Reflections from the Shrine ...
FAITH IS A PROCESS OF FALLING IN LOVE WITH JESUS ON A DAILY BASIS
We all have watched a little child taking her/his first steps in life. It is so exciting with mom and dad usually there to catch the child when he/she stumbles. They gently pick the child up and then encourages the child to try again: "You can do it. Don't be afraid. I am here."
That is what I think of in today's Gospel when we read Peter saying: "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water." Jesus' response is simple and direct: "Come." We know what happens. "Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus." He was doing fine till: "when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out: 'Lord save me.' And just like a loving parent: 'Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught Peter and said to him: "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?"
Isn't that what life is all about? How is our relationship with the Lord growing? He wants to teach us, to travel with us, to call us out of our security, like Peter stepping out of the security of the boat. We are invited to walk toward Jesus, even amidst the storms of life. Let us keep our eyes fixed on him, and not the wind and the waves of our own fears that can distract us from keeping our focus on the Lord.
And it is not just in the storms and big events of daily life that God makes us aware of his loving presence. It is also in the calm days and the small events of life. That is why I love the first reading from the Book of Kings. When God appeared to Elijah the Prophet , God was not present in the strong wind or the earthquake, but in "a tiny whispering sound;" like the wild flowers along the highway, the Queen Ann's Lace or the Golden Rod standing so tall.
Faith is simply a process of falling in love with Jesus each day. It is a process, and like any loving relationship, it takes time and effort , in the sunny days and the pouring rain. It takes prayer. We see Jesus in the opening lines of the Gospel. After he dismissed the crowds, "He went up the mountain by himself to pray." Even Jesus needed to keep in close contact with his Father, to talk with Him, to share, to listen, even though, as his own disciples said: "Truly you are the Son of God." So let us continue to fall in love with Jesus every day. It can be a great adventure. Father Aruppe S.J. summed it up well when he said: "Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, falling in love in a quite absolute, final way….. Fall in love. Stay in love: and, it will decide everything."
Tuesday is the Feast of The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary which is a holy day of obligation. We have Mass here at 11:30 AM. There is also a Mass at 12:10 PM at Saint Helena's. That evening I will continue with the series "Love in the Family" at 7:30 PM in the cafeteria. Next Sunday, August 20th, we have an outdoor rosary with the children at 2:00 PM, followed by ice cream in the cafeteria. Yummy, Yummy.
Father John Sullivan M.S.
THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS DISCOVERING GOD'S PRESENSE IN THE
DETAILS OF DAILY LIFE
A big part of discovering the kingdom of heaven in my life was my decision to go to the missions about 35 years ago. There in a new way, I found the presence of God in three different areas of my life; in the people of Argentina that I came to serve, in a deeper discovery of myself, and in the sacraments I celebrated, especially at Mass, be it in Church or out in the "campo."
This weekend you will be hearing a presentation on our La Salette Missions, especially in Madagascar. Sharon and John Markowitz had the joy and challenge of visiting that country a few years ago and they are eager to share with you their experience.
Jesus said to His disciples: "The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person …….sells all that he has and buys that field." The Kingdom of Heaven is the gift of God's very self to us that can really transform our lives. Like two people falling in love, it is a gradual awareness of being loved and wanting to love in return, that changes everything in a person's life. Such a person has a new way of seeing, hearing and even touching the beauty of life all around him. Like Solomon in the reading from Exodus, such a person has "……..an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong ….."
The big challenge or obstacle is not to be afraid is to sell all that we have and buy that field where the treasure is buried. It is to know that God is the only Absolute in our lives and everyone and everything else is relative to God. Like any meaningful relationship, it does not happen all at once. Rather it is a gradual process of growth over our whole life time as we come to know God Who has always loved us first, as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Then even the little details of life can take on a whole new meaning or beauty. That can be as simple as a lovely sunset, the grasp of a child's hand in yours, or as complicated as a delicious home cooked meal "with all the trimmings."
That is why I encourage you this weekend to truly listen to the Word of God and the homily on our foreign missions. It will remind us that we all are missionaries. Then please be generous in both your continued prayer for all missionaries, past, present, and future, and your financial support that is so important for them to continue their life-giving ministry.
Next Sunday, August 6th, will be a Healing Service at 2:00 PM with Father Marc Montminy. You are also invited to come to my fourth presentation on "Love in the Family" on Tuesday evening, August 1st, at 7:30 PM in the cafeteria. I also hope that you are enjoying this delightful summer weather that we have been having recently, thanks be to God.
Father John Sullivan M.S.
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.