Reflections from the Shrine ...
WE HEAR WITH OUR EARS BUT WE LISTEN WITH OUR HEARTS
In the parable today of the sower going out to sow the seed, I think of the rich land all around this beautiful Shrine. Our maintenance person puts in a lot of time and effort mowing that rich green grass; the flowers are so varied and beautiful up by the replica of the Apparition or simply the roses as we enter the Church; and the trees are so full and lovely in their canopy of leaves and pine needles.
We know the parable is explaining the importance of listening to the Word of God. It falls on bare ground, rocky ground, soil cluttered with thorns and finally rich soil. The message is asking us what is the condition of our hearts……. do we have rich soil or hard ground? There is a great deal of wisdom in saying that we hear with our ears but listen with our hearts. We can often hear the words that a person is saying but if we immediately criticize what he or she is saying, are we truly listening to that person? It is easy to hear but it takes self-discipline and a lot of patience to really listen.
In the opening lines of the Gospel, Jesus is speaking to such a large crowd that he needed to get into a boat and pull off a short distance from the shore so that everybody could hear him. So that means there was a great variety of persons; Pharisees, faithful disciples, and probably some curious bystanders.
Where do we fit into the crowd? First of all, to truly listen to God's Word at Mass, it helps if we read it before we come to Mass or reflect on it after Mass. Otherwise we can be like that bare ground; with all the distractions in our heart, nothing sinks in.
Or else we need to remember that God speaks to us through other people. Do we truly listen to other people, perhaps members of our own family? Do we put them in boxes, having already concluded what they are trying to say even before they finish speaking; so we are like that rocky ground that chokes off the meaning of their words almost as soon as they have spoken.
And finally can we listen to our own heartfelt thoughts and feelings without letting them be covered over by our fears and anxieties of what other people might think or say? Jesus has a powerful message for us today. Ask Him to teach us how to listen to Him, others, or even our deeper selves with a heart open, like the rich soil on the hillside of our lovely Shrine.
We have many summer activities coming up in the approaching weeks. This weekend we have Fr. Pat's concert on Saturday and the Healing service on Sunday. Next weekend we have the parish picnic on Sunday starting at 12:30 PM together with Saint Helena's and Saint Mary's. And at the end of the month we can participate in the Enfield Old Home Days.
Father John Sullivan M.S.
KNOWING JESUS IS KNOWING THE FATHER
After the Mass at 11:00 AM as you know we always have a reception in the cafeteria for those people who want to share with us some conversation along with snacks and drinks. I do not worry about preparing such a setting. My focus is the Mass, thinking about the homily and preparing the gifts. The "burden" of preparing the cafeteria I confidently leave in the hands of the La Salette Associates who never let me down.
So although I use the word "burden," it is not a burden to me because others have shared the responsibility in preparing such a meeting. There are many burdens that we carry that are made lighter because we share them with others, be it taking care of our children or grandchildren, preparing a meal, or simply washing the dishes after the meal.
In today's Gospel Jesus says: "Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest…… for my yoke is easy, and my burden light." What is the "burden" that Jesus is referring to? It is to know fully that God is our Father. Does He love us completely even when we are unloving, not only to God but also the people around us, members of our own family? Often our greatest burden is ourselves, which is putting up with ourselves with all our lack of love for God, others, and even ourselves.
That is why these words of Jesus can be so comforting and consoling: "No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him." Jesus wants so much to help us overcome all our burdens or our fears of God our Father, to draw close to our Father in an intimate bond of love. In knowing Jesus we also know the Father. We know Jesus through the Scriptures, the Sacraments, the loving relationships we have with other people. Jesus clearly shows us, God our Father is not to be feared, but to be fondly embraced as Abba - Daddy. God the Father is the center of Jesus' life, from a twelve year old boy in the Temple, to His teaching us how to pray, to His dying words on the cross: 'Into your hands Father I commend my spirit."
Jesus wants us to be one with Him in that love, in that one lifelong mission. But how do we achieve that? Humility, again I repeat, humility. "You have revealed them to little ones " or, "for I am meek and humble of heart." We need to become child-like, trusting, as when a child puts his hand in the hand of his father or mother before crossing a busy street. Then we will understand how we can be freed of our burdens. There still will be many challenges in daily life but we have Christ's assurance: knowing Jesus is knowing the Father.
Father John Sullivan M.S.
WHEN JESUS IS THE VERY CENTER OF OUR LIVES , WE ARE TRULY IN BALANCE
One of the most widely known or recognized saints in our contemporary world is Mother Theresa of Calcutta, India. Just about everyone knew of her, not just Catholics but people of all religions, be it Hindu or Christian, Jewish or Buddhist. Why? Because Jesus was the center of her life. She saw Jesus in everyone, especially the poor and dying, but also the politicians and the Pope. She was not afraid to talk about Gospel values anywhere. Consequently when she was asked to speak at Harvard University, she spoke of the defense of the unborn and the sanctity of life.
Like her, if Jesus is truly the center of our lives, we are going to live love filled lives. It will not be easy but it certainly can be an adventure. Jesus expresses so much in one sentence in today's Gospel : "Whoever finds his life will lose it , and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." What does that mean? Those three words are key: "for my sake". In other words , to the extent I know Jesus to be the center of my life, I also know who I am, and I have growing and healthy relationships with others, because I have such a firm foundation in my knowledge of Christ.
The problem is that most of us live unbalanced lives. We are out of balance because our center is not Jesus but rather our own ego, or our attachment to another person or material possessions. As Jesus says in the Gospel, even our own families can pull us away from Jesus. For example my spouse or my grown children try to talk me out of going to Mass on Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning. "Oh just relax. Let your hair down. Why bother going to Church. Let us enjoy the pool or Lake Mascoma."
It is not easy to stay centered on Jesus not just on the weekend, but every day, all day. That is a real challenge. That is perhaps why Jesus also states: "and whoever does not take up his cross ad follow me is not worthy of me." That cross - we are asked not to run from it, but accept it, - even embrace it each day.
Everyone knows about this coming week. It is July 4th, the beginning of the joy of summer with BarB-Q's and fireworks, and getting together with family and friends. That can be a wonderful time to enjoy being together. However, since Christ is the center of our lives, let us spend a little time, perhaps before a meal, to thank Our Lord for His countless blessings on us and on our Country. Let us also ask him for the strength to work for freedom and justice for every person that lives in this Country. That is what it means to have Christ at the center of our lives.
This Sunday afternoon, July 2nd, we have a family activity, beginning here in the chapel at 2:00PM. We are going to give a children's version of the story of La Salette and then go up to the replica of the Apparition with people dressed as the characters in the story. We end with ice cream and cookies for everyone in the cafeteria. Children of all ages are invited to participate.
Father John Sullivan M.S.