Father Kevin’s Weekly Reflection, July 5, 2020

Donkeys appear in the Bible quite a bit.  Sometimes this is because they were very common in the ancient world, and sometimes because they are an important symbol.  For someone thousands of years ago, seeing someone riding a horse would have been a clear signal that they were wealthy and powerful.  For someone to ride a donkey or have a donkey pulling their cart would have been very common, and hardly anyone would take notice of them.

This is what we see in Zechariah’s prophecy about Christ’s entrance into Jerusalem (our first reading today), riding on a young donkey.  Of course, we hear much later that Christ did this and was welcomed with great joy.  He was seen by the people as one of them, in a way, because He didn’t come riding in on a big war horse to conquer Jerusalem.  In fact, He came meekly and humbly, because he came to conquer sin, not us.
This use of a donkey as a symbol of something humble or common is one that we see repeated over and over in ancient texts of all kinds.  In scripture, my favorite one is the story of Balaam and his donkey, because it shows us a lot about how people would have overlooked a humble donkey at this time, and never given it a second thought.  In the story (Numbers chapter 22), Balaam isn’t doing what God wants, so He sends an Angel to block the path.  The donkey sees the Angel and tries to turn aside three times, and each time Balaam beats her for trying to turn off the path.  God then allows the donkey to speak, and only then, after his donkey has a conversation with him, Balaam is able to finally see God’s plan for him.

No one is very different than Balaam, at least not as much as we like to think.  This is why Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey.  God sent us many great and powerful leaders, many of whom probably rode in on great steeds, and we wanted another one.  But God gave us His Son, humble and vulnerable to be sacrificed for us.  Most people missed it at the time, just like Balaam missed the point.  We will always do the same unless we open our eyes to the signs in front of us.  Most of them won’t be announced by thunder and lightning, so we must find those common ways God is trying to get our attention.  Especially since most of us don’t have donkeys.

Rev Kev

Father’s Kevin’s Weekly Reflection, June 28, 2020

In our first reading today, Elisha’s interaction with the woman in Shunem seems to make sense.  At first reading, the only thing that really stands out is the fact that Elisha has such great power to bring something about (the birth of her child), but he certainly didn’t bring this about, he simply prophesied that it would happen.  What is really remarkable, once we get down to the core of it, is that the friendship between Elisha and this unnamed woman seems so normal to us.

A woman does something nice for someone out of appreciation (inviting Elisha to stay with her family), and this continues on for some time. She and her husband even go to a bit of effort to make a comfortable place for Elisha to stay, even though they don’t have enough room.  Elisha is a gracious guest, and eventually wonders what he might do to show his appreciation, which brings about the prophecy of her child being born.

So what is strange about this?  Nothing, and you shouldn’t think so.  You should be inspired by it, but it should make perfect sense to you.  But let us remember that this passage is showing us a principle that is quite common, and sadly taken for granted.  The very idea that the woman would want to show Elisha appreciation is remarkable, and Elisha certainly has the same instinct to show his appreciation to her as well.

It will always mean more to show, to demonstrate, to illustrate an idea to someone.  It is why we always want an example to be sure we understand what someone means.  And it is why a gift means so much more than words.  There is something written on our souls, part of God’s image imprinted on us, that will always crave this demonstration to one another of all our ideas and emotions.  We will always crave the expression of something above all.

Our God does this unceasingly in our lives.  He does this because He knows what we need, knows our hearts.  All God wants in return is for us to live out this expression of love in our own lives.  Then we might understand the gift we have received: our lives, created in God’s image, meant to be returned as our gift back to God.

~Rev Kev

Weekly Reflection from Father Kevin, Corpus Christi, 14 Jun 2020

On this feast of Corpus Christi (the Body and Blood of Christ), we are all too aware of the limitations of the physical presence we are able to share with one another.  Of course, this is exactly what Jesus wanted to accomplish by becoming one of us, and what He wanted to leave for us in the Eucharist.  The longing that many of you have for His presence is not lost on the Clergy. 

To receive His Body and Blood was the first way we began to understand our role as Christians in God’s life.  It was a new way for the first generation of Christians, and came to be understood by the many generations that have followed as the most pivotal moment in our lives.  This reception of God is a moment when the fullness of our faith is realized, and most fully expressed.

For us to realize the gift of God’s presence in lives through this Holy Exchange is one thing, but for us to express it back in thanksgiving is another.  This is what we mean when we say that the Mass is both the source and summit of our faith.  It is the source of our understanding and realization of God’s love for us, complete and unrelenting.  It is the summit of our expression that we wish for this to be so, and give of ourselves and our gifts to partake in the feast.  But this has been taken away through no fault of our own.

The longing for this Communion with Our Lord is truly noble, we should never desire to lose that hunger.  But for some of us, this hunger to receive Communion had waned over time.  Maybe it was something we took for granted, it had become routine.  Maybe it was something we hadn’t really considered in an adult manner, with a mature understanding.  For whatever the reason might have been, my prayers are with all of you this week, just as much as for those who are begging to come back for Mass.  May we all take this opportunity to reflect more deeply on what Christ’s Body and Blood have meant to us, and look forward to the days when we will receive Him once more.  May we all receive Him then with fuller hearts.

Rev Kev

Weekly Reflection from Father Kevin, June 7, 2020

As we celebrate Trinity Sunday, we are being asked to reconsider what we know of the Trinity.  We are asked to ponder what this means for our lives.  But first, we must consider what our understanding of the Trinity actually is.  For all different age groups, this means something else.  And for each of us, it ought to challenge us to grow a bit in our relationship with God.

So first, what was your first understanding?  Was it something you were taught by a catechist at the Parish?  Was it something you could see and touch, like an egg, or a shamrock?  Was it a symbol like a celtic trinity knot, or maybe the fleur-de-lis?  These are all great ways of teaching youngsters and new Christians of all ages, but it certainly only goes so far.  They show us things that are both three and one, but can never get us to truly know the Trinity, because that can only come from a real relationship.

The earliest Christians came to understand that God is Trinitarian through a relationship, which ultimately showed them this relationship between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  This started them thinking about all the clues God had given us about this along the way: in Genesis, God speaks of Himself acting in different ways, and even refers to himself as plural, speaks of the Son being born in Bethlehem and ruling as Messiah in through the prophets Isaiah and Zechariah, etc.  These are very difficult things to make sense of until God revealed Himself in Jesus Christ, and was able to explain so much of this in our terms, through relationships.

But still, it wasn’t right away that people started talking about God as the Trinity.  Because, of course, we never heard Jesus say something so plain as that.  Over time, those first Christians came to understand what the Holy Spirit was doing in them, and came closer to God than they could have imagined after Christ returned to Heaven.  And then, over the course of many years, those faithful men and women began to be able to understand this relationship they had with God, and got better at putting it into words.  They started using some of the same terms we still use today, and this began to form a way for them to discuss their own relationship with God, and help one another grow in faith and grow more deeply in love with God.

This is a long way from the beginning of our own understanding of the Trinity.  But we must start somewhere, and a good place to start is to really consider some of those symbols we use to teach our youngsters.  To ponder how God can be a Trinity of Persons, how God can both three and one at the same time, this can help us to let go just enough to give God the reins.  And once we allow God to lead our minds and hearts, our relationship can become much more than if we try to control it. 

In fact, I have often wondered if the nature of God as Trinity is just so that we have to let go of trying to understand.  Of course, there is much more to it than that, because that is just the beginning of a journey to a deeper relationship.  My hope is that this relationship becomes deeper than any relationship you have in this life.  So my prayer for you today is that you might let go enough to let God lead, and come to know God in ways that no one can put into words. 

Rev Kev

Weekly Reflection from Father Kevin, May 31, 2020 (Pentecost Sunday)

The spectacular way the Holy Spirit entered the Apostles on Pentecost (fire, speaking in tongues, etc.) is something we all could benefit from.  A clear sign would be welcome, something perfectly obvious, to show us that this is truly real. Especially because we often have trouble knowing whether or not the more ordinary ways the Spirit works (the feelings, the inclinations, the pull on our hearts) really is the Holy Spirit at work within us.  Sometimes we can worry that it is just us, our own desires rather than God’s Will which is driving us.  Even worse, sometimes we are sure we are following the Spirit, and we are mistaken.

It would certainly be nice to have such clear signs of God’s presence, but this great sign at the first Pentecost was so that the first generation of Christians knew it was real.  After that, they knew what was different, and continued to teach others how to know when the Spirit was really behind something.  This is a difficult thing to do, because very few people take the time to really consider it, but it is just as important today.

The first difficulty is that we are often conflicted about our own thoughts and feelings.  If we have trouble knowing what our own heart wants, how do we actually know the difference between our will and God’s Will?  The first step has to be a very conscious act of our own, welcoming the Holy Spirit into the situation at hand.  Only by doing this can we begin to discern the Spirit’s urgings for us.  It may be a simple prayer, asking the Spirit to be with you in a decision.  It may be letting go, even to the point of tears, so that we can hand over our control to God.

While this may be difficult, especially at first, it is absolutely freeing once the Spirit is revealed in our lives.  Sometimes it is obvious, sometimes only we can see it, and sometimes it takes a bit more trust than we want to give, but when the Spirit blows through our lives, we see the effects.  This trust that is built then grows, and we start to deepen the relationship which is intended: that we open our lives to the Holy Spirit always, making God our most welcome guest.

I share with you now the Pentecost Sequence, which is proclaimed before the Gospel at Mass each year.  May we begin to build a deeper and more constant relationship with the Spirit, so that one day, our hearts may be worthy to offer this prayer.

Come, Holy Spirit, come!
And from your celestial home
Shed a ray of light divine!
Come, Father of the poor!
Come, source of all our store!
Come, within our bosoms shine.
You, of comforters the best;
You, the soul’s most welcome guest;
Sweet refreshment here below;
In our labor, rest most sweet;
Grateful coolness in the heat;
Solace in the midst of woe.
O most blessed Light divine,
Shine within these hearts of yours,
And our inmost being fill!
Where you are not, we have naught,
Nothing good in deed or thought,
Nothing free from taint of ill.
Heal our wounds, our strength renew;
On our dryness pour your dew;
Wash the stains of guilt away:
Bend the stubborn heart and will;
Melt the frozen, warm the chill;
Guide the steps that go astray.
On the faithful, who adore
And confess you, evermore
In your sevenfold gift descend;
Give them virtue’s sure reward;
Give them your salvation, Lord;
Give them joys that never end.

Rev Kev

Weekly Reflection from Father Kevin (May 17, 2020)

Those who suffer for Christ are likely to suffer twice.  St. Peter offers us a more hopeful version this Sunday, because he tells us of the victory Christ already won for us.  I offer you the pessimistic version today because it is important to remember Christ’s victory isn’t usually for us in this life, in fact it rarely is.

In this life, we must remember that only when we follow St. Peter’s advice to keep our consciences clear will the truth be our friend.  We all know what the alternative feels like.  When we don’t want to even admit to ourselves what weighs upon our souls.  When we don’t speak the truth because it would make us feel like a hypocrite.  In these moments we have to remember that we suffer our own shame, but are called to stand for the truth nonetheless.

Of course, there are also times when we can stand in the truth with a clear conscience.  And even then, might someone ridicule us for this?  All it takes is a bit of envy to separate people, and the truth doesn’t seem to matter.  In these moments, it rarely feels better simply because we are in the right.  The pain we feel is still real, because the animosity between us is still real.  And so we suffer for a second time, when we realize that our righteousness doesn’t always profit us in this life.

This is precisely what St. Peter was speaking about.  In order to sanctify the Lord in our hearts, we must allow this life in the flesh to be put to death.  Only then will we truly live for the Lord, and so be brought to life in the Spirit.

Rev Kev

Weekly Reflection from Father Kevin (April 15, 2020)

I spent the summer of 2011 in France and Italy studying Church history and architecture.  It was a great opportunity that few seminarians have, which I did not earn in any way.  Along the way we got to see many things which I will never have the opportunity to see again, and meet people whose lives of service to the Church are unrivaled in the world today.  But there was one thing I learned about which I still think about at least once per week.

Under St. Peter’s Basilica there are tunnels and chapels and tombs from long before any church was built there.  And among them, St. Peter’s own remains were found during an archaeological excavation in 1942.  His bones were wrapped in a purple cloak, placed in a niche in the wall amongst the other martyrs of his time, and marked by a simple inscription on the wall reading (in Greek) Petros eni — “Peter is here.”  This is about 25 feet directly below the altar in the center of St Peter’s Basilica, just as we had believed for centuries before the archaeologists found his remains.

But why?  Why had they gone to all the trouble of finding his burial place?  Did they not believe?  Did Pope Pius XII (who hired the archaeologists) not believe?
In today’s Gospel, we are reminded of St. Thomas, who refused to believe without proof of Christ’s resurrection.  While we call him “Doubting Thomas,” we are rarely different.  There are very few things in our lives which we will take on faith, and most things we believe absolutely are already proven.  As human beings, we have a desire to have something we can truly believe in, but we naturally make it difficult, in order that those things we believe in might not be questioned.  Of course, the finding of St. Peter’s bones didn’t convince anyone who didn’t already believe, nor will seeing them in person.  The scientific evidence shows that the remains are of a man from the right time, of the right age, who was crucified upside down, and buried in exactly the right place.  But no one who wouldn’t believe without the evidence could ever be convinced by it.

This is where true Faith comes in.  Pope Pius XII wished that this would be one more piece of proof to non-believers.  He commissioned archaeologists to find St. Peter’s remains because he knew that they would be there.  His hope was that it would not only strengthen our faith, but lead many to be believers.  The trouble is, most of us don’t have the faith of “Doubting Thomas,” and most who see God working directly in their lives will dismiss it as chance or coincidence.  Our fault is the arrogance of our time, which Pope Pius XII tried to flip on its head.

This primary arrogance of ours is that we believe we know better than generations before us.  This is the opposite of the way most people thought before us, who thought of themselves as caretakers of truths handed down to them.  Pope Pius wanted give us a lesson, through modern means, showing that this ancient story is true, and so show us that we must see ourselves as discovering these truths anew, but not creating truths.  It would have been a great lesson to learn, but for many, this was easy to dismiss.  Those who have received the gift of Faith obtain the Truth it has revealed, and those who reject this great gift continue to search in all the wrong places.  If we would only see ourselves as uncovering Truth, we could let this arrogance slip away, and see our God behind it all in His greatness.

But we will always have a bit of doubt in our hearts.  This is part of our fallen nature, our imperfection which we must strive against.  Let us see ourselves in light of the place we hold in the history of God’s Creation.  Let us all at least succeed in this enough that our own doubts do not lead others astray.

Rev. Kevin