Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Is A Vocation Our Ultimate Calling...Music for April 24th

Hello St. Francis,
This week I would like to reflect on what most people, including myself have always thought to be the pinnacle of our religious, personal and professional lives.  I have heard it said and I have spoken myself many times about how we should seek a vocation in life.  My simple definition of vocation is that it takes what we do any transforms it into who we are.  I, therefore would strive not to do the work of a husband or a teacher but to actually be a husband and a teacher.  It becomes a part of your own description of who you are.   I have also heard vocation defined as the process by which we discover a love of God for the sake of God.  This is a great thing.  It is a self-giving thing.  When we choose to love God because we want God to know that we love him, it reminds us of the awe and wonder we have for the God who is so full of mercy, grace and love.

So, how is this not the ultimate calling?  Indulge me this.  I think that it is a whole lot easier to love God than it is to love myself.  When I think of God in that way, it is easy to miss the "feet in the mud" type of sacrificial love that we would need to show for another person.  I think that we can trick ourselves into thinking we love ourselves because we love God.  I mean, God created us, right?  So I would have to love myself by default then...right?  My vocation can easily become stagnant if it is centered only in a philosophy that I am living by "God's Plan".  So, what is the alternative?

Of course God wants us to love God!!!  But, even more important to God, I think, is that we love and appreciate His creation, especially ourselves.  So instead of loving God for the sake of God, I am challenged to love myself for the sake of God.  OK.  What does that mean? Well, that means that I can take that feeling of wonder and awe, I can take that duty to live out my vocation and turn it into something even more selfless, and dare I say even more fulfilling and life giving.  You see, when you love yourself for the sake of God, it challenges you to take that vocation (something that is inside of you) and turn it into a...MISSION!!!  So what is a mission?  A mission is the way I seek to live my vocation in the service of others and the glory of God.  My mission forces me to move beyond my comfort zone and take my gifts, my talents and my circumstances and use them to bring God's love to everyone.  So, when I wake up in the morning and look at myself in the mirror, I do not only see what "I Am", but also what the real "I AM" is calling me to.  Sounds like a challenge that will enrich me and my life.  Heed the call!!!

Jim

Music for April 24th:

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Let The Children Lead Them,...Music for April 17th

Hello St. Francis,

This week our parish family will be celebrating a very big day in the lives of six of our young people as they receive Jesus in the Eucharist for the first time.  I don't know about you but my 1st Communion memories have stood the test of time.  I remember with great fondness many moments of my own 1st Communion...(MANY years ago).  For me, I was blessed to have my entire family present and we celebrated this occasion as momentous day in my life.  Many things have changed in our church since I received my 1st Communion but, thankfully, many things have remained.  For example, I remember that we were asked to get dressed back up in our 1st Communion outfits for the next week's Mass so that the parish could see how handsome and beautiful we looked.  For some reason, I remember watching the congregation watch us receive Communion with big smiles on their faces.  I asked myself and to a certain extent continue to ask myself this question.  Why did they look at me with such reverence and joy when all of them were allowed to receive communion any time they wanted?

I think that one of the aspects of 1st Communion that we all cherish is the innocence and awe of the children who receive it.  We see a faith in them that does not question, that does not fear and that is filled with life and expectation.  There is a reverence and a joy about these children that not only bring us joy, but also bring us back to a time when maybe we felt the same way about it.  Where did it go?  Have we from time to time allowed this beautiful and traditional ritual of our faith become simply a part of a routine?  You know what I mean...we sit, we stand, we say Amen, we sing, we receive Communion and then we are off to continue life as we know it.  I think this type of pattern is easy to fall into.  I would like to suggest something to all of us.

This week, remember your own 1st Communion.  Remember the anticipation and the excitement.  Remember the joy and the reverence.  Remember the celebration and the family.  And then, when you process with your parish family to receive Jesus, think of these children who will receive Jesus in the way we are all called to.  It is true that taking the routine we have gotten into and transforming it back into the ritual it is will take some effort.  It will in some ways force us to be more engaged, more prayerful and more filled with wonder and awe.  But, when you think about it, isn't that what it should be?  Isn't that what will increase our capacity to truly appreciate the gift we have in Eucharist, in the Mass and in the community we call home?

So, this week, let the wisdom and faith of these small children inspire you to see this precious gift with the eyes of a child and with the faith to know that when we do receive Eucharist, we grow even closer to Jesus, and by being closer to Jesus, he will bless us with the grace to see all things with the optimism and innocence of a child.

God Bless...Please Pray for our young children who will receive Jesus for the first time this weekend.

Jim

Music for April 17th


Psalm 118

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Faith...The Final Frontier....Music for April 9-10

Hello St. Francis!

I was so blessed this week to have the opportunity to attend a convention of people from around the USA who work as ministers with young people.  There were so many amazing insights that were made by a group of dedicated servants of God that I felt in many ways overwhelmed.  If you've ever attended an event like this, as you know, it is easy to leave it energized and ready to change the world.  Thankfully, our experiences concluded with a reflection and prayer that quite frankly put in to focus all of the things we experienced.  This week, I want to share a perspective that I acquired during this event.

We find ourselves at a very exciting time in the evolution of our church.  Our call can often seem cloudy and we may not know exactly where we are supposed to be.  As people of faith, we are certainly called to evangelize, to invite others into a deeper relationship with God and a community of faith, but who? but where?  Here is a perspective.  We are called to be missionaries on the Frontier of our community, society and world.  Now, the interesting part about this is that I am not sure that means we need to leave our own building, let alone our city to find the frontiers of faith.  This time that we live in provides us with so many people who question faith, who believe in something different or in some cases, do not believe in anything at all.  For me, this is the next great frontier.  It is often said that the way you live and the attitude you possess is a much better advertisement than your words.  I certainly agree with that.  So what should the "billboard of our life" be?  Allow me to share my thoughts.

First, and this may be the most difficult part, is that there needs to be a true surrender of self to God's will.  I think that most people with the very best intentions, do not find the answer because they can not or will not allow God to ask the question.  We seek to answer the question we want answered, not necessarily the one that God is calling us to answer.  Our PURPOSE, our MINISTRY is not our own.  Instead, in our surrender to God, we receive our purpose and our mission.  Surrender, is a difficult concept so let me offer this definition.  The true definition of the word is this...HOPE.  I can measure the hope that I have, in God, in myself and in others by the amount of myself that I am willing to surrender to God.  Powerful statement!!!  The foundation of hope is surrender.  Hope, should be at the center of our billboard because as much as anything that a person can possess, Hope attracts others.

Second, when we get people's attention, what do we do?  We share the most love filled message that we can.  We share the Catholic Ministry of Reconciliation. That is who we are.  We are a people of forgiveness, mercy and reconciliation.  I believe that our frontier just may be an invitation to reconcile the estranged.  Who are the estranged?  Where do you start?  There are so many that have turned away or have been turned away from faith for so many reasons.  I know that I can not answer their questions or solve their problem.  What I do know is that I can tell them that there is Hope and that what is now at our center is reconciling all to God and to their faith.

Here is my conclusion for what it is worth.  Our frontier is a fractured world.  Religious Ideologies, Politics, Liberal/Conservative.  Maybe instead of discerning who we agree with and who we don't, we should just assume that the intention of both sides are pure and that even if we are incredibly opposed to the belief or ideology of the other, they come to the table with the same HOPE we do.  Maybe, instead of raising a banner for one side, we should be the ones that hold the hand of those on both sides.  If we do that. aren't we the link?  If we are between them, can't we begin to erase the dividing line that separates them and begin our mission to the frontier of reconciliation.

Have a great week St. Francis.
Jim