Enjoy re-reading Fr. John's weekly bulletin letters for the past year.
Love, joy, peace are often attached to the infant in the manger in Bethlehem. But truth be told the best way to describe him: subversive. His birth undercuts all worldly power and assumptions. Even at the moment of birth there was "no room in the inn", and as CS Lewis often quipped, "God had to sneak clandestinely behind enemy lines". This world would not receive this newborn King and has found ways to reject him ever since. The swaddled child is an immediate threat to the political order and an object of panic to the religious community. Herod wanted him dead; the Temple officials wouldn't tolerate this version of a Messiah. From this point onwards Jesus turns the worldly powers on their heads, he subverts the old religions and those who dare to follow him are hunted down as revolutionaries, disloyal citizens who threaten the status quo.READ MORE
Many have found this helpful, for those it applies to, so I reprint it around Christmas in hopes it will help still more to "rock around the Christmas tree" and not "throw rocks around the Christmas tree".
Each year thousands of American children are informed that their parents are divorcing and that there will be new living arrangements with the children alternating time between parents. Adults who experienced divorce as children frequently report that the holidays were especially stressful for them during their own childhood. This means that divorced or separated parents have to take time to figure out and discuss what the holidays should look like for their children and not what suits the parents or the custody arrangements. After all we say, "Christmas is all about the children" but do we really set it up to be so?READ MORE
At the height of the sex abuse scandal in the Church, when one Grand Jury after another was issuing reports that were often short on facts and that created the suspicion that all Catholic priests were pedophiles, a dear friend of mine who was a DPS Officer pulled me aside and reminded me that too often law enforcements officers are all smeared because of a few bad apples on the force. He understood the pain and the frustration of not being able to do much about it and the injustice that comes when your entire profession is cast under a pall of darkness. That moment of solidarity gave me great comfort.
Since the Grand Juries in New York and Ferguson did not bring back indictments law enforcement officers are being put under the suspicion of racism. And not just racism but homicidal racism. So I say to our law enforcement friends what my DPS friend said to me: you are good men and women who do your best under difficult circumstances to protect our rights and safety and despite whatever vilification you are now experiencing many of us are grateful for your service, integrity and willingness to put yourself in harms way for the rest of us. This too shall pass.READ MORE
The land that is mentioned the most in the Bible is of course Israel. The land that is most mentioned next is Iraq (home of Nineveh, Babylon, Eden to name a few.) Today, the largest community of Iraqi Christians lives in… Chicago. Since the fall of Saddam Hussein, Christians in Iraq have had to flee their homeland and now with the advent of ISIS the very existence of Christianity in Iraq, to which the Gospel was first preached by Thomas the Apostle, is teetering on extinction.
As bad as this is it gets worse. Near the ancient city of Nineveh ISIS goons captured four children all under 15yrs old and told them to "say the words" acknowledging Allah as Lord. But the children all said, "no but we love Yeshua (Jesus), we have always loved Yeshua". "Say the words" and they refused. Then their heads were cut off.
When we teach our children to sing that wonderful "O, how I love Jesus" do we ever envision that might mean the difference between life and death? Do we really let them know that by loving Christ they are in effect taking sides? And that can cost them dearly someday.READ MORE
Welcome to the Year of Grace 2015. Each liturgical year we recall the events that led to our salvation beginning with the Advent of our God. Yet oddly as we celebrate Christmas the only one not to get a gift is the child born in straw poverty. But then again that is how Jesus works: he turns the world's values upside down. Still we can give the newborn Savior our gratitude for condescending, becoming one of us and changing all of us. So this Advent I propose that we have an Advent of Gratitude. Why not all together come up with 10,000 reasons to be grateful.
This is how it works: take an Advent Calendar (at the Church exits or download one from our website; the same website where you take the ME25 Survey!) and for each of the 25 days of Advent write three things you are grateful for. Each day must have three different things listed, no repeats. By Christmas Day you will have 75 reasons to be grateful and whatever gifts you receive will be icing on the cake! Plus on Christmas when we come together to celebrate the Birth of our Lord, together we really will have 10,000 reasons for our hearts to sing.READ MORE
Do you hear the people sing?
Singing the song of angry men
It is the music of the people
Who will not be slaves again!
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes
As I was cleaning out the birdcage for my parrot Lucy, I was thinking how animals in cages or zoos have pretty good lives. They never go hungry or thirsty, in fact we probably feed them food that many people in the world wished they had, they are not in danger of predators and likewise of dying from disease. In general these animals have much longer lifespans than their counterparts in the wild. Yet though they may not know it, they are not free.READ MORE
I see dead people. Lots of dead people. They are usually in coffins or urns sometimes in their beds. A frequent encounter with death always forces me to consider my own death and what comes next and by extension how I live the life I have. During this month of November we remember the holy souls who have gone on before us and it is also a time for us to consider those four last things: death, judgment, heaven, hell. But I have to say many of the things I notice at funerals and all that surrounds them gives me pause for concern.
Too often I see a variety of beliefs concerning death and the life after this life that are not in sync with Christian belief. To put it simply there are three major themes that seem to swirl around our culture even among Catholic Christians when it comes to death. The first is simply that death brings complete annihilation. There is nothing more after this life. That's a hard one to stomach and zaps any motivation for virtuous living. Thankfully that view is in the minority.READ MORE
Beginning next Sunday (11/16) I am going to need every individual member who is over 18 to fill out a Member Engagement Survey.
Over the past year our Parish Pastoral Council has been involved in Strategic Planning for our Parish. The basic question the Council is seeking to answer is: How does our Parish best proclaim the Gospel in the 21st century? As such the Parish Council has identified six broad areas for study: How can we enhance communications with parish members and with the wider community, how do we reach the non-Churched? How can we better promote Stewardship and become better disciples? How do we re-catechize marginal Catholics or Catholics who no longer participate? Are there ways to enhance our Worship? How do we increase involvement in our ministries? How do we enhance our On-going faith formation programs for members?READ MORE
Once again I have received my pre-election letter from the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Executive Director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Rev. Lynn takes it upon himself to advise me of the requirements of the IRS 501 (c) (3) regulations for Churches and non-profits regarding pulpit and politics. How condescendingly quaint.
The letter is more of a secularized threat of excommunication than a demonstration of fraternal counsel. From what I know about Rev. Lynn and his organization the letter seems to be born out of his desire to keep in power those with a left leaning agenda rather than a concern for the autonomy of religious organizations. Rev. Lynn obviously has appointed himself the Grand Inquisitor of the pulpit police. But the issue of how pulpit and politics play out in Churches is one that is best dealt with between the pastor and the congregation. So Rev. Lynn should stop sticking his sermon in everyone else’s pulpit.READ MORE
A Federal Judge has now told us that the definition of Marriage and its practice is changed in the state of Arizona. This ruling is similar in its imposition to that of Roe v Wade in which the Supreme Court legislated abortion on demand throughout the country. Like Roe v Wade this present juridical imposition will be divisive indefinitely since the redefinition of marriage has effects way beyond issuing Marriage Licenses. This cascade of rulings legalizing same-sex marriage in many US states is a direct result of the Supreme Court abdicating its responsibility to give us solid reasons why states, against the will of the people, need to redefine marriage.
What is so galling about this judicial decision and all previous ones on same-sex marriage is that the judges ruled based on their emotional opinion and never gave any thing approaching serious jurisprudence in their rulings. In almost every ruling whether from the Federal bench or state courts the reason given for redefining marriage has been that opposition to same-sex marriage is irrational and based on "animus" (hatred) towards gays. Basically the courts are saying that supporters of conjugal marriage are irrational and motivated by prejudice. You can read the various rulings yourself and see that with one fell swoop of raw judicial power anyone who opposes the redefinition of marriage needs to crawl back into the uncivilized cave from which they came.READ MORE
On the southeast entrance to our Church is a small plaque remembering the Hughes Family who in the 1950's donated the 10 acres on which our campus sits. It's a small reminder of a big gift. Ten acres of empty desert may not seem like much but it was a huge kick-starter for the community of Mt. Carmel to begin to build its new home.
On those ten acres a convent was built to house the sisters who taught our children in the school that was soon constructed. Afterwards a Hall was built, a rectory and finally in 1968 the Church. After that a few other buildings were added to complete the campus. Amazingly the buildings were completed and paid for in record time. All at a time when the number of parishioners at Mt. Carmel were much smaller than they are today.
But putting up buildings is only one part of building a parish community. Making sure the community that inhabits those buildings is a living and growing community, that is a visible sign of Christ' presence, is a whole other task. It is easy to measure the buildings and properties but much harder to measure the faith of the community.READ MORE
How willing are you to serve the Lord? What are you still withholding from God? How much fear drives your decisions and choices? What would your life look like if you actually surrendered your will and your life over to the care of God? Would you even be recognizable? What will it take for you to lay it all down for the Lord? Can you let go or will it all have to be ripped out of your hands? God has a way of get-ting what he wants from us. The only question is will we let go willingly or get dragged along the way to God’s Will?
These are some questions we’ll be asking at our 10th Annual People Raiser or PR-X. The People Raiser provides an opportunity for all of us to examine the stewardship of our time and talents. How well or not are we using them to build up the community of the Church? Where are we resisting? Do you wake up each morning ensnared by your problems? Or do you wake up seeing the possibilities that your problems present? A Christian steward should be above all filled with confidence and hope. After all God’s power is just a prayer away!READ MORE
This weekend the Synod of Bishops convenes to begin its study on how the Church can strengthen families, marriages and by extension society itself. What is a Synod of Bishops anyway? According to the United States Con-ference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB): “The Synod of Bishops is a permanent institution of the Catholic Church. Pope Paul VI established it in 1965, shortly after the close of the Second Vatican Council, to continue the spirit of collegial-ity and communion that was present at the Council. The Synod is an assembly of bishops from around the world who assist the Holy Father by providing counsel on important questions facing the Church in a manner that preserves the Church's teaching and strengthens her internal discipline.”
The Synod of Bishops is convoked by the Holy Father and can be either Ordinary or Extraordinary. The latter being called to deal with matters requiring a “speedy solution” and which demand “immediate attention” for the good of the entire Church. This is only the third time an Extraordinary Synod has been convened, the others being in 1969 and 1985 (the ‘85 Synod produced the Catechism). At the Extraordinary General Assembly, the bishops will define the current state of the family and challenges that face it. This should be completed by June 2015 and then the Ordi-nary Synod or the Ordinary General Assembly of Bishops is convened and they will formulate pastoral guidelines to respond to those challenges. So probably by late 2015 or early 2016 the Pope will issue a major document based on the work of the Synod. In Vatican time that constitutes “speedy immediate action”.READ MORE