Friday, March 30, 2012

Words from Fr Ed (From April 1st, 2012 Bulletin)

Fear no more, O daughter Zion; see, your king comes, seated upon an ass’ colt.
Imagine this scene from the Gospel that opens our Palm (Passion) Sunday celebration. It portrays the depth to which
God has come in order to save us. God rides on a donkey.
I don’t know how close you have been to donkeys, but I’ve had a few chances to observe them. Touching one in
Honduras earned me a trip to the immigration line in the Houston airport. Donkeys are serious business!
I’m imagining the ‘Jerusalem’ donkey, so nicknamed because of its association with Christianity and Our Savior. It has a
distinctive black cross on its back, stretching across its shoulders and down its backbone. This cross makes one wonder if the legend is true,

Legend of the Donkey's Cross

" Bring me the colt of a donkey," was the Master's request.
A young donkey was brought to Jesus to carry Him into Jerusalem.
A week later Jesus was ordered to be crucified.
The little donkey so loved the Lord that he wanted to help Him carry the cross.
But, alas, he was pushed away.
The sad little donkey waited to say goodbye until nearly all had left.
As he turned to leave,
the shadow of the cross fell upon the back and shoulders of the little donkey.
And there it has remained, a tribute to the loyalty and love of the humblest of Gods creatures.
by Mary Singer

Now I’m sure that the Charles Darwin Society would not accept this as a viable explanation of how that cross ended up on the donkey’s
back, but I like to think there is some truth in it. If God made the donkey, (sorry about the ‘if’, no need for it), then He can put whatever He
wants on it. Look at the variety of animals, their markings and shapes. Look at the zebra for example, a cousin of the donkey. Wow! God is
an amazing artist. Look at the giraffe. God is a comedian, too. But then there is a practicality in all these colors and shapes that work perfectly
for God’s abundant design; just a glimpse of the heavenly realities that He wants us to see even in this life.

We read in Jonah about God’s love, even for ‘the many cattle’. Would not God want to honor, and be totally free to do so, the creatures
that gave special service to Our Savior? Somehow, the evolutionary theory, if done without reference or inclusion of the hand of God, leaves
us with a sense of nature being all-powerful and the overriding force that shapes life. In fact, this makes ‘mother nature’ (they even need to
personify it) God, which it is not.
Deeper into the legend is the truth that for those who draw near to the cross to honor Our Savior, they, and I hope that is a ‘we’, are
imprinted with His Passion as we come close to cross. We are somehow shaped by it and formed in His image through it. This is part of the
reparation for sin and acceptance of the salvation offered through the death of Christ. I say ‘reparation’ in the fullest sense of healing the
whole person effected by sin, both inherited and actual. To say that love can heal our sinfulness and win our forgiveness, we must also not
be afraid to draw close to the bloody reality of it.

Pope Benedict writes, “Only when someone values love more highly than life, that is, only where someone is ready to put life second to
love, for the sake of love, can love be stronger and more than death.” Jesus’ love on the cross should overcome our fear of drawing near. Will
we run like most of the apostles, or will we join John and Mary, Jesus’ mother and Mary Magdalene at the foot of the cross loving Him. Are
we afraid to be sealed, like our legendary donkey, with the sign of the cross?

Holy Week is the most beautiful week of the year to draw near to Christ’s Passion and Resurrection. During the Holy Triduum we
celebrate His life-giving institution of the Eucharist on Holy Thursday, His suffering and death on the cross on Good Friday, and finally the
triumph over death and the grave at the Easter Vigil. Please don’t run from the cross of spending a few extra hours in Church. Not only will it
not kill you, it will give you new life. Like the donkey, the shadow of His cross will touch your shoulders as well, and declare to the whole world
that you belong now to Him.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Words from Fr Ed (From March 25th, 2012 Bulletin)

Foretaste “Your brother will rise.”
John 11:23

Our Cycle A readings share the resuscitation of Lazurus from the dead this weekend. We use the A readings because we have RCIA candidates and catechumens preparing for baptism and profession of the Catholic faith. Four are becoming Christians for the first time, while 6 are already baptized and now desire full communion with the Catholic Church. What a great grace. I hope all of you can come to our Easter Vigil this year on April 7th.

Jesus reveals both His human nature and His Divine nature in this scene with Mary, Martha, and their brother Lazurus, who has died. In his humanity it is said that after seeing Mary weeping along with their friends, Jesus became “perturbed and deeply troubled”. They pointed him to the tomb. “And Jesus wept.” (John 11:35) Jesus experienced loss and emotions like us. Grief is normal in the face of loss.

This past week I concelebrated a funeral in Ellensburg for my friend Gary Dier. He was a Secular Carmelite and devout Catholic. He was also a paraplegic because of an accident while ‘breaking’ wild horses.  He was broken in body and confined to a wheel chair for most of his life. But his spirit was not broken. He was not only faithful to Mass, but also helped start and maintain Eucharistic adoration at his parish, St. Andrew’s.

Gary was also a Marine before his accident. At the graveside they did what is called a Marine Corps roll-call. An officer calls the names of the Marines present and they responded, shouting “Here, sir, here!” “Lieutenant Wilson!” “Here, sir, here” a young honor guard shouted. “Private Strom!” “Here, sir, here!” Strom returned. “Captain Dier!” No answer but silence. “Captain Dier!” the officer shouted again. No answer but the frigid wind blowing across Holy Cross Cemetary on a bluff overlooking Ellensburg.

My friend Gary could no longer respond with his body. His son Luke, an Army officer, standing at attention on the other end of the casket, shook with tears, unable to take his dad’s place in roll call, though he bore the same name tag on his uniform. And Jesus wept.

Fortunately, the grave is not our final resting place. Even our bodies will rise again to a new heaven and a new earth. Death is not the final word. Jesus, the Alpha and Omega, the Word made flesh, crucified and now risen, is the final Word. His power and grace cause this mortal flesh, which easily wilts in the noonday sun and fades in the evening of life, to resurrect like a new-born babe. Jesus says, “Lazurus”, “humanity”, “children of the Father united in the Holy Spirit”, “come out!” And we will be able to answer to our names, “Here, Lord, here!”

Human Life at Conception
Check out this beautiful video of life developing in the womb from conception.

You formed my inmost being;
You knit me in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, so wonderfully you made me;
Wonderful are your works!
My very self you knew;
My bones were not hidden from you,
When I was being made in secret,
Fashioned as in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes foresaw my actions;
In your book all are written down;
My days were shaped, before one came to be.
Psalm 139: 13-16

Our Bishops of the United States have asked our prayers for religious freedom. In a statement made March 14th (, the Bishops have expressed their concern over a pending law that would force Catholics to participate in intrinsic evil, inclusive of abortion causing contraception.

As you know, ‘contraception’ is a deceptive word. Most ‘contraceptives’ include the ability, in case conception is achieved, of preventing the already fertilized egg, 3 to 4 days old, which has all the genetic makeup intact and is dividing rapidly, from implanting in the uterus lining. This is, in fact, an abortion. That is why they are called abortifacients.

More importantly, the Bishops point out, this is not a question about contraception, sterilization, or even abortion, it is primarily about religious freedom. Can the state, the United States Government, force employers, regardless of their religious persuasion, to go against their seriously held beliefs. The government regularly provides for protection of conscience in other circumstances, why not now? Below you will find a prayer for our government:

O God Our Creator,
From your provident hand we have received our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. You have called us as your people and given us the right and the duty to worship you, the only true God, and your Son, Jesus Christ. Through the power and working of your Holy Spirit, you call us to live out our faith in the midst of the world, bringing the light and the saving truth of the Gospel to every corner of society.

We ask you to bless us in our vigilance for the gift of religious liberty. Give us the strength of mind and heart to readily defend our freedoms when they are threatened; give us courage in making our voices heard on behalf of the rights of your Church and the freedom of conscience of all people of faith.

Grant, we pray, O heavenly Father, a clear and united voice to all your sons and daughters gathered in your Church in this decisive hour in the history of our nation, so that, with every trial withstood and every danger overcome— for the sake of our children, our grandchildren, and all who come after us— this great land will always be “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Words from Fr Ed (From March 18th, 2012 Bulletin)

"Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up,
so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life." - John 3:14-16

There is a scene in the Passion of the Christ where Jesus and His Cross are being lifted up and then dropped into the hole prepared for it in the rocky ground of Golgotha. The camera catches the eyes of John as he sees His Master, His Lord, and His Love lifted above the ground in horrible torture. John’s eyes, however, reveal a certain wonder, even majesty, that may come from his remembering these words of Jesus, that He must "be lifted up" like the serpent in the desert.

This image from Moses became known as ‘Nehushtan’. It was a bronze image created at the command of God in order to cure the Israelites of a plague of snakes. (Numbers 21:4-9) Later, Hezekiah would destroy it because the people had begun to worship it as a false god. Its original power to heal came directly from God and obedience to Him. Looking at the snake brought healing, not because of any inherent healing power in the bronze snake, but rather in an act of obedience to an Almighty God.

Ironic that God would choose a snake as an image of healing, given its history in the Bible and association with Satan. This just goes to show how free God is to choose as He wills and for us to know that the power to heal does not lie in any creature. The imagery that we use in Catholic worship and devotion does not bear an inherent power separated from God’s grace. It is only by His grace that bread can be maintained as the Body of Christ, that relics of saints can heal broken limbs, and that gazing upon an icon can bring relief and consolation to the soul.

He knows us well though and provides for our sensory relationship with our environment. It helps to have an image to look at that draws our soul into a consideration of what is portrayed. The crucifix stands as a central image in our iconography. It portrays the saving event of Jesus giving His life for us. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life. " (John 3:16) There is a beautiful prayer that goes with the crucifix and has a special plenary indulgence attached to those who say it on Fridays during Lent:

BEHOLD, O good and sweetest Jesus,
I cast myself upon my knees in Thy sight, and with the most fervent desire of my soul
I pray and beseech Thee to impress upon my heart lively sentiments of faith, hope and charity,
with true repentance for my sins and a most firm desire of amendment: whilst with deep affection and grief of soul
I consider within myself and mentally contemplate Thy five most precious Wounds,
having before mine eyes that which David, the prophet, long ago spoke in Thine own person concerning Thee,
my Jesus: "They have pierced My hands and My feet, they have numbered all My bones."

The normal conditions for receiving an indulgence apply

N20. §1. To gain a plenary indulgence, in addition to excluding all attachment to sin, even venial sin, it is necessary to perform the indulgenced work and fulfill the following three conditions:

sacramental confession, Eucharistic Communion, and prayer for the intention of the Sovereign Pontiff.

§2. A single sacramental confession suffices for gaining several plenary indulgences; but Holy Communion must be received and prayer for the intention of the Holy Father must be recited for the gaining of each plenary indulgence. 

§ 3. The three conditions may be fulfilled several days before or after the performance of the prescribed work; it is, however, fitting that Communion be received and the prayer for the intention of the Holy Father be said on the same day the work is performed. 
§4. If the full disposition is lacking, or if the work and the three prescribed conditions are not fulfilled, saving the provisions given in Norm 24 and in Norm 25 regarding those who are "impeded," the indulgence will only be partial. 

§5. The condition of praying for the intention of the Holy Father is fully satisfied by reciting one Our Father and one Hail Mary; nevertheless, one has the option of reciting any other prayer according to individual piety and devotion, if recited for this intention.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Words from Fr Ed (From March 11th, 2012 Bulletin)

… stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.Jesus was zealous for His Father’s house, the temple in Jerusalem. The Scriptures say, "Zeal for your house will consume me." Jesus cared about worship and guarding it from the intrusion of secular greed and interests. We have to do the same as a parish which is called first and foremost to return gratitude to God for our salvation. We come to the font of the Eucharist to unite ourselves fully with the Heavenly Bread, Jesus Christ. All other interests are secondary. As Jesus told Martha, "…only one thing is necessary". This was said in regard to her sister who was doing that thing, sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening to and waiting upon His word.

It is easy for churches to wander into the business of business. We are a big institution with a big budget and staff. If we want the same or better structures of service that we had yesterday we naturally plan for those expenses. This can become a temptation that leads to too much fundraising and concern about money. This runs contrary to a spirit of faith in God’s providence. As a religious institution committed to preaching, and thus living, the Gospel, we must maintain a healthy trust that God will provide for His will to be done. In fact, He promises this Divine assistance. Jesus teaches us to "…seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things (clothing, food, drink) will be given you besides."

That may sound easy for a single celibate to promote. I can’t imagine how difficult this is for a family with anxieties for children. But God’s promise extends to families as well. It’s a matter for discernment, but how are you as a family called to ‘seek first His Kingdom’? How can we honor the temple of the Holy Spirit and not allow our secular concerns to encroach on the primacy of our spiritual needs? The money-changers in the temple also try to enter our temple, our own soul, as well as our family homes and relationships. That is why finances are a major component of marriage prep. Attitude and understanding of how to manage finances as a Christian is vital for a marriage to thrive, especially in times of scarcity.

Those of you who are out of work face a particular trial in balancing out your real financial needs with the demand of the Gospel. How will ‘the Kingdom’ feed and clothe your family? I would say, pray well, and then see God work. Our Office of Readings this morning (I’m writing this on Monday, March 5th) gave the story of the Israelites backed up against the Red Sea as the Egyptians came down upon them with all their force. Moses tried to calm their fears with this prophecy, "These Egyptians whom you see today you will never see again. The Lord himself will fight for you; you have only to keep still."

As I have said elsewhere, taking up a prayer practice of Scriptural reading and meditation is essential for Christian life. What better time to pick up God’s word than when we are facing difficult trials. It is humbling, yes, and that alone would be worth it. Let God’s word penetrate any doubts or worries that you have. He is more than capable of taking care of you and your family. Proverbs says, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, on your own intelligence rely not; In all your ways be mindful of Him , and he will make straight your paths." (3:5-6) May God give you confidence in His mercy and kindness.

Liguorian Magazine Subscriptions
Some of you shared with me that you never received subscriptions from the Liquarian magazine that you signed up for. The Redemptorist priest was surprised when I called him and asked us to contact the main subscription office regarding this. We can do that for you if you let us know about this error. Please call Paul Schwarz at 253-631-1940, ext 129 to let us know who you are. Bless you for your patience in trying to get this straightened out.

Gallup ME 25
We will be participating this weekend in a survey that helps us determine our engagement level as a parish. We did this almost two years ago and discovered that we were approximately 27% engaged. This is higher than the national average for Catholic parishes (~16%), but lower than the threshold that emits an ambiance of complete engagement and welcome (37%). Hopefully we have grown in the past few years in this area of Christian life. To know this we need your participation in the survey, no matter how involved you are in the parish. If you haven’t filled one out in the pew during Mass, please take time to either go online or pick up a survey in the Narthex. It only takes a few minutes. May God bless you for your involvement in the parish, it is a mutual benefit to all of us.