As Catholic Christians, we should act as though there is heaven. My faith in Christ and His teachings makes me feel great remorse that He suffered so much for my failures. But, my heart overflows with great joy that because of His suffering, I have gained entry into heaven.

This should not make me stop wanting to live out the Golden Rule or worry of Christian Karma simply because I think I have already obtained entry, but because our Lord commands it, but also so that we do not have returned evil for our evil. Not all things we do come back to us, but should we live as though it didn’t matter? No, we should live as it does indeed matter! It is not remotely a gamble I wish to take!

Join me in making an Advent journey to try to live the Golden Rule, or “karma” if you prefer, and wrestle from our hearts all ill-will and be the joy in someone else’s life if even only a moment!

God Love You +++

++ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens

Pastor -St. Francis Chapel

San Diego, CA

We are beggars – As the epidemic continues (and even increases again) we continue to need your help. The virus keeps people away and thus donations are down, and bills pile up and insurances are being canceled! Please help, if you can, to keep our ministry alive and vibrant so that there is a place for the those needing respite from a troubled world! God Bless You +++

Sunday, November 22, 2020

The Sunday Next before Advent

 November 22, 2020

The Sunday Next before Advent

(1 Corinthians 15:20-28; Matthew 25:31-46)

It may strike some of us as hard to believe that one Sunday from today will be the beginning of the liturgical year – Advent. With all the turmoil we have had in this country the past year, is it surprising that we may not feel ready for the season upon us? We haven’t even got Covid-19 under control and we are nearly at Christmas!

Many a people have expressed a bit of hesitation in regard to Christmas being right around the corner. A year that has seen 1.3 milliondeaths around the globe, 250 plus thousand in our own country! Many fearing they too will get ill, all while many refuse to wear a mask – claiming it infringes on their rights. However, others have rights also – those who refuse to wear a mask are infringing on our rights by not wearing one and possibly infecting us.  Systemic racism running ramped with our leader seemingly encouraging it. People are out of work or only partially employed. A new report shows hundreds of cases in which the deported parents of migrant children who were taken from their families cannot be located. The country severely divided politically – vehemently in some cases, with some even calling for a civil war. Civil war! Let that sink in if you please. I used to think we were a civilized nation, but apparently some want to revert to old western days. Divine Messiah, please come - now!

It would seem that we need to stop and examine ourselves with a pause and prepare for the season ahead of us. It is a perfect time to bring some joy into our frustrated lives.

Our Epistle reading for today speaks of the joy of having our death through Adam turned to life through Jesus Christ. We who have lived with sin and death hanging over our heads like rain clouds, can rejoice that the sun will soon appear. Christ’s birth and then death and resurrection is our hope, our salvation, and our joy.

Our current chaos will be taken away and replaced with knowledge that this too will soon die, and a resurrection will push us back on our feet. We want and need Jesus, while our children need Santa and prepare for a better year.

During Advent, the book of Isaiah becomes a beckoner of souls craving for our redeemer to come. Isaiah reminds us that God is the final word, not this world, not this virus, not white supremacists, not even manipulative politicians. God’s final word is that Jesus is the Word, and as such we can be sure of our future regardless of how it may look now.

Isaiah tells us to be ready for our savior and to, “Cease to do evil, learn to do good” (Isaiah 1:16b-17a) He goes further in the next verse, “Seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.” Our country has struggled many times during its almost 250 years, and we have always surmounted the challenges. Let us get past the challenge to our democracy and work together to get past this epidemic in the year we will soon have before us.

This coming Advent, we can throw all of our anguish and grief onto the rugged cross that our Blessed Lord defeated. We have these little crosses in our humble chapel that we offer to anyone who wants one. They are made in Israel out of olive wood. Quiet appropriate reminder of the wood our Blessed Lord died on to defeat death and sin for us. I have frequently encouraged people to take one of these crosses and when life is filled with turmoil and sorrow, squeeze that little cross tight. Force those turmoil’s and sorrows into the cross. Jesus takes all of these and tells us, “I got you. It will be okay. Just place those concerns at the foot of My cross, fore I will lighten your load! Let me in! Let me help you!”

Advent is also a time when we remember Our Lady Mary. She knew of what we suffer, for she too suffered. Mary once said to her followers after Christ’s death, “My son did not say that we wouldn’t suffer, fore we will indeed suffer. It is not a question of whether we will suffer by following Him, because we certainly will. What is important is who do you go to when you do suffer?!”

We go to her son - Our Lord. But, let us not forget Our Lady’s power and persuasion with her son. Jesus performed His first public miracle because of His mother Mary. She asked Him to create more wine for the wedding at Cana. At first, our Blessed Lord seemed to chastise her, but she was not fazed at all. She tells the servants to do as He says. I can just see Jesus shake His head and smile a smirky type of smile and tell the servants to fill the water jars full with water. The miracle takes place. The best wine ever was made! Jesus loves His mother and will always heed her call. He will fulfill any request she makes on our behalf. In fact, He has merely given her the checkbook with a bottomless bank account.

Let us take time this week to prepare for the season of Advent. It will not be quite like Advents of the past, but not to worry, God will use this to His advantage in some way and help us find the comfort and direction we need in these turbulent times. Ask Our Lady also for help, in the person of Our Lady, Untier of Knots. She will come to help with the scent of blessed roses and many Angels in tow.

And when Christmas arrives, and it surely will, let us be like those in Whoville, even though the Grinch may have stolen the decorations, gifts and feast, Christmas morning will bring us reason to rejoice. Rejoice, because we can hand over all the tribulation from this year over to Him and have a blessed day!

God Love You +++

++ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens

Pastor – St. Francis Chapel

San Diego, CA

We are beggars – As the epidemic continues (and even increases again) we continue to need your help. The virus keeps people away and thus donations are down, and bills pile up! Please helps, if you can, to keep our ministry alive and vibrant so that there is a place for the those needing respite from a troubled world! God Bless You +++

Sunday, November 15, 2020

The Twenty-Third Sunday after Trinity

 November 15, 2020

The Twenty-Third Sunday after Trinity

(1 Thessalonians 5:1-6; Matthew 25:14-30)

Once again the Covid-19 virus has shut down houses of worship. Thus, we are back to online only sermons/messages. Please keep St. Francis in your prayers and consider a donation to help keep us alive while bodies are staying away, and God bless you+++!

Today’s Gospel tends to puzzle people. Why would our loving Lord say, “For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” Why would Jesus seem to indicate that the rich will get more rich and the poor more poor, when His words elsewhere seems to not favor the rich? A bit disheartening to hear!

However, we are actually not understanding His parables. If we look at another of His parables (Matthew 13:12), we learn that Jesus may be using wealth in His stories, but wealth is merely a metaphor. In the New Testament – these passages (see Mt 25:29; Mk 4:25; Lk 8:18; 19:26) – use what is considered a use of axiom of practical “wisdom.” The true meaning is that God gives further understanding to one who accepts the revealed mystery; from the one who does not, he will take it away.

So, with that in mind, let us explore a way of putting this explanation to use by using an imaginative storyline.

Imagine there was a treasure hidden a familiar field. Imagine it was worth 100 times the value of everything you owned. And the field was for sale. The asking price was equal to everything you owned. So, you sell everything you have and purchase the field. Quite a deal! The treasure is now yours. How much did it cost you to for the treasure?

You might say that it cost you everything you had, but actually you’ll be wrong. It did not cost you anything. You might respond by saying that you paid for it with everything you had. However, what you actually bought was the field, not the treasure. The treasure was beyond your ability to buy, even with all your possessions. It was, in effect, priceless. But, yet it was free. It just happened to be within the field you actually purchased at a price of one-one hundredth of 100.

The story/example I have just told you was the parable that Jesus gave of a man who buys a field in order to gain the treasure hidden within it (Matthew 13). What do you think the treasure represents? Salvation? Eternal life? The blessings of God?

All of those things would be correct and more. You can never earn or warrant God’s blessings or His salvation or the eternal life He will give. A million years of perfect works couldn’t purchase it. It’s priceless and yet it’s given freely, apart from any work, undeserved, and solely by the grace of God. That’s the treasure. But there’s another side to this story. Though the treasure is free, it causes a man to go out and do everything he can, use everything he has, let go of everything he can let go of, and give everything he can give in response to having found the treasure. Think of cloistered nuns and monks who go behind walls and see the public again for the rest of their lives. They have given all for God, and pay for the treasure!

Salvation is a treasure beyond price and yet given freely to all who freely receive it. But the treasure is so great that if you truly receive it, if you realize what you have, it will lead you to do everything you can, to use everything you have, and give everything you can give in response to having found it. If you’ve truly found this treasure, then it must lead you to love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and love others as yourself, to forgive as you’ve been forgiven, to give as you have been given, to make your life a gift of love, and to do all this in joy in light of the treasure that is now come into your life. If you have found the treasure that is beyond price and freely given, then live a life that is of the upmost value and of the greatest worth,  and do so freely. This is the way you possess the priceless.

Now, part of this treasure is the one talent. God is well aware that we humans differ one from another. No two of us will comprehend the same. No two of us will have the same interests. No two of us will have the same drives. No two of us are the same, period. So, from this, we can further understand that God is aware that no two of us can handle the same amount of talents.

We each are given talents of wisdom to help us understand God and His kingdom. If we take this talent of wisdom and learn from it and use it wisely in our lives in seeking God, living His commandments, and loving others, we will double our talents we can offer back to God. God will bless us with more talents – more of His grace. We grow closer to our Creator and become better images of Him, just as we were created to be! And when our time on earth is done, we receive the full treasure of forgiveness and eternal life.

So, are you giving some of your time to God? Are you attempting to take the talents He has given you and increase them with more time spent with Him and His Word? Will you squander your talents, or double them? Let’s double them! Take the Bible off of the bottom shelf of your bookcase, dust it off and thumb through the pages. Time to double those talents!

God Love You +++

++ The Most Rev. Robert Winzens

Pastor – St. Francis Chapel

San Diego, CA

We are beggars – As the epidemic continues (and even increases again) we continue to need your help. The virus keeps people away and thus donations are down, and bills pile up! Please helps, if you can, to keep our ministry alive and vibrant so that there is a place for the those needing respite from a troubled world! God Bless You +++

Sunday, November 8, 2020

The Twenty-Second Sunday after Trinity

 November 8, 2020

The Twenty-Second Sunday after Trinity

(1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Matthew 25:1-13)

The power nap.

Fifteen quick minutes in the late afternoon can battle back the post-lunch weariness of the busy worker, the stay-at-home parent or the student facing a term-paper deadline, especially while being cloistered in the house during the Covid-19 epidemic. While fifteen minutes is no siesta, it’s enough to restore vitality for the final push of the day.

But as for real effective snoozing, look no further than the black bear. Research is beginning to unpack the amazing slumber skills of these animals. They hibernate for up to four months during the winter, without ever waking up to eat, drink, relieve themselves or exercise. And while the catatonic inactivity of hibernating bears may drop their heart rate to as low as six beats per minute, they still burn an amazing 4,000 calories per day!

But what is truly amazing about these power-nappers is the ability to emerge from hibernation faster and stronger than a combat Humvee on a cold day — at almost the same level of physical strength and stamina as when they started their season-skipping siesta. Through daily regimens of muscle stimulation and contraction, bears are able to both maintain their constant body temperature and keep their massive muscles in working shape.

Take a person who is sick and bedridden for two months, his muscles will have become listless from passivity. Or take a football player and ask them to execute with the same precision and ability at training camp in July as they did in the playoffs in January. No way.

But hibernating bears? Their spell of complete inactivity is offset by the amazing ability to efficiently maintain their strength. So come spring, they bound out of their den at full speed ready to eat about anything in sight.

Four months off and good as new. That’s a true power nap. The way life is sometimes, I wouldn’t mind having the same ability!

Now researchers are hoping to learn the science behind the regenerating-while-napping black bear, hoping to apply their findings to the bedridden or to those with degenerative neuromuscular diseases. But while the deep sleep of hibernation is great for bears and may one day impact medical therapy, not all slumber is equally beneficial.

Fall asleep on Jesus, and you may not emerge feeling so rested and refreshed.

When Jesus talked about the kingdom of God, he used parables with illustrations from everyday life to make his point. In Matthew 25, he tells the story of 10 temperamental single virgins who go out to meet a prospective bridegroom. But the groom is running late, and so they all nod off for a while ... a power nap before the courting begins.

Eventually the Bachelor arrived, but not every Bachelorette got a rose that night. While all were eager for the opportunity to meet a potential quality mate, only five were eligible and invited to the party.

Now we know that Jesus was able to nap, even while frothy seas stormed around him (Luke 8:23). And the issue in this story is not the fact that the bridesmaids napped as well, because all 10 did so. The issue is that only five woke up prepared and ready to go in the middle of the night. Jesus is warning against bad kingdom catnaps; hibernating without remaining strong and ready to go.

As Christians living 2,000 years after the first coming of Christ, it might be too easy to forget that His second coming could happen on a day when we do not expect Him and at an hour we are not aware of. Winter will change to spring, and then there will be no more time for sleeping.

Unfortunately, our day goes by and we assume Jesus has not come. There have been no apocalyptic fireworks, no trumpets sounding, no clouds parting. No Parousia. No pileups on the freeways. No airplanes tumbling out of the skies. None of that.

But maybe Jesus came today, and we were so asleep that we didn’t notice, and if we were awake, our lamps were so dim that we couldn’t see Him.

Jesus was here today. Jesus was here yesterday. And Jesus is going to be here tomorrow.

So where will we find Him?

If we’re awake and alert, if our lamps are trimmed to shed some light, we’ll see Jesus in the prisons, along the highways, in our schools, in our neighborhoods, at the food bank, in the soup kitchen, at the office, in the hospital, and so on.

But if we’re lazy, if we’re sleepy, if we’ve lost muscle tone — there’s no chance that we’ll ever see Jesus.

Jesus warned against not being ready when He comes.

Five snooty virgins were ready. Five whiny virgins were un-bear like. They emerged from their hibernation and they weren’t prepared for the advent of the bridegroom. They had to run off to the market to buy oil in order to prepare their lamps for meeting him.

Are we so complacent with life as we currently have it that we don’t think Jesus will come in our lifetime? How prepared are we for the coming of the Lord? Can we awake during this delay prepared to meet Him, or must we still scramble to get pretty and party-worthy?

To do so, we’ve got to keep the lamps trimmed. Putting our spiritual lives in order is not something to be put off till a later day. The day to be ready for the bridegroom is today and not tomorrow.

So, what is the oil we are short of? How might we scramble around to get ready for confronting Christ today?

Oil in Scripture is often a symbol for the Holy Spirit. Maybe we try to spring into action without submitting our work, our intentions, our purpose to the Holy Spirit so that God’s Spirit can fill our deeds with power and effectiveness.

Maybe we’re short of the oil of kindness and compassion. Maybe we’re short of the oil of patience and long-suffering. To be prepared for the party, we’re to trim our lamps daily.

But aren’t we used to plenty of second chances? Kids cry out “do-overs” if they don’t like the outcome of a game played with friends. High-school students can retake the SAT to improve their scores. The delete key on our computers quickly offers the chance to “ficks meestakes” (bad spelling intentional) that an old typewriter never could. In fact, the love and grace of God offer plenty of second chances ... even seven times 70 chances if necessary.

But there is an eventual end point at which these second chances are no more. Lazarus knew it. One of the thieves on the cross knew it. And Jesus obviously knew it as well. When the bridegroom does return, the opportunities to prepare for him are no longer available.

Jesus sounds a loving warning: “Live a spiritual life that is already prepared for my return.”

How then do we respond to this parable?

We might take a spiritual inventory of our lives. What areas can we see that would be like the untrimmed lamp? What oil do we need to go and buy now? In our devotional lives ... in our workplace ... in our friendships with pre-Christians ... in the way we treat our families ... in the choices we make when nobody else is looking?

The parable illustrates a deep reality for us as believers. Not only do we need to be expecting God’s call at any moment, but we also need to prepare spiritually by leading lives bolstered by spiritual works of service. Christ calls us to possess an active faith, not a passive one.

Because it’s a metaphor, eventually it’s going to break down when held up to the light of other parables and teachings of Jesus. For instance, a bunch of snooty virgins not sharing and another group of whiny virgins getting locked out of the party doesn’t seem to jive with the parable of the lost sheep or the very clear teaching, “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:36)

The symbolism we already know; the bridegroom represents Christ, and the bride represents the Church (all churches). The virgins are those ready in the Church. The oil is the embodiment of good works (sacrifice, obedience, prayer, etc.). The wise virgins are Christians who have nourished their faith and bolstered the Church community by living lives characterized by good works. The foolish virgins are those who are Christians, but only intellectually. They have failed to nourish their faith with prayer, penance, and sacrifice for others. Those who consider religion as “private,” fall into this last category. Christ calls us to be active and to live and show our faith. As I have often said in the past, “Catholicism is a way of life, not just a religion.” We have to live it, not keep it private and hence not be ready.

As for the snooty wise virgins who won’t share their oil when the time comes; they don’t share their oil with the foolish virgins because they now can’t. When it comes to our immortal souls, each person’s salvation is his or her own responsibility. No attempt to borrow on the good works of others can make up for our lack of active faith throughout your own life. We can’t transfer some of our soul’s credit to another soul.

When the busy week is over and we are getting ready to go to a party at a friend’s house, that is a good thing. It is fun anticipation. There is no motivation of panic or obligation. We look forward to the community of friends we will be with and we anticipate the festivities that we are getting ready for.

Jesus didn’t tell a parable of 10 virgins preparing for a dreaded IRS tax audit. It was a party. And the party Jesus calls us to is worth getting ready for ... it will be a banquet of unending satisfaction.

Although we should take a lesson from the black bear and always wake up prepared to go. But the next time someone tells you this parable is only about how we need to “stay awake,” you can perform a work of mercy and let them know it’s also about keeping our faith alive and active, not passive. It’s about living out your Catholic faith, not simply saying a private prayer here and there.

Oh, and tell them they can’t borrow any of your oil! (Wink, wink)

Let us pray.

We are reminded in today’s Gospel that we know neither the day nor the hour when our Lord will call us to His divine presence. We pray that we always remain aware of this and be prepared to meet Him joyfully when He call us. We pray to the Lord.

We pray that, like the wise bridesmaids in today’s parable, we keep the light of the Gospel forever burning so that we and those who come after us will see the true light and follow Jesus into the Lord’s banquet in Heaven. We pray to the Lord.

We pray for all those who are enduring mental stress and hardship due to Covid -19 restrictions and lockdown, that in their darkest moments the love and care of friends and neighbors may bring them relief and peace of mind. We pray to the Lord.

We pray for the people of our nation that, at this time, we are blessed with peace, tolerance and unity of purpose so that we can repair the divisiveness manifesting in our midst. We pray to the Lord.

For newly elected leaders, especially President Elect Joseph Biden, that they may rely on God’s divine law as a source of wisdom and build a spirit of cooperation that promotes peace and healing in our country. We pray to the Lord.

For those on our parish prayer list, that they may receive swift answers to their needs and 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.

O patient and ever-present God, shake us from the slumber of apathy and routine, and awaken us to the promise of this day, fresh and full of possibility. Ground us in your presence and steadfast love; center us in the knowledge of your grace. Kindle in us a new excitement for this awesome journey to which you call us.

Help our nation to accept the election results with humility and dignity and wipe away the stay of accusations, and disappointed loses. Help us to know that democracy is only successful when we exercise the rights afforded by our constitution and accept the results of our fellow Americans who voted along side of us. Now is a time to heal and grow. There is more to what guides us than divides us.

In the name of Jesus Christ, who is Himself the journey, and the guide. Amen.

God Love You +++

++ The Most rev. Robert Winzens

Pastor – St. Francis Chapel

San Diego, CA

We are beggars – As the epidemic continues (and even increases again) we continue to need your help. The virus keeps people away and thus donations are down, and bills pile up! Please helps, if you can, to keep our ministry alive and vibrant so that there is a place for the those needing respite from a troubled world! God Bless You +++


Sunday, November 1, 2020

Sunday Sermon

 November 1, 2020

All Saints/All Souls Sunday

(Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14; Matthew 5:1-12)

All Saints. All Hallows Day. A Christian solemnity celebrated in honor of all the saints, known and unknown. The liturgical celebration begins at Vespers on the evening of 31 October, All Hallows' Eve (All Saints' Eve), and ends at the close of 1 November. In Catholic theology, the day commemorates all those who have attained the beatific vision in Heaven – known and unknown (or to say known only to God).

One would need to be a saint, sometimes, to be able to tolerate life today. For all of our advances - social, political, medical, theological and otherwise - we still seem to have the same problems. Problems that saints before us fought, sometimes with their very lives, to ease or eliminate. Yet, we always seem to come full circle.

With the pending election, political wars are flowing in all directions. Many were up in arms about the latest Supreme court nominee, and with good reason. Even the Supreme Court Justices, apart from one, did not attend the swearing in of the new justice. That speaks volumes. The potential changes to abortion, same-sex marriages, health care for all, are especially heightened and divisive.

And during this period, I have been asked on more than a couple of occasions about the statement from Pope Francis that was recently revealed in a documentary of him. I found it interesting timing, given the Supreme Court rhetoric having one of those topics being the same regarding what some are up in arms about over the Pope’s alleged statement. Given I have been asked on multiple occasions the past couple of weeks, I felt maybe it was time to have a little sermon on the topic. I am sure I will get some nasty Facebook comments, but c’est la vie!

The alleged statement by Pope Francis, regarding civil unions for gays and lesbians, in which he says, “What we ought to have is a civil Union law, that way they are legally covered.” Of course, there are multiple conservative priests and bishops and laity out there who are already condemning this like they do some of the other things that this present Pope has been saying. Be that as it may, it is certainly a different direction than any previous pope.

The interesting thing for the statement he made, is if you really listen to what he said, it really was kind of a safe statement. Reason I say “safe” is because he is stating civil union which is nothing more than a governmental law. He is not talking about anything from the church in this statement. He is not speaking of doctrine change. (Though it will force discussion on it.) So, we have people in church who are up in arms over statement he was making about civil law. Not about church law. He has not changed doctrine.

Well, we are not Roman Catholic, so I really do not care if they do not change, even if I think they should.

The problem here I think is something that is not going to go away any time soon; although it would seem that we are making progress. Yet if all these nightmare stories that people are saying about the political issue with the Supreme Court, in regard to a potential challenge to same sex marriages and what have you, I suppose there is some reason for the concern.

The Roman Catholic Church has frequently stated that homosexuality is disordered. This is not overly striking. We know the church is slow to change. It is like a large oil tanker at sea – it takes time to shift course (though they have not even turned the wheel). Although, it is amazing that given the American Psychiatric Association removed it as a mental disease back in the 70’s.

Now, to answer the repeated question I have been asked since the reveal of the Pope’s alleged statement. Let me say this mostly for those people who read my sermons on Facebook, not so much here at the parish, because most people here who come every Sunday already know what our church's stance is on those of the LGBTQ community.

We do not view anyone with the same sex attraction any differently than we do someone who is heterosexual. Our church has never really had any firm stance on the topic with the exception that they are simply accepted! Our church does not treat them, or teach about them, any differently than we do about anyone else. We will always welcome people of the LGBTQ community.

I think it is abhorrent, especially in this day and age, that we still have this issue. To refer to someone as “disordered” or having an “unnatural” inclination is quite sinful, in my opinion. These people no more wake up in the morning and suddenly decide to be same sex attracted or transgendered than anyone else in the world. It is ludicrous to think they would, given the negative stigma they receive from prejudicial and discriminatory people.

We insult God by insisting on the notion, “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” or that the “natural order is to procreate.” Obviously, the time of Adam and Eve is far different from our current time. Let us be clear; the story of Adam and Eve was not written as a ‘sex-ed’ class! It is merely the story of God creating our existence. Sure, He wanted us to populate the earth, but to insist sex between two parties must be open to procreation is an insult to God’s infinite wisdom and omnipotence! Do we really to need to “populate” the earth currently?! Not hardly. Some areas are overpopulated. Not to mention that His original design got a little off track after the forbidden fruit episode!

It is repugnant to listen to the religious right call same-sex couples as “objectively immoral relationships.” Let us be clear, sex trafficking, prostitution, or promiscuity may be immoral, but loving committed relationships are not.

Further still, many will use various passages to claim that LGBTQ people are going against Sacred Scripture. Although, I will not enumerate them all, as I am sure many have heard them ad nauseam, but I can gladly follow-up with passages for those who really want them. However, when it comes to this, there appears to be a problem with interpretation, theology and context, to name a few. Many of the passages used are done so in a prejudiced manner without doing some research and listening to other very valid arguments that tend to make the passages questionable to downright misinterpreted. I will explore merely one example.

In the 16th chapter of the prophet Ezekiel, The Lord says to the city of Jerusalem, “Now look at the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters were proud, sated with food, complacent in prosperity. They did not give any help to the poor and needy. Instead, they became arrogant and committed abominations before me; then, as you have seen, I removed them.”

This is not the spiritual inventory that many of us would expect. Ezekiel does not even mention the specific nature of Sodom’s sexual sin. Sodom’s fate was determined before the incident with the men and the angels!

Modern scholarship, particularly in Judaism and certain branches of Christianity, has proposed that it is the inhabitants’ lack of hospitality, not their homosexuality, that gives offence to God. According to this view, the mob’s demands to rape the angelic guests reveals their deep-seated violence and inhospitality and is meant to stand in striking contrast to the gracious hospitality given by both Abraham and Lot to those same strangers. To further this claim, some cite the words of Jesus in Matthew 10:14–15:

“If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.”

Here, Christ is implying that the grave sin of Sodom and Gomorrah, and of any towns that refuse His disciples, is that of inhospitality. Additionally, Ezekiel 16:49 mentions the inhabitants’ refusal to care for the poor despite their prosperity, which is taken as further evidence that homosexuality is not the cause of their damnation. If it were about homosexuality, surely Jesus would have made that clear – or certainly the writers of the Gospels would have. We all know that Jesus was certainly not bashful; He was more than forthright about anything He felt was a sin and we needed to change, and yet an issue that so many think has been condemned by God, was nowhere spoken by Jesus.

A final thought. I want to ask everyone here present today this question: Does God make mistakes? It is a simple question. You need not look at me strange. It is a valid question. How about, is a child born with Down Syndrome God’s mistake? How about a still birth?

Okay, now if we do not blame God for these things and we love and cherish these babies who become adults, should we blame God for LGBTQ people? Medical and psychiatric science has along ago determined that same-sex attractions are already present at birth. (Of course, given our current leader of our country and some of his followers seem to think they are smarter than the scientists, I suspect some will not agree with this logic!) If they are born this way, and it is supposedly “intrinsically disordered,” as many clergy think, then God must make mistakes! Right? Wrong!

No, all LGBTQ people are as equally loved by God as anyone else. It is not a “tendency,” or a “condition,” or an “inclination.” No one in their right mind, given the horrible treatment some churches dish out toward them, would choose to be so. That is what “tendency,” or a “condition,” or an “inclination,” implies. They do not choose to live this way; they choose to accept who they were born as. They do not wake up and suddenly feel this way any more than anyone else.

Pass this along – literally everyone – pass this along – our denomination does not and will not discriminate or ostracize any LGBTQ person. We may use an older traditional form of worship service (that I think is magnificent when you truly focus mystically during it), but we have very progressive understandings and believe in the radical love of Jesus! We may speak of “sexual” sins but being LGBTQ and in loving relationships is not one of those sins. It is not a sin at all. If anyone in this community feels their church looks down on them, treats them like pariah, will not baptize their children, will not officiate at their wedding, or whatever aspect that their church does not treat them as equal to everyone else, you tell them Archbishop Robert said they are welcome here, we will do those things for them and to join us! Amen. Praise the Lord! Let us pray!

Let us pray.

In today’s gospel, Jesus tells us how as Christians we should live our lives. We pray for the insight to listen to his words and in our own lives to be patient, generous, forgiving, compassionate and non-judgmental. We pray also that we love our enemies, do good to those who hate us and bless those who curse us.  We pray to the Lord.

On today, the Feast of All Saints, we remember those who have lived their lives in the footsteps of our Savior, Jesus Christ and we pray that through following their example, we ourselves may also gain the rewards which the Lord has bestowed on them. We pray to the Lord.

We pray for all who have gone before us in faith, especially those of our own families and of this parish that they may stand with the saints before the throne of the Lamb. We pray to the Lord.

We pray to our merciful God, that when we ourselves come before him in judgement, we too may be the recipients of his infinite love and be accepted by Him into glory with all his holy saints. We pray to the Lord.

That our Lord will show us how to help people see His face and we be led to pray for those whom need our prayers. We pray to the Lord.

That we be led to the ones our Lord wants us to reach, that we be shown how our church can better serve God and to organize ourselves to serve Him always and that we be allowed to be a part of what He desires to do next. We pray to the Lord.

We pray for health workers throughout the world and particularly in our own country, who at great personal risk and sacrifice are attending to the needs of victims of this devastating global pandemic. We pray that the Lord bless them with safety in their work and reward their personal sacrifices with success in their labors. We pray to the Lord.

For those on our parish prayer list, that they may receive swift answers to their needs and 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.

Eternal God, there is a prayer that goes like this, “From the cowardice that dares not face new truth, from the laziness that is contented with half-truth, from the arrogance that thinks it knows all truth, Good Lord, deliver us.”  Eternal God we indeed ask You to deliver us from our unwillingness to wake up to Your truth and accept that sometimes our doctrine is wrong and needs Your Holy Spirit to breathe new life into old beliefs. We ask Your blessing on all LGBTQ people throughout Your creation. May they feel Your love and grace in their hearts and may all Your people treat them as complete equals in all facets of life.

Loving God, You surround us in a warm embrace, and in Your love teach us how to love others. In Your Spirit, we ask for guidance and remind us always of Your compassion for all humankind. Help us to keep our eyes and our lives focused on our perfect guide in Jesus Christ. Enable us to follow the teachings of Jesus above our own way and will.

Help us, too, loving God, to work for growth in Your kingdom. Sometimes it is difficult to speak a word of hope and help to those in need. With the encouragement of your Spirit, may we be faithful builders of Your eternal kingdom.

Lastly Dear Father, as we prepare for the national & local elections, in the midst of a global pandemic, may our political engagement be guided by Your Spirit. We thank you for the opportunity to have a voice in the way our government runs, while there are still countries in which peoples are not given this right. During this time of debate, diffusion, and decision-making, please have Your sovereign hand over this country. Please keep our country healthy during this season. Give us the peace that passes understanding about the vote, and the outcome. You change the times and the seasons, so You are in control of this election, we ask that our nation would see You in it. 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

We are beggars – As the epidemic continues (and even increases again) we continue to need your help. The virus keeps people away and thus donations are down, and bills pile up! Please helps, if you can, to keep our ministry alive and vibrant so that there is a place for the those needing respite from a troubled world! God Bless You +++

Monday, October 26, 2020

Sunday Sermon

 October 25, 2020

The Twentieth Sunday after Trinity

(Exodus 22:20-26; Matthew 22:34-40)

Our Epistle reading from the book of Exodus lays out, in part, how God expects us to love our neighbors as ourselves. In particular, God lifts up the needs of the refugee, widow, orphan, and the poor. It is as if hurting one of these beloved ones of God is hurting God Himself. The Book of Proverbs tells us in 14:31, “Those who oppress the poor revile their Maker, but those who are kind to the needy honor Him.” God tells the people that if they harm another and “he cries out to Me, I will hear him; for I am compassionate (ESV).”

There’s a Texas saying, “When you boil the pot dry,” meant to refer to what’s left after all else goes away. It’s like getting to the gist of the matter, without superfluous details. “What’s the bottom line?” is another expression that captures the sentiment.

In Jesus’ day – when over 600 particular laws made up the totality of Mosaic Law, and a violation of one effectively meant a violation of the totality – the question posed to Jesus is seen as reasonable. In fact, in the context of the larger story, Jesus had bested the chief priests, elders, disciples of the Pharisees, the Herodians, and the Sadducees; and now the Pharisees themselves are ready to take another turn. One of their number, a scholar of the law, becomes their mouthpiece. It is good to keep in mind that though the question seems perfectly legitimate on its face, the scholar was asking Jesus in order to test him.

The test doesn’t seem to bother Jesus, who responds by quoting Mosaic Law, first Deuteronomy 6:5 and later from Leviticus 19:18. It’s quite likely that Jesus Himself was the first to combine these two commandments. For Him, and for His disciples, these two commandments are the foundation of the law and the prophets. It’s what we have when we boil the pot dry. It’s the bottom line.

When Jesus is asked which is the greatest commandment, He quickly responds with the second half of the Shema, the great Jewish prayer that begins “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone! Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your God, with your whole heart, and with your whole being, and with your whole strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5) In saying that the greatest commandment is to love God with your whole being, Jesus effectively answers the question posed to Him by the scholar of the law. But Jesus doesn’t stop there. He adds a bonus answer, also saying what the second greatest commandment is, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” By pairing together these two commandments from the Old Testament, Jesus reveals how we live out the first by doing the second. To love God with our whole heart, mind, and soul can be difficult to quantify or see, but in our actions of caring for our neighbor, God’s beloved sons and daughters, we show our devotion to God.

When we love God and love our neighbor, we are fulfilling the law. All of the law, the entirety of the more than 600 particular laws (613 to be exact), are summed up in these two. For us today, we might think of something similar if one were to ask which is the most important teaching in the catechism, or which is the most important precept of the church. Maybe a comparable question might be whether it is more important to tend to a sick relative or attend Mass? The answer sidesteps all these questions by saying the most important law is twofold; love God and love your neighbor. With these as our guiding light, all else comes into focus.

Getting to the crux of the matter can be an important exercise. Pruning away extraneous detail to reveal the core issue is essential in many cases. For Christians, we recall that Jesus’ teachings were rooted in Mosaic Law and the prophets. Yet He emphasized or combined aspects of each that made them seem to come alive, or to be read and understood in a new way. All of our actions ought to flow from this twofold love. Loving God and loving neighbor go together, and they cannot be reduced one to the other or one over the other.

We cannot say we love God and remain indifferent to the plight of those whom God loves. Love God and love neighbor. These two are intertwined in such a way that we cannot do one without the other. If we truly love God, we will be compelled to ease suffering wherever we find it. And when we reach out in compassion to those in need, we are serving God, even if we do not know it.

Do Catholic piety and social Justice go together? That is a question some devout Catholics actually have. However, in light of today's readings it seems the answer is quite obvious. Catholic piety without social Justice is neither Catholic nor pious. Devotion in prayer and acts of worship without concrete works of mercy is simply abstract and empty ritualism. The greatest commandment which we hear today in the Gospel combines both; one without the other negates both.

Recall also, that Luke's version of the same Gospel passage includes the parable of the good Samaritan as Jesus’ response to the scholar’s question, “And who is my neighbor?” With the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus also makes us see that, many times, those who seem to be religious officials, or who believe they fulfill the law, are incapable of loving. It was a Samaritan, considered a heretic by the Jews, who took care of the man.

Jesus gives us a mission statement in today's Gospel for how we are to live our lives as Christians. If we truly want to follow Him, we must love God with our whole being and love our neighbors ourselves. With these two commandments Jesus tells us how to evaluate and discern between the minutiae that make up the everyday life. In all things we can ask, by doing this would I be loving God and loving my neighbor? Just as the old motto went, “What Would Jesus Do?” that I still wear as a bracelet, is very apropos here.

As with all mission statements, if we simply post it on a wall but don't act on it, it won't make any difference in our lives. The sentiments of these two commandments sound appealing, but what does this really look like when it is lived out. To love God with our whole mind heart and soul requires more than a fleeting thought every now and then. We are called to make God our top priority and to put time and effort into this relationship. We come to know God through the reading of His Word, meeting Him in the Sacraments and listening to and talking to Him in prayer.

The second part of the commandment has sometimes been read “love your neighbor as much as you love yourself.” This interpretation requires that we first love ourselves before we can extend this love to others. While it is true that we can't pass on what we don't have, it does not get to the crux of Jesus’ meaning. We are called to love our neighbor asanother self. This requires us to recognize that when our neighbor is suffering, we are suffering, and if we hurt a neighbor we are hurting our very selves. Jesus has laid out for us the path of the discipleship; now it's up to us to put His words into practice.

Let us pray.

In today’s gospel Jesus reminds us that the greatest commandment for each of us is to love our God with all our heart, with all our soul and with all our mind. We pray, that through prayer, good works and love of neighbor, we show our true love for our Heavenly Father. We pray to the Lord.

We pray for all who at this time feel isolated , abandoned and separated from their loved ones. We pray also that fractured relationships be healed, that families be reconciled and that those in need be the receivers of Christian charity and good neighborliness. We pray to the Lord.

We pray for all those rejected by our society, that our eyes may be opened and that we understand that they are children of God and made in his likeness. We pray to the Lord.

We pray for our parish, that it will be a place of welcome, where all will feel the warmth of God’s love and that this love be reflected in all our daily lives. We pray to the Lord.

We pray that love of God and love of neighbor be the driving force of our community in combating the coronavirus pandemic. We pray to the Lord.

That those who feel unwelcome, or at odds with their church’s teachings, that they be guided to our humble parish where we welcome and embrace all seeking Christ. We pray to the Lord.

We pray for wisdom as voters and for a safe and fair election. We ask that those who might try to unjustly and illegally change the outcome of the voting be removed. We pray for a huge turnout of voters who use wisdom in their decisions and to vote for the candidate that will best work for our country’s needs and will lessen political divisiveness and divisions. We pray to the Lord.

For those on our parish prayer list, that they may receive swift answers to their needs and 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.

O God, you are worthy of all our praise and worship. Today we celebrate your love and our relationship with you through Jesus Christ. Thank you for expressing your love for us in so many ways. As we think of your love, we are reminded of your call to love those around us. Help us to discover that the more we give ourselves to you, the more we have left to give ourselves to others. Make us servants in your name.

Loving God, You surround us in a warm embrace, and in Your love teach us how to love others. In Your Spirit, we ask for guidance and remind us always of Your compassion for all humankind. Help us to keep our eyes and our lives focused on our perfect guide in Jesus Christ. Enable us to follow the teachings of Jesus above our own way and will. Help us, too, loving God, to work for growth in Your kingdom. Sometimes it is difficult to speak a word of hope and help to those in need. With the encouragement of Your Spirit, may we be faithful builders of your eternal kingdom. 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

We are beggars – These turbulent times are economically difficult for many, and as such, non-profits see reductions of donations to keep ministries open. We ask, if you are able, to donate and help us keep our progressive voice active in our community. God Bless You +++

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Sunday Sermon

 October 18, 2020

The Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity

(Isaiah 45:1, 4-6; Matthew 22:15-21)

There is at least one word in the English language that has the power to elect politicians to high office, finance battleships, cause economic hardship, and get you to pull hair out of your head – if you have any hair to pull. One word. Wars have been fought over this word, nations established, and people sent to jail for not taking heed when this word was spoken. The word is taxes!

We have all heard the saying, that are only two things that we can be certain of in life, and they are death and taxes. As Christians, we know that Jesus conquered the first. But what of the second odious one we face? The Gospel seems to indicate that we are on our own and that Jesus expects us to pay. “Render therefore to Cesar the things that are Cesar’s,” says Jesus, “and to God the things that are God’s.” Had Matthew who wrote this Gospel and happened to have been a tax collector, been whispering in Jesus’ ear?

One might ask, just who started these taxes anyway? I suspect since nearly the beginning of human inhabitants on the planet, there has been some sort of taxation. Of course, they were not part of God’s order of things. Nowhere in Genesis do we read “and God levied taxes on Adam and Eve, and He saw that it was good.” Nor was Moses given a tablet of stone with the inscription, “Thou shalt pay taxes.” Taxes were levied and taxes were collected, but from the beginning they were a human invention for the necessity of human rulers, the building of temporal roads (with lots of potholes) and aqueducts, and the financing of battles of the flesh, not of the spirit. We never could seem to get along, and one wonders why our nation is in turmoil?! Anyway, back to the topic ….

Yet, God has always required a rightful share for the work of God’s dominion. The first fruits of every harvest were set aside by the early people of Israel for the Lord. (Does God even need to eat?? If He doesn’t, I would say that He is missing out on all these great fruits He created.) Even a temple tax was established and gathered by the priests for the maintenance of the religion. (I bet you thought that was just a modern invention by priests?) Is all this why Jesus seems to support taxes?

Maybe it has something to do with His birth. As God would have it, seemingly not coincidental, the Savior of the world was born where He was born because of a decree issued by Cesar Augustus “that all the world should be taxed (Luke 2:1).” If God wanted to be certain to enter the world clearly at its center, there could be no better time than at the taking of a census for the purposes of taxation. (Of course, our government posits that it is for proper representation, but I think it is taxes! After all, they must play golf!) Joseph went to be enrolled with Mary, and thus obedient subjects of Roman rule place the Christ child’s birth where God ordained and the prophets of old have promised: in Bethlehem.

Our Gospel lesson picks up where the enrollment left off, with a conversation some thirty years later that all three of the synoptic gospels record, suggesting just how significant it was. On the surface, we have a simple story. A plan devised by the Pharisees and Herodians would trap the popular rabbi from galilee. (The collaboration of the Pharisees and Herodians – representing opposite political views [something we wouldn’t know about in the modern age, would we??!!] – reveals the extreme measures taken to eliminate Jesus.) Should Jesus advise paying taxes, many Jews would consider Him a collaborator to the Roman powers. But, non-payment would be dangerous, since followers of Herod would accuse Him of sedition.

With a coin, Jesus appears to foil His enemies on both sides. Taxes are for Cesar, but those imprinted with God’s image are for God. In one master stroke, Jesus is saved from both pious accusation and political self-incrimination.

But, for those who would hear it, the Man for Others is not interested in a crafty escape from the hands of His foes. He is mindful rather of their escape from the snares of this world. As our Lord reveals again and again in His life and words, His is not a preoccupation with self but with the life of His listener. He is forever waiting and watchful for the moments of grace when He can restore us to our rightful relationship with our Creator.

The master teacher does this skillfully wherever He finds us, revealing the eternal life that is ours in the simple things of each day’s journey, be it birds in the air, wandering sheep, or kernels of grain. He lifts them up and reveals their secrets, for in them are hidden all the answers we seek. He points to rocky soil, a city on a hill, or a fisherman’s net and tells us who we are or what we can become. And today, He does it with the Roman forged coin of a day’s wage.

“Show me the money of the tax,” He says. “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” “Cesar’s” they reply. “Render therefore Cesar the things that are Cesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

Our Lord isn’t telling us what we already know, that our taxes ought to be paid. He is not telling us that payment to God is due. He is revealing to us who we are, what we are, and what can be with a coin. This is what we work for. We have come to believe that this coin is the measure of our value, the symbol of our worth.

But the true measure of value has to do with the likeness and inscription borne on our bodies and souls. As Cesar cast the denarius in his image, God has cast each of us in God’s image. All people, not merely those of specific criteria. As Cesar sends out as wage and calls back in tax, God also sends out the bearers of God’s likeness to be the golden coinage of a heavenly realm. But God also calls us back, demanding for God’s own self the sum of our lives.

Jesus is gatherer of this tax, God’s collector of souls stamped with the Divine image and inscribed with God’s name. Come to me, He says. By your following, you will find your true self. In My words I will show you the way to the One who has made you. On My cross I will settle your debts. Lost coins are we all, and in Jesus has God invited us back to the eternal treasury.

Let us pray.

Jesus reminds us of our obligation to pay our fair share to ensure we have good government and that those less well off in our country are properly cared for. We pray that all in our society be honest and responsible in their affairs and fairly meet their obligations as citizens. We pray to the Lord.

That we realize we aren’t “owners” of anything but merely “stewards” of the gifts God has given us. We pray to the Lord.

We pray that we, as followers of Christ, recognize that we are missionaries and must promote His message with friends, family and neighbors through our words and actions. We pray to the Lord.

That the church may find ways to both preach the word and serve our neighbor, especially during this time of separation and crisis. We pray to the Lord.

For all who are on the frontlines of this COVID-19 pandemic, especially our health care workers and first responders, for all who are unable to stay at home, but must work to provide for their families, may God continue to protect them and keep them in good health. We pray to the Lord.

For those on our parish prayer list, that they may receive swift answers to their needs and 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.

Holy God, you are deserving of the very best we have to offer -- the devotion of our hearts, the place of honor in our priorities and the first fruits of our labors. We enter this place and space of worship, asking you to be in our midst, to speak your message of love and mercy, conviction and challenge to us. We welcome your Spirit, knowing that in so doing, we abandon control and open ourselves in faith and trust to your purposes and plan, rather than our own. Come, Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer, we pray and may our worship be acceptable in your sight. 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

We are beggars – These turbulent times are economically difficult for many, and as such, non-profits see reductions of donations to keep ministries open. We ask, if you are able, to donate and help us keep our progressive voice active in our community. God Bless You +++

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Sunday Sermon

 October 11, 2020

The Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity

(Isaiah 25:6-10; Matthew 22:1-14)

Basically, in today's Gospel Jesus is retelling the parable of the vineyard but in the context of a wedding banquet. Why is He going over this again? Maybe He focus-grouped the vineyard parable and got some feedback about folks being put off by the concept of land ownership. Maybe Peter pulled Him aside and said, “Teacher, John's having a real hard time staying off the sauce. Can we maybe not talk so much about vineyards?” Or maybe we simply need to remember that He’s God and knows better than we do and we nick-pick readers should stop criticizing.

Have all those people who talk about Jesus being super-love-hippy-dippy-flower-power-buddy-Jesus ever read this parable? It's some really dark stuff. People get murdered in this one. Towns get destroyed. People are thrown out of parties. This isn't exactly Sunday school material.

The whole thing sounds a lot like Game of Thrones. And you just thought the parable of the vineyard was juicy?! This one has a feast, a king, a murder, burning whole towns, weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Just what is gnashing of teeth anyway?)

God-made the nation of Israel His chosen people, but they repeatedly rejected Him. Like the first folks invited to the wedding feast in the parable, the Israelites just couldn’t seem to be bothered with God's invitation. Maybe His mother needed to prod Him into making more wine.

We want to hear a nice story about God throwing the party open to everyone. We want to be ‘inclusive,’ to let everyone in. (Of course, I am using “inclusive” a little differently in this context, from that of how it is commonly used today.) We don't want to know about judgement on the wicked or about demanding standards of holiness or about weeping and gnashing of teeth. Some of us might have really enjoyed watching Game of Thrones, but we don’t seriously want that in reality. Doesn't the Bible say that God will wipe away every tear from every eye?

Yes, it does, but you have to see it in its proper setting to understand it. It doesn't mean that God will act like a soothing parent settling a child back to sleep after a nightmare. God wants us to be grown up, and part of being grown up is that we learn that actions have consequences, that moral choices matter, and that real human life isn't like a game of chess where even if we do badly the pieces get put back in the box at the end of the day and we can start again tomorrow. The great deep mystery of God's forgiveness isn't the same as saying that whatever we do isn't really important because it will all work out somehow.

The parable we hear today follows straight from a devastating story of the wicked tenant farmers from chapter 21 and rams the point home. Everyone would know what a story about a landowner with a vineyard was referring to. Equally everyone in Jesus' day would know the point of a story about a king throwing a party for his son. This story is about the coming of God's Kingdom and in particular the arrival of the Messiah. The people of Israel had been waiting for this for centuries.

Israel's leaders in Jesus' day, and the many people who followed them, were like guests invited to a wedding - God's wedding party, the party He was throwing for His Son. But they had refused. Galilee had refused, for the most part. Think back to Jesus’ sad warnings. Now Jerusalem was refusing the invitation is well. God is planning the great party for which they had waited so long. The Messiah was here, and they didn't want to know. They abused and killed the prophets who tried to tell them about it and the result was their city would be destroyed. (Think 70 A.D.)

But now for the good news - though it wasn't good news for the people who were originally invited. God was sending out new messengers to the ‘wrong’ parts of town to tell everyone and anyone to come to the party. (‘Wrong’ parts of town, at least as far as the Pharisees and scribes were concerned!) And they came in droves. We don't have to look far in Matthew's Gospel to see who they were. The tax collectors, the prostitutes, the riffraff, the nobodies, the blind, and the lame, the people who thought they've been forgotten. All the low-life type of people (at least according to self-proclaimed entitled people were concerned). They were thrilled that God's message was for them after all. Truly ‘inclusive’!

But there was a difference between this wide-open invitation and the message so many want to hear today. We want to hear that everyone is all right exactly as they are, that God loves us as we are, and doesn't want us to change. People often say this when they want to justify particular types of behavior, but the argument simply doesn't work. When the blind and lame came to Jesus, He didn't say, ‘You're all right as you are’. He healed them. They wouldn't have been satisfied with anything less. When the prostitutes and extortioners came to Jesus, he didn't say, ‘You’re all right as you are’. His love reached them where they were, but His love refused to let them stay as they were. Love wants the best for the beloved. Their lives were transformed, healed and changed.

Actually, nobody really believes that God wants everyoneto stay exactly as they are. God loves serial killers and child molesters; God loves ruthless and arrogant businessman; God loves manipulative mothers who damage their children's emotions for life. But the point of God's love is that He wants them to change. He hates what they are doing and the affect it has on everyone else and themselves, too. Ultimately, if He is a good God, He cannot allow this sort of behavior, and that sort of person, if they do not change, remain forever in the party He’s throwing for His Son.

That is the point of the end of this story, which is otherwise very puzzling. Of course, within the story itself it sounds quite arbitrary. Where did all these other guests get their wedding costumes from? If the servants just herded them in, how did they have time to change their clothes? Why should this one man be thrown out because he didn't have the right thing to wear? Isn't that just a sort of social exclusion that the Gospel rejects?

Yes, of course, at that level. But that's not how parables work. The point of the story is that Jesus is telling the truth, the truth that political and religious leaders often like to hide; the truth that God's Kingdom is a Kingdom in which love and Justice and truth and mercy and holiness reign unhindered. They are the clothes you need to wear for the wedding. And if you refuse to put them on, you are saying you don't want to stay at the party. That is the reality. If we don't have the courage to say so, we are deceiving ourselves, and everyone who listens.

So, the moral of the parable is simple. God loves everyone, even those we think He shouldn’t. He wants those who treat others poorly or in evil ways to stop and come to know His love. We are all invited to the banquet of His love, but we can’t live Game of Thrones style of living. We must live in the radical love of Jesus. Yes, we believe Jesus is a super-love-hippy-dippy-flower-power-buddy, but we can’t wear the clothes of rapists, murderers, arrogant businessmen, etc. We must wear clothes of mercy, compassion and love. Now Jesus, turn some water into wine already; we’re ready for the banquet! (Make mine root beer, please.)

Let us pray.

We pray for the grace to be always worthy of the invitation of the kingdom of God and enjoy life everlasting at the table of his heavenly banquet. We pray to the Lord.

We pray for those who reject the Word of God, that the goodness and wonder of our Loving Father be revealed to them. We pray to the Lord.

We pray for ourselves, that with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, we may discern what particular mission God is inviting us to, as baptized members of the People of God. We pray to the Lord.

We pray for the vulnerable in our society, particularly the sick and the elderly who continue to experience fear, loneliness and isolation during this pandemic crisis. We pray that they receive the care, support and encouragement which they need to protect their health at this difficult period. We pray to the Lord.

We pray for all in our country, that they show consideration and care for themselves and for others and abide strictly by the guidelines which our governments and healthcare professionals recommend to defeat the very contagious Covid-19 virus at this time. We pray to the Lord.

For a greater respect for human life. For children who are neglected or abused. For all people who confront prejudice or racism every day. For a deeper concern for those who are marginalized by society. For those who identify as LGBTQ that they may be accepted and treated the same as those who are not. For the aged and the terminally ill. May we appreciate the dignity and sacredness of every part of human life. We pray to the Lord.

For an increase of vocations for our small denomination. We pray to the Lord.

For those on our parish prayer list, that they may receive swift answers to their needs and 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.

God our Father, strengthen our awareness and commitment to the mission which we have inherited through your gift of Baptism. Merciful Savior, the parable of the wedding banquet reminds us of your ever-gracious invitation to be part of your family, to receive the gift of your salvation, to respond to your call to follow you.

We confess that far too often we act like ungrateful guests. We allow other priorities to crowd you out. Our addiction to busyness leaves us no time to celebrate with you. We erect other gods that require our attention and loyalty. In our vain attempts to look "successful" we polish the veneer of our lives without attending to our deepest needs and longings, including our need and longing for you. Sometimes we get caught in Game of Thrones type of lives; help us to know that You are always beckoning us and will always welcome regardless of what we have done, because You love all your children and are ready to forgive us and lead us on a brighter path. Forgive us, we pray, and restore us to health and wholeness. May we always wear the clothes for the banquet of love. 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

We are beggars – These turbulent times are economically difficult for many, and as such, non-profits see reductions of donations to keep ministries open. We ask, if you are able, to donate and help us keep our progressive voice active in our community. God Bless You +++

Sunday, October 4, 2020

St. Francis Sunday

 October 4, 2020

St. Francis Sunday

(St. Michael and All Angels)

(Revelation 12:7-12; John 1:47-51)

St. Francis of Assisi is a familiar saint for most Catholics today. How he lived his life is a worthy example to emulate. He was a radical in his time and this certainly holds appeal for the modern Catholic. It is important to remember that St. Francis’ life was one that is in radical conformity and in deep union with the sacrificial life of Christ. His life was a faithful imitation of Christ, particularly, the crucified Christ. So much so, was this, that St. Francis was marked with the stigmata of Christ that he might emulate Him completely.

How do we, as modern Catholics, follow his example of radical conformity? Christ was central in St. Francis’ life. So, too, must we make Christ central in our lives. We must put our priorities in order. The radical imitation of Christ in our daily lives should compel us to make Christ as the root or the basis of all our many decisions, big and small, every day and every moment, whether it is in our personal, public or professional lives.

Therein lies a problem - today’s society has spoiled most of us into a life of comfort, shying away from any form of pain, or selfless sacrifice. St. Francis shows us in very concrete ways how to overcome this: by embracing poverty, practicing humility, and obedience to Jesus. We must cultivate a sense of detachment from worldly possessions and attachments that push Christ out of the center of our lives.

Let me put forth some thought provoking questions – questions that would certainly be in line with Francis’ love for all of creation – in his imitation of what I frequently call the radical love of Jesus.

Do we spend too much time on the internet, social media or TV that we neglect daily prayer time with God? Are we too busy or lazy (YES, I said it!) to honor the (Christian) Sabbath and go to Mass on Sundays? Are we too busy to do corporal and spiritual acts of mercy? Are we too wimpy or self-absorbed to offer our trials and transform them to redemptive suffering by uniting these inconveniences and trials to Christ?

St. Francis’ intense and intimate union with Christ fired his missionary zeal to evangelize and save souls. He was willing to face persecution and martyrdom to share the Good News to those who have not heard or accepted God’s salvation. How willing are we to go out of our comfort zones to invite someone to attend Mass with us or share our Catholic faith? Does our lives attract or repel others to know Christ more intimately? Do we witness our Catholic faith to others with humility, love and joy as St. Francis did? How willing are we to proclaim and defend our form of the Catholic faith even if it means facing ridicule and accusations of bigotry? St. Francis received Christ’s stigmata which he bore to his dying day. Do we bear the mark of Christ with how we lead our lives and with the choices we make in every aspect of our lives, whether in private or in public? Do we have the courage of St. Francis in bearing the stigmata, the mark of Christ in our lives, in the face of pain and rejection? Are we willing and do we take a stand on social issues today – especially that of our progressive views that would seem to be out of line with our more conservative Christian brothers and sisters and support those whom they prefer to “convert” rather than accept as a fully human Christian?

St. Francis is known for his love of nature. He saw nature as God’s creation that reveals Divine glory and beauty. Do we make use of God’s creation as a means to glorify God? Do we respect nature as God’s gift to be used responsibly and for the good of others? Or do we waste or take for granted the resources we have? Do we treat our God given body as a temple of the Holy Spirit?

As we try to answer these challenging questions with humility and honesty, we realize how difficult, and yes, truly radical, the imitation of Christ is. But as St. Francis has shown us by his example, the imitation of Christ is a daily commitment that is possible only with God’s grace. All we need to do is open our hearts and invite Him to fill it with His Divine Grace, so we, too, like St. Francis, can share the Good News and renew Christ’s Church, one soul at a time.

Early writings about St. Francis tells of one of his closest companions, Brother Leo, who would get discouraged at times. Brother Leo asked Francis to write something for him that would lift up his spirits.

When Brother Leo died, a small parchment was found in his habit and is preserved to this day in Assisi. Francis wrote:

May the Lord bless you and keep you.

May the Lord let his face shine on you and be gracious to you.

May the Lord show you his face and bring you peace.

The Lord bless you, Leo.

This blessing was so comforting to Leo because it reminded him of God’s presence in his life, and the peace that comes from that presence. This gift is for all of us, too.

Francis was known as the person who most patterned his life after that of Christ’s.

It was his joy to follow the poor and humble Christ. Francis was known to practice the virtue of poverty to a high degree, owning no property, living very simply, begging for his food, living among and caring for those who were ostracized from society. He treasured Holy Poverty and guarded it carefully because he wanted nothing to get in the way of the greatest possession of all – God.

Even though we are not called to follow his example to that extent, we, too, should never forget that God is and will always be our greatest possession.

Francis spent his life serving others after the example of Jesus, who said: “I have come to serve, not to be served.” He freely gave to those in need from whatever he had.

Every human life is a gift. Each of us is a gift. The world is a gift. ALL is a gift from the one primal source, God, the giver of all good gifts.

A way to honor his memory is to reach out to those in need with the gift of your time or treasure. To take on his spirit today is to see each individual you encounter as your brother or sister, with inherent dignity, created by God and deserving of your respect and loving concern.

Let us emulate St. Francis, the patron of our humble chapel, and show the radical love of Jesus as often as we can.

Before we move on to our responsorial prayers, let us recite together the Canticle of Creation which is attributed to St. Francis. (Copy is in your bulletin.)

Most High, all powerful, good Lord, Yours are the praises, the glory, the honour, and all blessing.

To You alone, Most High, do they belong, and no man is worthy to mention Your name.

Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures, especially through my lord Brother Sun, who brings the day; and you give light through him.

And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendour! Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars, in heaven you formed them clear and precious and beautiful.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Wind, and through the air, cloudy and serene, and every kind of weather through which You give sustenance to Your creatures.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Water, which is very useful and humble and precious and chaste.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Fire, through whom you light the night and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Mother Earth, who sustains us and governs us and who produces varied fruits with coloured flowers and herbs.

Praised be You, my Lord, through those who give pardon for Your love, and bear infirmity and tribulation.

Blessed are those who endure in peace for by You, Most High, they shall be crowned.

Praised be You, my Lord, through our Sister Bodily Death, from whom no living man can escape.

Woe to those who die in mortal sin. Blessed are those who will find Your most holy will, for the second death shall do them no harm.

Praise and bless my Lord, and give Him thanks and serve Him with great humility.

Let us pray.

For the church and for world leaders. May we produce a rich, fruitful harvest of justice, compassion, mercy and forgiveness in the vineyard of this world. We pray to the Lord.

For all who have suffered rejection or violence. For those who have been hurt in any way by this pandemic and all who are depressed, suicidal or addicted. Heal our wounds; give us hope and courage. We pray to the Lord.

For a deeper spirit of gratitude for God’s many gifts. May we recognize in each other all that is truthful, just, honorable, pure, gracious and lovely. May we be people of peace. We pray to the Lord.

Instill in all people a greater respect for human life from the womb to the tomb. For an end to late term unnecessary abortion, the death penalty and all types of hatred and systemic prejudice. May we learn how to care more deeply for all human life, hear the cries of the poor, the homeless and the starving. Welcome immigrant families and children, and allow and listen to the protests of those treated unjustly. We pray to the Lord.

That we may emulate the example of St. Francis and care for all of God’s creation and greater tolerance of those different from us. We pray to the Lord.

For our government leaders who have become ill with Covid-19, that they recover promptly and have a new respect for dealing this horrible disease. We pray to the Lord.

For those on our parish prayer list, that they may receive swift answers to their needs and 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.

Amazing God of the universe, As St. Francis learned and Your Angels know, You have called us from different walks of life. From our diverse backgrounds, You have weaved us into a family of faith and discipleship. We pray that even as You have accepted us as we are, we can learn even more how to accept and love others whose ways are different from our own.

As we open our hearts to You, show us the way to open our hearts to others. We pray, O God, that You would even challenge us to love all humankind — those we do not like and especially our “enemies.” In Your presence here, O God, may we worship together without exclusion and rejoice together always.

During this trying and challenging time, we ask that You be ever present with each of us and guide us with Your spirit, so that we do not lose hope. As we meander through life, give us direction and purpose. We ask all these things, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

God Love You +++

We are beggars – These turbulent times are economically difficult for many, and as such, non-profits see reductions of donations to keep ministries open. We ask, if you are able, to donate and help us keep our progressive voice active in our community. God Bless You +++

Sunday, September 27, 2020

September 27, 2020

 September 27, 2020

The Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity

(Philippians 2:1-11; Matthew 21:28-32)

A teenage daughter said she was staying out late and not to expect her home until midnight. Her parents told her to be home by ten to which she replied, ‘Whatever.’ Later that night, around five minutes to ten, she came home. The parents were a bit puzzled and said, ‘Home already?’ She replied, ‘Well you said be home by ten.’ There is a difference between saying and doing, as reflected in today's Gospel.

Our Gospel reading today reminds me of our dear deacon. Lots of talk and promises; little follow through. Not intentionally, unlike our Gospel, of course. We all know he is a little spaz, but we love him anyway. Sometimes, we make promises, but the busyness of the day gets the better of us and we simply forget. No bad intentions. Life just happens. But on a serious note, what did Jesus have in mind in His parable today?

With today's Gospel we enter the last week of Jesus' earthly life as he speaks with his disciples, preaches to the crowds, and spars with the chief priests and elders. These events take place in Jerusalem and the surrounding area just before and during the feast of Passover. Today Jesus confronts the chief priests and elders about their inability to change their position even after hearing the preaching of John the Baptist. By remaining entrenched in their own way of doing things, they are missing the work of God in their midst. It seems there is good news in today's parable as well, however, even if one originally refuses a request of God, there's still time to turn to Him and do what is just.

Today's parable about the two sons should make us all squirm a little. How many times have we found it easier to tell someone what he or she wanted to hear with no intention of following through rather than entering into a difficult conversation? We could think of tired parents who tell her child, “I'll play with you after dinner,” only to have that time come and be ready with another excuse. Or children who promised to clean their room, never intending to keep their word and hoping their parents will become distracted by something else.

In today's Gospel there are two sons and neither is perfect. One refuses his father's request but then does it; the other accepts the request but doesn't follow through. In the end, it seems that virtuous actions are more important than virtuous words. In our daily lives people make many requests of us. Some are important, and others we could probably politely refuse. One meaning for today's parable might be the importance of knowing our limits and being honest about what we can and cannot (or will and will not) do.

The parable points to something else though - our relationship with God and our commitment to the life of discipleship. God has asked us to work in his vineyard caring for the poor, working for Justice, and bringing peace to others. As Christians, we are called to love God and others, not simply through the words we say, but more importantly, in the ways we give of ourselves for the good of all.

The first son, who rudely tells his father he doesn't feel like working today, but then does after all, stands for the tax collectors and the prostitutes. Their daily life seemed to be saying ‘no’ to God; but when they heard John they changed their mind and their lifestyle (in other words, they ‘repented’). The second son, who politely tells his father he will indeed go to work, but then doesn't, stands for the Temple hierarchy and other leaders. They look as though they’re doing God's will, worshiping in the Temple and keeping up appearances; but they refused to believe in John's message, not only about repentance but also about the Messiah who was standing unknown in their midst. Now the Messiah Himself is here to call them to account. Not surprisingly, they don’t like it.

The challenge of this passage for today is partly this; to make sure we are responding to Jesus, allowing Him to confront us at any point where we have been like the second son and said ‘yes’ to God while in fact going off in another direction. That's important, but it's not the only important thing. What we should also be asking is this. What should Jesus' followers be doing today that would challenge the powers of the present world with the news that He is indeed its rightful Lord? What should we be doing that would make people ask, ‘By what right are you doing that?’, to which the proper answer would be to tell stories of Jesus Himself. By Jesus’ teaching and example we do these things!

The parable Jesus utters today is in the Jerusalem Temple in the context of a dialogue, or verbal jousting match really, between Jesus and the chief priests and elders of the people. In the story we are approaching Holy Week, though liturgically we are still in the time after Trinity. This section the Gospel is the first of three parables, which we will read in successive weeks.

We can understand this parable in numerous ways and this is precisely why the device of the parable is so effective as a teaching tool. One apparent meaning is a favorite Matthean theme of doing versus saying. Matthew’s contention throughout the Gospel is not everyone who says “Lord, Lord” will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of the Father, which is to act mercifully particularly to those in need.

It's unfortunate that throughout history even into the present day, there are many adherents of religion (this is not limited to Jews or Christians) who talk a good game, but their actions indicate something else. We have many phrases in English that speak to this: “Actions speak louder than words,” “By their actions you shall know them,” “I don't believe what you say. I believe what you do,” “People lie, actions don't.” All of these maxims get at one of the fundamental meanings of this parable. We seem to hear and see a lot of this in our own nation currently.

It is true our words and actions should match one another. But as Jesus makes clear, our actions - most especially how we care for those on the margins - matter much more than our good intentions.

However, not all intentions are bad. Have you ever met a flatterer or a people pleaser? Those who say what you want to hear but have no intention of following through? Or those who over-promise and under deliver? It can be a challenging to hear the words of Jesus in the parable today about such behaviors. Despite our best intentions, it is our actions that truly mean more than words. Without actions, our words are a “clanging gong,” to use a term of Saint Paul. There are many reasons why we might over promise, but we reminded of another saying in the Gospels: “Let your ‘yes’ mean ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ mean ‘no.’ At some level this is simply good advice from Jesus the teacher.

As we go about our lives let us make an effort to think carefully before we commit ourselves or say we will do something. Simply modifying a comment with the words “I intend to …” or “I’ll make my best effort to …” may be all we need to temper expectations. By avoiding the trap of being people pleaser, or flatterer, or one who over-promises, and instead of being a person of action and doing on behalf of others, we will be living the Gospel.

Let us pray.

In today’s gospel Jesus makes it clear that we are judged by our actions rather than by our words. We pray that we may show our faith and love of Christ by being generous and unselfish on behalf of others, particularly the poor, the homeless and marginalized. We pray to the Lord.

We pray for a greater sharing of the wealth of the world, so that those suffering from poverty and hunger may also enjoy the fruits bestowed on us by our Loving Father. We pray to the Lord.

We pray for refugees and all those who flee war, hunger and poverty that they may travel safely and be received generously by those who are blessed with peace, prosperity and a better life. We pray to the Lord.

We pray for those who have suffered the trauma of abuse. May they experience healing in their lives, and grow in self-esteem and confidence in others. We pray to the Lord.

We pray for those with the responsibility of protecting our children and vulnerable adults. We pray that they have the full support of government, church and community in their most important mission. We pray to the Lord.

We pray for international co-operation and an effective response to the Covid-19 pandemic and for a common effort to find vaccines and extend their benefits to all. We pray to the Lord.

We pray that our legislators will govern with pure motives and pure hearts and follow the needs of their constituents and not that of their own. We pray to the Lord.

For the sick, for all who are on the frontlines of this COVID-19 pandemic, especially our health care workers and first responders, for all who are unable to stay at home, but must work to provide for their families, may God continue to protect them and keep them in good health. We pray to the Lord.

For those on our parish prayer list, that they may receive swift answers to their needs and 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, help us to be people of actions and not just words. Help us to commit to what we can do and do what we commit to. Help us to be people who under-promise, but over-deliver. Help us to know our limits and be open about them. Especially show us how to be gracious but honest when we simply cannot act.

You, gracious God, are love itself, and perfect love casts out fear. Come to us in merciful patience, we pray, to love us from fear to trust, from anger to grace, from doubt to faith. Love us from our self-centeredness to hearts that willingly give themselves in selfless sacrifice and service. Love us out of our scarcity to hearts overflowing with generosity. Love us from brokenness to wholeness, from resentments and forgiveness withheld to forgiveness freely offered just as it has been freely offered to us. Come to us, Lord, overwhelming us with your love that we might love as you first loved us. Amen.

God Love You +++

++The Most Rev. Robert Winzens

Pastor – St. Francis Chapel

San Diego, CA

We are beggars – These turbulent times are economically difficult for many, and as such, non-profits see reductions of donations to keep ministries open. We ask, if you are able, to donate and help us keep our progressive voice active in our community. God Bless You +++