In the Gospel today (Luke 12:49-53) Jesus tells of his desire to set the earth ablaze with a fire. He says something else that seems contradictory to His person and message: “I have come for division.”
In reality, Jesus does not come to bring division, but His presence and message result in division until people humbly submit to His Gospel of Truth. The Fire that Jesus casts upon the earth is the Fire of Divine Love. This Divine Love; the Love that exists within (and is) the communion of Divine Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, is the source of all creation. As such, this Divine Love is the unifying power of everything within creation. This Divine Love is the final destination to which all creation will return, when all creation will bend the knee at the name of Jesus (Philippians 2:10), ‘and God will be all in all.’ (1 Corinthians 15:28)
Where there is resistance to this Love, there can only be division and discord. Where there is harmony with this Love, there is communion – unity – peace – love.
This Fire of Divine Love is the culmination of God’s plan for all of creation – for every human person. St. Paul gives a marvelous ‘blueprint’ for the Divine Plan in his letter to the Ephesians. Today’s first reading (Ephesians 3: 14-21) speaks of the culmination of God’s plan:
Brothers and Sisters: I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that he may grant you in accord with the riches of his glory to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner self, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the holy ones what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
God’s plan, through Christ, is to share His love with all of us; to fill us with the very Love of God! This is the Fire of Love that burns away selfish love, leaving only Authentic Love, which is the harmony of the soul with God and the peaceful abiding of one person with another.
My dear friends, let us live the Faith that is ours in Christ, that we may abide in the Love of God. May this Raging Fire of Divine Love sweep over us and all creation, that we may be cleansed of all selfishness and division, thus discovering communion with God and unity with our brothers and sisters.
Today, we celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving and Farewell to celebrate the 31 years the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration have ministered in the Diocese of Cheyenne. It was an emotional Mass, and a joyful celebration and reception that followed. Here is my homily for the occasion:
Mass of Thanksgiving & Farewell: Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration at San Benito Monastery
We welcome all of you to this celebration this morning, especially, we welcome Sr. Gladys, Sr. Regina, Sr. Josetta and Sr. Hope. We are also pleased to have so many other members of the Benedictine community join us for today’s celebration.
In our opening prayer for Mass, we pray for these “servants who have left all things … who devote themselves entirely to you [God.] … following Christ and renouncing the things of this world.” (Prayers For Religious, Roman Missal, 3rd edition)
As we give thanks for the 31 years of your presence in the Diocese of Cheyenne, we must think about not just the individual members of the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, but the root of your vocations. Beyond your monastic life as Benedictines are the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience, which are at the heart of every religious vocation.
This ‘pursuit of perfect charity by means of the evangelical counsels traces its origins to the teaching and the example of the Divine Master, and that it is a very clear symbol of the heavenly kingdom.” (Perfectae Caritatis, #1) This teaching of the Second Vatican Council describes how our own Benedictine Sisters have sought Christ in their own personal lives, and in their common monastic profession. Their fidelity in seeking Christ through their Benedictine way of life is at the heart of their ability to serve Christ in the members of this local Church since 1983.
I wish to offer a few passages from the Rule of St. Benedict that seem to capture what we appreciate most and will miss greatly as you take your leave from Wyoming:
Sisters, your prayers; your cherishing Christ above all, are the means by which you acquire graces for us, which enable us and equip us for the mission and good work of the Church, which is the building up of God’s Kingdom.
I wish to reflect just a bit on the challenges associated with placing Christ above all else. It is indeed the priority of life required for every Christian, but it is a challenge, one involving mystery. I wish to share with you a quote from Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI:
God is indeed the Great Mystery. Of all the mysteries of life and the mysteries that accompany our life- journey of faith, God is the Great Mystery. Initially, perhaps out of the zeal of youth and the eagerness of a Christian vocation, we can be uneasy with this Mystery. We want answers. Particularly when life throws up barriers and difficulties, we wonder about the value of the path we have chosen. We wonder why God is not more forthcoming with help or answers or direction. But eventually, by God’s grace, we grow in our comfort to simply be grateful to be enveloped by the Mystery that is God. We by faith begin to recognize that the Light in the midst of the Mystery is none other than the Light of the Risen Christ. Not all that unlike Moses who saw the burning bush, aflame yet not consumed, this same Light speaks to us, leads us, this is the Light of Christ and His Gospel. (Pope Benedict XVI)
Our Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration are not unlike the women at the empty tomb who were astonished, even frightened at what they discovered. Our sisters come face to face first with the Lord, in their devotion to the Eucharist, so they can then bear this light of the Risen Christ to us, while at the same time recognize Christ in each of our faces and persons.
RB 4:20 “Your way of acting should be different from the world’s way.”
RB 4:8 “We cannot exclude anyone. Every person we meet must be honored and loved as our brother or sister.” This sums up how the Lord’s command to love God with our whole heart, our whole mind, with all our strength is best served by our love of neighbor.
RB72:4 “We can never wait for the other person to love us first.” If we are the first to show love and respect, the others will follow.
RB4 We must prove our love with good works. Feelings and words are not enough. There are many concrete ways we can find to do this.
RB: Prologue 1: “We must listen with the ear of our heart to the burdens and joys of others. We need to feel in ourselves what the others are feeling.”
Today, we wish to express our gratitude to each of you, sisters, and to all the other Benedictine sisters who have served in the Diocese of Cheyenne through your monastic community. We are grateful for the many lives you have touched and drawn closer to Christ, through your monastic profession, your example of life, your teaching, spiritual direction; in short, through your modest and humble presence in our midst.
At the same time, we acknowledge that we will no longer be a whole family without you. A Church to be whole needs the presence, example and service of monastic women. San Benito Monastery has been an oasis of prayer, and your apostolic service a witness of faith that will be deeply missed.
Just as “deep waters cannot quench love, nor floods sweep it away,” (Song of Songs) we know that we will always remain in your hearts and prayers, and you will most assuredly remain in our love.
My dear Sisters, May God bless you!
In light of Friday’s (Oct. 17, 2014) order by U.S. District Judge Scott W. Skavdahl that Wyoming’s state law banning same-sex unions is unconstitutional, I wish to offer a few thoughts. (According to an AP story, the ruling is on hold until defendants have the chance to appeal.)
The Catholic Church teaches the dignity and sanctity of every human person. This belief is rooted in our understanding that every human person is created in the image and likeness of God. Every person is deserving of this respect, even those with same-sex attraction.
The Catholic Church also teaches that marriage is by nature a union of a man and a woman. It is perhaps the single oldest institution of society, and as such, the primary and natural starting point of family life. Marriage expresses, strengthens and protects the love of a man and a woman, and endures for their lifetime. Their love promotes harmony in their relationship, and generates new life in the children they bear and raise together. Marriage and the family it generates are unique bonds of love meant for the well-being of each of its members and the common good of society as a whole. This ‘unique bond of love’ cannot be replicated in any other fashion. A true understanding of the nature of marriage prohibits any institution, secular or religious, from redefining marriage.
As Church, we will continue to promote the understanding that marriage is a union of one man and one woman, a covenantal relationship instituted by God. We as Church will continue to teach this truth in all of its richness and encourage all people to embrace this truth. At the same time, we encourage respect for all persons and a respectful dialogue in discussing marriage and family in our culture today.
Here is a concluding text from the Extra-ordinary Synod of the Family:
Synod14 – Message of the III Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops , 18.10.2014
III EXTRAORDINARY GENERAL ASSEMBLY
OF THE SYNOD OF BISHOPS
We, Synod Fathers, gathered in Rome together with Pope Francis in the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, greet all families of the different continents and in particular all who follow Christ, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. We admire and are grateful for the daily witness which you offer us and the world with your fidelity, faith, hope, and love.
Each of us, pastors of the Church, grew up in a family, and we come from a great variety of backgrounds and experiences. As priests and bishops we have lived alongside families who have spoken to us and shown us the saga of their joys and their difficulties.
The preparation for this synod assembly, beginning with the questionnaire sent to the Churches around the world, has given us the opportunity to listen to the experience of many families. Our dialogue during the Synod has been mutually enriching, helping us to look at the complex situations which face families today.
We offer you the words of Christ: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me” (Rev 3:20). On his journeys along the roads of the Holy Land, Jesus would enter village houses. He continues to pass even today along the streets of our cities. In your homes there are light and shadow. Challenges often present themselves and at times even great trials. The darkness can grow deep to the point of becoming a dense shadow when evil and sin work into the heart of the family.
We recognize the great challenge to remain faithful in conjugal love. Enfeebled faith and indifference to true values, individualism, impoverishment of relationships, and stress that excludes reflection leave their mark on family life. There are often crises in marriage, often confronted in haste and without the courage to have patience and reflect, to make sacrifices and to forgive one another. Failures give rise to new relationships, new couples, new civil unions, and new marriages, creating family situations which are complex and problematic, where the Christian choice is not obvious.
We think also of the burden imposed by life in the suffering that can arise with a child with special needs, with grave illness, in deterioration of old age, or in the death of a loved one. We admire the fidelity of so many families who endure these trials with courage, faith, and love. They see them not as a burden inflicted on them, but as something in which they themselves give, seeing the suffering Christ in the weakness of the flesh.
We recall the difficulties caused by economic systems, by the “the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose” (Evangelii gaudium 55) which weakens the dignity of people. We remember unemployed parents who are powerless to provide basic needs for their families, and youth who see before them days of empty expectation, who are prey to drugs and crime.
We think of so many poor families, of those who cling to boats in order to reach a shore of survival, of refugees wandering without hope in the desert, of those persecuted because of their faith and the human and spiritual values which they hold. These are stricken by the brutality of war and oppression. We remember the women who suffer violence and exploitation, victims of human trafficking, children abused by those who ought to have protected them and fostered their development, and the members of so many families who have been degraded and burdened with difficulties. “The culture of prosperity deadens us…. all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us” (Evangelii gaudium 54). We call on governments and international organizations to promote the rights of the family for the common good.
Christ wanted his Church to be a house with doors always open to welcome everyone. We warmly thank our pastors, lay faithful, and communities who accompany couples and families and care for their wounds.
There is also the evening light behind the windowpanes in the houses of the cities, in modest residences of suburbs and villages, and even in mere shacks, which shines out brightly, warming bodies and souls. This light—the light of a wedding story—shines from the encounter between spouses: it is a gift, a grace expressed, as the Book of Genesis says (2:18), when the two are “face to face” as equal and mutual helpers. The love of man and woman teaches us that each needs the other in order to be truly self. Each remains different from the other that opens self and is revealed in the reciprocal gift. It is this that the bride of the Song of Songs sings in her canticle: “My beloved is mine and I am his… I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine” (Song of Songs 2:16; 6:3).
This authentic encounter begins with courtship, a time of waiting and preparation. It is realized in the sacrament where God sets his seal, his presence, and grace. This path also includes sexual relationship, tenderness, intimacy, and beauty capable of lasting longer than the vigor and freshness of youth. Such love, of its nature, strives to be forever to the point of laying down one’s life for the beloved (cf Jn 15:13). In this light conjugal love, which is unique and indissoluble, endures despite many difficulties. It is one of the most beautiful of all miracles and the most common.
This love spreads through fertility and generativity, which involves not only the procreation of children but also the gift of divine life in baptism, their catechesis, and their education. It includes the capacity to offer life, affection, and values—an experience possible even for those who have not been able to bear children. Families who live this light-filled adventure become a sign for all, especially for young people.
This journey is sometimes a mountainous trek with hardships and falls. God is always there to accompany us. The family experiences his presence in affection and dialogue between husband and wife, parents and children, sisters and brothers. They embrace him in family prayer and listening to the Word of God—a small, daily oasis of the spirit. They discover him every day as they educate their children in the faith and in the beauty of a life lived according to the Gospel, a life of holiness. Grandparents also share in this task with great affection and dedication. The family is thus an authentic domestic Church that expands to become the family of families which is the ecclesial community. Christian spouses are called to become teachers of faith and of love for young couples as well.
Another expression of fraternal communion is charity, giving, nearness to those who are last, marginalized, poor, lonely, sick, strangers, and families in crisis, aware of the Lord’s word, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). It is a gift of goods, of fellowship, of love and mercy, and also a witness to the truth, to light, and to the meaning of life.
The high point which sums up all the threads of communion with God and neighbor is the Sunday Eucharist when the family and the whole Church sits at table with the Lord. He gives himself to all of us, pilgrims through history towards the goal of the final encounter when “Christ is all and in all” (Col 3:11). In the first stage of our Synod itinerary, therefore, we have reflected on how to accompany those who have been divorced and remarried and on their participation in the sacraments.
We Synod Fathers ask you walk with us towards the next Synod. The presence of the family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph in their modest home hovers over you. United to the Family of Nazareth, we raise to the Father of all our petition for the families of the world:
Father, grant to all families the presence of strong and wise spouses who may be the source of a free and united family.
Father, grant that parents may have a home in which to live in peace with their families.
Father, grant that children may be a sign of trust and hope and that young people may have the courage to forge life-long, faithful commitments.
Father, grant to all that they may be able to earn bread with their hands, that they may enjoy serenity of spirit and that they may keep aflame the torch of faith even in periods of darkness.
Father, grant that we may all see flourish a Church that is ever more faithful and credible, a just and humane city, a world that loves truth, justice and mercy.
During last night’s Confirmation Mass at the Cathedral, I shared with those to be confirmed news I received early Sunday morning. I learned of the death of a friend and former parishioner from my nine years as pastor at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in New Albany, Indiana. I shared this news with the young Confirmation class because I wanted to hold up Joe as an example for them.
Joe was one of my “go to guys” during my years as pastor at OLPH. Every pastor knows who those dependable people are in the parish when there is work to be done. Besides being a regular member of the setup and cleanup crew for just about any parish function, Joe was also on the building and grounds crew. Even when there were no scheduled maintenance items needing attention, he just took the initiative to repair, or straighten up anything he noticed that was not up to par.
Joe regularly practiced his faith, and also helped (with a fair amount of humorous, unsolicited commentary) with the heavy lifting associated with the liturgical seasons and environment of the church. He was a faithful husband and a good father.
I enjoyed working alongside Joe when there was outside work to be done, whether shoveling snow, running chain saws, clearing storm debris, spring and fall lawn work, planting trees, or mopping floors. He had a great sense of humor and was quite comfortable asking questions regarding his faith, and sharing his own opinions about the state of the parish or society as a whole.
Very often, in those side-by -side moments of sharing parish chores, a pastor comes to know his people quite well, and they to know him. These are the moments Pope Francis refers to as the pastor taking on the ‘smell of his sheep.’ I had the privilege of walking with Joe and his family as his own father died. I regret that I will not be present for the Joe’s funeral on Thursday, but I will be with the family and parish community in prayerful spirit.
Christ’s own life among us as the Son of God is a model for all Christians, that our life is also meant to be shared as a gift in service to God and to others. Whether Joe could have put that into a ‘theological statement’ or not, I do not know, but he certainly put it into action! Joe’s life was a life lived as ‘gift’ for others.
Rest in peace, good and faithful servant. Pray for those of us who remain, that we may serve the Lord and His Church with the same joy, generosity and fidelity of life!
This time of year, our Liturgical calendar begins to draw to a close while naturally calling each of us to be attentive to our ultimate end. Most people’s lives today are very busy, filled with many worthy while efforts, none being more important than those immediately associated with our particular vocations. However, the Good Lord is asking us to give attention to the ultimate goal of all our worldly labors. If we are not properly informed of our final goal, then our day-to-day priorities we will not successfully aid us in reaching the heavenly Banquet to which we are invited.
The Gospel today speaks of a Banquet to which ALL are invited. This is not just any Banquet, but is a wedding feast for God’s Son. We are not just invited guests, but we are the ones being espoused to God through Jesus Christ. The voice of the Beloved is calling out to each of us precisely because we are precious in his eyes. The love of God for each of us is compared to the love of a groom for his bride.
This Banquet is foreseen in today’s first reading from the Prophet Isaiah as he speaks about a ‘feast of rich food and choice wines.’ The Prophet’s words not only speak of the ultimate heavenly banquet, but its precursor here on earth, the new and eternal covenant Christ has established which we celebrate in every Eucharist. The Eucharist is a participation in the heavenly banquet. There can be no richer food or more choice wine than the Bread of Life and the Chalice of Salvation. This is the ‘wedding feast of the Lamb’, who has taken the Church as his bride, and since we are the Church, we are the bride of Christ.
Jesus instructs us in today’s Gospel of the importance of this Banquet. God’s desire in creating each of us is that we share His love. Each human person’s life originates in the very love of God, is sustained through this earthly journey by God’s love, and is destined for a full participation in the eternal love of God. Therefore, we are to be attentive to the invitation from God to share in His banquet, which is to share in His love.
Matthew’s parable indicates the great human struggle to recognize this invitation of God. As we hear in today’s Gospel, some people refused to come to the Banquet. Some simply ignored the invitation, because they were too occupied with the demands of this life, with their work. Others we hear, actively worked to destroy the messengers of God, mistreating, even killing them. These individuals were ultimately found unworthy of entrance into the Banquet, and were not just denied entrance, but were destroyed themselves.
The warning here is very clear, there is nothing more important or urgent than heeding the loving invitation of God. How many people today are allowing work to consume their time and energy, to the point that it destroys the love of their marriage and family? How many people today for all kinds of reasons stay away from the Sunday banquet of the Eucharist? How many people today are actively striving to exclude the law of God from the laws that govern us as a society, and thus actively working against God’s messengers? How many lives will ultimately be lost or destroyed because they have been unresponsive to God’s love?
Today’s teaching continues. All are invited to the Banquet. The feast is ready! But, as we see, the invitation alone is insufficient. One who is found in the banquet hall is approached by the King and asked why he is not properly dressed in a wedding garment? This one is bound hand and feet and cast out into the darkness. Once again, the teaching and the warning it contains is clear. Now is the time to accept God’s invitation. Now is the time to live in communion with God. Now is the time to allow our love for Christ to inform every aspect of our life.
This invitation of God comes to us through the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. Jesus through His passion and cross gave his body as food and poured out his blood as drink, that we might have eternal life. As Adam was put into a deep sleep so God could take a rib from his side into which he made for him Eve, his bride, so Christ died on the cross so that from his open side he might take to himself his bride, the Church. From this open side of Christ flow the waters of baptism and the blood of the Eucharist. Baptism is the means through which we are brought into the life of Christ, the life of the Church. Eucharist is the means by which Christ sustains his life within us. This is the wedding feast of the Lamb. This is the measure of God’s infinite love and desire for each one of us.
Today, we are invited to ask our self: “Am I too busy to hear the call of the Beloved?” “Are the activities and priorities of my life helping me to respond to God’s invitation?” “Am I following the Good Shepherd who alone can lead me to the house of the Lord?” “Is my wardrobe made up only of worldly clothes that will be consumed by moths and rot in the grave?” or am I being vested in the wedding garment of faith in and following Jesus Christ? This wedding garment alone will identify me as one worthy of participating in the eternal wedding banquet.
Today’s readings are a stark instruction that this life exists as a preparation and a passage into a fuller and eternal life. The present challenge is to be receptive to and cooperative with God’s love. A life lived in response to God’s love will have its crosses and sacrifices. Such a life of faith requires the wisdom of God. But, we have been created for this life, and thus we are quite capable of living according to its demands, and we will find in the process this life is the best way to live. As St. Paul tells us today, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Let us live by faith. Let us live by God’s grace and power. Let us live now as builders of God’s Kingdom, with the sure and certain hope that through Jesus Christ, we will attain the fullness of God’s Kingdom when our days are done.
Here is an article I wrote this summer for our Catholic Rural Life Magazine.
The Beauty of Being; The Wonder of Creation
The next time you sit down for a meal, take just a moment to be still; pray and give thanks to the God of all creation. Then, ask for the grace to simply be present to the moment, asking the Lord to help you come to a deeper consciousness of what is before you, even of the incredible gift of your person. It is also a good idea to recall the many people who are going without this basic sustenance this day, and to allow the hunger you experience before eating to be a moment of solidarity with all who will go without a meal this day.
Allow God to reveal again his faithful love for you, that love that created you before the foundation of the world. Recall that God formed you in your mother’s womb and the loving relationship of your parents that was the beginning of your worldly existence. How intricate is the human body, and the many orchestrated and harmonious functions that sustain one’s life; from the heart and lungs and the blood that flows throughout the body, to the skeletal frame and nerve system that support it, to the digestive system that can transform the food we eat into the useable forms of energy that sustain our life. Give thanks for the senses that allow us to take in everything around us, especially at this moment to be able to appreciate the beauty of the meal prepared, the smell of it and the taste that brings delight.
That meditation alone draws one deeper into the reality of God’s creative genius and providential love.
Then, take in the meal before you. How many million years prepared the soil that grew this food? How many hours of sunshine, days and night; gallons of water and rain were needed for its growth? How many continents are represented in your meal, and how many human hands did it take to prepare the soil, plant the seed, cultivate the plant, harvest the fruit, ship and prepare it for marketing, and finally prepare it for its presentation before you? How many various animals of God’s good creation are represented on the plate? How much of a combined effort of creation provided for the life and sustenance of these creatures? Who cared for them that they now provide for your nourishment?
What were the sources of and forms of energy used to prepare the food, from the freezer and refrigerator that preserved the food to the fires that cooked it to its present form?
Think of the ‘unity’ of God’s creation and the human labor represented in that one plate of food. Now consider how many meals have nourished your body, from your mother’s breast to this table of plenty? Now, think of the goodness of God and the work of human hands, and give thanks.
What person does not desire good health? And in order to maintain good health, we know we must maintain our body, or in other words, be a good steward of the body we have been given. After all, when God created the earth, he said it was ‘good.’ And, when God created man and woman, he said it is ‘very good!’ Proper health requires good diet, exercise, rest, and of course, a solid relationship with God.
Let’s take the good diet portion of this equation. We none of us eat spoiled food; we long for good fruit, vegetables and fresh meat and fish. If possible, and when possible, who does not prefer these foods fresh from the earth, not frozen or processed? Minimally, we do not put bad things into our bodies. So, if this is true about our diet, then being a good steward of the body also requires us to be good stewards of the earth, which grows and sustains the foods that nourish us.
If we would not put chemicals directly into our bodies, then why would we put them into the soil, or onto our plants, or in the foods of our cattle, chicken, pigs or fish? Being stewards of creation calls for concern about the quality of air, water and soil, and this particular focus is one of the reasons I so enjoy my work with and the work of Catholic Rural Life (CRL). Stewardship of creation is an area of concern, teaching and activity that is of great importance for those who work for and are members of CRL.
Jesus also told us that ‘Man does not live on bread alone,’ which means that as important as food is to the body, the true banquet is Christ himself. A reflection similar to the one just described is also just as beneficial when applied to the Eucharist. This, too, helps to root us in gratitude not only for God’s work of creation, but of his equally great work of redemption.
I give thanks to God this day for calling me to the priesthood, and five years ago, to the episcopacy. My time in Wyoming has introduced me to many new people, and a deep faith. My time as a bishop has served to temper my own faith, and taught me how to rely much more upon the faithfulness and power of God, and much less upon my own strength.
As we journey together, may each of us come to an even more profound awareness of our own experience of God, and our own relationship with Jesus Christ. Then, may we grow in our confidence and desire to share our faith with others.
May God continue to bless this local Church of the Diocese of Cheyenne, and together, may we grow in holiness.
Come Holy Spirit, and renew your Church, and inspire those who preach the Gospel!
Today, as I mark the 5th anniversary of the phone call I received from then Nuncio to the US, Archbishop Pietro Sambi, informing me that I had been named the Bishop of Cheyenne, I am wrapping up visits to all churches within the Diocese.
This morning I celebrated an 8:00 Mass with the people at Ascension in Hudson. Hudson is just about equally between Lander and Riverton, and just outside the boundaries of the Wind River Indian Mission, home to St. Stevens.
Most of the people who attend Mass at Ascension are actually members of the other three nearby parishes. There once was a separate religious education program for the members of Ascension, but at this time, the few children living in Hudson receive their faith formation in either Lander of Riverton.
I was impressed with the beauty of this church, and the sense of community shared by those who remained after Mass to share some homemade refreshments. This time of year, there is lots of conversation about the hunting season, and due to a very successful hunt of my own this past Friday, I now have a story to share as well!
The drive last night from Jeffrey City to Riverton came as the sun began to set over the Wind River Mountains. There were just enough clouds in the sky to reflect some beautiful shades of red and violet. One cannot help but give thanks to the Creator for all of His works! Of course, at dusk, all the wildlife becomes active for another night of feeding, and the antelope and mule deer were everywhere.
God is Good! All the time!
Saturday evening I celebrated Mass at St. Brenden’s in Jeffrey City. Two families are the primary members of this mission. Jeffrey City is the community that in its glory days was home to around 5,000 people with a uranium mine serving as the economic driver. Once the mine closed back in the 1980′s, the community quickly dwindled to a very small population.
The present church of St. Brenden’s was build about the time the mine closed, but services have been held at St. Brenden’s for many years prior to this present church. At this time, it is mostly ranchers living and working in the area.
This morning I will celebrate Mass with the people at Ascension in Hudson and then make my way over to St. Joseph’s in Shoshone. Below is my homily for this weekend.
As the Extraordinary Synod on the Family begins today in Rome, let us continue to pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance for the Synod Fathers and all of its participants. Of course, it goes without saying, let us pray for all married couples and families to grow in God’s love and grace.
27th Sunday In Ordinary Time: Year A
Our readings today remind us that just as the Owner of the vineyard provided everything necessary for the vineyard to provide a bountiful harvest, so God provides each of us all that is required for us to yield the good fruits of justice, love and mercy.
The Prophet Isaiah teaches us many important aspects about our relationship with God. First of all, we learn that God is the creator of all things, and everything created by God is meant for some good purpose. All things being created by God have an interior capacity for being in harmony with the rest of creation. This ‘harmony’ of all creation is realized when each element of creation produces the ‘good’ for which it was created. All things living and working in harmony together yields the ‘common good,’ which is nothing short of the creation God intends, which is the Kingdom of God.
However, when there is a breakdown in this ‘harmony’ of all things, God’s plans are frustrated, and rather than yielding good fruit, wild grapes are the result. The comparison offered in the readings today is between the vintner’s abundant care for his vineyard and God’s providential and bountiful provision for each of us. This is the second point, God is not only Creator, but is also bountiful in the many ways He provides for all our needs.
Just as the owner of the vineyard provided all that was necessary for a bountiful harvest; a fertile hillside, proper cultivation and preparation of the soil, choice vine stocks, a watch tower and winepress, so God provides all that we need to yield the harvest of justice he seeks from each of us.
Today’s readings invite us to reflect upon this goodness and fidelity of God. God has done all that is necessary for us to live good and holy lives. Nothing is lacking! He has created us in his image and likeness. He has created us for a communion of love, with Himself and with one another. Knowing our capacity for selfishness and sin, God in His great love sent His only Son not only to reveal the fullness of His love, but to be our redemption and salvation. Indeed, nothing is lacking in God’s fidelity and love.
The third point is simple; The ‘good harvest’ God now looks for is that we return love for love. Our love for God cannot simply be ‘lip service.’ Our love for God must be concrete and manifest in our love for one another. If all we do is express our love for God without putting that love into action, then we will only yield wild grapes.
There are fundamentally only two responses to God’s love: cooperation or rejection. Granted, there are many shades of response in between these two, whether indifference, apathy, or fear, but basically we are either growing in love or diminishing in love.
Part of the Providence of God and the evidence that nothing is lacking in his care for us is also seen when we reject His love, when we fail to produce the fruits of justice. In other words, we reap what we sow. When we live only for our self, God will allow that we experience His absence, not so much as a punishment, but a remedy to cause us to once again return to His love. Just as the vineyard owner took away the hedge and allowed his vineyard to be trampled; no longer pruned or hoed the vineyard so that it became overgrown by thorns and briers, our failure to love exposes our lives to elements that lead only to death.
When we fail to love God and neighbor and yield only wild grapes, God’s greatest Providence is the presence of His Son in the world. As the Psalmist says today, Jesus is our ‘restoration,’ He is our ‘new life.’
Along with His Son, God created each of us with a capacity to live virtuous lives; holy lives. St .Paul summarizes for us today the things that manifest the presence of God at work in our lives. The good fruits that we are to bear are truth, honor, justice, purity, beauty and graciousness. These are the virtues that reveal the presence of God, and these are the fruits we are to bear. Let us cultivate these virtues in our lives, and then we can be confident that we are bearing good fruit and building God’s Kingdom.
Today’s Gospel ends with a severe warning; if we are not producing the fruits of God’s Kingdom, it will be taken away from us and given to those who will yield its fruits. Therefore, let us be good stewards of the many blessings God bestows upon us.