Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Role of Faith in Our Lives

By Deacon John De Gano
St. Catherine of Alexandria, Riverside

This summer our diocese had the opportunity to put our faith into action on behalf of immigrant children and mothers who were being shuttled by ICE officials to reception centers for coordination with and transportation to sponsors throughout the country.

And as with all things human, we had a mixed bag of responses – from warm receptions and smiles to confusion and mistrust to angry voices and threats.

We recall this aspect of humanity every Holy Week as we retell Jesus’ passion, beginning with his warm welcome into Jerusalem and ending with his arrest, crucifixion, death and burial.

And, hopefully, we are a bit humbled that we could be like ‘those’ who sang Jesus’ praises one day and yelled for his death the next.

The full gamut of emotions.

What leads people to do this?

Is it only political ideology? NIMBYism? Or just plain fear?

In the Gospel of Mark, we see the disciples come between Jesus and the little children and their parents, who bring their children to Jesus for a blessing.

They may have had every good intention. They were tired, hot, bothered, anxious to get back home and to their comfy beds. Perhaps all they wanted was a nice bath, to feel ‘human’ again after their storm-tossed adventure on the Sea of Galilee? And they wanted to protect Jesus from the crush of the crowds of well-wishers and spies who sought to trip him up and get him arrested.

Jesus has to chide the disciples. Not for the good they sought to do, but for getting in the way of God’s plan. Jesus was on the road to Jerusalem and the cross. He knew that he would not be this way again. He wanted to reach out and touch everyone he could before that fateful entry into Jerusalem made it impossible for him to do so.

Many of us fear the unknown. We are uncomfortable in our skin. And we want to protect our loved ones and ourselves.

Rumors become fact. Fact becomes fiction. And the media often fans the distrust and anger to make “news.”

It is in times like these that faith sustains us. Faith grounds us and brings us peace. It gives us hope and compels us to serve God and our neighbor as we would ourselves.

Abraham welcomed the three strangers at his door, insisting that they allow him to provide them food, drink and a place to rest awhile before they continued on their appointed rounds. For his graciousness, God blessed his family and made them a great people. Abraham was accounted a friend of God by his actions.

During the Black plague, priests and those learned in the ways of herbal medicine did their part to stem the sickness, often at the cost of their very lives. They placed their faith in God and eventually the cause of said plague was discovered and the disease confined and eradicated.

We have to step up and, in faith, serve the stranger at our door.

Like the Good Samaritan, we need to show mercy and compassion to those who we do not know so that they might, in turn, do the same for others.

Unlike Jesus, we will never know all those we have touched in this life, but if we do not reach out we have wasted the gift of our embrace. The gentle touch of our hand and the smile that has the ability to melt hearts.

St. Augustine wrote, “Our hearts are restless (burdened) until they rest in you, o Lord!”

Let us not be hearers of the word only, but doers, as well.

Step out in faith. And in love.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Don't let fears sink your ship

By Father Benjamin Alforque, MSC

In Matt 14:22-33, Jesus is seen sending off the disciples in a boat to the other side of the lake. He then also dismissed the crowds. When he was alone he went up to the mountain by himself to pray. In the early hours of the new day, he came walking on the waters towards the boat where the disciples were. Apparently the disciples were not afraid of the tossing sea; but they were afraid of ghosts: they thought he was a ghost walking on the water. Jesus had to assure them that it was he, and there was no cause for fear.

Peter, who always makes the first excited move, but almost always in a wrong way, volunteered to come to Jesus on the water. Notice: he asked Jesus to command him to walk on the water; not to command the water to let him walk on it towards Jesus. Jesus did as Peter asked him; but when Peter began to be afraid of the strong wind, he began to sink. Again, we take note of this detail: Peter did not notice the water tossing, because he was able to walk on it. But he noticed the strong wind above the water, and that he feared. Only then did he begin to sink. Thus: he was not afraid because he was sinking; rather, he began to sink because he was afraid! Jesus saved him by extending to him his hand, catching the sinking Peter. He pointed to his little faith that produces doubt. The wind ceased when both entered the boat; and those in the boat knelt down before Jesus, proclaiming: Truly you are the Son of God.

Friends, The Dawn of the New Day has come: Jesus. Jesus prays to the Father and gets the strength from him in his mission and care for the Church. He comes, bringing in the new day, full of grace and blessing. On the other hand, humanity continues to seek him. They bring to him the prayers each early new day. The disciples, the Church, under the leadership of Peter, the Popes, have always sailed in the rough waters of challenges and trials. They would falter, and begin to sink, if their sights and senses were only focused on these problems. For apart from Jesus, they , we – the Church – cannot save themselves, we cannot save ourselves. Only by being with Jesus, who has promised us that he will always be with us, and who always stretches out his hand to us, would we be saved in a stilled and silenced world. Jesus, the Lord of the tempests, will never abandon us, the ship of Peter, the Church.

Be Not Afraid! Yes, how many times have we doubted, singly or collectively, the power of God and his mercy and steadfast love in times of troubles and difficulties. We often forget that he is always with us through thick and thin every moment of our lives until forever! In these times of forgetfulness, we vacillate. We only hear the strong winds and feel the stormy sea, and forget that Jesus is with us. Is the boat sinking? No! Tossed by the waves of indifference, injustice, violence and war? Yes! We are persecuted but we are not forsaken! With Jesus, we need to pray to the Father. With Jesus we need to navigate in the stormy seas of human history. If we fear, we will falter and sink. But Jesus is with us always. Therefore, there is no reason to be afraid!