Archive for October, 2009

November 1st

October 29, 2009

Immediately following the opening prayer, or collect, the congregation is seated in order to listen to the Word of God.  This part of the Mass is known as the “Liturgy of the Word”.

On Sundays, there are always three readings from Scripture and a Responsorial Psalm.  The first reading is usually taken from the Old Testament.  The Easter Season is the exception to that rule.  During the Easter Season, the first reading is taken from the Acts of the Apostles.  In the book of Acts, we hear about what the Christian community did during the days following the Resurrection and Ascension of Our Lord, and so it makes sense that we hear these accounts read during the time immediately following Easter, when we celebrate the Resurrection.

Following the first reading, we have a Responsorial Psalm.  The Psalms are prayers that were written with the intention that they would be sung.  Singing the Psalms is a major part of Jewish worship, and we continue to use them.  The Psalms are prayers that were inspired by God.  When we pray the Psalms, we worship God with the very words that He gave to us.  We also know that Jesus prayed the Psalms, and so we also follow the example of Our Lord when we pray them.

The second reading is always taken from one of the Epistles (Letters) of one of the Apostles.  The Epistles are letters that are usually addressed to one of the early Christian communities, although some of them are addressed to a particular person.  (e.g. the Letter to Timothy)  These letters tend to offer practical advice.  The letters often address a particular issue going on within the community to which it is written, but we know that the Holy Spirit inspired the letter, and therefore we can still gain insight and greatly profit from following the instructions found in them.

The proclamation of the Gospel is the high point of the liturgy of the Word.  We give special respect and honor to the Gospel because the Gospels record the life, death, and resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

God bless,

Father White

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

October 26, 2009

There are several levels or ways in which any given Scripture passage can be taken.  The most basic level is the literal, or historical meaning.  The Second Vatican Council tells us that the Gospels faithfully teach us what Jesus actually did and said.  In today’s Gospel, we hear that Jesus healed a blind man.  This really happened.  Jesus made a blind man see.  The healing of the blind man was good, not only for the blind man, but also for the people who witnessed the miracle and for us today.  The Blind man received his sight; and the miracle was, for the crowds and for us, a proof of Jesus’ divinity.

There is also a moral sense to Scripture.  Scripture can teach us how to live, and it can teach us how to pray.  It is important to remember that even though Scripture was written a thousand years ago, or more, it is still relevant for us today. Scripture is the inspired Word of God; that is why it can continue to instruct, inspire and speak to us all these many centuries later.  This encounter between Jesus and the blind man in today’s Gospel can teach us many things.

First of all, we learn of the importance of faith.  The blind man must have had some level of knowledge about Who Jesus IS and at least some faith that Jesus could and would do something for him; otherwise he wouldn’t have been calling out.  He must have been told about Jesus.  Perhaps someone in the crowd told the man that Jesus had been performing miracles and healing people.  Perhaps someone in the crowd told the man that this was the long awaited Messiah, the promised King, Who would rule on the throne of David forever.

At the very least, the man knew something about Jesus and had some level of faith that Jesus could heal him.  He must have heard about Jesus from someone.  Saint Paul tells us that faith comes from hearing.  It is important that we share our faith with others.  Saint Peter tells us that we are to be ready to give others a reason for the hope that is within us.  We should not be ashamed to tell others of the great things that our God has done for us.  If no one had told the blind man in today’s Gospel about Jesus Christ, he never would have called out to Jesus; he never would have been healed.

Someone did tell the blind man about Jesus, and the blind man cried out to the Lord.  He persevered in his prayer, even when it seemed that the Lord had passed him by, even when the crowd was telling him to be quiet.  There are several passages in Scripture that tell us of the importance of persevering in prayer.  Some people get discouraged if their prayers are not answered immediately, in precisely the way that they want them to be answered.  Praying is not like making a wish.  It isn’t magic.  The Lord wants us to pray, He wants us to ask Him for things, but we should not become discouraged if it seems that the Lord has passed us by.  We should continue to persevere in our prayer.

The blind man’s perseverance paid off and Jesus stopped and had the man called.  Jesus waited for the man to come to Him.  When the man was called he threw aside his cloak and he leaped up.  We too should cast aside anything that keeps us from coming to the Lord.  The biggest thing that keeps many from making progress in the spiritual life is attachment to sin.  Some of the great spiritual writers tell us that it is impossible to make real progress in the spiritual life without uprooting attachment to sin.  Sin and God are completely and radically opposed to one another.  That is why Jesus tells us that if our eye causes us to sin to pluck it out.  He isn’t speaking literally, of course, but it does make the point very clearly: we need to avoid sin.

When the blind man comes to Jesus, the Lord asks him: “What do you want me to do for you?”  It isn’t that Jesus doesn’t know what the man’s needs are.  This is the same Jesus Who knows the thoughts of the Pharisees hearts as they murmur within themselves against Him.  He wants the man to ask.  God knows what we need better than we do.  He wants us to bring to Him all our wants and needs.  He wants us to bring to Him everything that is on our hearts.  Jesus tells us to ask, seek, and knock.  Praying for our needs helps us to remember that we rely upon God.  If God did everything for us without our asking, we might begin to think that we did everything on our own.  Apart from God, we can do nothing.  But through Him all things are possible.

After He heals the blind man, Jesus tells him to go on his way.  The man is so grateful for his healing that he follows Jesus, Who IS the Way.  We, too, should be grateful for all that God has done for us.  Everything that we have that is good comes from the hand of God.  Our gratitude for all the good that God has given to us should inspire us to more faithfully follow the Lord.

A final thing that we can learn from this Gospel passage is how we are to act in regard to others.  We should never allow ourselves to become an obstacle between others and Jesus.  How can we become an obstacle?  Bad example is one way that we sometimes discourage others.  If others know that we are Christians, and we don’t live up to our calling as Christians, others can become scandalized.  Now, we are all sinners; we all fall short of the glory of God.  The important thing is that we try to live our faith.  When we fall, we come to confession; we ask for mercy.  But we should be aware that others could either be inspired or discouraged by our example.  It is good to sometimes ask ourselves: “What type of example am I setting for others around me in the workplace, or at school, or at home?”  We should do what we can to set a good example: in our speech and in our actions.  In this way, we can help others come to Jesus.

October 25th

October 23, 2009

Once we have all asked God for mercy in the penitential rite, we then sing an ancient hymn known as the “Gloria” or “Glory to God in the Highest”.  We sing this hymn, almost as a response to the penitential rite.  We have just asked the Lord to have mercy upon us and we know that He is kind and merciful, and so we praise Him, with great trust that He has heard our prayer and will, indeed, have mercy upon us.

In this song of praise, we join our voices with the voices of the Angels.  The first line of the Gloria is reminiscent of the words that the Angels sang, as was witnessed by the shepherds, shortly after the birth of Jesus.  After the Angel of the Lord announced that the Savior of the world had just been born, a whole multitude of Angels appeared saying “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests.”  (cf. Luke 2:13-14)

The Gloria is a beautiful hymn of praise which we offer to God in praise and adoration.  This hymn is used on Sundays (except during Advent and Lent due to the penitential nature of those Seasons) and all major Solemnities.

Following the singing of the Gloria, the priest says (or sings): “Let us pray.”  Haven’t we already been praying?  The invitation to pray is not an indicator that we are just now starting to pray: hopefully, we have already been lifting our minds and our hearts to God in the penitential rite and in the Gloria.  This invitation is to introduce the “collect” or “opening prayer”.

The official name for the opening prayer is the collect.  This prayer is focused on the theme for the Mass that is usually set based on the Gospel of the day.  There should be a moment of silence between the invitation to pray and the collect.  This allows us to call to mind the things that we want to pray for in a special way during that Mass.  The priest then leads us in the collect, which concludes with a Trinitarian ending, and all present make the prayer their own with the response: “Amen.”

God bless,

Father White

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

October 21, 2009

“The sons of Zebedee came to Jesus and said to Him, ‘Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.”

This is the extent of how some people pray to God: some people only pray by bringing their list of wants or needs to the Lord.  Outside of asking for something they need, they never think of God or pray to Him.  There is certainly nothing wrong with bringing our needs and even our hopes and wants to the Lord, but that should not be the only time or the only way in which we pray.  Imagine that someone you know only comes to talk to you when they want to ask you to do something for them.  Would you consider them a very good friend?

Prayer is meant to be a conversation with God; it is meant to deepen our relationship with God.  By spending time in prayer, you are spending time with Someone; Someone Who knows you better than anyone else in the world and Who loves you more than anyone else ever could.  God created you.  He made you to know and love Him.  He wants you to spend time with Him.  He desires that you tell Him everything that is on your heart.  We should talk to God in prayer; but remember that prayer is a conversation.  We should also spend some time trying to listen to what it is that God wants to say to us.  God speaks in the silence; we have to open our hearts to receive His message.

If we open our heats to God in prayer, He can transform our lives.  Perhaps that is why some run away from silence.  Some people are afraid of being transformed.  If I take prayer seriously, I may be called to change the way that I am living my life; and I might be attached to some things that God may want me to give up.  That can be a frightening thought.  “I don’t want to change my life; I have a plan for my life and I don’t like it when my plan gets interrupted.”  God also has a plan for your life.  And He is God.  He knows everything.  He knows what is best for you.  He loves you.  He knows you better than you know yourself.  If we believe that God is Love: that He is all good, all knowing, and all-powerful why would we not want what God wants for us? Trusting in God can be intimidating; it means that we have to let go of some control.  Giving our lives to God means that we have to give up sin, and that can be difficult.  But that is the way to find fulfillment in this life.  Do you want to find peace and joy in this world?  Then instead of saying: “God, I want you to do whatever I ask of you”, say: “Not my will, but Thine be done.”  That takes faith.

Our culture says that we should be free to do whatever we want.  We live in a culture that rejects God and there is a lot of misery in the world as a result.  Temptation is a lie.  When we are tempted, the promise is that sin will make us happy.  When we give in to the temptation, however, we find ourselves more miserable afterwards.  Sin does not produce joy; it separates us from God.  We were created for God and so we can never be fulfilled apart from Him.

Our culture tries to surround us constantly with noise.  There are many people who are not comfortable with silence.  If things are quiet, God can speak to us.  If we are silent, our consciences can bother us.  And so some people try to constantly surround themselves with noise, so that they will not be able to hear the Lord.  Noise drowns out the Lord’s voice.  In order to hear the Lord, we need to find a quiet place for prayer.

The Lord wants to draw us closer to Himself; He wants to change us: He wants to shape us and mold us more and more into the likeness of His Son.  The Eternal Son of God became a man in order to show us how to live as God created us to live.  He taught us how to love, by the way He lived and by the way He died.  We are called to imitate Jesus, Who says in the Gospel today that He did not come to be served but to serve.  If we want to be truly great, we have to imitate our Lord.  Jesus spent time helping others, and He also took time alone for prayer.  We read in the Gospels that He often went away, to be alone and pray.

Our prayer life should help us to love God ever more deeply, and it should also inspire us to help others.  Authentic prayer must be joined to some form of charity toward others.  Our faith must be lived out in love: love for God and love for others.  How can we say that we love God if we never pray?  How can you love someone that you never talk to; how can you love someone that you never listen to?  We need to pray and when we pray we need to both talk and listen.

On the other hand, if we say that we love God, but we do not put our faith into action, Saint James says that we are deceiving ourselves: “Faith without works is dead,“ he says.  Jesus says it like this: “whatever you did or didn’t do to the least of my brothers, you do or didn’t do also to me.”  Faith leads to prayer and prayer leads to charity.

The challenge for all of us is to examine ourselves: “Do I pray as I ought?”  “Does my prayer affect the way that I live my life?”  Lord Jesus, help us to deepen our love for You through prayer, and help us to put our faith into practice in our daily lives.  Amen.

October 18th

October 16, 2009

After the Sign of the Cross and the liturgical greeting, the priest invites all who are present to call to mind our sins.  Right at the very beginning of the Mass we pause to examine our consciences and then we ask for God’s mercy.

We know from Scripture that nothing impure will ever enter into the Lord’s all-holy presence.  (cf. Revelation 21:27)  We also know that we all fall short of the glory of God.  (cf. Romans 3:23)  We take a moment, at the beginning of every Mass, to call to mind all those times when we have failed to do God’s will— all the times when we have not loved the Lord with all our hearts, and all the times that we have failed in charity towards our neighbor— and we ask for God’s forgiveness and mercy.

This prayer for mercy is known as the penitential rite and there are several options that the priest may choose use.  One of the options is a prayer known as the Confiteor.  The name of this prayer comes from the first word of the prayer in Latin, which literally means: “I confess”.

In the Confiteor, the priest and the people acknowledge their sins and request prayers from the Blessed Mother, the Angels and Saints in Heaven, as well as from one another.  After all have prayed this prayer, the priest asks that God have mercy upon us and bring us to the everlasting life of Heaven.

We then say (or sing) the Kyrie together.  The priest starts and the people respond.  6 times in a row mercy is beseeched of the Lord.  When we pray: “Lord, have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy”, we are not just praying for ourselves.  We are praying also for those around us, who have just asked for our prayers.  (cf. the end of the Confiteor: “I ask . . . you my brothers and sisters to pray for me to the Lord our God.)

It should be noted that the penitential rite does not take the place of sacramental confession.  If we have mortal sin upon our souls, we should always go to Confession before receiving Holy Communion.

The other forms of the penitential rite are shorter, but the object of each one of them is the same: to pray for ourselves and for one another, that we may obtain God’s mercy, and that we may more worthily enter into the sacred mysteries.

God bless,

Father White

October 11th

October 10, 2009

After the priest and people make the Sign of the Cross together the priest greets the faithful with a liturgical greeting.  This greeting can have a more complex Trinitarian formula, or it can be the simple greeting: “The Lord be with you.”

This liturgical greeting is not a mere “good morning”; this greeting goes above and beyond any colloquial salutation.  By this liturgical greeting the priest is praying that God will assist you to attentively and actively participate at Mass with all your heart.  The faithful respond to this liturgical greeting in kind by praying that the Lord be with the priest as well and help him to be attentive to what he is doing.

There is a total of four times during the Mass when the priest prays that the Lord will be with the people, to inspire their hearts that they may be attentive and open, and the people respond by asking the Lord to be with the priest as well.  The first time is this greeting at the very beginning of the Mass, as was just mentioned.

The second time that the priest asks God to be with the people is at the beginning of the high point of the liturgy of the Word: the reading of the holy Gospel.  The priest prays that the Lord be with the people, that their hearts may be open to receiving the Word of God.  The people ask that the Lord will be with the priest, as he proclaims the Gospel and as he breaks open the Word in his homily.

The third time that this liturgical greeting is used is at the beginning of the Preface, which is the beginning of the summit of the entire Mass: the Eucharistic prayer.  The Lord is again invoked that we may all be aided by grace, so that we can be focused on what it is that is about to take place upon our altar: the Lord is about to be made truly present at the words of the priest.

The fourth and final time that this greeting is exchanged is right before the dismissal at the end of Mass, as we are all about to be sent out into the world to share the Good News of what our God has done for us.  This time, we pray that the Lord will continue to be with us and accompany us as we all go on our way.

“The Lord be with you” is a prayer; it is also a good reminder to pray for your priests as they pray for you.  Let us continue to lift one another up, in prayer, to Our Heavenly Father.  May the Lord be with you during this upcoming week!

God bless,

Father White

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

October 5, 2009

On the first Sunday of October every year we celebrate “Respect Life Sunday”.  This annual celebration is a time in which we particularly focus on the fact that human life is a gift from God and is to be respected from conception to natural death.  The reason that we need a “Respect Life Sunday” is that we live in a society, which does not respect life.  Our former Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, coined the phrase “culture of death” to describe the world in which we live.

Our culture does not value life as a good given by God.  As Catholics we know that God made man in His own image and likeness: “male and female He created them.”  All human life comes from God and it is up to God to determine the length of the life of each and every person.  Our culture has become increasingly hostile towards human life in its most vulnerable forms: in the elderly and in the unborn.  That is why we need “Respect Life Sunday”.

Created in the image and likeness of God means that we were created in the image and likeness of love, for God IS love.  God is Trinity: one God in three Persons.  Created in God’s image, we were also made to live in community.  We heard it right from the Lord in the First Reading: “It is not good for the man to be alone.”

Prior to the Fall of our First Parents, there was harmony in creation: harmony between God and human beings; harmony between human beings; harmony within each individual.  Sin ruptured that harmony.  Prior to the Fall, our first parents walked with God.  After they transgressed God’s command, they hid themselves from God.  They feared God.  They felt shame and covered themselves from one another.  Adam blamed Eve.  Sin corrupts and destroys relationships.

Satan hates human beings and he hates marriage.  The devil hates human beings because they are made in the image and likeness of God and he hates God.  He can’t hurt God, so he attacks the image of God: you and me.  The devil particularly hates the family: the family is a reflection of the love of the Holy Trinity.  So in an attempt to destroy the image of God, the devil wages war against individual human beings and against the family.  He succeeded in getting our First Parents to disobey God.  In our Gospel Reading today, we hear that by the time of Moses, divorce was allowed because people could not get along with one another.  Sin separates us from God and destroys our relationships with one another.  In the Gospel we hear that Jesus reestablished the order, which God intended from the beginning.  Jesus reaffirmed the importance of family life; family life is supposed to be a reflection of the community of the Trinity.  Jesus raised marriage to the dignity of a Sacrament.

Why all this talk about the family on “Respect Life Sunday?”  The current state of affairs in our society is directly related to the family.  The culture of death was able to come about as a result of a breakdown of the family.  When I seek my own interests above the interests of others, and at the expense of others, I contribute to the culture of death.  The culture of death would have us view others, be they children or be they elderly family member, as burdens: as something that prevents me from pursuing my own happiness.  In reality, family is a gift from God.  We should all do what we can to promote a culture of life.  If we feel called, perhaps we can get involved with some form of pro-life ministry.  At the very least, we should all be prepared and willing to defend life in our conversations with those that we come in contact with.  Most importantly, we can offer our prayers for the conversion of others.

Let us thank God for the gift of life.  Let us thank Him for the gift of our family.  Lord Jesus, we thank you for all the many blessings that you give to us.  Help us to see your image and likeness in those we encounter: especially in our family members.  We pray that life may be acknowledged as a gift from You and that it will be respected in our Country and in our world.  Help us to love others as ourselves for love of You.  Amen.

October 4th

October 4, 2009

As Mass begins, the priest leads the people in making the Sign of the Cross.  As mentioned in previous articles, the Sign of the Cross is a prayer that should be done reverently and purposefully.  We all trace a cross over ourselves as the celebrant invokes the three Persons of the Most Holy Trinity and then the entire congregation responds: “Amen.”

Again and again during Mass the word “amen” is repeated.  This word comes to us in English from a Hebrew word, which simply means: “it is so”.  “Amen” is an expression of assent.  By together saying “amen” we make the prayer, which the priest has prayed to God on our behalf, our own.  The priest-celebrant is there to lead us in prayer, but those in the congregation are not mere bystanders or spectators; we all participate in the liturgy by attentively listening to the prayers of the Mass and by making the appropriate responses.  When we add our ‘amen’, we voice our concurrence with the prayer that was just offered to the Lord.

After the Second Vatican Council, there was a lot of talk of the need for the “active participation” of the faithful during the liturgy.  There are many more areas today where the laity can be involved at Mass, e.g. as lectors, extra-ordinary ministers of Holy Communion, etc.

Vatican II did call for more “active participation”, but we do not necessarily have to be physically doing something at Mass in order to actively participate.  If you feel called to serve in a particular ministry at the Mass, you should call the office and the office staff can help put you in touch with those in charge of the various ministries.

Volunteering for the various ministries is a good and praiseworthy way to be involved in our Faith.  But do not feel that it is the only way to actively participate in the Mass.  We can and should participate at every Mass and at each and every part of the Mass: by actively listening to the prayers and the readings.  By being engaged interiorly, we offer a pleasing sacrifice of praise to our Lord.

God bless,

Father White