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The Kingdom Of God Is The Person Of Jesus Christ

meinrad & hail 022Sunday’s Gospel gave several parables on the Kingdom of God. Today’s readings offer a few more such parables.

Jesus is not only the ‘key’ to understanding the parables, He IS the Kingdom of God, and in Him, we spread that Kingdom here on earth.  As a new day dawns upon this part of God’s good earth, may the Light of Christ ‘break upon us,’ that we may be led by Christ out of our own darkness and be better capable of bringing light and hope to others.

The Kingdom of God is like a treasure buried in a field.  (Matthew 13:44)  Jesus Christ, who though rich became poor, that by his poverty you might become rich.  (2 Corinthians 8:9)  Jesus Christ is the treasure, Who, when discovered, when encountered, enriches every human person.  Even though He is the Son of God, He abandoned His rightful place in heaven to take on our flesh, our human condition, and was ‘sown in the field of the world’ in order to reveal the love of God.  Every human person is created for love; every human person is by nature attracted to Christ.  Thus, when we encounter Christ, we are so attracted to Him that we are willing to give up all other ‘worldly’ goods in order to belong completely to Christ.

This truth is expressed by the following phrase when Matthew completes this teaching of Jesus by saying when a person discovers this treasure: “out of joy [this person] goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”  (Matthew 13:44)  Notice the joy that comes when we associate our life with Christ, when we allow Christ to take precedence over everything else.  Life is a long journey, a ‘pilgrimage’ once we discover Christ.  This life will continue to have its ups and downs, but as long as we stay focused upon Christ, we will know joy, love, and fulfillment.  When we allow our self to look too much at what we have ‘given up,’ then this life and love and joy will begin to diminish (because we are focusing on ‘self’ rather than Christ; rather than others.)

St. Paul knew this truth regarding the fleeting nature of this world and the eternal glory of our life in Christ.  That is why St. Paul can say: “For this momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to what is seen but to what is unseen; for what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal.”  (2 Corinthians 4:17-18)

The Kingdom of God is like a net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind.”  (Matthew 13:47)  This parable gives clear indication that God has created everything to be included in His Kingdom.  God’s desire is that all of us grow in holiness, that we all be saved.  (1 Thessalonians 4:3)  We know from the creation accounts of Genesis that God saw His creation as “good.”  It is only by our free will that we choose to distort this goodness, that we fail to live according to God’s will, which is that we love God with all our heart, and love our neighbor as our self.  Even though we all sin, Christ has come as our salvation.  Christ has come to redeem what was lost through sin, and so we see once again the centrality of Christ in God’s Kingdom, and the importance of our freely embracing and believing in Christ.  The evidence that we truly love Christ is our love for our neighbor.

The parables offered for our prayer and consideration today reflect the multiplying effect of Christ living through more and more believers as God’s design for expanding His Kingdom upon the earth.

The Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field.  …  It becomes a large bush and the birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.  (Matthew 13: 31, 32)  With this parable, the Kingdom of God becomes associated not only with Christ, but with Christ’s Church.  We believe that the Church is the Body of Christ.  The Church is made up of many individuals, those who have come to ‘dwell in the branches’ of this Kingdom which God has sown in the world through the Incarnation of Christ.  From the one person of Jesus (that tiny mustard seed), Christ drew to himself the twelve and many others, and they (we) were sent into the world to continue to proclaim the Good News, to continue to give witness (testimony of faith in Jesus Christ) to others.  And as more came to faith, more take up their dwelling in this ‘large bush’ that is God’s Kingdom upon the earth.

The Kingdom of God is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch was leavened.”  (Matthew 13: 33)  This parable is very similar to the one about the mustard seed, but gives clearer evidence to the effect of our faithful witness to Christ in the world.  Our faith is not a matter of private relationship with Jesus, something held selfishly for my own wellbeing.  True, when one comes to friendship with Christ, she or he is greatly enriched.  But this is not sufficient, nor does it reflect the nature of true love (which always generates new life.)  This relationship with Christ compels us to share our faith.  (2 Corinthians 5:14)  This relationship with Christ naturally leads us in love to enrich others, particularly those who are in need.  (Matthew 5: 3-12; 25: 31-40)

May Christ bless each of us this day with His presence, His love and mercy, and may we be the same blessing to others.  Thus, the Kingdom of God shall grow!

Tri-Fecta on North Platte

Three years ago next month, I and Fr. Steve Titus had an incredible day of fishing on the North Platte out of Saratoga.  Thursday, we made the same float once again.  We had the good fortune of having Jeremy as our guide once again.  Half way into the drive over the mountain to our landing, Jeremy asked, “Do you remember the size of that Brown Trout you caught the last time?”  I may have grown the fish by two inches from Jeremy’s recollection.  Evidently, that fish left quite an impression on a number of folks that day.  His memory of the event was far more vivid than my own.

We put in at the Bennet Peak landing and floated to Treasure Island.  While each of us caught our share of fish, I had the good fortune to catch three different species of trout, all three of which were good size, meaning in the 18 inch range.  Though the outing three years ago netted a once in a lifetime Brown Trout, this outing was equally satisfying.

 

Rare Cut Throat Trout for the North Platte River in Wyoming.

Rare Cut Throat Trout for the North Platte River in Wyoming.

 

Brown Trout (jumping out of my hands - not unlike his grandpa three years ago!)

Brown Trout (jumping out of my hands – not unlike his grandpa three years ago!)

 

Rainbow Trout

Rainbow Trout

Evolving Theology of Creation & The 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act

While I’m on retreat, I’ll give a ‘shout out’ to one of the board members for Catholic Rural Life. Dr. Christopher Thompson, a theologian on faculty at the St. Paul Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota, penned this piece for a recent gathering.

While millions of us take advantage of these summer months to travel with family to our national parks and forests, we can take a moment and thank God not only for the extraordinary earth he places before us, but (especially this year) for the vision and courage of our fellow Americans who took up the challenge of establishing and protecting such wilderness spaces.

Clark Carmelites 001This year marks the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act, which created the National Wilderness Preservation System, and now protects over 100 million acres of “Wilderness Places” from unnecessary development and exploitation. The passage of the Wilderness Act is a distinctively American achievement and marks one of our greatest accomplishments concerning the protection of our heritage and the promotion of the common good. Whether in the crisp waters of northern Minnesota or the sultry grasses of the Everglades, at the Crown of the Continent in the Montana Rockies or the soul searing heat of Death Valley, each space provides a sacred occasion, uniting all of us Americans as one nation under God’s bountiful regard.

This common national treasure, which is our vast wilderness space, is a gift that calls out for gratitude and an obligation that unites us as one.

            It is a gift from the Creator and speaks to us of God. Our Catholic faith takes no issue with those who feel close to the Lord in the splendor of His creation. Ours is a sacramental system of worship to be sure, but we are willing to see all of creation, all of God’s creatures, as a quasi-sacrament, an outward sign of God’s invitation to love in grace. Catholics especially should not be indifferent to this preambula fidei writ-large that is our wilderness, because we are not indifferent to the Word of which it speaks. The book of nature and the books of the sacred scriptures are one, for God is the serial editor of the whole series.

            Wilderness also entails an obligation. No longer to be taken for granted as something which will always be there, our national commitment to the protection of wilderness spaces demands a prudent regard, a respect and restraint in light of the deeper values implicit in creation and the power it holds to expand our wonder and concern. Our faith teaches us that there is a natural law ethic to be observed. As creatures who participate in the eternal laws of God’s creation, we have an obligation, through our rational choices, to respect this order of creation and to observe a natural piety in relationship with the God from whom all these good things come.

            This sense of obligation concerns not only the wilderness, but extends to our concern for ourselves and others as well. The awe you and I experience on the precipice of some vista or under a star-studded sky is the same wonder you and I are called to feel before the precious gifts of human life, our sacred bodies, our families and our beloved community. A trip through a wildlife “sanctuary” can be a catechesis in first things, a primer in the fundamental values about the goodness of God and our obligation to trust and honor Him in our lives. The impulse to praise we so often feel along a quiet trail or stream ought to strengthen our resolve to obey God and His ways.

            Of course the language of the original Wilderness Act can’t speak with such theological tones, but its persistent defense of the values of the wild, hint of its origins in the American, indeed ancient, tradition of gratitude — gratitude to the one who has planted in us the magnificent gift of wonder before creation and the felt need to respond, to live a life consistent with our dignity amidst this delicate fabric of nature and under the loving care of nature’s God.

 

Trust In The Lord; Call Upon His Boundless Mercy

Father, all powerful and ever living God, we do well always and everywhere to give you thanks and praise. You never cease to call us to a new and more abundant life.

God of love and mercy, you are always ready to forgive; we are sinners, and you invite us to trust in your mercy.

Time and time again we broke your covenant, but you did not abandon us. Instead, through your Son, Jesus our Lord, you bound yourself even more closely to the human family by a bond that can never be broken.

Now is the time for your people to turn back to you and to be renewed in Christ your Son, a time of grace and reconciliation.

You invite us to serve the family of mankind by opening our hearts to the fullness of your Holy Spirit.

In wonder and gratitude, we join our voices with the choirs of heaven to proclaim the power of your love and to sing of our salvation in Christ:

(Roman Missal, Third Edition; Preface for Eucharistic Prayer for Reconciliation I)

 

In Another HHS Ruling Today, Diocese of Cheyenne and Affiliates Granted Injunction Pending Relief From Tenth Circuit Court

Today, the Supreme Court of the United States reached a decision in favor of Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties.   The Court ruled that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) “preventive services” mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) as applied to these employers to the extent that it would have forced them to provide insurance coverage for drugs and devices that violate their religious convictions on respect for human life.  This decision of the Supreme Court indicates that Americans should have the right to follow their faith while operating family businesses, even when these businesses are tightly held corporations. This is a great victory for religious freedom.

Also, today, the tenth circuit court of appeals granted The Diocese of Cheyenne and affiliated Catholic organizations, an injunction pending appeal. The order reads as follows:

 “we hereby order as follows. If the plaintiffs-appellants inform the Secretary of Health and Human Services in writing that they are non-profit organizations that hold themselves out as religious and have religious objections to providing coverage for contraceptive services, the respondents are enjoined from enforcing against the plaintiffs-appellants the challenged provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and related regulations pending further order of the court. To meet the condition for injunction pending appeal, plaintiffs-appellants need not use the form prescribed by the Government and need not send copies to third-party administrators.”

 Today’s rulings are certainly welcome news and a victory for religious freedom. We continue to pray for a successful conclusion to our pending litigation brought on behalf of Wyoming Catholic Charities, St. Joseph’s Children’s Home, Wyoming Catholic College, and St Anthony’s Tri-Parish School.

Entering Silent Mode

074It has been a wonderful feast day! And, the good stuff is just beginning. I arrived at St. Meinrad this afternoon in time to settle in and join the monastic community for Solemn Vespers. Not a bad way to enter into a weeklong retreat…

The tabernacle at left is found in the Blessed Sacrament chapel of the abbey church, which is behind the great pipe system for their organ.  I plan on spending many hours with the Lord in this holy place, and it is one of my favorites.

There is something very sacred about this monastery.  I’m sure much of it has to do with growing up in southern Indiana, and knowing many of the monks from the time I was a small child.  There is no doubt the connection of the seminary, where my own uncle, Fr. Bernie Voges studied and was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.  Even though I did not study here, many of the priests I know and love did.

But it is a blessing to be able to make my retreat here once again this year.

So, other than some business that will no doubt result from tomorrow’s SCOTUS ruling on the Hobby Lobby case, and hopefully, a ruling from either the 10th Circuit or SCOTUS on our diocesan appeal for injunctive relief from the HHS Mandate, I’ll be shutting down the electronics for the next week.  Please pray for me, and know you are in my prayers.

God bless,

+pde

 

Saint Meinrad Archabbey Church.

Saint Meinrad Archabbey Church.

Saints Peter and Paul; Foundation of Faith

Martyrdom of St. Peter

Martyrdom of St. Peter

Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul.  The mere fact that this solemnity over-rides the usual Sunday celebration tells us much of the significance of these two saints.

In Rome, it is a particularly favored day in the liturgical year recognizing that the Church was built upon the faith of Peter: “Lord, you are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”  (Matthew 16:16)  Similarly, though the primacy goes to Peter, the Church recognizing the great teacher, Paul along with his great faith and perseverance: “I have fought the good fight; I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith.”  (2 Timothy 4:7)

While today remembers the entire life and ministry of St. Peter and Paul, it also gives thanks for their final ‘confession,’ that of laying down their life, pouring out their blood, as the greatest witness of their faith that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Savior of the world.  The Church is built upon the blood of the martyrs, and every such ‘confession of faith.’  That faith of St. Paul is captured in these words: “I know the one whom I have trusted and I am certain that he, the just judge, has power to keep safe what he has entrusted to me until that Day.”  (2 Timothy 1:12)

Saint Paul, the Great Evangelist.

Saint Paul, the Great Evangelist.

We have only to read the Gospels, Acts of Apostles and Paul’s Epistles to recall the many hardships each of these saints endured as they faithfully followed Christ.  We have only to study the history of the Church and the teaching of Jesus to be reminded that carrying the cross is a part of every true Christian’s life.

From my first visit to Rome back in 1986, I learned how moving it is to visit the places where these saints walked, taught, were imprisoned, martyred and are buried.  Standing and praying in these hallowed places increases one’s desire to know Christ as they knew Him in order to love and serve Christ with the same singleness of purpose.  That is the beauty of the life Christ calls each of us to discover.  How inspiring it is to pray and celebrate Mass where these saints are buried, giving thanks for their friendship with Christ in the hope that we too will here Christ say to us: “I call you friends”.  (John 15:15)

I believe the Church today is experiencing a ‘New Springtime.’  With such hope comes the conviction that God is raising up holy men and women for our time for the renewal of the Church, just as in His Providence, He had men such as Peter and Paul to establish His Church.  Let each of us today be renewed in our confidence in God’s love as revealed in Christ.  Let us be renewed in the faith celebrated today in Saints Peter and Paul as we profess with St. Peter:

“Lord to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life; and we believe and we are convinced that you are the Christ, the Son of God.” (John 6:68)

+pde

 

Sacred Heart of Jesus and Priesthood Anniversary

SacredHeartSmall-226x300An this Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, I celebrate my 22nd anniversary as a priest, the last four and a half years of which have been in the capacity of Bishop of Cheyenne.  I have so very much to give thanks for this day.  I was up very early this morning so that I could celebrate a Mass before departing (once again) for the airport.  Certainly, for every priest, there is no better manner or place to give thanks for the gift of the priesthood than the altar of the Lord.

Since this anniversary falls on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart, it is also a day of prayer for the sanctification of priests.  I wish to invite the readership of this blog to pray for your priests, that we may be faithful to our promises, and be holy, credible witnesses to Christ, and effectively lead others to Christ.  More and more, I realize that a fundamental responsibility of the priest is to work for the salvation of God’s People.

On this day, I pray not only that our priests will grow in holiness, but also, that many other young men will open their hearts to God’s call.  The most important thing for any person is to discover God’s will in their life.  For life to be lived to the full, it is to be discovered in God, given to God and lived for God.  An0ther reason I make this prayer is because my own life as a priest has been so fulfilling and rewarding.  And finally, we, the Church, God’s people, need priests.

So, dear friends, please join me in giving thanks to God for all of our priests.  Please join in prayer for the sanctification of all priests.  Please join me in prayer that God will bless our Church, particularly the Diocese of Cheyenne, with many more holy vocations to the priesthood!

Sacred Heart of Jesus, Pray for us!

+PDE

Another “New” Priest For Cheyenne

Rev. Arulanandu David of the Diocese of Nellore, India

Rev. Arulanandu David of the Diocese of Nellore, India

I would like to welcome to the Diocese of Cheyenne Fr. Arulanandu David.  I told Father that he will have to get used to people around here calling him “Fr. David” since most of us will struggle with his first name.

Fr. David will become the new parochial administrator of St. Patrick in Kemmerer along with its two missions of LaBarge and St. Dominic in Cokeville.  He will arrive in Kemmerer this Thursday.

We are so very grateful to the Diocese of Nellore for sharing priests to minister in our Diocese.  Fr. David had a 33 hour trip yesterday to get to Denver, and then the remaining hour and a half drive from Denver to Cheyenne.  He arrive here around 2:00am this morning.  He flew from Chennai, India to Doha, Qatar, from there to New York, and from there to Denver.

Chennai is the location of three shrines to St. Thomas the Apostle.  It was in this area of India where the Apostle was martyred.  The Catholic faith is very strong in the southern portion of India, and we are benefitting from the large number of priests they have in this part of the Church and world.

Fr. David was ordained a priest in 1998.  He has 1 brother and 7 sisters.  All of his siblings are married, so he also has many nieces and nephews.  He served for four and a half years in the Scranton Diocese, so this is not his first tour of service in the United States.  He enjoys sports of all kind, including soccer, even though India does not have a contender in the World Cup.

Rev. Thomas George along with Rev. Arulanandu David

Rev. Thomas George along with Rev. Arulanandu David

Besides Fr. David, there are two other priests from the Diocese of Nellore presently serving in the Diocese of Cheyenne.   Pictured alongside of Fr. David is Fr. Thomas George.  Fr. Thomas is an associate at the Cathedral in Cheyenne, and has already in two years stolen the hearts of many.

Fr. Denis D’Souza, also of Nellore, is the pastor of Immaculate Conception in Green River.   Green River is not far (by Wyoming standards) from Kemmerer, and it will be nice for Fr. David and Fr. Denis to be relatively close to each other.

Please join me in welcoming Fr. David to the Diocese of Cheyenne!

+pde

As Cultivated Ground Receives the Rain, Open Hearts Recieve God’s Love

flower garden 001Last evening I went out after a brief rain thinking it would be easy to pull weeds in my small flower garden.  To my disappointment, I discovered only the surface was moist, and I needed a tool to break the ground deep enough to pull the weeds from their roots.  I realized after the weeds were pulled that having broken the ground in the process, this would be a good time to give the flowers some water.  I thought the rain was over for the evening.

Then, around 9:45 pm a huge thunderstorm moved through, dumping not only copious amounts of water, but about five minutes of hail.  The ground and streets are covered with the leaves stripped from the trees.  My walk this morning revealed piles of hail on street corners where the gutters and drains were clogged from the hail, and could not carry the runoff of hail and rain fast enough.  The hail did not do my flowers any good either!

But I digress from my point…  The experience last night of pulling weeds and working the ground are a good analogy for the human heart.  When the ground becomes hard, the rain does not have the immediate ability to penetrate the ground.  Rather, the rain runs off, providing little long-term benefit to the roots, and thus the plants themselves.  But, when the ground has been cultivated, it is not only free of weeds which compete for the nutrients of the crops and flowers, but the soil is far more receptive to the moisture required for growth and health.

Similarly, the human person must tend to the interior needs of the heart and soul.  The attitude espoused in Psalm 108 expresses beautifully the openness of one who understands the life-giving relationship we have with the Creator: “My heart is ready, O God …”  A healthy human life is one that does not allow the heart to become hardened by worldly ways, nor the soul to become fruitless through regular patterns of sinfulness and vice.

Hearts that cultivate relationships and love, souls that develop virtue and grow in holiness are ready tools in the hands of God.  The Prophet Isaiah teaches:  As the earth brings forth its plants, and a garden makes its growth spring up, so will the Lord God make justice and praise spring up before all the nations. (Isaiah 61)

So, dear friends, as we enter another day, let our hearts be open to the Lord.  It is good to remember that each day we enter into a Love that is eternal.  We take up fresh and new a relationship with Christ who is always pouring out grace upon grace to keep us vibrant in the life and ministry He shares with us.  With cultivated and grateful hearts, let us ‘soak up’ the grace and love of Christ, that we may bloom where he has planted us and bear the fruits that are ours when we remain in His love.  (John 15)

+pde

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