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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

Open Wide Our Hearts: Prayers to Heal Racial Division

In November 2018 the Catholic bishops of the United States released a pastoral letter against racism called, Open Wide Our Hearts. The letter is a powerful invitation for all the people of God to “face courageously the vice of racism, . . . reach out generously to the victims of this evil, to assist the conversion needed in those who still harbor racism, and to begin to change policies and structures that allow racism to persist.” Go to usccb.org/racism, to read the letter, find current resources and get ideas for how we can respond. 

Prayer to Heal Racial Division

We thank you, O Lord,
For in your loving wisdom
You created one human family
With a diversity
That enriches our communities.

We pray to you, O Lord,
That we always recognize
each member of this human family
As being made in your image and beloved by you,
With worth and dignity.

We pray to you, O Lord,
That we may envision a way forward
To heal the racial divisions
That deny human dignity and
the bonds between all human beings.

We pray to you, O Lord
That we may affirm each person’s dignity
Through fair access for all
To economic opportunity, housing,
Education, and employment.

We pray to you, O Lord,
That we may have eyes to see
What is possible when we reach out
Beyond fear, beyond anger,
To hold the hand of our sisters, our brothers.

We thank you, O Lord,
For your call and challenge to us
That we may reveal your teachings and your love
Through our actions to end racism
And to proclaim that we are all your children,
heirs to your sacred creation. 

Amen.

Copyright © 2018, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. All rights reserved.  This text may be reproduced in whole or in part without alteration for nonprofit educational use, provided such reprints are not sold and include this notice.

Doorstep Visits for the Feast of St. Anthony

To celebrate the feast day of our patron, St. Anthony, we plan to stop by the homes of our parishioners for a brief “doorstep” visit and prayer.  How will this work?

Visits will take place outside with social distancing; staff will not go into your home.

Visits will take place on the mornings and evenings of June 7-20 (weather permitting).

Visits have been scheduled by neighborhoods. You’ll get a call the day before we come to your area to let you know the general time we’ll be there.

Either Fr. Kevin or Deacon Tom, along with a staff member will lead the prayer and blessing.

If we haven’t visited you by June 21 please call Laura Hollinrake at 641-842-5267 so we can catch up with you!

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.
Amen.
Alleluia.

Rev Kev

Weekly Reflection from Father Kevin (May 24, 2020)

St. Peter speaks this week about suffering for being a Christian, namely for carrying that name of Christian.  At this time, being called a Christian usually wasn’t going to be a positive thing, and it certainly wasn’t something neutral like it is today.  It was always going to be a label that meant something very important, whether good or bad, relating to the person who called you a Christian.

Of course, this could be a very positive thing, if it was coming from a fellow Christian.  It would be a sign of common ground, even common struggle.  It also brought confusion to non-Christians when the label was embraced, and eventually used by Christians to describe themselves.

This is precisely what St. Peter is getting at today, which non-believers couldn’t (and still don’t) understand.  How is it that when a group was ridiculed with a name, they embraced it?  Even though it meant that they were being taunted, they didn’t seem to care.  This was because the meaning behind the name Christian was the same no matter who said it, but the deeper understanding of that meaning was completely opposite between believers and non-believers.

Christians were called Christians because they followed Christ, and this was meant to ridicule them for following their leader who was humiliated and killed.  We embraced the name because we see it quite differently.  Not only do we know that Christ rose and ascended to Heaven, we also know that His suffering and death is what continues to pay our own ransom.  We embrace the notion of suffering (even though it is hard to do when it arrives), because we can unite that suffering to Christ’s own suffering.  In doing so, we are, in some small way, participating in Christ’s life.

This is why we embrace using the Cross as our symbol.  Again, it seems backwards to non-believers, and can only be partially understood without faith.  We even embrace images of Christ on the Cross, the suffering and pain He endured for us.  This is a recognition of the Salvation He won for us through that suffering and death, and also a bit of a rallying cry as well.  Just as early Christians embraced the label of Christian, so also we embrace the true meaning behind it, one who follows Christ even in His suffering.  We celebrate this, even though it may still seem strange to non-believers, because the suffering and death of Christ is the most powerful statement to others, and reminder to ourselves, of the depth of God’s love for us.

So, in what way do you embrace suffering in your life?  While no one should go out looking for it, it doesn’t have to be dreaded.  When suffering must be ours, in whatever form it may take, let us all find a way to unite it to Christ’s own suffering, and so call ourselves more truly Christian.

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