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Pastor's Message

A message from Msgr. James J. Loughnane

Fourth Sunday of Lent - March 26, 2017

We have heard a lot over the past several years and months about the question of Immigrants and Immigration.  We have heard this on the evening news, in parish settings and in our churches and anywhere Catholics gather.  The First Reading today speaks about other Immigrants in another part of the world.  It tells us about the Israelites, who were since their freedom from Egypt and their entry into the Promised Land, lived more or less as separate tribes.  They had no central government.  When one of the twelve tribes was in danger from a neighboring pagan nation, God raised up a leader called a “Judge” who led the tribe to victory in most cases.  Samuel was the last of these Judges and towards the end of his life; he had more or less succeeded in forming a loose confederation among the twelve tribes.  But the people were displeased with the lack of unity and political security.  The pagan nations which surrounded them were ruled by kings who led them to battle and who organized their territories on a sound political basis.

The Israelites therefore appealed to Samuel to give them a king with a hereditary kingship, and thus secure national government and a guarantee of survival.  Saul, on the advice of God, yielded if reluctantly, to their request.  Saul was appointed the first king of all Israel (1030 BC) but though successful in many battles, he offended God and the kingship was taken from him and his descendants. 

David, a shepherd boy of Bethlehem, was privately anointed king at God’s command to replace Saul.  His dynasty lasted 500 years and his direct descendants survived until the promised Messiah.  Todays, first Reading describes the selection and anointing of King David.  The choice of David, the least likely of Jesse’s sons, is another lesson for us, a lesson to make us humble by admitting our limitations.  The whole book of one’s life is open before God; we can see only the cover and the title. God saw the very serious offences David would commit against him but also his sincere repentance.

In the second Reading, Paul was teaching in Ephesus – a place that does not exist today.  He preached during his second and third journeys.  This letter was written by Paul while he was a prisoner in Rome.  In it he stresses the doctrine of the Church as Mystical Body of Christ.  All people, Jews and Gentiles become members of Christ’s Body of which he is the head.  He also uses the metaphor of marriage to describe this relationship; Christ is the bridegroom, the Church his bride.

The miracle worked by our Lord in Jerusalem and so dramatically described in today’s Gospel passage points out the merciful kindness of Jesus “The Light of the World”.  It also shows the stubborn pride of the Pharisees which prevented them, not only from seeing the humble “Son of Man” the long expected Messiah, but made them incapable of seeing a miracle which was evident to everyone else in the neighborhood.

As we continue our Lenten Journey, let us reflect on what we can do and should do.  We can eat less and feed the poor.  We can abstain from meat and eat more simply.  We can also try to give something to the poor. One of our annual commitments during the Holy Season of Lent is to help the hungry of the world through Operation Rice Bowl.  The program invites us to eat a meager meal one evening and to donate the difference between what we eat that evening and what we eat regularly, to the poor.

In the vestibule of the Church, you will find little cartons that you can collect your financial donation in.  As we approach Easter, we will collect all those cartons and we mail the donations to Operation Rice Bowl.  

The Stations of the Cross are prayed on all Fridays of Lent at 5:30 PM and all parishioners are invited to join in this time of prayer.

We are encouraged to read good and wholesome books during Lent and indeed throughout the year.  One of our fine productions every week is the Angelus Magazine which was introduced last July to replace the Tidings which was produced by the Archdiocese for a hundred plus years.  The Angelus has replaced that and is also a wonderful means of information and spiritual growth.  There are several fine writers contributing to it each week.  I would recommend that you check it out and begin to subscribe to it.  You might also want to share it with your neighbors and friends.

We have five people preparing for the Sacraments of Initiation at the Easter Vigil. April 15.  They went to the Cathedral on the first Sunday of Lent for the Rite of Acceptance, presided over by Archbishop Gomez.  We have about 120 children for First Eucharist on Saturday, May 6, and ninety teens for the Sacrament of Confirmation on Saturday, May 20, to be presided over by Bishop Tom Curry at 9:00 am and 1:00 pm.

If you have not pledged to Together in Mission for 2017, I invite you to join me in doing that as soon as possible.  I made a pledge and paid my first installment back on February 12 and have paid my March installment already.  It is important to do that to keep the poorer parishes and schools open and operating.  The Together in Mission Campaign is meant to be a five month one.  It is really meant to be completed by June.  I want to thank all those who have pledged to it throughout the twenty four years of its existence.  It has been a great blessing to so many parishes and schools.

I welcome those visiting St. Denis this weekend, along with our new parishioners who I invite to register with us.  We have many programs and ministries here and I invite you to join one of them.  I welcome those of you who are not of the Catholic Faith; you bless us by your presence.  I congratulate all those celebrating birthdays, jubilees, anniversaries or quinceaneras along with the recently married and newly baptized.  I want to assure our families who have sons and daughters, brothers or sisters in the military here or overseas that we remember them in prayer, asking God to protect and keep them from harm’s way.  I offer prayers for those who are ill, those facing surgery, recuperating or homebound, and sympathy to those who have lost a love one. I pray that the Lord will lighten the burdens of all as he promised he would.  “The Lord is my Shepherd; there is nothing I shall want”. (Responsorial Psalm)

 

First Sunday of Lent - March 5, 2017

Today we celebrate the first Sunday of Lent, a period of preparation for the suffering and death of Jesus Christ for us.  The first and second readings give us the reason why that suffering and death were necessary.  God created man, “male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:28).  He gave man powers superior to all the other earthly creatures and expected of him in return obedience and reverence.  Because of his pride in the gifts given to him, man refused to live in obedience to God which led to disastrous results for himself and his descendants.  Years later theologians discussed and argued about the nature of “Original Sin” and how it is transmitted from generation to generation.

While we have every reason to regret that our first parents acted so foolishly and so ungratefully, the fact that we ourselves, with far more knowledge of God’s goodness to mankind can and do act even more foolishly and more ungratefully every time we disobey God, should be a greater cause of regret to each of us.  We know that God sent his Son to earn for us a share in God’s own divine happiness and God did this, even though the human race had proven itself so unworthy of this divine favor.  His divine Son had to suffer the humiliation of human nature but also the insults and injuries that led to his crucifixion on Calvary.

In this and in other chapters of Paul’s writing to the Romans, we find him speak of the gift of salvation as brought to humankind by Jesus.  Sin has been conquered and eternal life has been won for all who follow Christ; all who die with Christ through Baptism will rise with Christ to an everlasting life of glory.  They are children of God and can call him their “ABBA” – Father and Jesus their brother.  These words and sentiments of love point to God’s love and mercy for each of us.

Today’s Gospel message tells us that Jesus went to the wilderness and fasted forty days which caused him to be hungry.  In addition he was tempted three times by the devil who failed miserably and had to leave Jesus and “behold angels came and ministered to Jesus”.  This event in our Lord’s life, his forty days and nights of fasting followed by temptations, has been chosen as a reading for this first Sunday of Lent for our edification and encouragement.  Lent is a period of preparation for the central Christian events of Good Friday and Easter Sunday.  For every sincere Christian therefore, who appreciates those two powerful days, this period of preparation should be a welcome opportunity.  It is important to realize that Lent is a golden opportunity to review our past and make sensible resolutions for our future.

As we begin Lent this week, let us reflect on what we can do and should do.  We can eat less and feed the poor.  We can abstain from meat and eat more simply.  We can also try to give something to the poor.  One of our annual commitments during the Holy Season of Lent is to help the hungry of the world through Operation Rice Bowl.  This program invites us to eat a meager meal one evening and to donate the difference between what we eat that evening and what we eat regularly, to the poor.  In the vestibule of the Church, you will find little cartons that you can collect your financial donation in.  As we approach Easter, we collect all those cartons and we mail the donations to Operation Rice Bowl.  The idea behind this program is that our sacrifice can provide some poor and hungry person with a bowl of rice.

The Stations of the Cross are prayed on all Fridays of Lent at 5:30 PM and all parishioners are invited to join in this time of prayer.

On next Saturday a special opportunity for prayer and reflection will be offered at St. John Vianney Hacienda Heights for the Men’s Fellowship.  The men of our parish will also make their annual Retreat at Mater Dolorosa Retreat Center beginning on Friday, March 17th and concluding on Sunday afternoon March 19th.  Please call Michael Kellogg for more information.

I welcome those visiting St. Denis this weekend, along with our new parishioners who I invite to register with us.  We have many programs and ministries here and I invite you to join one of them.  I welcome those of you who are not of the Catholic Faith; you bless us by your presence.  I congratulate all those celebrating birthdays, jubilees, anniversaries or quinceaneras along with the recently married and newly baptized.  I want to assure our families who have sons or daughters, brothers or sisters in the military here or overseas that we remember them in prayer, asking God to protect and keep them from harm’s way.  I offer prayers for those who are ill, those facing surgery, recuperating or homebound, and sympathy to those who have lost a loved one.  I pray that the Lord will lighten the burdens of all as he promised he would.     “Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned” (Responsorial Psalm)

 

Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time - February 26, 2017

In human relationships, there is no greater love than that of a mother for her baby.  It has been proved beyond doubt down through the history of the human race.  It is an unselfish love, a love, a dedication that demands and expects nothing in return.  The love of a child for its parents, when it comes is the use of reason, is inspired by gratitude for past favors and by a self-interested hope for more favors to come.  But the love of a mother for her helpless baby is absolutely free of all self-interest, it looks for no return either in the present or in the future.

I take this opportunity to tell parents that if their baby or child is restless or uncomfortable at Church, please do not worry.  You may feel the need to take the baby to the Children’s Chapel that is often called the Cry Room.  That is totally your decision.  At no time should you feel obligated to take the baby out and nasty looks from fellow parishioners need not compel you either.  This is the baby’s way of worshipping God and it is beautiful to see mom and baby do that together.  I always say that I cannot stand up there and preach about Pro-life and then get upset if the baby is uncomfortable.  The baby has every right to be with the parent(s).  I congratulate the parent(s) who brings their baby to Church. 

This image of mom and baby is one that God uses to describe his love for his Chosen People.  This was a love that God demonstrated to bring his children to maturity and perfection.  The most those exiled hoped for and desired was a return to their native land where peace and plenty would be given them by their kind God.

In the letter of Paul to the Corinthians, he is referring to the divisions which had arisen among this converts.  It was a situation of different groups boasting about having Paul as their teacher; while others claimed Apollos and others Peter.  Paul therefore corrected them and told them it was the message not the messenger that counted.  The lesson we all must learn from St. Paul today is we must avoid judging our neighbors, the right to judge belongs to God alone.

The Gospel assigned for this eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time is part of the “Sermon on the Mount,” a collection of the sayings of Jesus given in different places and at different times but collected here by St. Matthew.  The lesson is evident: God must have first place in our lives.  Jesus is warning us against getting too attached and enslaved by the things of this world to the point of neglecting God and our own eternal happiness.  In the parable of the Rich man and Lazarus, it was not the possession of much wealth that caused the rich man to be lost; it was the wrong use of it.  He lacked charity.  He ignored his needy neighbors.  He selfishly tried to spend all his wealth on himself.  On the other hand, it

was not the poverty of Lazarus that brought him to the Kingdom of Heaven, but the willing acceptance of his lot.  He was unable, through illness, to earn his bread.  He got little charity from those who could have and should have helped him.  Yet he bore with his misfortune patiently, and so earned heaven.

As we begin Lent this week, let us reflect on what we can do and should do.  We can eat less and feed the poor.  We can abstain from meat and eat more simply.  We can also try to give something to the poor.  One of our annual commitments during the Holy Season of Lent is to help the hungry of the world through Operation Rice Bowl.  This program invites us to eat a meager meal one evening and to donate the difference between what we eat that evening and what we eat regularly, to the poor.  In the vestibule of the Church, you will find little cartons that you can collect your financial donation in.  As we approach Easter, we collect all those cartons and we mail the donations to Operation Rice Bowl.  The idea behind this program is that our sacrifice can provide some poor and hungry person with a bowl of rice.

This Wednesday, March 1, is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Lenten Season.  The Mass schedule for Wednesday is as follows:  6:30 & 8:00am; 12:10, 4:30 & 6:30pm.  Ashes will be blessed at the 6:30am Mass and will be distributed at the end of all Masses.  Ash Wednesday and the Fridays of Lent are days of universal fast and abstinence.  Stations of the Cross will be celebrated on the six Fridays of Lent at 5:30pm.  Lent always calls us to think of our sisters and brothers who are starving, so we are encouraged to respond to Operation Rice Bowl.

I welcome those visiting St. Denis this weekend, along with our new parishioners who I invite to register with us.  We have many programs and ministries here and I invite you to join one of them.  I welcome those of you who are not of the Catholic Faith; you bless us by your presence.  I congratulate all those celebrating birthdays, jubilees, anniversaries or quinceaneras along with the recently married and newly baptized.  I want to assure our families who have sons or daughters, brothers or sisters in the military here or overseas that we remember them in prayer, asking God to protect and keep them from harm’s way.  I offer prayers for those who are ill, those facing surgery, recuperating or homebound, and sympathy to those who have lost a loved one.  I pray that the Lord will lighten the burdens of all as he promised he would. “Rest in God alone, my soul”  (Responsorial Psalm)

 

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time - February 5, 2017

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time - January 29, 2017

Ten Sundays ago (November 27) we began a new year in the Liturgical Calendar, with First Sunday of Advent!  That was a time of preparation for the coming of Christ at Christmas.  How well did we prepare during that four week period?  Then we had the feast of Christmas when angels announced his birth and sang his praises, giving Glory to God. It became a changing event for the shepherds and the Kings from the East.  How did we celebrate Christmas?  Was it just a day on the calendar or has it now become a way of life?

During those final days of December we had several beautiful feasts beginning with the life and death of St. Stephen who was the first deacon in the Church; he was stoned to death and like Jesus, Stephen forgave those putting him to death.  The following day we celebrated the feast of St. John Apostle an Evangelist who was one of the first four apostles called by Jesus to follow him.  With his brother James, the two followed Jesus and accepted his command to preach the Good News to all nations.  That feast is followed by another special day on the Liturgical Calendar called the feast of the Holy Innocents. When the kings from the east came searching for the newborn king, which upset Herod the King, when approached by the visitors.  Herod became nervous and angry because he did not want any new king.  He was king and that was it.  He did not want any competition from any other king.  They asked Herod for directions to the newborn king and he suggested that they go find the child and bring the information to him so he could go and adore the child too.  That of course was not his intention.  He was anxious to find the newborn king so that he could order his murder. 

That did not happen because an angel told them to go back home by another route.  When that happened Herod became furious and ordered all the male children of two years old and younger be massacred hoping that he would find the child and kill him too.  Because an angel of God warned Joseph, he took the child and his mother to Egypt and remained there until he was told differently.  When Herod died Joseph and his family returned to Nazareth where Jesus grew in age and wisdom before God and humans.  Due to Christmas falling on Sunday, the feast of the Holy Family was observed and celebrated on Friday, December 30.  What impact did these feasts have on your spiritual journey?  Each one of them was in a sense an opportunity for a new beginning.  Did we realize that and how did we respond?  When driving to and from some event, have you ever made a wrong turn somewhere along the way?  When you realized you were going in the wrong direction what did you do?  You made a U-turn and went back and got on track again and soon you arrived at your destination.  That is what all these new beginnings help to accomplish.  In fact that is what Reconciliation/Confession is all about, getting us back on track!

The moment we closed out 2016, we were into a new year.  January 1, 2017 which also fell on a Sunday, gave us another opportunity for resolutions and a change of life style.  How are those resolutions holding up?  That was also followed by a week of beautiful feasts.  On Monday, January 2, we celebrated the feast of Sts. Basil and Gregory, both Bishops and Doctors of the Church.  St. Basil was a hermit who became bishop of Caesarea; he was noted for his learning and wrote a rule for Monasticism.  These two saints along with Athanasius and John Chrysostom are the four great doctors of the Eastern Church.  St. Gregory Nazianzen was Patriarch of Constantinople and was noted for his knowledge of sacred Scripture, his outstanding teaching abilities and eloquence.  On January 3, we celebrated the Most Holy Name of Jesus; a devotion attributed to Saint Bernardine of Siena, who promoted the inscription of the monogram of the Holy Name – IHS, an abbreviation of the Greek name for Jesus.

On Wednesday, and Thursday of that week we celebrated the feast of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and St. John Neumann, two American Saints canonized two years apart, one in 1975 and the Bishop in 1977 by Pope John Paul II who was himself later canonized a Saint.  Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton, who died in 1821 had been raised Episcopalian, was a wife and a mother of five children.  After her husband’s death she founded the first Congregation of Women Religious in the USA, the Sisters of Charity.  The Community was devoted primarily to the education of the poor and to teaching in parochial schools.  Elizabeth was the first native-born citizen to be canonized.  John Neumann was a missionary from Bohemia, he was a member of the Redemptorist Community (This Community has staffed and ministered at St. Mary’s, Whittier for several years) was Bishop of Philadelphia, known for his holiness and learning,  a promoter of parochial schools (like Elizabeth Ann), he authored two German Catechisms.  He died in 1860 and was the first American bishop to be canonized also by St. John Paul II.

The following day, January 6 was the feast of the Epiphany in many parts of the world but in the United States we celebrated the feast of St. Andre Bessette, a religious Brother of the Congregation of the Holy Cross, who was orphaned at the age of twelve, who spent four years in the United States as a mill worker.  He was known as a healer and the “Miracle Man of Montreal” where he founded an oratory of St. Joseph to whom he was dedicated and fostered devotion.  Over one million people paid their respects at his death in 1937 at the age of 91. It was said of him that he just opened the door to all who came to visit the oratory, there he prayed with and for those people.  A group of us priests were participating in a Canon Law Convention in Montreal about twenty years ago and we visited the Oratory.  It was fascinating to see the crutches and canes hanging on the walls along with stacks of wheelchairs.  These belonged to people who used these canes, crutches and wheelchairs to come to visit Brother Andre.  When he prayed for them and with them, they were cured.  It was a wonderful experience to visit that holy place.  If you ever visit Montreal, I recommend you go there and you too will be blessed.

On Sunday, January 8, we celebrated the feast of the Epiphany as we do every year on the Sunday closest to the 6th.  On that day, we recall the kings or astrologers, seeing an unusual star, decided to follow it and it led them to the stable where Jesus was.  Even though they were kings, they came in search of the newborn king to pay him homage and offer him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.   Due to New Year’s Day falling on Sunday, we also celebrated the Lord’s Baptism on a weekday, Monday, January 9.  That was also a powerful event in the sense that it pointed to Jesus being baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan and the Father identifying him as his “beloved Son in whom I am well pleased,” and the Holy Spirit was seen descending on him in the form of a dove. The following day we began Ordinary Time once again and it will run to December 2, 2017.

Loss and grief are universal experiences.  All of us have faced loss in some way and at some time.  However, one of the most difficult types of loss is that of a loved one.   We need assistance in working through grief and adjust our lives without that family member.  GriefShare is a support ministry that is offered to St. Denis parishioners and community members, to help them cope with grief.  

GriefShare is a Christ-centered ministry, presented through video by grief recovery experts who use the Gospel and biblical principles in every session.  GriefShare has been helping people cope with grief since 1996 and more than 12,000 churches worldwide have used it.  The grief support meetings will be held on Saturdays, from 1:00 - 3:00 pm for twelve weeks beginning on Saturday, February 11. The date will depend on the availability of Potthoff Hall.   Anyone can join the meetings at any time during the twelve-week session.  We will be available for any inquiry following each Mass this weekend. We will then present you with the calendar and schedule of sessions.  Our Presenter will be Natalie Tran who is a Nurse Practitioner and may be reached at 818-726-0934 for additional information or to sign up for the sessions. 

I welcome those visiting St. Denis this weekend, along with our new parishioners who I invite to register with us.  We have many programs and ministries here and I invite you to join one of them.  I welcome those of you who are not of the Catholic Faith; you bless us by your presence.  I congratulate all those celebrating birthdays, jubilees, anniversaries or quinceaneras along with the recently married and newly baptized.  I want to assure our families who have sons or daughters, brothers or sisters in the military here or overseas that we remember them in prayer, asking God to protect and keep them from harm’s way.  I offer prayers for those who are ill, those facing surgery, recuperating or homebound, and sympathy to those who have lost a loved one.  I pray that the Lord will lighten the burdens of all as he promised the world. “Rejoice and be glad; your reward will be great in heaven” (Gospel Acclamation).

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time - January 15, 2017

At midnight on Monday last we concluded the Christmas season and one minute later we began Ordinary Time which will run to Saturday, December 2. I want to thank the many people who helped to make the Christmas season so beautiful. Given the fact that Christmas Day and the feast of Mary, Mother of God - also known as New Year’s Day, fell on Sunday, the Mass schedule seemed to run very smoothly. Given the fact that we had two Vigil Masses, then Midnight, the regular schedule of six Masses on Christmas morning and early afternoon helped the flow of traffic in Church and in the parking lot. We also had a Christmas evening Mass. I do not know of any other parish that had a Mass at that time on that day.  St. Denis has always provided that Mass at that time on that day and also on Easter Sunday.  I am very grateful to all who were involved in each and every one of those Masses.

Firstly, I want to thank the Knights of Columbus and other volunteers for moving the furniture around and for placing the manger and various statues in their proper positions.  I noticed that is the thirteenth time we have erected that Christmas scene. We procured that arrangement of statues from Italy through the help of Cotter Church Supplies, Inc. in Los Angeles back in 2003. The various pieces are made of Lindenwood and are life size. Before that we had very small statues that did not suit the dimensions of our Church. Some of the sheep in that Nativity scene had broken legs and missing ears. I am still grateful to the Queen of Peace Rosary Group, to several other Filipino families and others in the parish who helped us procure the set from Italy.  We have had many compliments on the beauty of the pieces as well as their size. They do look beautiful in our church. So thanks to everybody who helped us purchase them!

Secondly, I am grateful to the people who arranged the environment in the sanctuary, the trees and lights, the poinsettias, the altar furnishings and candles. They paid wonderful attention to detail and created a beautiful prayer space.  We received a lot of compliments and I am very grateful to all those involved. Thirdly, I want to thank the Liturgical Ministers including the choirs, music directors, cantors, organists, pianists, guitar players and drummer. A special word of thanks and congratulations to the four Choi sisters and their mom for their wonderful music at the 7:00pm Christmas Vigil Mass. They were wonderful.  I also want to thank the 7:30AM group who have been playing and singing here for many years, also the quartets. A big “Thank You” to the children’s choir, to their accompanist and director! I believe the future of Church music at St. Denis is bright.

Next, I thank the ushers, altar servers, sacristan, lectors, Eucharistic ministers along with the Eucharistic ministers to the sick. I am grateful to my parochial vicars, along with Fr. Montejano and Fr. Mario Lopez, O.Carm for their help. I also want to thank our Parish Staff. They work so hard and diligently. They are always planning some program or directing some event. They answer literally hundreds of phone calls each day.  I appreciate their presence and their commitment. Thanks too to our maintenance staff and the contracted people and companies charged with keeping the plants clean and tidy. We need your cooperation in maintaining that. Blessings to you! Finally I want to thank all our parishioners for being here to welcome our visitors. Thanks to all who contributed to the mission and ministry of the Parish through their generous gifts to the Church. May God richly reward you and may he grant you a Happy New Year.

As I mentioned in the beginning of the message, we entered Ordinary Time at one minute after midnight on Tuesday, January 10. The dictionary defines Ordinary as common, popular, nothing new about it, nothing to get excited over, regular, usual run of the mill. But that is not a true definition when we are speaking liturgically. We do not just celebrate the “high feasts” or “important feasts” like Christmas or Easter, we are meant to reflect on the Lord’s ministry and mission for all fifty two weeks. If you are still not convinced just go back to the Gospel proclaimed on January 10 and 11 and see how the Lord was literally on fire preaching and working miracles. Tuesday’s Gospel from Mark 1:21 – 28 states that Jesus “spoke as one having authority”. They were amazed by what he was saying and doing. There was nothing ordinary about that. His extraordinary work continues in Ordinary Time through his teaching, preaching and healing. He cast evil spirits out of people; he healed their diseases, pain and hurt, made them well again and sent them on their way. He forgave their sins, fed five thousand people at one time and four thousand on another occasion. He calmed the storm at sea, and walked on the water and raised a thirteen year old girl from the dead. Later on he raised, a young man, probably in his early twenties and an adult from the dead.

 On Monday last we celebrated his baptism at the River Jordan by John the Baptist and through that baptism Jesus is now “in Solidarity with Humanity”. The author of Hebrews on the first day of Ordinary Time presented us with the first implication of Jesus’ baptism at the Jordan. His immersion into the water of the Jordan that had received many sinners during John’s ministry and who baptized them signified the awesome truth; Jesus had become one of us. The Baptism of Jesus was more of a sign or “sacrament” of Jesus Solidarity with the human race. Now Jesus could call us his “brothers and sisters.”

Jesus becomes one of us for a purpose, to save us from the clutches of the evil one. Thus soon after the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord we have the story of the expulsion of Satan from the possessed man who represents all of humanity suffering under the dominion of the devil. For much too long the devil had taken “possession of man.” That is about to end. The expulsion of Satan on the Sabbath sends fearful tremors to the underworld as Satan recognizes the Word that has authority to drive him away and he trembles. So he shouts: “Jesus of Nazareth, have you come to destroy us?”  In our time of need when we feel the diabolic force upon us, we need only call on the Holy Name of Jesus! Satan will flee at the Holy Name of Jesus as Jesus comes to our assistance!

I welcome those visiting St. Denis this weekend, along with our new parishioners who I invite to register with us.  We have many programs and ministries here and I invite you to join one of them.  I welcome those of you who are not of the Catholic Faith; you bless us by your presence.  I congratulate all those celebrating birthdays, jubilees, anniversaries or quinceaneras along with the recently married and newly baptized.  I want to assure our families who have sons or daughters, brothers or sisters in the military here or overseas that we remember them in prayer, asking God to protect and keep them from harm’s way.  I offer prayers for those who are ill, those facing surgery, recuperating or homebound, and sympathy to those who have lost a loved one.  I pray that the Lord will lighten the burdens of all as he promised he would. “To those who accepted him, he gave power to become children of God” (Gospel Acclamation).

Fourth Sunday of Advent - December 18, 2016
We are on the threshold of the eschatological age of fulfillment. Today’s readings tell us that faith is required for us to step over that threshold. Before us are set two figures; two examples of human response to the call of faith: Ahaz, who failed the test, and Joseph, who despite his quandary, was a person of great faith.

Isaiah tells Ahaz to ask for a sign that will confirm earlier promises made to the Davidic dynasty of which he was the present heir. Feigning humility, he refuses. The prophet then promises an Emmanuel, which means “God with us.” Since every king was considered a sign of God’s presence with the people, this prophecy could have had any king in mind. It probably refers to Ahaz’s yet-to-be-born son. However, the people’s disappointment with the monarchy soon gave the prophecy more importance. At issue here is the fulfillment of God’s promise to be present with the people, regardless of the situations in which they find themselves.

By stating that Jesus was a descendant of David, Paul attributes to him all of the promises and blessings ascribed to the person of David and to the dynasty that he had established. As a descendant of David, Jesus is a member of the people of Israel and placed squarely within the fold of human society. Paul maintains that the Gentiles (in Rome) are beloved of God, called to be holy people. The lines of initiative and responsibility are clear. God called Paul and set him apart for the ministry of the gospel. Paul is sent to the Gentiles to set them apart for God as well.

Several features of the angel’s message found in the Gospel call for serious consideration. First, the Holy Spirit is probably not a reference to Trinitarian theology but to the power of God that will be experienced at the time of eschatological fulfillment. Second, the child’s name, “Jesus” is the Greek form of the Hebrew, which means “YHWH is salvation.” Third, a solemn formula of fulfillment is proclaimed: “To fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet” (Matthew 1:22). Fourth, the child is given a second name, Emmanuel, God with us. These two titles identify Jesus as the saving power of God and the presence of God in the midst of the people.

The Bible offers us a rich variety of men and women who qualify as heroes, warriors, prophets, and wise men and women. And every so often it places before us a dreamer. Jacob had the first big dream, with that ladder connecting heaven and earth, bearing ascending and descending angels. His son Joseph started off with dreams that put himself at the center, much to his brothers’ chagrin, but later he saved himself by interpreting the dreams of others, including Pharaoh. However, the most important dreamer of all was Joseph, spouse of Mary and foster father to Jesus.

Joseph was asked to live out his dream. “Do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that his child has been conceived in her,” he was told in a dream (Matthew 1:20). And not only that, he was to name the child Jesus, which means “God saves.” What all this cost him we don’t know. All we hear is that when he awoke from the dream, he did what had been asked and took Mary into his home.

That wasn’t the end of the dreams. “Joseph, take the mother and child into Egypt-Herod is trying to kill him.” “Joseph, take the mother and child out of Egypt-Herod is dead.” And Joseph did. Maybe once you begin to live God’s dream it gets easier. God’s dream is that we live in the world as God’s adopted and saved children, working to bring God’s peace and justice, mercy and forgiveness into our world where they are needed.

Reconciliation will be celebrated this week in all three Parishes of our Cluster: St. Elizabeth Ann Seton tomorrow, (Monday) at 7.00PM; at St. Lorenzo on Tuesday at 7.30; and here at St. Denis on Thursday at 7.30PM. There will be several priests available for confessions at all of these celebrations. Please make sure to join us. It might have been years since you last approached the sacrament. Please do not let that keep you away. Please note that there are no Confessions scheduled on Friday or Saturday this week.

The Christmas Mass Schedule will begin at 4.00PM on Saturday for the children. They will be involved in all areas of the celebration. This will be followed by a Community Mass at 7.00PM. Our Parish Choirs will sing Christmas Carols for Thirty minutes beginning at 11.30PM and this will be followed by Mass at Midnight. Our Mass schedule on Christmas Day is the regular Sunday Schedule.

I want to thank our Pastoral Staff for serving lunch to the First Responders, Sheriffs, Firefighters and Paramedics on Tuesday before Thanksgiving. Thanks too to the Organizations, Staff and Volunteers who planned, arranged and facilitating the Christmas Tree Lane event. We should have the Financial Report on that event available next weekend. In addition to counting the proceeds, it was also decided that the event should be audited which has taken some extra time. I am also grateful to all those involved in the Mass and Festivities for Our Lady of Guadalupe this past Monday. They did a wonderful job and it was a huge success. I want to give special recognition to our youth and young adults, they were absolutely wonderful. They were so gracious, efficient, pleasant and helpful. Parents, Teachers and Catechists you can be very proud of them. I certainly am. May God and Our Lady of Guadalupe bless them and all of you! It is a real joy to belong to this Parish of St. Denis.

I welcome those visiting St. Denis this weekend, along with our new parishioners whom I invite to register with us. We have many programs and ministries here and I invite you to join one of them. I welcome those of you who are not of the Catholic Faith; you bless us by your presence. I congratulate all those celebrating birthdays, jubilees, anniversaries or quinceaneras along with the recently married and newly baptized. I want to assure our families who have sons or daughters, brothers or sisters in the military here or oversees that we remember them in prayer, asking God to protect and keep from harm’s way. I offer prayers for those who are ill, those facing surgery, recuperating or homebound and sympathy to those who have lost a loved one. I pray that the Lord will lighten the burdens of all as he promised he would. “Let the Lord enter, he is the king of glory” (Responsorial Psalm)

Third Sunday of Advent - December 11, 2016 
Already we have reached the midway point in Advent.  Today is known as Gaudete Sunday.  This is a  Latin word meaning to “Rejoice” – that we have made it this far.  Even though Advent is a short  Liturgical Period, four weeks at most, (this year is as long as it gets – four full weeks) it is divided  into two parts.  The first two weeks call us to prepare the way of the Lord, while the days from  December 17 to 24 encourage us to intensify our preparation because the Lord is near. This theme is  already expressed in the lighting of the third candle which is pink in color.  That expresses an  element of joy and happiness on this day – Gaudete Sunday.

Let us therefore intensify our efforts at preparing for the upcoming Christmas season.  By that I do not mean more shopping, more expensive gifts, or more parties, but spending time with the Lord, praying each day and celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  This Tuesday night, December 13, there will be a Reconciliation Service at St. Paul The Apostle Church, Chino Hills.  On the following Monday, December 19 at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Rowland Heights; on Tuesday, December 20 at St. Lorenzo, Walnut, and on Thursday, December 22, here at St. Denis at 7:30PM with several priests available for the Sacrament.

We will complete our Study of St. Matthew’s Gospel here on Tuesday, December 13.  I invite you to join us at 7.15PM. 

Tomorrow we will celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe with a special Mass at 6:30PM, followed by entertainment, refreshments, and a raffle of a beautiful image of Our Lady.  Come with your family.  Next Sunday, the choir from the Latter Day Saints Church will join our choirs here at St. Denis for our Annual Christmas Concert.  This will be our sixth time to do this.  I invite you to join us as together we welcome them to our Parish. This has been a wonderful experience in the past and we have all been blessed by it.

The Exodus, or the liberation of Abraham’s descendants from the slavery of Egypt, which the “mighty hand of Yahweh” brought about, and their establishment in the land of Canaan, promised to Abraham four centuries previously, were the greatest events in the history of the Jews.  It was then that they really became the Chosen People, a nation set apart to serve the true God.  There was a second Exodus eight centuries later, the liberation from the Babylonian exile.  Through their disloyalty to God, they lost their nation and their liberty, and were taken as slaves to Babylon, where they lived in servitude for sixty years (598-538 B.C.).  But the merciful God came to their rescue once more.  The Jews were set free by Cyrus (who had captured Babylon), and were allowed to return to their native land, rebuild Jerusalem and the temple, and serve God once more as his Chosen People.  It is this liberation of which Isaiah speaks in today’s reading.  It is chosen for Advent, because both Exoduses were only foreshadowing’s of the coming of the Messiah to not only God’s “Chosen People,” but his adopted family.

How can we ever thank God for this act of infinite love for us?  The answer is that we cannot.  All eternity itself will not be long enough for us to praise and thank God.  Just as our creation was an act of sheer generosity, so this greater gift, our elevation to adopted sonship, is an act of infinite generosity, for which all that he expects in return, is our true appreciation of the gift and honor conferred on us.

It is generally admitted today, that the James who wrote this Epistle, was not one of the two of that name who were Apostles, but James “the brother (cousin) of the Lord” (Mt. 13:55).  He was prominent as leader of the Judaeo-Christian church in Jerusalem, from the beginning (see Acts 12:17; 15:13; 21:18; 1 Cor. 15:7; Gal. 1:19; 2:9-12), and remained head of that church until his martyrdom in 62 A.D.

He addresses his letter, which is really a collection of exhortations to live the Christian life, not merely profess it, to the “twelve tribes of the Dispersions,” that is to Jewish converts to Christianity living outside the Palestine.  The theme dealt with in the verses read today – the second coming of Christ as judge of the world – was very topical in the early years of Christianity.

John the Baptist, who had announced the arrival of the Messiah and had pointed him out as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29), was now imprisoned by the Tetrarch Herod, because he had publicly denounced Herod’s adulterous union with Herodias.  While in prison, he had heard of the missionary activity of Jesus in which love, mercy and understanding for sinners predominated.  This merciful and loving approach did not quite fit in with the “fire and judgement” aspect of the Messiah’s mission, which he himself had foretold (Mt. 2:7-12), and so he is now wondering if Jesus is really the Messiah.  To solve his doubts, he sends a delegation to Jesus to ask:  Are you he who is to come:  Are you the Messiah, the promised one for whom we have been waiting?

I welcome those visiting St. Denis this weekend, along with our new parishioners who I invite to register with us.  We have many programs and ministries here and I invite you to join one of them.  I welcome those of you who are not of the Catholic Faith; you bless us by your presence.  I congratulate all those celebrating birthdays, jubilees, anniversaries or quinceaneras along with the recently married and newly baptized.  I want to assure our families who have sons or daughters, brothers or sisters in the military here or overseas that we remember them in prayer, asking God to protect and keep them from harm’s way.  I offer prayers for those who are ill, those facing surgery, recuperating or homebound, and sympathy to those who have lost a loved one.  I pray that the Lord will lighten the burdens of all as he promised he would. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor” (Gospel Acclamation).

 

Second Sunday of Advent - December 4, 2016

We all marvel at how quickly time is passing us by; today we are celebrating the Second Sunday of Advent. To help us prepare for the coming of Christ at Christmas, the Church recalls the prophecies of the great Isaiah on each of the four Sundays of Advent. To encourage the Chosen People who, because of the bad example of their worldly leaders, were wavering in their loyalty to Yahweh their true God, the prophet reminds them of him who is to come. This was 700 years before Christ came, but it was a reminder that God, who had called Abraham and had made him the father and founder of the Chosen People some thousand years previously, had not forgotten his promises. He would fulfill his word. He would one day send them a ruler, a king, who would rule and judge with justice because he would have the true spirit of the Lord. He who was to come would set up a kingdom of peace, not only for the Chosen People but for all people. The kingdom he was to establish would be for Jew and Gentile.

When Isaiah spoke these prophetic words, many of his contemporaries were in the depths of despair. Because of the sad state of the true religion and the return to idolatry and paganism, then so prevalent among them, many of Yahweh’s loyal followers were afraid that Yahweh had forgotten his promises to the Patriarchs, their ancestors. Isaiah dispels their fears and their despair, by his definite promise that new Davidic King would come who would establish peace and a glorious kingdom of justice on earth. His kingdom would be a return to the peace of Paradise, before sin entered the world.

Today,  centuries later, we too need to listen to this prophet of hope. We are living in the world where disloyalty to God among those who believe in him, and the denial of his very existence by many more, are prevalent. There can be no true love of neighbor, and no true respect for his rights, where there is no love for God and respect for his rights.  This explains the chaotic state of our world today. But an explanation is not a solution. Diagnosis of a disease is not its cure. We must strive to give God his rightful place in our daily lives, and follow the only path that leads to justice and peace on earth. This is the path laid down by Christ, the true son of God, who came on earth, as man, to teach us that we should love God, and love our neighbor because God loves us. Through the coming of Christ he has made us all his own adopted children.

St. Paul is telling the newly-converted Christians of Rome, many of whom were Jews, that the Sacred Scriptures of the Old Testament are still a source of instruction, encouragement, and hope. The call of Abraham and the promises made to him, and to his descendants, were fulfilled in the coming of Christ. Christ was the glory of the Chosen People—the fruit of centuries of preparation and expectation—but he brought the knowledge and blessings of the true God to the Gentile pagans also. Henceforth, all people are brothers and sisters of Christ.

All God’s dealings with Abraham and his descendants—the Jews—as described in the books of the Old Testament, were part of and preparation for this great central act of God’s love for men and women —the Incarnation.  For most of us Christians, who should know better and should love God more sincerely, for we are witnesses of his supreme act of love in the Incarnation, the knowledge that we are dealing with a God of infinite mercy and patience is a source of strength and encouragement. For we too, unfortunately, are too apt to imitate the people of old in our dealings with God!. There are few of us who cannot see in our past lives something similar. However, God is still the God of infinite mercy. He does not, and cannot, change. He is ever ready to forgive and pardon; the prodigal will still get the fatted calf, and the newest garment, if he really returns to his Father.

To help us prepare ourselves to welcome Christ at Christmas, the Church brings before our minds sections of the Old and New Testaments, which should inspire us with new faith, hope and charity. Faith in God, who always fulfills his promises, hope for our eventual salvation, and charity, or love for God, who has done, and is still doing, such wonderful things for us unworthy people.  This charity and love of God must spill over on our neighbor, if it is sincere, for as St. John tells us, the man who says he loves God and yet hates his neighbor is a liar (2 Jn. 4 : 20).

About 30 years previous to the event described in today’s Gospel, an angel announced to Zechariah, a priest of the temple, that he would have a son (even though his wife Elizabeth was barren and advanced in years). This son was destined to be the Precursor who would announce the proximate arrival of the long-expected Messiah.  John, the name given him by the angel even before his conception, spent his youth and early manhood as a hermit in the desert of Judea, preparing himself for his exalted office. When God revealed to him that the Messiah was soon to begin his public life, John set out for the bank of the Jordan, where he began to preach repentance, in order to prepare the people for “him who was to come.”

 In this holy season of Advent, as we prepare to welcome Christ at Christmas, John the Baptist has words of advice and warnings for each one of us. He advises us to “prepare the way of the Lord,” by true repentance of our past sins and a firm resolution to straighten “the ways of the Lord,” that is, not to deviate from the true Christian way of life in the future.

I want to thank all those parishioners who surfaced names of other parishioners whom they deemed worthy of the Pastor’s Award 2017 and which will be awarded to them on Saturday, March 18. These Awardees have been parishioners for several years and have been faithful to the Community with their time, talent and treasure. I am very grateful to them for their wonderful help and involvement in our Parish. This year’s selection of honorees is Councilwoman Carol Herrera; Carlos and Ligia Ruiz; Rey and Cita Torres; Sam Wong and Ernie Yanez. Congratulations to them all. I hope you will  join us at the Doubletree Hotel in Orange as we honor them celebrate with them. I invite you to congratulate them when you meet them. This list of names were approved by the Committee while those  not selected this year were placed on a list for the following year.

I invite you to join us for the Christmas Tree Lane today, December 4, 2016 in Potthoff Hall. Please invite your friends and neighbors to join you. We will have a Con-Celebrated Mass at 6.30PM on December 12, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Please join us for our Christmas Concert on Sunday, December 18 in conjunction with the Church of the Latter Day Saints.

I welcome those visiting St. Denis this weekend, along with our new parishioners who I invite to register with us.  We have many programs and ministries here and I invite you to join one of them.  I welcome those of you who are not of the Catholic Faith; you bless us by your presence.  I congratulate all those celebrating birthdays, jubilees, anniversaries or quinceaneras along with the recently married and newly baptized.  I want to assure our families who have sons or daughters, brothers or sisters in the military here or overseas that we remember them in prayer, asking God to protect and keep them from harm’s way.  I offer prayers for those who are ill, those facing surgery, recuperating or homebound, and sympathy to those who have lost a loved one.  I pray that the Lord will lighten the burdens of all as he promised he would. “Justice will flourish in his time, and fullness of Peace forever” (Responsorial Psalm).

 

First Sunday of Advent - November 27, 2016
 

Today, the first Sunday of Advent is the ecclesiastical New Years’ Day.  The Church begins her annual Liturgical Cycle of feasts, with a period of four weeks’ preparation for Christmas – the great feast of Christ’s coming on earth.  The readings selected for today, and the following three Sundays, are chosen to help us prepare for this great event. The Son of God took our human nature and “dwelt among us” for a while on earth, in order to bring us to heaven, where we shall dwell forever with the Blessed Trinity.

The Old Testament tells of God’s dealings with the Chosen People and describes God’s long preparation for this, almost incredible, act of divine love and mercy, the Incarnation.  God sent his Son in our lowly human nature, in order to raise us, mere creatures, to the dignity of adopted children of God, brothers and sisters of Christ, and thus, heirs of eternal life with him in heaven.

Today’s reading from Isaiah is addressed to his fellow Jews to help them persevere in their faith.   Days of distress and tribulation lay ahead.  Jerusalem, their beloved and holy city, the site of the temple where the true God manifested his power and his mercy among them, will be razed to the ground one day, because of their sins.  The “Word of the Lord,” the true Son of Man - made flesh, would rebuild their temple, not with stones and mortar, but with living, human beings who would form his Church: the Mystical Body on earth.  And we today, thousands of miles from Jerusalem, and two thousand years after his coming among us, are preparing ourselves for the annual commemoration of that great event of history.

What words of ours could express our gratitude for this stupendous act of God’s love?  What sacrifices could we offer which could make us worthy of this divine generosity?  But Christ has acted on our behalf, he has graciously shared his merits with us, and his merits were infinite because he was true God as well as true man.

In the verses chosen for today’s second reading, St Paul urges the Roman Christians to keep the purpose of their conversion, of their acceptance of the gospel, of true salvation, always before their eyes.  They had accepted Christ in order to merit eternal salvation; for this reason, they must “cast off the works of darkness,” in which they indulged before their conversion.

These words of St. Paul to the Roman Christians of the year 58 A.D. are words that each one of us should apply to ourselves today.  Advent begins today.  We must prepare ourselves to celebrate worthily the commemoration of the greatest act of love and condescension which the God of infinite love deigned to do for us creatures.  He sent his divine Son to become man, to become one of us, so that we could become his adopted sons, sharers in his divine life.  This is what our annual feast of Christmas commemorates.

The fact that we are in existence, that we are alive here on earth, is a free gift of God to us.  We had no hand, act or part in it.  Life of itself is a wonderful gift, a gift we share with the beasts of the field and the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea.  But we humans are far superior to these other creatures of God, because we have the extra gift of intelligence and free will.  And because of these gifts, we have ambitions and desires which other creatures have not got. We have in our make-up a spiritual element which raises us above mere matter and makes us want to continue to live. The infinitely merciful and loving God planned from all eternity for humans, the recipients of these superior gifts, a share in his own eternal life, once their short sojourn on this earth is over.  The Incarnation – his divine Son sharing in our human nature – was the mysterious, but loving way God ordained to bring this about.  Because of this decree of God, our true and unending life begins after our earthly death. But we must do our part to earn this divine gift.  All are destined by God for eternal life, if each one must follows the path laid down by God.  St. Paul tells us today some of the things we must avoid, and some of the things we must do, if we want to reach the eternal happiness planned for us.  “We must,” he says, “put on the Lord Jesus Christ,” He made himself our brother; we must live as true brothers of his. Advent is a glorious opportunity for each one of us to look into one’s life and see if one is living as a true brother or sister of Christ. Think of all God has done, and is still doing, in order to give us an eternal life of happiness.

In chapter 24 of his Gospel, St. Matthew gives us a discourse which our Lord held with his disciples, concerning the destruction of the temple of Jerusalem and the Parousia, or the second coming of Christ as judge of the world.  In the verses we read today Christ is speaking of is second coming, and emphasizes its unexpectedness and suddenness.  During this holy season of Advent we are all being called on and exhorted by the Church to prepare ourselves to commemorate worthily the first coming of Christ as our Brother and Savior.  If we do that each year; if we let the full meaning of this great festival of Christmas enter into our innermost being, welcoming the Son of God in the form of the Babe of Bethlehem with a clean, sincere and grateful heart, then each year of our lives will be sanctified and a big step will be taken towards our eternal goal.  Christmas each year should be a mile-stone on the road to heaven for every true Christian.  It is a festival which vividly recalls to our minds the length our heavenly Father has gone to in order to make us adopted sons and sharers in his everlasting happiness.

If God cares so much for our true welfare – and the Incarnation surely proves that he does – we should surely have enough interest in our own future to cooperate with him in this affair of our eternal salvation. In today’s gospel lesson it is Christ himself who is asking each one of us so to live our lives so that no matter when we are called to judgment we shall not be found wanting.  This does not mean that we must always be praying.  Nor does it mean that we must take no interest in the affairs of this life.  Of the two men working in the field and of the two women grinding corn, one of each was found unworthy, not because of the work he or she was doing, but because that work had for them wrongly excluded God and his purpose in life.  The two found worthy had room for God and their own eternal welfare in their hearts – their work was part of their loyal service to God and was a means towards their salvation.

Christmas comes but once a year but its meaning, its lesson, must remain in our hearts and minds all the year round.  God wants us in heaven forever.  He sent his Son on earth to bring us there.  Aided by God’s grace let we resolve today so to live our lives that when death claims us we shall meet Christ, not as a condemning judge, but as a loving brother.

Talk to Jesus now about what you need most of him; and your greatest need at this time in your life. Use the opportunities offered you for your spiritual growth by attending Mass regularly, being on time, participating in the great mystery of Christ’s love by listening, praying and singing; by frequenting the Sacrament of reconciliation on Saturday from 4.00 – 5.00PM or from 8.00 – 8.30PM or on Fridays from 7.00 – 8.00PM.  You may also participate in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament which takes place on Friday, beginning at 8.30AM and concluding with a Holy Hour from 9.30 – 10.30PM. .

I invite you to join us on Thursday, December 1, at 7.15PM in the hall for an introduction to St. Matthew’s Gospel which will be proclaimed for our hearing and reflection during the next Liturgical Year.  The second session will be presented in the Church on Wednesday, at 7:15PM and the third session on Tuesday, December 13 in the Church at 7:15PM.

The feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe falls on Monday, December 12; Mass will be celebrated at 6.30PM, followed by refreshments and entertainment in the hall.

I welcome those visiting St. Denis this weekend, along with our new parishioners whom I invite to register with us. We have many programs and ministries here and I invite you to join one of them. I welcome those of you who are not of the Catholic Faith; you bless us by your presence. I congratulate all those celebrating birthdays, jubilees, anniversaries or quinceneras along with the recently married and newly baptized. I want to assure our families who have sons or daughters, brothers or sisters in the military here or oversees that we remember them in prayer, asking God to protect and keep from harm’s way. I offer prayers for those who are ill, those facing surgery, recuperating or homebound and sympathy to those who have lost a loved one. I pray that the Lord will lighten the burdens of all as he promised he would. “Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord” (Responsorial Psalm).

Our Lord Jesus Christ the King - November 20, 2016
 

Today is the feast of Christ the King, the final Sunday of the Liturgical Year which began on the first Sunday of Advent last year.  After four Sundays of Advent which is a time of preparation for the coming of Christ in human form at Christmas, we had celebrations focusing on naming the child on the feast of Mary, Mother of God, followed by the Epiphany when the Wise Men or Kings arrived from the East on January 6 or on the Sunday closest to the 6th.  That leads us to the feast of the Lord’s baptism which we celebrate on the following Sunday, which concludes the Christmas Season and is followed by four to seven weeks of Ordinary Time.

That leads us to Ash Wednesday which begins the Lenten Season of about six weeks, which in turn takes us to Palm Sunday and Holy Week culminating in Easter Sunday.  That day begins the fifty days of Easter joy and peace and takes us to Pentecost Sunday, followed by Trinity Sunday and Corpus Christi.  This is followed by twenty five to thirty Sundays which take us back to the feast of Christ the King.

In today’s first reading, Saul, the first king of Israel, was told by the prophet Samuel that the kingship would not remain in his family because he had disobeyed the laws of God.  David was chosen by God to replace him and was anointed secretly by Samuel in Bethlehem.  Having had to flee from Saul, he settled in Hebron.  Accepted by the tribe, of Judah, he reigned there as a king of Judah for seven years.  On the death of Saul, the northern tribes came to him in Hebron and anointed him king over all of Israel.

The institution of the feast of the Kingship of Christ was intended to be a rallying call to all Christians to acknowledge the sovereignty of Christ, not only over all Christians and all people but over all of creation.  He is king of all creation because as the second reading says, “Through him, by him, and in him, all things subsist.”  Therefore, he is the sovereign Master, Ruler, Protector and Judge of all created things.  The title of King was chosen to express all these prerogatives because he himself in his moment of deepest humiliation, admitted to Pilate that he was King.  He is given this title in most of the Old Testament prophecies concerning him.

The story of David’s anointing as king over all of Israel is recalled on this feast of the Kingship of Christ because David was seen in the Old Testament as a type, a representation of the future messianic king.  The prophet, Nathan, promised David that a descendant of his would come “who would establish his throne forever.”

All four Evangelists tell us that when Jesus was crucified on Calvary, there was an inscription written on the upper arm of the cross which said that he was “King of the Jews.”  The leaders of the people, the Sanhedrim, had tried to persuade Pilate to condemn Jesus to death “because he made himself God,” but the pagan Pilate paid no heed to that charge.  They then accused him of making himself King, but Pilate cast this accusation out of court also.  Then, they played their trump card.  They threatened to report Pilate to Rome for failing to condemn a rebel who was subverting the loyalty of the people, forbidding them to pay taxes to Caesar, and calling himself a king.  Pilate thought more of his job than of his justice.  He condemned Jesus, while admitting that he was innocent.  To the disgust of the leaders, he insisted on putting the title of the crucified criminal, “King of the Jews” over his cross.  In doing this, Pilate was proclaiming to the world that these vengeful leaders of the people had condemned the messianic King for whom they had been waiting for centuries, to the shameful death of the cross.  He was doing even more.  He was proclaiming that the innocent one who hung on that cross was the “King of Kings,” the King of this world and of the next.  Today, we are honoring this King, a King who humbled himself in order to raise us up to the status of sons of God, a king who suffered the cruelest of deaths so that we could have an unending life of happiness when we leave this earth.  Today, let us renew our loyalty to Christ our King.

The extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy comes to a close today in Rome and throughout the world.  It has been a wonderful year of God’s grace, forgiveness and mercy.  We have seen many souls return to the Sacrament of Reconciliation during the past year.  We have celebrated that sacrament every Friday and Saturday throughout the past twelve months.  We also celebrated reconciliation for three hours one Friday each month, and we celebrated two twenty-four hour period of prayer and reconciliation during that year.

I welcome those visiting St. Denis this weekend, along with our new parishioners who I invite to register with us.  We have many programs and ministries here and I invite you to join one of them.  I welcome those of you who are not of the Catholic Faith; you bless us by your presence.  I congratulate all those celebrating birthdays, jubilees, anniversaries or quinceaneras along with the recently married and newly baptized.  I want to assure our families who have sons or daughters, brothers or sisters in the military here or overseas that we remember them in prayer, asking God to protect and keep them from harm’s way.  I offer prayers for those who are ill, those facing surgery, recuperating or homebound, and sympathy to those who have lost a loved one.  I pray that the Lord will lighten the burdens of all as he promised he would.  “Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord” (Responsorial Psalm)

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Coping with Grief During This Holiday Season

Grief is part of the human existence.  Grief is the cost of loving someone.   We would not grieve if we did not love.  When we lose someone we love, we often feel that there is no way that others can know or understand the depth of our pain.   As a result, we feel that it is not helpful to talk about it.   Each person’s response to grief is different because each person’s relationship to the loved one who had passed is different.   The path of one’s grief will be uniquely one’s own journey.  We need to give ourselves permission to grieve.    Jesus, who is perfect, grieved the death of His friend, Lazarus.   “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35)

As we approach the holidays, those of us who have lost our loved ones, can find the holiday season extremely difficult to cope.   Why are the holidays tough as we grieve for ones we have lost?  It is often the time of bittersweet memories, the loneliness, the concerns for our families, especially our children, and the expectations that “we should be happy during the holiday season.”   Grief recovery experts recommend that as we work through our grief journey during the holiday season, it is important for us to remind ourselves that it is going to hurt, we should not fake it, and we should not try to numb the pain by other means.  Instead, we should plan our holiday season.   Prioritize and plan on how much we want to do during the holiday season, accept our limitations, and be forthright about our needs as we assert ourselves.   Let our families and friends know what we are capable of doing this year and what we are not.  Asking for help and accepting the help from families and friends allow them to support us in concrete ways.  Taking care of one’s physical health by “getting up and move” and getting outside for some sunshine are strongly encouraged.   It is good to socialize and not isolate oneself, even if it is only for a brief period.  Have phone numbers of a close friend, one’s counselor, or the church readily available should the negative thoughts get overwhelming.   In addition, reaching out to others during this holiday season might allow one to help others who are alone and who could be comforted.  It may be a time to create new traditions honoring our loved ones.  (References:  When “I Do Becomes I Don’t” by Laura Petherbridge, 2008; GriefShare: Your Journey from Mourning to Joy, Third Edition, by Church Initiative, 2015).

Most importantly, our relationship with God is crucial as we travel on this grief journey as well as on journey of life.   God promises His children that He will never leave nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).  We must trust in His unfailing love as we are in the midst of our sorrows.  Christmas is the time of hope.   Jesus came to end our suffering.  He came to wash away our sins.   “For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) 

For additional information about our grief support meetings, please contact Natalie Tran at (818) 726 -0934.

Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time - November 13, 2016

In this message last week, I included the summary of a document from the Vatican regarding death, burial and cremation. I am now giving you the entire document.  Please read it carefully and keep it on file. May God grant eternal lest to your deceased relatives.

Instruction Ad resurgendum cum Christo regarding the burial of the deceased and the conservation of the ashes in the case of cremation, 25.10.2016

The following is the full text of the Instruction of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “Ad resurgendum cum Christo”, regarding the burial of the deceased and the conservation of the ashes in the case of cremation, published today and signed by Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller and Archbishop Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer, respectively prefect and secretary of the dicastery.

1. To rise with Christ, we must die with Christ: we must “be away from the body and at home with the Lord”. With the Instruction Piam et Constantem of 5 July 1963, the then Holy Office established that “all necessary measures must be taken to preserve the practice of reverently burying the faithful departed”, adding however that cremation is not “opposed per se to the Christian religion” and that no longer should the sacraments and funeral rites be denied to those who have asked that they be cremated, under the condition that this choice has not been made through “a denial of Christian dogmas, the animosity of a secret society, or hatred of the Catholic religion and the Church”. Later this change in ecclesiastical discipline was incorporated into the Code of Canon Law (1983) and the Code of Canons of Oriental Churches (1990).

During the intervening years, the practice of cremation has notably increased in many countries, but simultaneously new ideas contrary to the Church’s faith have also become widespread. Having consulted the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts and numerous Episcopal Conferences and Synods of Bishops of the Oriental Churches, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has deemed opportune the publication of a new Instruction, with the intention of underlining the doctrinal and pastoral reasons for the preference of the burial of the remains of the faithful and to set out norms pertaining to the conservation of ashes in the case of cremation.

2. The resurrection of Jesus is the culminating truth of the Christian faith, preached as an essential part of the Paschal Mystery from the very beginnings of Christianity: “For I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures; that he was buried; that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures; that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve”.

Through his death and resurrection, Christ freed us from sin and gave us access to a new life, “so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life”. Furthermore, the risen Christ is the principle and source of our future resurrection: “Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep […] For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive”.

It is true that Christ will raise us up on the last day; but it is also true that, in a certain way, we have already risen with Christ. In Baptism, actually, we are immersed in the death and resurrection of Christ and sacramentally assimilated to him: “You were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead”. United with Christ by Baptism, we already truly participate in the life of the risen Christ.

Because of Christ, Christian death has a positive meaning. The Christian vision of death receives privileged expression in the liturgy of the Church: “Indeed for your faithful, Lord, life is changed not ended, and, when this earthly dwelling turns to dust, an eternal dwelling is made ready for them in heaven”. By death the soul is separated from the body, but in the resurrection God will give incorruptible life to our body, transformed by reunion with our soul. In our own day also, the Church is called to proclaim her faith in the resurrection: “The confidence of Christians is the resurrection of the dead; believing this we live”.

3. Following the most ancient Christian tradition, the Church insistently recommends that the bodies of the deceased be buried in cemeteries or other sacred places.

In memory of the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord, the mystery that illumines the Christian meaning of death, burial is above all the most fitting way to express faith and hope in the resurrection of the body.

The Church who, as Mother, has accompanied the Christian during his earthly pilgrimage, offers to the Father, in Christ, the child of her grace, and she commits to the earth, in hope, the seed of the body that will rise in glory.

By burying the bodies of the faithful, the Church confirms her faith in the resurrection of the body, and intends to show the great dignity of the human body as an integral part of the human person whose body forms part of their identity. She cannot, therefore, condone attitudes or permit rites that involve erroneous ideas about death, such as considering death as the definitive annihilation of the person, or the moment of fusion with Mother Nature or the universe, or as a stage in the cycle of regeneration, or as the definitive liberation from the “prison” of the body.

Furthermore, burial in a cemetery or another sacred place adequately corresponds to the piety and respect owed to the bodies of the faithful departed who through Baptism have become temples of the Holy Spirit and in which “as instruments and vessels the Spirit has carried out so many good works”.

Tobias, the just, was praised for the merits he acquired in the sight of God for having buried the dead,  and the Church considers the burial of dead one of the corporal works of mercy.

Finally, the burial of the faithful departed in cemeteries or other sacred places encourages family members and the whole Christian community to pray for and remember the dead, while at the same time fostering the veneration of martyrs and saints.

Through the practice of burying the dead in cemeteries, in churches or their environs, Christian tradition has upheld the relationship between the living and the dead and has opposed any tendency to minimise, or relegate to the purely private sphere, the event of death and the meaning it has for Christians.

4. In circumstances when cremation is chosen because of sanitary, economic or social considerations, this choice must never violate the explicitly-stated or the reasonably inferable wishes of the deceased faithful. The Church raises no doctrinal objections to this practice, since cremation of the deceased’s body does not affect his or her soul, nor does it prevent God, in his omnipotence, from raising up the deceased body to new life. Thus cremation, in and of itself, objectively negates neither the Christian doctrine of the soul’s immortality nor that of the resurrection of the body.

The Church continues to prefer the practice of burying the bodies of the deceased, because this shows a greater esteem towards the deceased. Nevertheless, cremation is not prohibited, “unless it was chosen for reasons contrary to Christian doctrine”.

In the absence of motives contrary to Christian doctrine, the Church, after the celebration of the funeral rite, accompanies the choice of cremation, providing the relevant liturgical and pastoral directives, and taking particular care to avoid every form of scandal or the appearance of religious indifferentism.

5. When, for legitimate motives, cremation of the body has been chosen, the ashes of the faithful must be laid to rest in a sacred place, that is, in a cemetery or, in certain cases, in a church or an area, which has been set aside for this purpose, and so dedicated by the competent ecclesial authority.

From the earliest times, Christians have desired that the faithful departed become the objects of the Christian community’s prayers and remembrance. Their tombs have become places of prayer, remembrance and reflection. The faithful departed remain part of the Church who believes “in the communion of all the faithful of Christ, those who are pilgrims on earth, the dead who are being purified, and the blessed in heaven, all together forming one Church”.

The reservation of the ashes of the departed in a sacred place ensures that they are not excluded from the prayers and remembrance of their family or the Christian community. It prevents the faithful departed from being forgotten, or their remains from being shown a lack of respect, which eventuality is possible, most especially once the immediately subsequent generation has too passed away. Also it prevents any unfitting or superstitious practices.

6. For the reasons given above, the conservation of the ashes of the departed in a domestic residence is not permitted. Only in grave and exceptional cases dependent on cultural conditions of a localized nature, may the Ordinary, in agreement with the Episcopal Conference or the Synod of Bishops of the Oriental Churches, concede permission for the conservation of the ashes of the departed in a domestic residence. Nonetheless, the ashes may not be divided among various family members and due respect must be maintained regarding the circumstances of such a conservation.

7. In order that every appearance of pantheism, naturalism or nihilism be avoided, it is not permitted to scatter the ashes of the faithful departed in the air, on land, at sea or in some other way, nor may they be preserved in mementos, pieces of jewellery or other objects. These courses of action cannot be legitimised by an appeal to the sanitary, social, or economic motives that may have occasioned the choice of cremation.

8. When the deceased notoriously has requested cremation and the scattering of their ashes for reasons contrary to the Christian faith, a Christian funeral must be denied to that person according to the norms of the law.

The Sovereign Pontiff Francis, in the Audience granted to the undersigned Cardinal Prefect on 18 March 2016, approved the present Instruction, adopted in the Ordinary Session of this Congregation on 2 March 2016, and ordered its publication.

Rome, from the Offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 15 August 2016, the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

 

Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time - November 6, 2016

   November – Month of Holy Souls

The practice of keeping a memorial day for the dead did not begin with Christianity; such as commemoration was prevalent in pagan antiquity. But as early as the second century Christians commemorated the anniversary of the dead, especially the day of death of the martyrs. The liturgical observance of a single day for the dead dates to the seventh century and it is known that St. Isidore of Seville encouraged it. The monks of Cluny set the date as November 2, the day following the feast of All Saints, and in the fourteenth century Rome accepted this practice.

The custom of offering three masses on this day began in Spain in the fifteenth century. It was Pope Benedict XV who extended this privilege to the entire Church. The tone of today’s celebration is a paschal one, because Christ’s paschal mystery gives meaning to the death of the faithful Christian.

On Wednesday, the feast of All Souls, people gathered at the cemetery where their loved ones are buried and in all our Catholic Cemeteries within the three county Archdiocese, Mass was celebrated. It is also customary to have a Novena of Masses celebrated throughout this month in every parish Church. Over the years the practice of cremation has grown in popularity and while the Church permits it, the ashes are meant to be buried in the ground or in a columbarium. They are not to be scattered anywhere, or kept at home and they are not to be divided among the family members. They are meant to be kept intact.

Those incorrect practices have necessitated the Vatican to issue a new set of guidelines. I will give you here, a summary of the actual text. The entire text will follow on this page the next few weeks. I would encourage you to read the document, discuss it with your family, keep it ready for reference when needed and share it with your friends and neighbors.

The Church allows cremation but ashes must be kept in a sacred place, cannot be divided between family members, nor can they be scattered in the air, on land, or at sea, or preserved in jewelry, the Vatican has affirmed.

The stipulation was made in a new Instruction issued today by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in response to an increase in the number of cremations and “new ideas contrary to the faith” that have “become widespread.”

The document, Ad resurgendum cum Christo, begins by reaffirming that cremation is “not ‘opposed’ per se to the Christian religion” but there is a need to underline the “doctrinal and pastoral reasons for the preference of the burial of the remains of the faithful, and to set out norms pertaining to the conservation of ashes in the case of cremation.”

Drawing on holy Scripture, Canon Law, and previous documents on the issue, the Instruction explains why the Church prefers burial to cremation because “above all” it is the “most fitting way to express faith and hope in the resurrection of the body”, and also shows “greater esteem” towards the deceased.

Nevertheless, it continues, cremation is not prohibited unless it was chosen for reasons “contrary to Christian doctrine.” It must also be carried out with “relevant liturgical and pastoral directives, and taking care to avoid every form of scandal or the appearance of religious indifferentism.”

The Instruction stresses that the ashes of the faithful “must be laid to rest in a sacred place” such as a cemetery or in a church, but not in a domestic residence except in “grave and exceptional cases dependent on cultural conditions of a localized nature.”

They must also “not be divided among various family members”, and in order to avoid “every appearance of pantheism, naturalism or nihilism”, it is not permitted to scatter the ashes “in the air, on land, at sea or in some other way, nor may they be preserved in mementos, pieces of jewelry or other objects.”

It added that if the deceased “notoriously has requested cremation and the scattering of their ashes for reasons contrary to the Christian faith, a Christian funeral must be denied to that person according to the norms of the law.”  

Cardinal Gerhard Müller, prefect of the CDF, told reporters today "it is reasonable to believe that in the near future cremation will be regarded as commonplace practice in many countries," and  this development has been accompanied by "another phenomenon: the preservation of ashes in the home, preserved in mementos, or scattered in nature."

The document was signed by Archbishop Luis Ladaria, Secretary of the CDF, on the Feast of the Assumption on Aug. 15. Pope Francis approved it back in March.

I welcome those visiting St. Denis this weekend, along with our new parishioners who I invite to register with us.  We have many programs and ministries here and I invite you to join one of them.  I welcome those of you who are not of the Catholic Faith; you bless us by your presence.  I congratulate all those celebrating birthdays, jubilees, anniversaries or quinceaneras along with the recently married and newly baptized.  I want to assure our families who have sons or daughters, brothers or sisters in the military here or overseas that we remember them in prayer, asking God to protect and keep them from harm’s way.  I offer prayers for those who are ill, those facing surgery, recuperating or homebound, and sympathy to those who have lost a loved one.  I pray that the Lord will lighten the burdens of all as he promised he would. “Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full.” (Responsorial Psalm)

Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time - October 30, 2016
Please see bulletin for flyer on Parish Catalyst

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time - October 24, 2016

The wise and pious Jewish writer of the second century B.C. had some very instructive advice for his contemporaries on the qualities which prayers of petition should possess.  This wise man has some very solid instructions today, on the Justice of God, who deals equally with all people and has no favorites.  He answers the prayers of all, but the oppressed, the orphan, the widow, the ones who can least help themselves are always his concern.  The best prayer is that of loyal, willing service.  The prayer of the humble person will be answered.  While there were truly pious Jews whose prayers were acts of adoration of God, praise for his infinite goodness and mercy and thanksgiving for his manifold gift to men, the vast majority turned to God only when they needed some temporal favor.

Sirach, reminds such people that God is a God of Justice, that is, that he will give to each according to his merits.  Unlike earthly judges or rulers, he will not be bribed.  He will have no favorites.  The one who has ignored or forgotten him while all this temporal affairs were prospering cannot and should not expect a divine intervention when adverse fortune hits him.  Nor will he depart from this strict justice even though the petitioner is weak through his own fault.

In his three Pastoral letters to Timothy and Titus, St. Paul often quotes his own life and sufferings to encourage his disciples and successors to persevere in their apostolic labors.  He now feels that his earthly life is nearing its end, but he has full confidence in God, his just Judge, who will give him his eternal reward.  What a wonderful blessing, what a source of courage and consolidation it would be for us, if we could like St. Paul, say on our death bed, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”  There are few followers of Christ in the history of the Catholic Church who did and suffered for the faith of Christ, what Paul did and suffered.  He was exceptional even among exceptional saints.  Then of course, his was an exceptional vocation.  The risen Christ appeared to him while he was on his way to persecute and arrest the Christians of Damascus, having already done great damage to the infant Church in Jerusalem.  That appearance and the words of Christ, turned a fanatical adversary of the faith into an ardent Apostle of Christ.

In today’s parable, Our Lord, very emphatically and tellingly, reproaches the Pharisees for their exalted opinion of their own sanctity.  They were continually boasting of their good works and of their strict observance of the Law and they openly despised all others who did not do as they did. 

The Pharisee will tell us himself what he is, the poor tax collector on the other hand was one of a class that was hated by most Jews, as well as the Pharisees.  The reason was that they collected taxes imposed by the pagan Roman Government on the Jews.  As long as the Romans got their share, the sum imposed on a district, the tax collector could collect as much as possible.  This led to many tax collectors acting unjustly and at the same time becoming very wealthy.  This is what happened the case of Zacchaeus (Luke 19).  We will hear about him next weekend.

During both his hidden life in Nazareth and his public ministry in the town and villages of Palestine, Jesus met sinners of all kinds.  There is not a single reference to a harsh word spoken by him to any of them.  In fact, he was accused of mixing too freely with them.  His answer was that “it was those who were ill who needed a doctor, not those who were in good health.”  The sinners he met knew that they were ill. 

They regretted their sins.  He forgave them.  The only time and place he spoke out against them was in the St. Matthew, chapter 23 where he utters eight “woes” against them.  He was always willing to forgive sinners.  Here however he was really addressing their pride and their refusal to seek forgiveness.  In that parable, Jesus is warning the Pharisees once more where their pride will lead them.

Since the summer of 2014, you have heard me speak of the Parish Missionary Disciples which originated in Pennsylvania.  They were invited to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to train folks in how to promote the New Evangelization.  They came to the San Gabriel Pastoral Region during my forty-four months as the Episcopal Vicar.  Eight parishes were asked to invite eight disciples each.  We participated in training and formation for twelve months and were commissioned on February 23.  Since then, we have been recruiting others and providing training and formation here at the parish.  We had a session this past Thursday night.  I extend to you an invitation to join us.  This formation takes place one night each month.  We will begin with another group of seventy two when the current session ends.  It is a twelve month program and commitment. 

Another program we have been involved is the Parish Catalyst.  This is a program for millennials – the group of young people between ages 18-39.  Some of these are single Catholics, other are married and have begun their family.  On Sunday last I heard a comment on millennials in reference to the upcoming election on November 8.  The statement mentioned that 37% of the population of the country are now millennials.  Twelve pastors were invited to a four three-day programs over two years, 2015 and 2016.  Three of us attended all four sessions and three others participated in at least one of the four.  Next Sunday will be Millennial Sunday at St. Denis.  At each Mass, we will invite those within the ages of 18-39 years to come to the Sanctuary for a special blessing.  In the next several weeks, we will review with all millennials what was presented to us.  That will take four evenings, one per month.  We will also present a similar program for parents, families and other parishioners.  In this way, everyone will know what we did at those sessions.  Please watch the bulletin each weekend.

Our Annual Pastor’s Awards Event will take place at the Doubletree Hotel in Orange on Saturday, March 18, 2017.  I am asking for your help in recommending names of potential awardees.  Please read the insert in the bulletin and complete the form.

I welcome those visiting St. Denis this weekend, along with our new parishioners who I invite to register with us.  We have many programs and ministries here and I invite you to join one of them.  I welcome those of you who are not of the Catholic Faith; you bless us by your presence.  I congratulate all those celebrating birthdays, jubilees, anniversaries or quinceaneras along with the recently married and newly baptized.  I want to assure our families who have sons or daughters, brothers or sisters in the military here or overseas that we remember them in prayer, asking God to protect and keep them from harm’s way.  I offer prayers for those who are ill, those facing surgery, recuperating or homebound, and sympathy to those who have lost a loved one.  I pray that the Lord will lighten the burdens of all as he promised he would. “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, and entrusting to us the message of salvation” (Gospel Acclamation)

Twenty Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time - October 9, 2016

Have you ever given something to a child and the child takes it but does not respond and one of the parents says “What do you say Tommy or Suzie.”  Immediately the child remembers to say “Thank You.” This is the way we are supposed to respond to God too when he gives us some grace or blessing.  If we are honest, we should be touched by and grateful for the gifts he bestows on us daily.

In the first reading this weekend Elisha from Thisbe in Galaad is the first of the great prophets in Israel after its separation from Judah.  He lived during the reign of King Achab who married a daughter of the pagan King of Tyre.  She, supported by the King, introduced idolatry into Israel, and Elisha fought fearlessly against this.  He is credited with many miracles, one of which is recalled in this reading.  Naaman, a pagan army-commander of the King of Aram, was struck with leprosy.  He was advised by a slave-girl from Israel to go to the prophet of Samaria who would cure him.  Having gone to the King’s palace, at first thinking he must be a prophet, he eventually found Elisha.  The prophet told him to bathe seven times in the Jordan River and he would be cured.  Naaman thought this is a ridiculous idea and was returning home indignant when his servants persuaded him to try what the prophet had told him to do.  He did and was cured.

God miraculously cured Naaman of his leprosy, through the instrumentality of his prophet Elisha.  This might seem strange to us, for this man was a pagan who adored false Gods and came from a pagan land.  That he would work miracles on behalf of the Chosen People, the children of Abraham, in the land of Canaan which he gave to them, we can easily understand, but why this favor for one who did not even know him or respect him? The answer was that God was the God of all peoples and all nations.  He created them and had planned heaven for them all.  If he chose a certain people from among the nations of the world it does not mean that he had no interest in the others.

In today’s second reading, St. Paul exhorts his convert and disciple, Timothy, to be proud of the Gospel, the message of hope which he had to preach.  He must guard the rich treasure of the faith he had received from Paul and hand it on to the next generation.  Today he reminds Timothy of the Resurrection of Jesus, the crowning act of divine drama of our Redemption.

About six weeks ago there was an item on the six o’clock news about two cases of leprosy in a school in a neighboring county.  The concern about that seems to have subsided.  I do hear it mentioned these days.  Traditionally, it was a disease prevalent in warm climates.  It was wide-spread in the Middle East in the time of Jesus.  Those suffering from it were segregated and lived in leper colonies outside the towns and villages.  We probably know the story of Father Damien as the lepers were rounded up and sent to the Island of Molokai.  He decided to go there to care for them and he contracted the disease.  He became known as the leper priest.  He was canonized a few years ago.  In the Lord’s day, the lepers depended on alms for this subsistence.  They had to warn everybody who approached them that they had the dreaded disease by ringing a bell and shouting “unclean.”

The Gospel today tells us that one day as Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem, between Samaria and Galilee, he met ten lepers who cried out “Jesus, master, have mercy on us.”  Pope Francis wrote a beautiful document on “Mercy” as he introduced the “Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy.” He said “Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s Mercy.”  Jesus showed mercy to those ten people by healing them but they soon forgot his compassion and mercy for them and they went about their business.  Jesus was obviously disappointed when only one came back to him and thanked him; so he asks the question “Were not ten made clean; where are the other nine?”  And that one was a stranger.  We often approach Jesus begging him to grant some request but we often forget to come back and thank him.  In a situation like the one in the Gospel, we might be that one who thanks Jesus or more often, we are one of the nine who failed to return. 

This will be our fourth Sunday to speak about and for all of us to respond the question of Stewardship. We must decide which group of lepers we belong to.  Are we the one or do we belong to the nine? And our response to the question and topic of Stewardship will answer that loudly and clearly.  Today we invite you to come forward with your signed card telling Jesus that you appreciate his gifts and blessings and that you are serious in your gratitude toward him by making a financial commitment to him.

Today too is the feast day of our Patron, St. Denis who according to St. Gregory of Tours came to Paris from Rome in the middle of the third century.  He became the first bishop of Paris and suffered martyrdom near the city with two members of his clergy, a priest and a deacon.  Today too, we will have a Ministry Faire in the Courtyard during and after all eight masses.  You can honor our Patron, commit a portion of our time, talent and treasure to God and his Church and show our gratitude toward God for his many blessings by returning a signed pledge card. Cards were left in the pew pockets after September 25 – that was not what we asked you to do.  We had asked that you take it home – talk about and pray over it and involve the family in that decision.  This decision making process is wonderful formation for your children.  It is good for them to hear you state your faith in God and why you want to respond to his generosity.  I am sure that those who participated in the Mass of anointing at the Cathedral last Saturday would be very generous to God who has blessed them so richly especially if they have beaten the disease of cancer.

It is important that we show God gratitude of any and every blessing which he has bestowed on us.  We cannot keep asking him for favors and then turn around and forget or refuse to thank him.  Today we have been given the opportunity to show our gratitude to God who loves us.  We do that by pledging our first hour’s wage every week, back to our good Lord.  In the Old Testament we are told that as the shepherd led the sheep through the gateway, he plucked out every tenth sheep and set it aside to be offered to God.  It is from that practice that we get the word tithing.

As I mentioned back in August and September, our Regional Bishop asked us to look at the topic of Stewardship and invite our parishioners to pray about it, discuss it with your family and make a commitment to increasing it.  For four weeks we have reflected on that and we asking all our Parishioners to do the same.  

One of the steps we are expected to take this year, the extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy is to visit one of the designated Churches where we celebrate Liturgy, walk through the Holy Door and spend some time in private prayer.  There is one Church so designated in every Deanery.  We have chosen to visit the San Gabriel Mission on Saturday, October 22 for Mass at 11:00 am, some prayer time and a visit to the Gift Shop and Museum.  We will travel there by bus.  I hope you will be anxious to join us.  The Holy year will close on Sunday, November 20, the feast of Christ the King.

As we approach the Elections on November 8, it is important to be aware of the California Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Statement on the Death Penalty.  It is a failed Penalty System and they ask us to vote Yes on Proposition 62.  They also tell us to vote No on Proposition 66 – “it is not the real reform our criminal injustice system needs.”

Our Annual Pastor’s Awards Event will take place at the Doubletree Hotel in Orange on Saturday, March 18, 2017.  I am asking for your help in recommending names of potential awardees.  Please read the insert in the bulletin and complete the form.

I welcome those visiting St. Denis this weekend, along with our new parishioners who I invite to register with us.  We have many programs and ministries here and I invite you to join one of them.  I welcome those of you who are not of the Catholic Faith; you bless by your presence.  I congratulate all those celebrating birthdays, jubilees, anniversaries and quinceaneras along with the recently married and newly baptized.  I want to assure our families who have sons or daughters, brothers or sisters in the military here or overseas that we remember them in prayer, asking God to protect and keep them from harm’s way.  I offer prayers for those who are ill, those facing surgery, recuperating or homebound, and sympathy to those who have lost a loved one.  I pray that the Lord will lighten the burdens of all as he promised he would.  “If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts”

Saint Denis, our Patron, Please pray for us!

 

Twenty Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time - October 2, 2016

The prophet Habakkuk wrote about 600 B.C. shortly before the Babylonian invasion of Judah and the capture of the City of Jerusalem.  Political intrigue and idolatry were widespread in Judah and Jerusalem at this period.  The prophet is arguing with God about this state of affairs – why should God allow these things to happen?  God tells him, he has prepared a severe punishment for Judah and its wicked inhabitants but the just will be saved.

There are many Christians who, like this prophet Habakkuk, want God quickly to punish sinners, especially those who unjustly oppress their neighbors or make it difficult for those who are trying to live honestly and uprightly.  God told this prophet to be patient that he would eventually put all things; even if he seemed to be slow in reacting, his judgement was certain to come.

The second letter to Timothy, Bishop of Ephesus was written by St. Paul from his Roman prison where he was spending his second and last term.  It was written about 66/67 A.D. and in it Paul is most anxious that Timothy should come to him in Rome.  He does not forget to urge on his beloved convert the need to continue preaching and preserving the faith which he had learned from his father-in-Christ.

At the time St. Paul wrote this letter he was expecting his execution at any moment.  He knew not when or how it would come.  But Paul is not thinking of himself or of what fate awaits him: “he has fought the good fight, he has kept the faith,” he confidently leaves the rest to God.

There is no evident nexus between Christ’s statement on faith in answer to the Apostle’s request and the parable which follows except perhaps that faith alone is not sufficient.  The follower of Christ must also do his duty.  What the Apostles are asking for here is greater confidence, greater trust in God, so that they can work the miracles which our God worked.  This becomes evident when we see the contexts in Matthew and Mark in which the same idea is expressed.  Our Lord has withered a fig tree by a simple switch.  The Apostles marveled at this.  He told them that if they had greater faith they could order a mountain to hurl itself into the sea and it would obey them (Matt 21:18 ff Mark 11:20 ff).  What the Apostles needed, therefore, was greater trust in God.”

In this parable the master expects the servant to carry out his orders.  When he returns from working in the fields, he has housework to do.  His master does not feel indebted to him for this.  This is what he is being paid for; this is his role in life.  So it is with Christ’s Apostles.  Although the words we have read were addressed to the Apostles, they apply to all of us, each in his/her own position in life.  Following the example of the Apostles, we must all pray for greater trust in God.  It is easy to forget God and his providence when things are going well for us.  How often do we thank God when are enjoying good health and when our home-life and business are going smoothly.  People tend to make novena when they need something; how many make novenas of thanksgiving for all the gifts they have received and are receiving daily from God’s providence.

Following our Regional Bishop’s suggestion we have been reflecting on our gratitude to God for his gifts to us and through Stewardship we are not just giving something to God, we are actually giving back a portion of what he has given to us.  That “Giving Back” is in thanksgiving for his goodness.  Last weekend the Ushers handed out a pledge card to every family.  This card was to be taken home, prayed over and your decision was to be prayed about and you were asked to return that card this weekend.  On Monday a number of those cards were found in the pew pockets.  That was not the intent of the card.  By not responding, are we saying to God, “I don’t have anything to give you back?” or “I deserve what I was given.”  If you are not returning your card today, then please do next week – October 9, the feast day of our Patron, St. Denis.  After making this commitment, try to fulfill it faithfully.

 

October is known as Pro-life month.  We will celebrate mass this Wednesday at 6:30 pm and pray for those who have lost their life through abortion, violence, gang wars and the death penalty.  We need to pray for all of these situations, that the perpetrators maybe converted, that all people will develop a respect for human life in all its stages.  We invite you to join us for the con-celebrated mass on Wednesday evening.

One of the steps we are expected to take this year, the extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy is to visit one of the designated Churches where we celebrate Liturgy, walk through the Holy Door and spend some time in private prayer.  There is one Church so designated in every Deanery.  We have chosen to visit the San Gabriel Mission on Saturday, October 22 for Mass at 11:00 am, some prayer time and a visit to the Gift Shop and Museum.  We will travel there by bus.  I hope you will be anxious to join us.  The Holy year closed on Sunday, November 20, the feast of Christ the King.

As we approach the Elections on November 8, it is important to be aware of the California Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Statement on the Death Penalty.  It is a failed Penalty System and they ask us to vote Yes on Proposition 62.  They also tell us to vote No on Proposition 66 – “it is not the real reform our criminal injustice system needs.”

Our Annual Pastor’s Awards Event will take place at the Doubletree Hotel in Orange on Saturday, March 18, 2017.  I am asking for your help in recommending names of potential awardees.  Please read the insert in the bulleting and complete the form.

I welcome those visiting St. Denis this weekend, along with our new parishioners who I invite to register with us.  We have many programs and ministries here and I invite you to join one of them.  I welcome those of you who are not of the Catholic Faith; you bless by your presence.  I congratulate all those celebrating birthdays, jubilees, anniversaries and quinceaneras along with the recently married and newly baptized.  I want to assure our families who have sons or daughters, brothers or sisters in the military here or overseas that we remember them in prayer, asking God to protect and keep them from harm’s way.  I offer prayers for those who are ill, those facing surgery, recuperating or homebound, and sympathy to those who have lost a loved one.  I pray that the Lord will lighten the burdens of all as he promised he would.  “If today you hear his Voice, harden not your hearts”

 

Twenty Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time - September 25, 2016

Last Sunday, we heard the prophet Amos condemn the rich men of the Northern Kingdom, Israel, for their injustice and their oppression of the poor.  In today’s reading from the same prophet, we see him denouncing the luxurious living of the leaders in Judah and foretelling a day of retribution which awaits them.  The warning of the prophet, who was only an uneducated shepherd before God called him to prophetic ministry, does not come from Amos but from God, in whose name he spoke.  God’s chosen people to whom he had in his goodness given the land of Canaan to be their homeland for all time, were about to lose their land and their freedom, because they had forgotten their Divine Benefactor and thought only of themselves and their own comfort.   While the well-to-do to whom Amos speaks of were wallowing in luxury and sin, there were thousands of their fellow citizens who were short of the necessities of life.  The wealthy continued their licentious way of life until finally the wrath of God caught up with them.  They lost not their luxuries; they lost their freedom and their homeland forever.

In the second reading St. Paul is exhorting Timothy to strive to become daily more perfect in his observance of the Christian faith.  He had made a public and noble profession of that faith on the occasion of his baptism (he was then a young man). He must continue to profess it.  All Christians are “children of God” for through our Baptism we have been made new people.  We are no longer mere mortals, no longer citizens of this world.  We are destined for a new, everlasting life in heaven.  We are all in our own way witnesses of the Catholic faith to others.  St. Paul’s instruction to Timothy therefore applies to all of us.  We must seek after “integrity” that is, our lives must correspond and to our faith.

n last Sunday’s Gospel from this same chapter of St. Luke, Jesus told the parable of the unjust Steward and concluded his message by saying “one cannot serve God and money.”  So he tells us another parable which we will read and reflect on today, the parable of the rich man and Lazarus.  The rich man is nameless.  Usually this means it could be anyone of us.  How sad if we were to miss an opportunity to feed, clothe, encourage, or spend some time with Lazarus, the poor beggar.

We have here a story of two men whose situations both in this life and the next are dramatically opposite.  The rich man had everything his heart desired here on earth but he gave no thought to God and to what would happen in the next life.  The beggar on the other hand bore his situation with pain and lack of food, patiently without complaining and when he dies, goes straight to heaven.  The rich man finds himself in torment, but then it was too late.  If he had it all to do over again, he might have taken the beggar to a hospital or doctor’s office.  He might have added on a room to his house where Lazarus could have been comfortable and cared for, but then it was too late.  We must always avoid putting this off or worse ignoring the need.  Like the Good Samaritan in the parable told by Jesus (Luke 10:37), we must hear his command and carry it out “you go and do the same.”  That is why we stand for the Gospel reading and why we are commissioned at the end of Liturgy to “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.”

Last week, I tried to call you to a way of Stewardship in terms of how we respond to the Lord.  I shared with you the distinction between Development and Stewardship. Development comes into play when we are trying to build something, buy something or remodel something.  In other words, when we respond to that, we are giving to a need.    Stewardship on the other hand is the need to give.  We realize that we have been so blessed by God these several weeks that we feel obligated to give back to him.  That is known as a need to give.  He has blessed us and we are grateful.

I asked you to reflect this week on what you believe you should give back to God.  To begin the process, it is a good practice to set aside one hour’s wage per week.  It is a good practice to set aside the first hour of the week.  Now the Old Testament tells us that as the shepherd drove the sheep out the gate, that he plucked out every tenth sheep and dedicated that animal to God.  It is from that we get the word tithing.

It is important that every family is registered in the parish; it is important for every family to identify with a parish.  Our Baptism and our home address makes us parishioners.  In today’s world, many people “vote with their cars” and visit the Catholic Church in another city.  Going back to the two words Stewardship and tithing.  They remind us of our responsibility to God, to show him our appreciation for his many blessings to us by making a return gift to him.  When we give a gift, we normally wrap it in pretty paper and put a ribbon on it and then we give to the individual or we somehow deliver it to the correct address.  We do that at Mass by using the Sunday envelope.  That is how we give our gift to God who later in the Mass will give us the gift of himself in the Holy Eucharist. Today, we will give you a Stewardship card on which you can indicate your most generous gift to our loving God.  After making that commitment, try to fulfill it faithfully.

ne of the steps we are expecting to take this year, the extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy is to visit one of the designated Churches where we celebrate Liturgy, walk through the Holy Door and spend some time in private prayer.  There is one Church so designated in every Deanery.  We have chosen to visit the San Gabriel Mission on Saturday, October 22 for Mass at 11:00am, some prayer time and a visit to the Gift Shop and Museum.  We will travel there by bus.  I hope you will be anxious to join us.  The Holy Year closes on Sunday, November 20, the feast of Christ the King.

As we approach the Elections on November 8, it is important to be aware of the California Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Statement on the Death Penalty. It is a failed Penalty System and they ask us to vote Yes on Proposition 62.  They also tell us to vote No on Proposition 66 – “it is not the real reform our criminal injustice system needs.

Our Annual Pastor’s Awards Event will take place on the Doubletree Hotel in Orange on Saturday, March 18, 2017.  I am asking for your help in recommending names of potential awardees.  Please read the insert in the bulletin and complete the form. 

I welcome those visiting St. Denis this weekend, along with our new parishioners who I invite to register with us.  We have many programs and ministries here and I invite you to join one of them.  I welcome those of you who are not of the Catholic Faith; you bless us by your presence.  I congratulate all those celebrating birthdays, jubilees, anniversaries or quinceaneras along with the recently married and newly baptized.  I want to assure our families who have sons or daughters, brothers or sisters in the military here or overseas that we remember them in prayer, asking God to protect and keep them from harm’s way.  I offer prayers for those who are ill, those facing surgery, recuperating or homebound, and sympathy to those who have lost a loved one.  I pray that the Lord will lighten the burdens of all as he promised he would.  “Praise the Lord, my Soul” (Responsorial Psalm)

Twenty Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time - September 18, 2016

Amos was a shepherd in the kingdom of Judah who was called by God to go to Israel, the Northern Kingdom. There he was to speak in God’s name to the people.  This was in the 8th century before Christ.  The country enjoyed material prosperity but idolatry and injustice were rife among the upper classes especially.  Against these vices, the prophet spoke fearlessly, until he was driven from the Kingdom eventually.  Today’s reading deals with the injustices practiced against the poor and the helpless.

The words of Amos could be addressed to many, far too many, people in any town or city.  So many are no better than the people who lived in Israel almost three thousand years ago, as far as the virtue of justice is concerned.  Down through the years, the wealthy are growing wealthier on the backs of the poor, just as the godless Israelites did in the days of Amos. Injustices between nations have caused wars.  Injustice practiced between citizens of the same country has caused and will continue to cause fratricidal strife.  The oppression of the poor is one of the sins crying out to heaven for vengeance.  God has heard that cry in the past.  Unfortunately, he will hear it again. 

Last week, we read about St. Paul writing to Timothy and how Timothy was converted during St. Paul’s first missionary journey.  He joined Paul during his second journey and stayed with him through this third journey including Paul’s imprisonment in Rome.  St. Paul spent his Christian life regretting his sinful past and wondering at the infinite mercy of Christ, the Son of God, who not only forgave all his past sins but showered his graces on him so abundantly. 

This year, we have been celebrating a Year of Mercy designated by Pope Francis.  He tells us that the Father never tires of forgiving us and so we should approach him with great confidence.  There is also a selection of books written, dealing with the same topic, one of these is entitled “Beautiful Mercy.”  We distributed about two thousand copies of this book at Easter of this year.  We have also studied the book a number of times during the year.  Our next study session will take place this Thursday, September 22 at 7.15PM. Have you attended any of these sessions? This is a wonderful opportunity. Matthew Kelly who is a popular teacher and preacher wrote the Prelude and Pope Francis wrote the Introduction and over twenty authors contributed to the book itself.  These chapters deal with the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy.  Even though the Year of Mercy is expected to close on Sunday, November 20, the mercy of God will continue on and we will not stop preaching on it.  We plan to combine this book with the study of the Parish Missionary Disciples.

The lesson which Christ is teaching in today’s Gospel is that worldly people whose interest is in the things of this world, are much more clever and zealous in their task than are religious people whose interest is in the things of the spirit.  Christ introduces his message with a story which shows the ingenuity of a dishonest servant.  About to be dismissed from his job for his dishonesty, he makes friends who will help him when he is unemployed, by reducing the amount of the debts that they owed to his employer.

The unjust manager made sure of a reception in the homes of his employer’s debtors.  Now our Lord is telling his hearers to use their own worldly goods in a manner that will earn for them a lasting reception in heaven when their time comes to leave this world and all they had in it.  These words of Christ warning those who would follow him on the road to heaven not to become the slaves of earthly things are applicable to all of us.

Most of us may feel that this warning is for millionaires and business magnates.  Our Lord did not say so.  There was not a single millionaire in his audience.  He meant it for all of us, for what he warned against was not the just acquisition of this world’s goods but their unjust acquisition and the dishonest use of them when they were justly acquired.  It was God who created all that exists in this world.  He intended these goods for the use of human beings.  We are only managers therefore, of those worldly goods.  It is in our way of managing these goods, not on the quantity we had to manage, that our judgment will be based.  Our Lord deduces two lessons for us from the parable of the unjust manager.  Firstly, the enterprise which he showed in providing for his earthly happiness when he would lose employment was greater and keener than that shown by most of us in providing for eternal happiness. The second lesson our Lord wishes to teach us is that we should use what we can spare of our earthly possessions in helping those who are in need of our help.

Today is Catechetical Sunday throughout the United States.  In every parish around the country, men and women are committing themselves to sharing their faith with children, youth, young adults and adults through the Religious Education and Formation Program, the Confirmation Process and through the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA).  Many of those catechists have been doing that for several years and some may be getting involved in one of those areas for the first time.  Whatever your situation, I am grateful to you for bringing the message of Jesus to others.  Thanks so much for all you do in this Ministry and in this area of the Church’s Mission.   Many parishioners owe their Religious Education and their preparation for the Sacraments, and especially First Eucharist and Confirmation to these people or people like them.  St. Paul in his letter to the Romans says “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”  But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed?  And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard?  And how can they hear without someone to preach, and how can people preach unless they are sent?  As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring Good News.” (Romans 10:13-15)

Our Regional Bishop, David O’Connell has asked all sixty six parishes in this San Gabriel Valley to consider giving a portion of their income every week to God in recognition of and in appreciation of God’s great blessings to us.  He has asked us to focus on this today and for the next three weekends.  It is important that we reflect on this beforehand, that as a family, we make a definite commitment to God that we literally gift wrap our commitment to him by using Sunday envelopes and placing it in the basket at the Offertory Time.  In some places, there is a twenty second challenge offered to people at this point in the Mass.  We did that here for some time, we need to resurrect that again.  It is also possible to do this online.  We should not be satisfied and worse still expect God to be satisfied by our throwing some coins or a dollar bill in the basket.  Some people treat the homeless in this fashion.  That is not right either.  We need to treat them with respect.  It is also important if we are using envelopes to use this opportunity to increase that weekly commitment to God.  I want to thank all those who are bearing the burden of responsibility in this regard. 

As we approach the elections on November 8, it is important to be aware of the California Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Statement on the Death Penalty. It is a failed Penalty System and they ask us to vote Yes on Proposition 62.  They also tell us to vote No on Proposition 66 – “it is not the real reform our criminal injustice system needs.

Our Annual Pastor’s Awards Event will take place on the Doubletree Hotel in Orange on Saturday, March 18, 2017.  I am asking for your help in recommending names of potential awardees.  Please read the insert in the bulletin and complete the form. 

I welcome those visiting St. Denis this weekend, along with our new parishioners who I invite to register with us.  We have many programs and ministries here and I invite you to join one of them.  I welcome those of you who are not of the Catholic Faith; you bless us by your presence.  I congratulate all those celebrating birthdays, jubilees, anniversaries or quinceaneras along with the recently married and newly baptized.  I want to assure our families who have sons or daughters, brothers or sisters in the military here or overseas that we remember them in prayer, asking God to protect and keep them from harm’s way.  I offer prayers for those who are ill, those facing surgery, recuperating or homebound, and sympathy to those who have lost a loved one.  I pray that the Lord will lighten the burdens of all as he promised he would. “Praise the Lord who lifts up he poor” (Responsorial Psalm).

Twenty Third Sunday in Ordinary Time - September 4, 2016

The Book of Wisdom is probably the last book of the Old Testament. It was written in Greek by a pious Jew who spoke Greek and who lived in Egypt during the 1st Century before Christ. It was not included in the Hebrew Canon since it was not written in Hebrew, or in Palestine. The purpose of the author who is unknown was to edify his co-religionists in Egypt and to encourage them to persevere in their faith despite opposition and oppression. In today’s extract, the author is stressing human incapability of understanding the divine plans and decrees. Because we are finite limited beings, our knowledge is finite and limited. There are many such problems all around us, which we cannot solve. How could we hope to solve the infinite ones?

We can never thank God sufficiently for his goodness in revealing  himself to us, and in unveiling the plans he had for us when we were  created, By the use of reason, we could prove that we were created by some all-wise, all powerful being. That would however, be but cold philosophical knowledge. We would still not see any purpose in life except to get what we could out of it, and that would in fact be very little because life is so short, and the amount of good we could do in that short span of time is so limited. God has revealed that he has planned an unending life for us once we have completed our term on earth. What is more, this tells us that our creator is a God of love, a God who has a personal interest in us who are the masterpiece of his creation.

In the second reading today, Paul is writing to Philemon, a friend of his, and who had a slave called Onesimus who ran away from his master and whom Paul met while he was in prison. Onesimus came to Paul in Rome and was converted to Christianity. Paul sent him back home to his master with a letter where Paul touchingly appeals to Philemon to deal kindly with the runaway.  In other letters, Paul comes across as the great apostle, the great lover of Christ, who counted suffering, imprisonment and even death as gain, so long as they were for Christ. In Paul we see the great theologian who expounds the depths and the riches and the greatness of God’s love for us as proven by the Incarnation. We see the Saint who is devoting every gift of his mind and every fiber of his being to the service of his master, Jesus Christ. In today’s short letter we see Paul the warm hearted man, who forgets himself and his own needs in order to reconcile two people. They are each dear to him. He wants to make them just as dear to one another. He succeeded, we can feel sure.

In the nine verses before today’s Gospel Reading, Jesus tells us a story of man who invited many friends to a great supper but one after another they all found an excuse for not coming. The host then sent for the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame. The reference is to the banquet in the Kingdom of God. The leaders of the Chosen People refused to come. The ordinary sinners, outcasts according to the Pharisees, and the Gentiles, would flock to the Kingdom in their place. Jesus Christ now warns that the certain conditions must be fulfilled before they can really enter the Kingdom.

The essential condition for true discipleship, demanded by Christ, was and still is total dedication, total commitment of oneself to him. There can be no such person as a half-Christian. “He that is not with me is against me,” he said on another occasion. We cannot be for Christ on Sunday and against him for the other six days of the week. To be his true disciples, his true followers, we must live our Christian life every day and all day; as the saying goes: “twenty-four seven.”

To help us all as a Parish family we are introducing Matthew Kelly’s book today, after the homily. It is entitled the Mass Journal. We will take a couple minutes to respond to his petition “God show me one way in this Mass I can become a better version of myself this week.” We will do that every week. In that way we are keeping a journal on ourselves and our progress along the journey to our God. We have this journal available at the Pastoral Office or at the table in the courtyard. To help cover expenses we would appreciate a donation of three dollars. We are beginning this practice today in honor of St. Teresa of Calcutta, who was canonized in Rome today by Pope Francis.

Tomorrow, Monday, September 5, is Labor Day and a legal holiday. The Pastoral Office will be closed and Mass will be celebrated at 9.00AM only. Next Sunday, September 11, will mark the 15th anniversary of the terrorist attack on the Trade Center and other places in 2001. The Knights of Columbus and the Scouts will attend the 9.00AM Mass in uniform and carrying the flag. We will recall all who perished in those attacks on that awful day. Sunday, September 18 is Catechetical Sunday throughout the country. All Catechists will be commissioned on that day. That will take place at the 9.00AM Mass at St. Denis.

The Religious Education Program will begin on Monday, September 12 at 4:15pm and will continue on Tuesday and Wednesday.  The middle school grades will begin their program on Wednesday, September 21 and the elementary grades will continue their program on Saturday, September 24 at 9:00am.  Please make sure your children are registered, that they attend class regularly and that you take them to Church on Sundays The Confirmation Program will commence on Monday, September 12 at 7:00pm for sophomores, and on Tuesday, September 13 at 7:00pm for Year One, freshmen.  The Adult Confirmation is already in progress at 9:00am on Sundays – every Sunday up to November 20.  Candidates must be 18 years old and above.  The RCIA and Bible Study are also in process.  For further information, please contact Angie Perez at 909-861-7106.  Mass is celebrated Monday through Friday at 6:30am, 8:00am and 6:30pm; and on Saturday at 7:30am.  Family rosary follows the 8:00am Mass during the week and follows the 7:30am on Saturday.  Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament begins after the 8:00am and concludes with a Holy Hour and Benediction at 9:30pm.

Our Annual Pastor’s Awards Event will take place on the Doubletree Hotel in Orange on Saturday, March 18, 2017.  I am asking for your help in recommending names of potential awardees.  Please read the insert in the bulletin and complete the form. 

I welcome those visiting St. Denis this weekend, along with our new parishioners who I invite to register with us.  We have many programs and ministries here and I invite you to join one of them.  I welcome those of you who are not of the Catholic Faith; you bless us by your presence.  I congratulate all those celebrating birthdays, jubilees, anniversaries or quinceaneras along with the recently married and newly baptized.  I want to assure our families who have sons or daughters, brothers or sisters in the military here or overseas that we remember them in prayer, asking God to protect and keep them from harm’s way.  I offer prayers for those who are ill, those facing surgery, recuperating or homebound, and sympathy to those who have lost a loved one.  I pray that the Lord will lighten the burdens of all as he promised he would. “In every age, O Lord, you have been our Refuge” (Responsorial Psalm)

God Love You, 
Msgr. Jim

Twenty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time - August 28, 2016

When I visit a Catholic Bookstore, I am often amazed by number of books I find written by the same author.  Some of these were authored by St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, our own Bishop Robert Barron, Fr. Ronald Rohlheisr, O.M.I, Matthew Kelly and others.  It seems like a new book is published every few weeks.  Of course, that does not mean much to us if we do not read them.  During the week, I asked for a count of the people who attended our presentations during the year on Pope Francis’ book “The Face of Mercy.”  Beginning on December 8, 2015, he introduced a Year of Mercy which will run to November 20 of this year.  Two weeks ago at a meeting on the Year of Mercy, we all agreed that the Mercy theme should be kept in front of us beyond November 20.

There are two things that strike me about people’s interest:  One – we presented the Pope’s document eleven times this year and only 210 people showed up.  What happened?  Do we not care that the Holy Father wrote this document for us?  Designed this Year of Mercy for us?  Or do we believe in God’s Mercy?  Two – (and I mentioned this in my homily on Sunday) I notice some people who used to receive the Holy Eucharist regularly, now approaching the minister of the Eucharist with arms crossed in front of them.  That posture is meant to be used only rarely.  I invite you to look at both those practices and make sure to get back on track.  As always, it is a joy celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation with people who had been away for thirty years or more.  That was the Holy Father’s intention when he designated the Year of Mercy and wrote the document “The Face of Mercy.”  In that document, he tells us that the Father never tires of forgiving us.  Our three readings today convey similar sentiments for us to reflect on and to follow.  Let us try to do that.

The author of the book of Sirach was a pious Jew who lived in the second century before Christ.  He had made a deep study of the Law and the revealed religion of his people and moved by the love of God, of his Law and of his religion, he wrote a collection of wise maxims to help others to live a life pleasing to God.  He treats of the individuals, of the family and of the community, of their relationship with one another and with God.  In today’s reading, we have a few more of the words of wisdom of this saintly man who spent his life meditating on the law of God revealed to the Chosen People.

Humility, the virtue recommended to all of us in today’s reading is the quotation from Sirach, a wise and saintly basic virtue of a Christian life.  It is the virtue that our Divine Lord told us to imitate from him “Learn of me for I am meek and humble of heart.”  He had all the other virtues to the highest degree and he did not mean that we should ignore them, but as humility is the foundation on which all the other Christian virtues are built, but if we have it, the others will grow from it as the tree comes from the root.

Humility can be defined as an honest, truthful estimation of ourselves.  Whatever we are or have, we owe to God.  We did not bring ourselves into being, God created us.  If we have healthy bodies, sound limbs and senses, bright intellects, it was God who gave them to us.  Everything we are and have is really a loan from God, and therefore, we cannot boast of it or grow proud because of it.  Yet the world is full of pride.  Pride has been the besetting sin of man from the beginning of time.  It is the original sin the cause of all other sins, and it has been copied by generation after generation down to our own day.  This was the beginning, very early in man’s history on earth, of human opposition to God and disobedience to the laws of God which should regulate life on earth.  It was consequently the beginning of man’s opposition to his fellowman and the cause of the wars and the strife between individuals, races and nations which have been a disgrace to the history of man on this planet.

In the second reading, the author of Hebrews, who were Jewish converts to Christianity is here contrasting two scenes.  One is the giving of the Old Covenant, which God made with the Israelites on Mount Sinai and the other the assembly of those justified by the New Covenant in the new heavenly Jerusalem.  The reason why the Church has selected these verses for our reading today is the same reason the author had when he wrote them.  He wanted to impress on the Jewish converts the superiority of the Christian Religion over that of the Old Testament, which they had practiced until their conversion.  We too must never forget that our Christian Religion is based on love, on the infinite love of God for humankind. 

The Pharisees in the Gospel were continually trying to catch Jesus in some violation of the Mosaic Law.  On this occasion, they invited him to dinner in the home of a leading Pharisee; he knew their purpose and motives.  They were so convinced of their own perfect knowledge and observance of the Law that they thought nobody else could possibly know it or observe it like them.  Pride was their predominant vice and the chief cause of their opposition to Jesus.  He was friendly with sinners, tax collectors and the lower classes – they would not descend as low as even to greet such outcasts, much less befriend them or try to instruct them.  Even among themselves, as on this occasion, pride showed its ugly head.  Each one thought he was more important than any other and was striving to have the highest place at the table.  In a very simple parable, Jesus told them where their pride would lead them. 

This parable was intended in the first place for the Pharisees, but it was preserved in the inspired Gospel because it has a lesson for all people.  A proud Christian, that is, a proud follower of the humble Christ, is a contradiction in terms.  Christ, the Son of God, lowered himself to our level when he took our human nature.  He was born in a stable, reared in the obscure village of Nazareth, earned his meager meals as a country carpenter; died on a cross as a malefactor with two thieves as companions; was buried in a stranger’s grave.  Could he have done more to induce us to listen to his counsel when he said: “Learn of me, for I am humble of heart?”

The Religious Education Program will begin on Monday, September 12 at 4:15pm and will continue on Tuesday and Wednesday.  The middle school grades will begin their program on Wednesday, September 21 and the elementary grades will continue their program on Saturday, September 24 at 9:00am.  Please make sure your children are registered, that they attend class regularly and that you take them to Church on Sundays The Confirmation Program will commence on Monday, September 12 at 7:00pm for sophomores, and on Tuesday, September 13 at 7:00pm for Year One, freshmen.  The Adult Confirmation is already in progress at 9:00am on Sundays – every Sunday up to November 20.  Candidates must be 18 years old and above.  The RCIA and Bible Study are also in process.  For further information, please contact Angie Perez at 909-861-7106.  Mass is celebrated Monday through Friday at 6:30am, 8:00am and 6:30pm; and on Saturday at 7:30am.  Family rosary follows the 8:00am Mass during the week and follows the 7:30am on Saturday.  Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament begins after the 8:00am and concludes with a Holy Hour and Benediction at 9:30pm.

We have studied several books over the years written by Matthew Kelly.  In fact, he has written the prelude to “Beautiful Marcy.”  We also have another – a Mass Journal which has fifty two opportunities to journal something that we can reflect on and pray about every week.  Matthew suggests that we do what he does every Sunday when he goes to Church, his prayer is, “God show me one way in this Mass I can become a better version of myself this week.”   Every week he writes something in that journal and later on he can come back to the journal and see where he was and what he was struggling with at the time he wrote it.  He says, he now has several of those journals to revisit. We have this journal available at the Pastoral Office or at the table in the vestibule.  I would like to begin the practice of writing down that one wish or goal for myself each week.  We will do that on Sunday, September 4, to honor the canonization of St. Teresa of Calcutta.  I believe a good time to do this would be immediately after the homily.

Our Annual Pastor’s Awards Event will take place on the Doubletree Hotel in Orange on Saturday, March 18, 2017.  I am asking for your help in recommending names of potential awardees.  Please read the insert in the bulletin and complete the form. 

I welcome those visiting St. Denis this weekend, along with our new parishioners who I invite to register with us.  We have many programs and ministries here and I invite you to join one of them.  I welcome those of you who are not of the Catholic Faith; you bless us by your presence.  I congratulate all those celebrating birthdays, jubilees, anniversaries or quinceaneras along with the recently married and newly baptized.  I want to assure our families who have sons or daughters, brothers or sisters in the military here or overseas that we remember them in prayer, asking God to protect and keep them from harm’s way.  I offer prayers for those who are ill, those facing surgery, recuperating or homebound, and sympathy to those who have lost a loved one.  I pray that the Lord will lighten the burdens of all as he promised he would. “God, in your goodness, you have made a home for the poor.” (Responsorial Psalm)

God Love You,
Msgr. Jim
 

Twenty First Sunday in Ordinary Time - August 21, 2016

Today, there is a lot of relocation; people moving from one country to another hoping to make a better life for themselves and their family.  It is important that we make them welcome.  The author of today’s first reading was trying to console the returned exiles in 538 B.C. who were depressed when they returned to Jerusalem and saw it in such a sad state and so much poverty around them.  The writer foretold the future glory of Jerusalem to which people of all nations would come.  It would be the center from which the knowledge of the true God would go out in all directions. Like all the prophecies of the Old Testament, these words contained far more than his contemporaries could grasp.  The glory of Jerusalem which he foretold was to be something entirely new, something the Jews of his time could not even understand.  Today, there are still millions who do not know God and who therefore do not serve him.  God is waiting patiently for willing disciples who bring his message to these people and to others like them.  That is the work of our Parish Missionary Disciples.  Members of St. Denis Catholic Community are being educated and formed in the New Evangelization process.  We have seventy nine people registered for this and attending the monthly presentation.  Others are welcome to join us.  Our next presentation on the book, Beautiful Mercy, will be on Thursday, August 25.  The document entitled the Face of Mercy was written and promulgated for this Year of Mercy by Pope Francis.  We offered fourteen sessions on this document. Unfortunately the attendance was not great. It is sad when we do not care what the Pope writes about or what he is trying to say to us. It is important that we know what he said in this document.  By reason our Baptism and Confirmation, we are called to bring Jesus to our sisters and brothers and them to him.

In our second reading today, the author of Hebrews encouraged Christians to be ready to face hardship and adversity.  He compared them with athletes (like those at the Olympics) who endure so much in order to win a contest or a medal.  Today, the author tells us to expect hardship as part of our training.  We cannot win the prize unless we undergo the training.  God is our trainer.  He wants us to win the eternal prize because he loves us, he is our Father.  Our Lord’s message in today’s Gospel was primarily intended for the Jews, who had heard his teaching but refused to follow it.  However, the fate he foretells for them is the same fate which awaits all, Jews and Gentiles who fail to accept the Gospel he preached.  While the person who asked the question “how many would be saved?” did not get a direct answer from Jesus.  Nevertheless, it was made clear that each one’s salvation was in his own hands.  All those who accept Christ and his teaching will enter the Kingdom of God.  Those who don’t will only have themselves to blame.

You have noticed no doubt that the work on the Church air conditioner is complete and the system is working.  I want to thank you for your patience along with your generosity in financing the project.  I also want to thank Petita Virata for her work in dealing with the Archdiocese and the air conditioning company.  You will notice that they installed some new railing on top of the area that houses the chillers.  This was not done when the Church was built some 27 years ago.  While the project was being taken care of, there was a theft one night, Sunday, July 24 between the 5:30pm Mass and Monday at 8:00am.  Copper piping was cut and taken away by those thieves that has probably been used elsewhere or sold since then.  That tells us that nothing and nowhere is safe or sacred.  This was obviously done by a group who knew the place and the fact that the work was being done here.  If you happened to see anything going on there that night or if you heard anyone speak about it, I would appreciate hearing from you.  The project was covered by insurance but nevertheless, the Parish and the air conditioning company both had to pay a deductible of $2,500.00 each.

The Religious Education Program will begin on Monday, September 12 at 4:15pm and will continue on Tuesday and Wednesday.  The middle school grades will begin their program on Wednesday, September 21 and the elementary grades will continue their program on Saturday, September 24 at 9:00am.  Please make sure your children are registered, that they attend class regularly and that you bring them to Church on weekends.  The Confirmation Program will commence on Monday, September 12 at 7:00pm for sophomores, and on Tuesday, September 13 at 7:00pm for Year One, freshmen.  The Adult Confirmation is already in progress at 9:00am on Sundays – every Sunday up to November 20.  Candidates must be 18 years old and above.  The RCIA and Bible Study are also in progress.  For further information, please contact Angie Perez at 909-861-7106.  Mass is celebrated Monday through Friday at 6:30am, 8:00am and 6:30pm; and on Saturday at 7:30am.  The Rosary follows the 8:00am Mass during the week and follows the 7:30am on Saturday.  Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament begins after the 8:00am  Mass and concludes with a Holy Hour and Benediction at 9:30pm.

On the last weekend of July, about fifteen of our youth participated in the Steubenville Program in San Diego and sixteen young people participated in the City of Saints Teen Conference at UCLA this past weekend.  Those are powerful programs.  I was there on Friday and Saturday nights to help with Reconciliation.  Those young people lined up for the sacrament until 11:30pm both nights.  These two groups will gather in Potthoff Hall on Sunday, August 21 at 4:00pm for sharing and a time for prayer.  They will then participate in the 5:30pm Mass.  I invite both groups and all youth to join us.  From the 26-31 of July, almost two million young adults joined Pope Francis in Poland for World Youth Day.  They too had a wonderful experience.  This group will gather in the hall after the 5:30pm Mass on Sunday, August 21 for a sharing of their experience.  This will be open to the entire parish, so all are welcomed.

We have studied several books over the years written by Matthew Kelly.  In fact, he has written the prelude to “Beautiful Mercy.”  We also have another – a Mass Journal which has fifty two opportunities to journal something that we can reflect on and pray about every week.  Matthew suggests that we do what he does every Sunday when he goes to Church, his prayer is, “God show me one way in this Mass I can become a better version of myself this week.”  Every week he writes something in that journal and later on he can come back to the journal and see where he was and what he was struggling with at the time he wrote it.  He says, he now has several of those journals to revisit. We have this journal available at the Pastoral Office or at the table in the vestibule.  I would like to begin the practice of writing down that one wish or goal for myself each week.  We will do that on Sunday, September 4, to honor the canonization of St. Teresa of Calcutta.  I believe a good time to do this would be immediately after the homily.

Our Annual Pastor’s Awards Event will take place at the Doubletree Hotel in Orange on Saturday, March 18, 2017.  I am asking for your help in recommending names of potential awardees.  Please read the insert in the bulletin and complete the form.  Thank you your help. On June 4, we had a wonderful meal with tea, a time of prayer, song, praise and worship.  We have a similar event scheduled by El Sembrador Ministries on Saturday, August 27 from 8:00-12:00pm.  All men of the Parish are invited.  A donation of $15.00 will be appreciated. A Mass of Anointing is scheduled for 10:30am on Saturday, September 10 for those who are ill who have reached the age of reason. If people are too ill to attend, please let us know and we will visit them at home. I want to congratulate Winston Samson, Grand Knight and his Knights of Columbus Board of Officers who were installed after the Vigil Mass on Saturday, August 20. I also want to thank Ernie Yanez and his Officers for a job well done during the past few years.

I welcome those visiting St. Denis this weekend, along with our new parishioners who I invite to register with us.  We have many programs and ministries here and I invite you to join one of them.  I welcome those of you who are not of the Catholic Faith; you bless us by your presence.  I congratulate all those celebrating birthdays, jubilees, anniversaries or quinceaneras along with the recently married and newly baptized.  I want to assure our families who have sons or daughters, brothers or sisters in the military here or overseas that we remember them in prayer, asking God to protect and keep them from harm’s way.  I offer prayers for those who are ill, those facing surgery, recuperating or homebound, and sympathy to those who have lost a loved one.  I pray that the Lord will lighten the burdens of all as he promised he would. “Go out to all the world and tell the Good News.”  (Responsorial Psalm)

God Love You,
Msgr. Jim

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time - August 14, 2016

On behalf of St. Denis Catholic Community, I want to welcome Bishop Abraham Mar Julios to our Parish. Through the Mission Office and the Missionary Co-Operative Plan, he has been invited to preach at all Masses here this weekend on behalf of his diocese in India, the Eparchy of Muvattupuzha. We have a number of priests from India serving in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and while they do not all come from the same diocese there, and some belong to Religious Communities like Fr. Sebastian Vettickal, C.M.I., nevertheless they are brothers in Christ and in Ministry to the Lord’s people. Through Bishop Abraham’s presence among us today and his appeal to us we have an opportunity to show our appreciation for the Mission and Ministry of all priests from India. Let us be generous to them through prayer and our financial support. On their behalf thank you for your kindness and generosity. Envelopes are available in the pews for your convenience.

The incident in the prophet’s life described in today’s first reading occurred during the siege of Jerusalem by the Babylonians about 588 B.C.  Jeremiah had been preaching for years against the folly of political alignments and ambitions on the part of Judah.  The fact was that the people of Judah, under a series of irreligious kings, with a few rare exceptions, had gradually fallen further and further away from God and their religion.  Their ambitions were to retain political freedom and economic prosperity.  At the period in question, Babylon had become the supreme power in Mesopotamia and claimed tribute from all the smaller kingdoms including Judah.  The princes urged the king, Zedekiah, to seek the help of Egypt against Babylon.  Jeremiah advised the paying of the tribute to avoid a greater evil.  He was not listened to.  Instead, he was maltreated and often imprisoned.  That imprisonment mentioned in today’s reading was intended as his death sentence – he was to die of starvation in an empty cistern. Egypt refused to help.  Babylon captured and destroyed Jerusalem in 587 and took all the able-bodied citizens prisoners to Babylon.  Jeremiah’s warnings had gone unheeded; his threats now came to pass and Judah lost her independence forever.

In chapter eleven of the letter to the Hebrews, the author has given a long list of great men of the Old Testament who showed such strong faith in God.  From Abel to the first century before Christ, he quotes examples of holy men who bore sufferings and sometimes death because of their belief in God’s revelation and their trust that he would reward the faithful. He now goes on to encourage Christians to be faithful to their Christian Vocation.  If those who lived before Christ could be so loyal and true to God, how much more so should not those be who have the example of Christ before their eyes. In a few sentences, Christ in today’s Gospel gives his disciples an outline of the work he has come to do, how he will suffer in carrying it out and the division it will cause among people.  Some will accept his message and others will oppose it.

Every book we pick up today about the New Evangelization, Mission and Ministry gives all kind of statistics about people rejecting God, leaving the Church, and not praying.  Parents according to the documents of the Second Vatican Council are to be the primary educators of their children, and yet many parents do not bring their children to church, do not receive the sacraments themselves and then push their children through First Eucharist and Confirmation as though these sacraments were flu shots.  The same Council spoke about the Family and the home as being the Domestic Church or the Little Church.  That means that the home has an ambience of faith, love and prayer.  There should be a Crucifix, Bible, Rosary or Statue visible to indicate that this is a holy residence, a place where God is present, respected, honored and invoked.  In some homes, those items of prayer, faith and religion are missing – but there is a variety of magazines, videos and DVDs, etc. that should not be in any Christian home.  Parents should pray with their children and teach them how to pray.  It is beautiful to hear a child say before eating dinner “Mommy, can I pray tonight.”  It is obvious that it is their regular custom.  Congratulations to parents who do that.  It is also important that children are taken to Religious Education classes beginning with Little Church for 3, 4 and 5 years old.  Then they move up to first and second grade at which time, they will receive First Eucharist.  After that they continue with third, fourth, fifth grades and so on up through Confirmation, at which time they join Youth Ministry and Life Teen and later they enter Young Adult Ministry.

On the last weekend of July, about fifteen of our youth participated in the Steubenville Program in San Diego and sixteen young people participated in the City of Saints Teen Conference at UCLA this past weekend.  Those are powerful programs.  I was there on Friday and Saturday nights to help with Reconciliation.  Those young people lined up for the sacrament until 11:30pm both nights.  These two groups will gather in Potthoff Hall on Sunday, August 21 at 4:00pm for sharing and a time for prayer.  They will then participate in the 5:30pm Mass.  I invite both groups and all youth to join us.  From the 26-31 of July, almost two million young adults joined Pope Francis in Poland for World Youth Day.  They too had a wonderful experience.  This group will gather in the hall after the 5:30pm Mass on Sunday, August 21 for a sharing of their experience.  This will be open to the entire parish, so all are welcomed.

Members of St. Denis Catholic Community are also being educated and formed in the New Evangelization process.  We have seventy four people registered for this and attending the monthly presentation.  Others are welcome to join us.  Our next presentation on the book, Beautiful Mercy, will be on Thursday, August 25.  The document entitled the Face of Mercy was written and promulgated for this Year of Mercy by Pope Francis.  We offered fourteen sessions on this document. Unfortunately the attendance was not great. It is sad when we do not care what the Pope writes about or what he is trying to say to us. It is important that we know what he said in this document. 

We have studied several books over the years written by Matthew Kelly.  In fact, he has written the prelude to “Beautiful Mercy.”  We also have another – a Mass Journal which has fifty two opportunities to journal something that we can reflect on and pray about every week.  Matthew suggests that we do what he does every Sunday when he goes to Church, his prayer is, “God show me one way in this Mass I can become a better version of myself this week.”  Every week he writes something in that journal and later on he can come back to the journal and see where he was and what he was struggling with at the time he wrote it.  He says, he now has several of those journals to revisit. We have this journal available at the Pastoral Office or at the table in the vestibule.  I would like to begin the practice of writing down that one wish or goal for myself each week.  We will do that on Sunday, September 4, to honor the canonization of St. Teresa of Calcutta.  I believe a good time to do this would be immediately after the homily.

Next Monday, August 15 is the feast of the Assumption of Mary into heaven and a holyday of obligation in many parts of the world.  However in the United States since it falls on Monday, it is not holyday of obligation.  I nevertheless welcome you to Mass at either 6:30 or 8:00am or 6:30pm

I welcome those visiting St. Denis this weekend, along with our new parishioners whom I invite to register with us. We have many programs and ministries here and I invite you to join one of them.  I welcome those of you who are not of the Catholic Faith; you bless us by your presence. I congratulate all those celebrating birthdays, jubilees, anniversaries or quinceneras along with the recently married and newly baptized. I want to assure our families who have sons or daughters, brothers or sisters in the military here or oversees that we remember them in prayer, asking God to protect and keep them from harm’s way. I offer prayers for those who are ill, those facing surgery, recuperating or homebound and sympathy to those who have lost a loved one. I pray that the Lord will lighten the burdens of all as he promised he would.  “My sheep hear my voice, says the Lord: I know them and the follow me” (Gospel Acclamation)

  God Love You,
  Msgr. Jim

 

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - August 7, 2016

Summer is often the time for transitions; people move from one place to another, changing jobs, choosing new directions, and moving to another community.  The author of our first reading today, writing to his fellow Jews in Egypt, recalls the liberation of their ancestors from this land of slavery.  The Exodus, as it is called, resulted in their final establishment in Canaan, the land promised by God to Abraham.

The Exodus, this marvelous intervention of God on behalf of his Chosen People, is of even greater interest to us, the Chosen People of the new dispensation.  It was on the occasion of the feast of the Jewish Passover that our Passover Lamb, the Son of God, was sacrificed for us and we were sprinkled with his precious blood, leading us from slavery to our true and everlasting home.  It was for this very reason that Christ chose this great festival of the Jews to allow himself to be sacrificed for our freedom.  Through this sacrifice, we have been freed from the slavery of sin, have been made children of God and heirs of heaven, and that began at the moment of our baptism.

Today’s reading reminds us that even before creation, God was thinking of us.  He did this through Jesus who shared our humanity with us which leads us to share in his divinity.  The second reading obviously written to the Jewish converts where the author gives an existential definition of faith and an example of true faith as it can be seen to be active in Abraham and Sarah.  Our faith, our firm belief in the truth of all we have learned about God is a free gift of God.  It is one of the three theological virtues given us in baptism and it is the basis of the other two, hope and love.

We have never seen God.  No human being is capable of seeing God while on this earth, but we know he exits because he has told us so indirectly and directly.  The universe, with its precision and perfection, reveals him to us and tells us a lot about his nature.  He is all-wise, all-powerful and all-loving.  His love for people moved God to reveal himself directly to humankind.  Firstly, he did that through the patriarchs and the prophets of the Old Testament and finally in a more complete way through his divine Son, Jesus.

As Christians, then, not only do we know that God exists, but we know enough about the nature of God and about his loving interest in us to trust him and to obey his every command.  To get to heaven, it is not enough to be theoretical Christians, we must put our Christian faith into daily practice.

In a few vivid and expressive similes, our Lord tells the disciples and through them all of us, how we should conduct our lives on earth so that we will always be found in God’s friendship when our call to judgment comes.  In answer to a question put to him by Peter, our Lord says that more will be expected of those who have received greater gifts from God than of those who received lesser gifts.

This teaching of our Lord should make all of us take notice.  He has taken us into his household.  He has made us his “little flock.”  We are invited guests in his home, his Church, rather than mere servants.  He warns us today that we must always be busy about our vocation, about the reason why he invited us into his home.  We are Christians, we are members of his Church, for our own eternal good.  God through Christ’s Incarnation, has put us on the road to heaven.  He is helping us on the way.  Let us always be attentive to our loving Lord, be grateful for his many gifts and blessings and in this Year of Mercy – His gift of Mercy to us.  As the Psalmist says, “God’s mercy endures forever.”  While visiting a Church in my homeland, I found the following which is worth our attention and reflection:

Watch your Thoughts,
For they become Words.
Watch your Words,
For they become Actions.
Watch your Actions,
For they become Habits.
Watch your Habits,
For they become Character.
Watch your Character,
For it becomes your Destiny.

I want to welcome and thank all who signed up as Parish Missionary Disciples.  Nine of us went through a twelve month training and formation.  I have asked parishioners to join us, and to date, we have 74 members.  I want to welcome them and thank them for joining us.  We will begin the formation next Thursday night in the Parish Hall, from 7:15 to 9:15pm.  If you would like to join us, you are welcome to do that.  We would love to have you.

In several colleges and universities throughout the United States, there is a very effective program called FOCUS which is an acronym for Fellowship Of Catholic University Students.  It is one of the fastest growing movements in the Catholic Church.  The way it works is young people volunteer as missionaries; they are trained and formed, and then missioned to the above mentioned places of education and learning.  There are several of these young missionaries working here in Los Angeles and in the Southern California area.  The missionaries are asked to raise their own funds to cover their expenses, so there is no cost to the college or university.

St. Denis has one young man, Gelton Morada, in this Ministry.  He grew up here, received his Sacraments in our Parish.  He has been a Confirmation Catechist, Retreat Leader, Eucharistic Minister, and a member of our Pastoral Staff before he joined the FOCUS Ministry.  He will be returning to that ministry next week, August 18, and will be assigned as a missionary in New York.  Today, he will address the people of St. Denis at all masses so you will get to know him and meet him.  He will also have a table in the courtyard with some Gelton’s friends, fellow catechists and college students to collect any donations you might want to make to him with the FOCUS program.  That donation can be made in several ways – cash, check, credit card.  It can also be made annually, monthly or a one time, and no gift is too big or too small.  However you respond to Gelton’s appeal today just means that you are willing to help promote the spread of the Gospel message among college and university students.  I am confident the Lord will reward you for that.  I have already made my own commitment to this worthy ministry and I hope you will too.  Blessings!

I want to welcome Patrick Zubiate back home to Diamond Bar and to St. Denis.  For the past two years, he has been studying music and choral conducting as he pursues a doctorate degree in those fields.  I am grateful to Carlos Cardenas and Christine Lang for sharing the responsibilities while Patrick was studying.  I am also grateful to all our musicians, choirs, directors and cantors for their talent and ability which they share so generously to enhance our Liturgical celebrations.

I welcome those visiting St. Denis this weekend, along with our new parishioners whom I invite to register with us. We have many programs and ministries here and I invite you to join one of them.  I welcome those of you who are not of the Catholic Faith; you bless us by your presence. I congratulate all those celebrating birthdays, jubilees, anniversaries or quinceneras along with the recently married and newly baptized. I want to assure our families who have sons or daughters, brothers or sisters in the military here or oversees that we remember them in prayer, asking God to protect and keep them from harm’s way. I offer prayers for those who are ill, those facing surgery, recuperating or homebound and sympathy to those who have lost a loved one. I pray that the Lord will lighten the burdens of all as he promised he would.  “Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own” (Responsorial Psalm)

  God Love You,
  Msgr. Jim

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - July 31, 2016

The following is the continuation of the “Face of Mercy,” paragraphs 21-25 from the Holy Father’s document.

21. Mercy is not opposed to justice but rather expresses God’s way of reaching out to the sinner, offering him a new chance to look at himself, convert, and believe. The experience of the prophet Hosea can help us see the way in which mercy surpasses justice. The era in which the prophet lived was one of the most dramatic in the history of the Jewish people. The kingdom was tottering on the edge of destruction; the people had not remained faithful to the covenant; they had wandered from God and lost the faith of their forefathers. According to human logic, it seems reasonable for God to think of rejecting an unfaithful people; they had not observed their pact with God and therefore deserved just punishment: in other words, exile. The prophet’s words attest to this: “They shall not return to the land of Egypt, and Assyria shall be their king, because they have refused to return to me” (Hos 11:5). And yet, after this invocation of justice, the prophet radically changes his speech and reveals the true face of God: “How can I give you up, O Ephraim! How can I hand you over, O Israel! How can I make you like Admah! How can I treat you like Zeboiim! My heart recoils within me, my compassion grows warm and tender. I will not execute my fierce anger, I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and not man, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come to destroy” (11:8-9). Saint Augustine, almost as if he were commenting on these words of the prophet, says: “It is easier for God to hold back anger than mercy.” And so it is. God’s anger lasts but a moment, his mercy forever.

If God limited himself to only justice, he would cease to be God, and would instead be like human beings who ask merely that the law be respected. But mere justice is not enough. Experience shows that an appeal to justice alone will result in its destruction. This is why God goes beyond justice with his mercy and forgiveness. Yet this does not mean that justice should be devalued or rendered superfluous. On the contrary: anyone who makes a mistake must pay the price. However, this is just the beginning of conversion, not its end, because one begins to feel the tenderness and mercy of God. God does not deny justice. He rather envelopes it and surpasses it with an even greater event in which we experience love as the foundation of true justice. We must pay close attention to what Saint Paul says if we want to avoid making the same mistake for which he reproaches the Jews of his time: “For, being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law, that every one who has faith may be justified” (Rom 10:3-4). God’s justice is his mercy given to everyone as a grace that flows from the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Thus the Cross of Christ is God’s judgement on all of us and on the whole world, because through it he offers us the certitude of love and new life.

22. A Jubilee also entails the granting of indulgences. This practice will acquire an even more important meaning in the Holy Year of Mercy. God’s forgiveness knows no bounds. In the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God makes even more evident his love and its power to destroy all human sin. Reconciliation with God is made possible through the paschal mystery and the mediation of the Church. Thus God is always ready to forgive, and he never tires of forgiving in ways that are continually new and surprising. Nevertheless, all of us know well the experience of sin. We know that we are called to perfection (cf. Mt 5:48), yet we feel the heavy burden of sin. Though we feel the transforming power of grace, we also feel the effects of sin typical of our fallen state. Despite being forgiven, the conflicting consequences of our sins remain. In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, God forgives our sins, which he truly blots out; and yet sin leaves a negative effect on the way we think and act. But the mercy of God is stronger even than this. It becomes indulgence on the part of the Father who, through the Bride of Christ, his Church, reaches the pardoned sinner and frees him from every residue left by the consequences of sin, enabling him to act with charity, to grow in love rather than to fall back into sin.

The Church lives within the communion of the saints. In the Eucharist, this communion, which is a gift from God, becomes a spiritual union binding us to the saints and blessed ones whose number is beyond counting (cf. Rev 7:4). Their holiness comes to the aid of our weakness in a way that enables the Church, with her maternal prayers and her way of life, to fortify the weakness of some with the strength of others. Hence, to live the indulgence of the Holy Year means to approach the Father’s mercy with the certainty that his forgiveness extends to the entire life of the believer. To gain an indulgence is to experience the holiness of the Church, who bestows upon all the fruits of Christ’s redemption, so that God’s love and forgiveness may extend everywhere. Let us live this Jubilee intensely, begging the Father to forgive our sins and to bathe us in his merciful “indulgence.”

23. There is an aspect of mercy that goes beyond the confines of the Church. It relates us to Judaism and Islam, both of which consider mercy to be one of God’s most important attributes. Israel was the first to receive this revelation which continues in history as the source of an inexhaustible richness meant to be shared with all mankind. As we have seen, the pages of the Old Testament are steeped in mercy, because they narrate the works that the Lord performed in favour of his people at the most trying moments of their history. Among the privileged names that Islam attributes to the Creator are “Merciful and Kind”. This invocation is often on the lips of faithful Muslims who feel themselves accompanied and sustained by mercy in their daily weakness. They too believe that no one can place a limit on divine mercy because its doors are always open. 

I trust that this Jubilee year celebrating the mercy of God will foster an encounter with these religions and with other noble religious traditions; may it open us to even more fervent dialogue so that we might know and understand one another better; may it eliminate every form of closed-mindedness and disrespect, and drive out every form of violence and discrimination.

24. My thoughts now turn to the Mother of Mercy. May the sweetness of her countenance watch over us in this Holy Year, so that all of us may rediscover the joy of God’s tenderness. No one has penetrated the profound mystery of the incarnation like Mary. Her entire life was patterned after the presence of mercy made flesh. The Mother of the Crucified and Risen One has entered the sanctuary of divine mercy because she participated intimately in the mystery of His love.

Chosen to be the Mother of the Son of God, Mary, from the outset, was prepared by the love of God to be the Ark of the Covenant between God and man. She treasured divine mercy in her heart in perfect harmony with her Son Jesus. Her hymn of praise, sung at the threshold of the home of Elizabeth, was dedicated to the mercy of God which extends from “generation to generation” (Lk 1:50). We too were included in those prophetic words of the Virgin Mary. This will be a source of comfort and strength to us as we cross the threshold of the Holy Year to experience the fruits of divine mercy.

At the foot of the Cross, Mary, together with John, the disciple of love, witnessed the words of forgiveness spoken by Jesus. This supreme expression of mercy towards those who crucified him show us the point to which the mercy of God can reach. Mary attests that the mercy of the Son of God knows no bounds and extends to everyone, without exception. Let us address her in the words of the Salve Regina, a prayer ever ancient and ever new, so that she may never tire of turning her merciful eyes upon us, and make us worthy to contemplate the face of mercy, her Son Jesus.

Our prayer also extends to the saints and blessed ones who made divine mercy their mission in life. I think especially of the great apostle of mercy, Saint Faustina Kowalska. May she, who was called to enter the depths of divine mercy, intercede for us and obtain for us the grace of living and walking always according to the mercy of God and with an unwavering trust in his love.

25. I present, therefore, this Extraordinary Jubilee Year dedicated to living out in our daily lives the mercy which the Father constantly extends to all of us. In this Jubilee Year, let us allow God to surprise us. He never tires of casting open the doors of his heart and of repeating that he loves us and wants to share his love with us. The Church feels the urgent need to proclaim God’s mercy. Her life is authentic and credible only when she becomes a convincing herald of mercy. She knows that her primary task, especially at a moment full of great hopes and signs of contradiction, is to introduce everyone to the great mystery of God’s mercy by contemplating the face of Christ. The Church is called above all to be a credible witness to mercy, professing it and living it as the core of the revelation of Jesus Christ. From the heart of the Trinity, from the depths of the mystery of God, the great river of mercy wells up and overflows unceasingly. It is a spring that will never run dry, no matter how many people draw from it. Every time someone is in need, he or she can approach it, because the mercy of God never ends. The profundity of the mystery surrounding it is as inexhaustible as the richness which springs up from it.

In this Jubilee Year, may the Church echo the word of God that resounds strong and clear as a message and a sign of pardon, strength, aid, and love. May she never tire of extending mercy, and be ever patient in offering compassion and comfort. May the Church become the voice of every man and woman, and repeat confidently without end: “Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old” (Ps 25:6).

Given in Rome, at Saint Peter’s, on April 11, the Vigil of the Second Sunday of Easter, or the Sunday of Divine Mercy, in the year of our Lord 2015, the third of my Pontificate.

I welcome those visiting St. Denis this weekend, along with our new parishioners whom I invite to register with us. We have many programs and ministries here and I invite you to join one of them. I welcome those of you who are not of the Catholic Faith; you bless us by your presence. I congratulate all of those celebrating birthdays, jubilees, anniversaries or quinceaneras along with the recently married and newly baptized. I want to assure our families who have sons or daughters, brother or sisters in the military here or overseas that we remember them in prayer, asking God to protect and keep them from harm’s way. I offer prayers for those who are ill, those facing surgery, recuperating or homebound and sympathy to those who have lost a loved one. 

God Love You,
Msgr. Jim

 

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - July 24, 2016

The following is the continuation of the “Face of Mercy,” paragraphs 16-20 from the Holy Father’s document.

16. In the Gospel of Luke, we find another important element that will help us live the Jubilee with faith. Luke writes that Jesus, on the Sabbath, went back to Nazareth and, as was his custom, entered the synagogue. They called upon him to read the Scripture and to comment on it. The passage was from the Book of Isaiah where it is written: “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good tidings to the afflicted; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and freedom to those in captivity; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour” (Is 61:1-2). A “year of the Lord’s favour” or “mercy”: this is what the Lord proclaimed and this is what we wish to live now. This Holy Year will bring to the fore the richness of Jesus’ mission echoed in the words of the prophet: to bring a word and gesture of consolation to the poor, to proclaim liberty to those bound by new forms of slavery in modern society, to restore sight to those who can see no more because they are caught up in themselves, to restore dignity to all those from whom it has been robbed. The preaching of Jesus is made visible once more in the response of faith which Christians are called to offer by their witness. May the words of the Apostle accompany us: he who does acts of mercy, let him do them with cheerfulness (cf. Rom 12:8).

17. The season of Lent during this Jubilee Year should also be lived more intensely as a privileged moment to celebrate and experience God’s mercy. How many pages of Sacred Scripture are appropriate for meditation during the weeks of Lent to help us rediscover the merciful face of the Father! We can repeat the words of the prophet Micah and make them our own: You, O Lord, are a God who takes away iniquity and pardons sin, who does not hold your anger forever, but are pleased to show mercy. You, Lord, will return to us and have pity on your people. You will trample down our sins and toss them into the depths of the sea (cf. 7:18-19).

he pages of the prophet Isaiah can also be meditated upon concretely during this season of prayer, fasting, and works of charity: “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loosen the bonds of wickedness, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, here I am. If you take away from the midst of you the yoke, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your desire with good things, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters fail not” (58:6-11).

The initiative of “24 Hours for the Lord,” to be celebrated on the Friday and Saturday preceding the Fourth Week of Lent, should be implemented in every diocese. So many people, including young people, are returning to the Sacrament of Reconciliation; through this experience they are rediscovering a path back to the Lord, living a moment of intense prayer and finding meaning in their lives. Let us place the Sacrament of Reconciliation at the centre once more in such a way that it will enable people to touch the grandeur of God’s mercy with their own hands. For every penitent, it will be a source of true interior peace.

 will never tire of insisting that confessors be authentic signs of the Father’s mercy. We do not become good confessors automatically. We become good confessors when, above all, we allow ourselves to be penitents in search of his mercy. Let us never forget that to be confessors means to participate in the very mission of Jesus to be a concrete sign of the constancy of divine love that pardons and saves. We priests have received the gift of the Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of sins, and we are responsible for this. None of us wields power over this Sacrament; rather, we are faithful servants of God’s mercy through it. Every confessor must accept the faithful as the father in the parable of the prodigal son: a father who runs out to meet his son despite the fact that he has squandered away his inheritance. Confessors are called to embrace the repentant son who comes back home and to express the joy of having him back again. Let us never tire of also going out to the other son who stands outside, incapable of rejoicing, in order to explain to him that his judgement is severe and unjust and meaningless in light of the father’s boundless mercy. May confessors not ask useless questions, but like the father in the parable, interrupt the speech prepared ahead of time by the prodigal son, so that confessors will learn to accept the plea for help and mercy pouring from the heart of every penitent. In short, confessors are called to be a sign of the primacy of mercy always, everywhere, and in every situation, no matter what.

18. During Lent of this Holy Year, I intend to send out Missionaries of Mercy. They will be a sign of the Church’s maternal solicitude for the People of God, enabling them to enter the profound richness of this mystery so fundamental to the faith. There will be priests to whom I will grant the authority to pardon even those sins reserved to the Holy See, so that the breadth of their mandate as confessors will be even clearer. They will be, above all, living signs of the Father’s readiness to welcome those in search of his pardon. They will be missionaries of mercy because they will be facilitators of a truly human encounter, a source of liberation, rich with responsibility for overcoming obstacles and taking up the new life of Baptism again. They will be led in their mission by the words of the Apostle: “For God has consigned all men to disobedience, that he may have mercy upon all” (Rom 11:32). Everyone, in fact, without exception, is called to embrace the call to mercy. May these Missionaries live this call with the assurance that they can fix their eyes on Jesus, “the merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God” (Heb 2:17).

I ask my brother Bishops to invite and welcome these Missionaries so that they can be, above all, persuasive preachers of mercy. May individual dioceses organize “missions to the people” in such a way that these Missionaries may be heralds of joy and forgiveness. Bishops are asked to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation with their people so that the time of grace made possible by the Jubilee year makes it possible for many of God’s sons and daughters to take up once again the journey to the Father’s house. May pastors, especially during the liturgical season of Lent, be diligent in calling back the faithful “to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace” (Heb 4:16).

19. May the message of mercy reach everyone, and may no one be indifferent to the call to experience mercy. I direct this invitation to conversion even more fervently to those whose behaviour distances them from the grace of God. I particularly have in mind men and women belonging to criminal organizations of any kind. For their own good, I beg them to change their lives. I ask them this in the name of the Son of God who, though rejecting sin, never rejected the sinner. Do not fall into the terrible trap of thinking that life depends on money and that, in comparison with money, anything else is devoid of value or dignity. This is nothing but an illusion! We cannot take money with us into the life beyond. Money does not bring us happiness. Violence inflicted for the sake of amassing riches soaked in blood makes one neither powerful nor immortal. Everyone, sooner or later, will be subject to God’s judgment, from which no one can escape.

The same invitation is extended to those who either perpetrate or participate in corruption. This festering wound is a grave sin that cries out to heaven for vengeance, because it threatens the very foundations of personal and social life. Corruption prevents us from looking to the future with hope, because its tyrannical greed shatters the plans of the weak and tramples upon the poorest of the poor. It is an evil that embeds itself into the actions of everyday life and spreads, causing great public scandal.

Corruption is a sinful hardening of the heart that replaces God with the illusion that money is a form of power. It is a work of darkness, fed by suspicion and intrigue. Corruptio optimi pessima, Saint Gregory the Great said with good reason, affirming that no one can think himself immune from this temptation. If we want to drive it out from personal and social life, we need prudence, vigilance, loyalty, transparency, together with the courage to denounce any wrongdoing. If it is not combated openly, sooner or later everyone will become an accomplice to it, and it will end up destroying our very existence.

This is the opportune moment to change our lives! This is the time to allow our hearts to be touched! When faced with evil deeds, even in the face of serious crimes, it is the time to listen to the cry of innocent people who are deprived of their property, their dignity, their feelings, and even their very lives. To stick to the way of evil will only leave one deluded and sad. True life is something entirely different. God never tires of reaching out to us. He is always ready to listen, as I am too, along with my brother bishops and priests. All one needs to do is to accept the invitation to conversion and submit oneself to justice during this special time of mercy offered by the Church. 

20. It would not be out of place at this point to recall the relationship between justice and mercy. These are not two contradictory realities, but two dimensions of a single reality that unfolds progressively until it culminates in the fullness of love. Justice is a fundamental concept for civil society, which is meant to be governed by the rule of law. Justice is also understood as that which is rightly due to each individual. In the Bible, there are many references to divine justice and to God as “judge”. In these passages, justice is understood as the full observance of the Law and the behavior of every good Israelite in conformity with God’s commandments. Such a vision, however, has not infrequently led to legalism by distorting the original meaning of justice and obscuring its profound value. To overcome this legalistic perspective, we need to recall that in Sacred Scripture, justice is conceived essentially as the faithful abandonment of oneself to God’s will.

For his part, Jesus speaks several times of the importance of faith over and above the observance of the law. It is in this sense that we must understand his words when, reclining at table with Matthew and other tax collectors and sinners, he says to the Pharisees raising objections to him, “Go and learn the meaning of ‘I desire mercy not sacrifice’. I have come not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mt 9:13). Faced with a vision of justice as the mere observance of the law that judges people simply by dividing them into two groups – the just and sinners – Jesus is bent on revealing the great gift of mercy that searches out sinners and offers them pardon and salvation. One can see why, on the basis of such a liberating vision of mercy as a source of new life, Jesus was rejected by the Pharisees and the other teachers of the law. In an attempt to remain faithful to the law, they merely placed burdens on the shoulders of others and undermined the Father’s mercy. The appeal to a faithful observance of the law must not prevent attention from being given to matters that touch upon the dignity of the person.

The appeal Jesus makes to the text from the book of the prophet Hosea – “I desire love and not sacrifice” (6:6) – is important in this regard. Jesus affirms that, from that time onward, the rule of life for his disciples must place mercy at the centre, as Jesus himself demonstrated by sharing meals with sinners. Mercy, once again, is revealed as a fundamental aspect of Jesus’ mission. This is truly challenging to his hearers, who would draw the line at a formal respect for the law. Jesus, on the other hand, goes beyond the law; the company he keeps with those the law considers sinners makes us realize the depth of his mercy.

The Apostle Paul makes a similar journey. Prior to meeting Jesus on the road to Damascus, he dedicated his life to pursuing the justice of the law with zeal (cf. Phil 3:6). His conversion to Christ led him to turn that vision upside down, to the point that he would write to the Galatians: “We have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ, and not by works of the law, because by works of the law shall no one be justified” (2:16).

Paul’s understanding of justice changes radically. He now places faith first, not justice. Salvation comes not through the observance of the law, but through faith in Jesus Christ, who in his death and resurrection brings salvation together with a mercy that justifies. God’s justice now becomes the liberating force for those oppressed by slavery to sin and its consequences. God’s justice is his mercy (cf. Ps 51:11-16).

I welcome those visiting St. Denis this weekend, along with our new parishioners whom I invite to register with us. We have many programs and ministries here and I invite you to join one of them. I welcome those of you who are not of the Catholic Faith; you bless us by your presence. I congratulate all of those celebrating birthdays, jubilees, anniversaries or quinceaneras along with the recently married and newly baptized. I want to assure our families who have sons or daughters, brother or sisters in the military here or overseas that we remember them in prayer, asking God to protect and keep them from harm’s way. I offer prayers for those who are ill, those facing surgery, recuperating or homebound and sympathy to those who have lost a loved one. 

God Love You,
Msgr. Jim

 

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - July 17, 2016

The following is the continuation of the “Face of Mercy,” paragraphs 11-15 from the Holy Father’s document.

11. Let us not forget the great teaching offered by Saint John Paul II in his second Encyclical, Dives in Misericordia, which at the time came unexpectedly, its theme catching many by surprise. There are two passages in particular to which I would like to draw attention. First, Saint John Paul II highlighted the fact that we had forgotten the theme of mercy in today’s cultural milieu: “The present-day mentality, more perhaps than that of people in the past, seems opposed to a God of mercy, and in fact tends to exclude from life and to remove from the human heart the very idea of mercy. The word and the concept of ‘mercy’ seem to cause uneasiness in man, who, thanks to the enormous development of science and technology, never before known in history, has become the master of the earth and has subdued and dominated it (cf. Gen 1:28). This dominion over the earth, sometimes understood in a one-sided and superficial way, seems to have no room for mercy… And this is why, in the situation of the Church and the world today, many individuals and groups guided by a lively sense of faith are turning, I would say almost spontaneously, to the mercy of God.”

Furthermore, Saint John Paul II pushed for a more urgent proclamation and witness to mercy in the contemporary world: “It is dictated by love for man, for all that is human and which, according to the intuitions of many of our contemporaries, is threatened by an immense danger. The mystery of Christ… obliges me to proclaim mercy as God’s merciful love, revealed in that same mystery of Christ. It likewise obliges me to have recourse to that mercy and to beg for it at this difficult, critical phase of the history of the Church and of the world.” This teaching is more pertinent than ever and deserves to be taken up once again in this Holy Year. Let us listen to his words once more: “The Church lives an authentic life when she professes and proclaims mercy – the most stupendous attribute of the Creator and of the Redeemer – and when she brings people close to the sources of the Saviour’s mercy, of which she is the trustee and dispenser.”

12. The Church is commissioned to announce the mercy of God, the beating heart of the Gospel, which in its own way must penetrate the heart and mind of every person. The Spouse of Christ must pattern her behaviour after the Son of God who went out to everyone without exception. In the present day, as the Church is charged with the task of the new evangelization, the theme of mercy needs to be proposed again and again with new enthusiasm and renewed pastoral action. It is absolutely essential for the Church and for the credibility of her message that she herself live and testify to mercy. Her language and her gestures must transmit mercy, so as to touch the hearts of all people and inspire them once more to find the road that leads to the Father.

The Church’s first truth is the love of Christ. The Church makes herself a servant of this love and mediates it to all people: a love that forgives and expresses itself in the gift of oneself. Consequently, wherever the Church is present, the mercy of the Father must be evident. In our parishes, communities, associations and movements, in a word, wherever there are Christians, everyone should find an oasis of mercy.

13. We want to live this Jubilee Year in light of the Lord’s words: Merciful like the Father. The Evangelist reminds us of the teaching of Jesus who says, “Be merciful just as your Father is merciful” (Lk 6:36). It is a programme of life as demanding as it is rich with joy and peace. Jesus’s command is directed to anyone willing to listen to his voice (cf. Lk 6:27). In order to be capable of mercy, therefore, we must first of all dispose ourselves to listen to the Word of God. This means rediscovering the value of silence in order to meditate on the Word that comes to us. In this way, it will be possible to contemplate God’s mercy and adopt it as our lifestyle.

14. The practice of pilgrimage has a special place in the Holy Year, because it represents the journey each of us makes in this life. Life itself is a pilgrimage, and the human being is a viator, a pilgrim travelling along the road, making his way to the desired destination. Similarly, to reach the Holy Door in Rome or in any other place in the world, everyone, each according to his or her ability, will have to make a pilgrimage. This will be a sign that mercy is also a goal to reach and requires dedication and sacrifice. May pilgrimage be an impetus to conversion: by crossing the threshold of the Holy Door, we will find the strength to embrace God’s mercy and dedicate ourselves to being merciful with others as the Father has been with us.

The Lord Jesus shows us the steps of the pilgrimage to attain our goal: “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back” (Lk 6:37-38). The Lord asks us above all not to judge and not to condemn. If anyone wishes to avoid God’s judgement, he should not make himself the judge of his brother or sister. Human beings, whenever they judge, look no farther than the surface, whereas the Father looks into the very depths of the soul. How much harm words do when they are motivated by feelings of jealousy and envy! To speak ill of others puts them in a bad light, undermines their reputation and leaves them prey to the whims of gossip. To refrain from judgement and condemnation means, in a positive sense, to know how to accept the good in every person and to spare him any suffering that might be caused by our partial judgment, our presumption to know everything about him. But this is still not sufficient to express mercy. Jesus asks us also to forgive and to give. To be instruments of mercy because it was we who first received mercy from God. To be generous with others, knowing that God showers his goodness upon us with immense generosity.

Merciful like the Father, therefore, is the “motto” of this Holy Year. In mercy, we find proof of how God loves us. He gives his entire self, always, freely, asking nothing in return. He comes to our aid whenever we call upon him. What a beautiful thing that the Church begins her daily prayer with the words, “O God, come to my assistance. O Lord, make haste to help me” (Ps 70:2)! The assistance we ask for is already the first step of God’s mercy toward us. He comes to assist us in our weakness. And his help consists in helping us accept his presence and closeness to us. Day after day, touched by his compassion, we also can become compassionate towards others.

15. In this Holy Year, we look forward to the experience of opening our hearts to those living on the outermost fringes of society: fringes which modern society itself creates. How many uncertain and painful situations there are in the world today! How many are the wounds borne by the flesh of those who have no voice because their cry is muffled and drowned out by the indifference of the rich! During this Jubilee, the Church will be called even more to heal these wounds, to assuage them with the oil of consolation, to bind them with mercy and cure them with solidarity and vigilant care.

Let us not fall into humiliating indifference or a monotonous routine that prevents us from discovering what is new! Let us ward off destructive cynicism! Let us open our eyes and see the misery of the world, the wounds of our brothers and sisters who are denied their dignity, and let us recognize that we are compelled to heed their cry for help! May we reach out to them and support them so they can feel the warmth of our presence, our friendship, and our fraternity! May their cry become our own, and together may we break down the barriers of indifference that too often reign supreme and mask our hypocrisy and egoism!

It is my burning desire that, during this Jubilee, the Christian people may reflect on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. It will be a way to reawaken our conscience, too often grown dull in the face of poverty. And let us enter more deeply into the heart of the Gospel where the poor have a special experience of God’s mercy. Jesus introduces us to these works of mercy in his preaching so that we can know whether or not we are living as his disciples. Let us rediscover these corporal works of mercy: to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, heal the sick, visit the imprisoned, and bury the dead. And let us not forget the spiritual works of mercy: to counsel the doubtful, instruct the ignorant, admonish sinners, comfort the afflicted, forgive offences, bear patiently those who do us ill, and pray for the living and the dead.

We cannot escape the Lord’s words to us, and they will serve as the criteria upon which we will be judged: whether we have fed the hungry and given drink to the thirsty, welcomed the stranger and clothed the naked, or spent time with the sick and those in prison (cf. Mt 25:31-45). Moreover, we will be asked if we have helped others to escape the doubt that causes them to fall into despair and which is often a source of loneliness; if we have helped to overcome the ignorance in which millions of people live, especially children deprived of the necessary means to free them from the bonds of poverty; if we have been close to the lonely and afflicted; if we have forgiven those who have offended us and have rejected all forms of anger and hate that lead to violence; if we have had the kind of patience God shows, who is so patient with us; and if we have commended our brothers and sisters to the Lord in prayer. In each of these “little ones,” Christ himself is present. His flesh becomes visible in the flesh of the tortured, the crushed, the scourged, the malnourished, and the exiled… to be acknowledged, touched, and cared for by us. Let us not forget the words of Saint John of the Cross: “as we prepare to leave this life, we will be judged on the basis of love.”

I welcome those visiting St. Denis this weekend, along with our new parishioners whom I invite to register with us. We have many programs and ministries here and I invite you to join one of them. I welcome those of you who are not of the Catholic Faith; you bless us by your presence. I congratulate all of those celebrating birthdays, jubilees, anniversaries or quinceaneras along with the recently married and newly baptized. I want to assure our families who have sons or daughters, brother or sisters in the military here or overseas that we remember them in prayer, asking God to protect and keep them from harm’s way. I offer prayers for those who are ill, those facing surgery, recuperating or homebound and sympathy to those who have lost a loved one. 

God Love You,
Msgr. Jim

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - July 10, 2016

The following is the continuation of the “Face of Mercy,” paragraphs 6 – 10 from the Holy Father’s document.

6. “It is proper to God to exercise mercy, and he manifests his omnipotence particularly in this way.” Saint Thomas Aquinas’ words show that God’s mercy, rather than a sign of weakness, is the mark of his omnipotence. For this reason the liturgy, in one of its most ancient collects, has us pray: “O God, who reveal your power above all in your mercy and forgiveness …” Throughout the history of humanity, God will always be the One who is present, close, provident, holy, and merciful.

“Patient and merciful.” These words often go together in the Old Testament to describe God’s nature. His being merciful is concretely demonstrated in his many actions throughout the history of salvation where his goodness prevails over punishment and destruction.  In a special way the Psalms bring to the fore the grandeur of his merciful action: “He forgives all your iniquity, he heals all your diseases, he redeems your life from the pit, he crowns you with steadfast love and mercy” (Ps 103:3-4). Another psalm, in an even more explicit way, attests to the concrete signs of his mercy: “He executes justice for the oppressed; he gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the sojourners, he upholds the widow and the fatherless; but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin” (Ps 146:7-9). Here are some other expressions of the Psalmist: “He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds… The Lord lifts up the downtrodden, he casts the wicked to the ground” (Ps 147:3, 6). In short, the mercy of God is not an abstract idea, but a concrete reality with which he reveals his love as of that of a father or a mother, moved to the very depths out of love for their child. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that this is a “visceral” love. It gushes forth from the depths naturally, full of tenderness and compassion, indulgence and mercy.

7. “For his mercy endures forever.” This is the refrain that repeats after each verse in Psalm 136 as it narrates the history of God’s revelation. By virtue of mercy, all the events of the Old Testament are replete with profound salvific import. Mercy renders God’s history with Israel a history of salvation. To repeat continually “for his mercy endures forever,” as the psalm does, seems to break through the dimensions of space and time, inserting everything into the eternal mystery of love. It is as if to say that not only in history, but for all eternity man will always be under the merciful gaze of the Father. It is no accident that the people of Israel wanted to include this psalm – the “Great Hallel,” as it is called – in its most important liturgical feast days.

Before his Passion, Jesus prayed with this psalm of mercy. Matthew attests to this in his Gospel when he says that, “when they had sung a hymn” (26:30), Jesus and his disciples went out to the Mount of Olives. While he was instituting the Eucharist as an everlasting memorial of himself and his paschal sacrifice, he symbolically placed this supreme act of revelation in the light of his mercy. Within the very same context of mercy, Jesus entered upon his passion and death, conscious of the great mystery of love that he would consummate on the Cross. Knowing that Jesus himself prayed this psalm makes it even more important for us as Christians, challenging us to take up the refrain in our daily lives by praying these words of praise: “for his mercy endures forever.”

8. With our eyes fixed on Jesus and his merciful gaze, we experience the love of the Most Holy Trinity. The mission Jesus received from the Father was that of revealing the mystery of divine love in its fullness. “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8, 16), John affirms for the first and only time in all of Holy Scripture. This love has now been made visible and tangible in Jesus’ entire life. His person is nothing but love, a love given gratuitously. The relationships he forms with the people who approach him manifest something entirely unique and unrepeatable. The signs he works, especially in favour of sinners, the poor, the marginalized, the sick, and the suffering, are all meant to teach mercy. Everything in him speaks of mercy. Nothing in him is devoid of compassion.

Jesus, seeing the crowds of people who followed him, realized that they were tired and exhausted, lost and without a guide, and he felt deep compassion for them (cf. Mt 9:36). On the basis of this compassionate love he healed the sick who were presented to him (cf. Mt 14:14), and with just a few loaves of bread and fish he satisfied the enormous crowd (cf. Mt 15:37). What moved Jesus in all of these situations was nothing other than mercy, with which he read the hearts of those he encountered and responded to their deepest need. When he came upon the widow of Nain taking her son out for burial, he felt great compassion for the immense suffering of this grieving mother, and he gave back her son by raising him from the dead (cf. Lk 7:15). After freeing the demoniac in the country of the Gerasenes, Jesus entrusted him with this mission: “Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you” (Mk 5:19). The calling of Matthew is also presented within the context of mercy. Passing by the tax collector’s booth, Jesus looked intently at Matthew. It was a look full of mercy that forgave the sins of that man, a sinner and a tax collector, whom Jesus chose – against the hesitation of the disciples – to become one of the Twelve. Saint Bede the Venerable, commenting on this Gospel passage, wrote that Jesus looked upon Matthew with merciful love and chose him: miserando atque eligendo. This expression impressed me so much that I chose it for my episcopal motto.

9. In the parables devoted to mercy, Jesus reveals the nature of God as that of a Father who never gives up until he has forgiven the wrong and overcome rejection with compassion and mercy. We know these parables well, three in particular: the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the father with two sons (cf. Lk 15:1-32). In these parables, God is always presented as full of joy, especially when he pardons. In them we find the core of the Gospel and of our faith, because mercy is presented as a force that overcomes everything, filling the heart with love and bringing consolation through pardon.

From another parable, we cull an important teaching for our Christian lives. In reply to Peter’s question about how many times it is necessary to forgive, Jesus says: “I do not say seven times, but seventy times seven times” (Mt 18:22). He then goes on to tell the parable of the “ruthless servant,” who, called by his master to return a huge amount, begs him on his knees for mercy.  His master cancels his debt. But he then meets a fellow servant who owes him a few cents and who in turn begs on his knees for mercy, but the first servant refuses his request and throws him into jail. When the master hears of the matter, he becomes infuriated and, summoning the first servant back to him, says, “Should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?” (Mt 18:33). Jesus concludes, “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart” (Mt 18:35).

This parable contains a profound teaching for all of us. Jesus affirms that mercy is not only an action of the Father, it becomes a criterion for ascertaining who his true children are. In short, we are called to show mercy because mercy has first been shown to us. Pardoning offences becomes the clearest expression of merciful love, and for us Christians it is an imperative from which we cannot excuse ourselves. At times how hard it seems to forgive! And yet pardon is the instrument placed into our fragile hands to attain serenity of heart. To let go of anger, wrath, violence, and revenge are necessary conditions to living joyfully. Let us therefore heed the Apostle’s exhortation: “Do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Eph 4:26). Above all, let us listen to the words of Jesus who made mercy an ideal of life and a criterion for the credibility of our faith: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Mt 5:7): the beatitude to which we should particularly aspire in this Holy Year. 

As we can see in Sacred Scripture, mercy is a key word that indicates God’s action towards us. He does not limit himself merely to affirming his love, but makes it visible and tangible. Love, after all, can never be just an abstraction. By its very nature, it indicates something concrete: intentions, attitudes, and behaviours that are shown in daily living. The mercy of God is his loving concern for each one of us. He feels responsible; that is, he desires our wellbeing and he wants to see us happy, full of joy, and peaceful. This is the path which the merciful love of Christians must also travel. As the Father loves, so do his children. Just as he is merciful, so we are called to be merciful to each other.

10. Mercy is the very foundation of the Church’s life. All of her pastoral activity should be caught up in the tenderness she makes present to believers; nothing in her preaching and in her witness to the world can be lacking in mercy. The Church’s very credibility is seen in how she shows merciful and compassionate love. The Church “has an endless desire to show mercy.” Perhaps we have long since forgotten how to show and live the way of mercy. The temptation, on the one hand, to focus exclusively on justice made us forget that this is only the first, albeit necessary and indispensable step. But the Church needs to go beyond and strive for a higher and more important goal. On the other hand, sad to say, we must admit that the practice of mercy is waning in the wider culture. In some cases the word seems to have dropped out of use. However, without a witness to mercy, life becomes fruitless and sterile, as if sequestered in a barren desert. The time has come for the Church to take up the joyful call to mercy once more. It is time to return to the basics and to bear the weaknesses and struggles of our brothers and sisters. Mercy is the force that reawakens us to new life and instils in us the courage to look to the future with hope.

I welcome those visiting St. Denis this weekend, along with our new parishioners whom I invite to register with us. We have many programs and ministries here and I invite you to join one of them. I welcome those of you who are not of the Catholic Faith; you bless us by your presence. I congratulate all of those celebrating birthdays, jubilees, anniversaries or quinceaneras along with the recently married and newly baptized. I want to assure our families who have sons or daughters, brother or sisters in the military here or overseas that we remember them in prayer, asking God to protect and keep them from harm’s way. I offer prayers for those who are ill, those facing surgery, recuperating or homebound and sympathy to those who have lost a loved one. 

God Love You,
Msgr. Jim

 

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - July 3, 2016

Shortly after the document entitled the “Face of Mercy” written by Pope Francis became available, we provided opportunities here at St. Denis for all of us to come together and study what the Holy Father had presented.  In fact we studied the document eight times.  We did this back in January of this year, 2016.  While many people participated and studied the document, the crowds in attendance were still small given the number of families in the parish and the number of members in every family.  There should have been more participation.  I have wondered what the problem was.  Did you attend and participate?  If so, I hope you found it valuable and worthwhile.  If not, you will have other opportunities because we are going to repeat those sessions. 

We now have less than five months left in this year of Mercy, and we are again offering opportunities to study, reflect, pray and offer Mercy to others.  We will now offer the document first of all, in the bulletin by dividing it into five parts of five paragraphs each week, then we will offer five sessions of three hours each, July 16, July 17, July 24, July 30 and July 31 from 2:00 – 5:00PM each session. The entire document will be presented and studied in one three-hour period, so in other words, you will attend one three-hour session and complete the study of the entire document in that time. Please invite others to join you. The following is the first five paragraphs from the Holy Father’s document.

1. Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy. These words might well sum up the mystery of the Christian faith. Mercy has become living and visible in Jesus of Nazareth, reaching its culmination in him. The Father, “rich in mercy” (Eph 2:4), after having revealed his name to Moses as “a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Ex 34:6), has never ceased to show, in various ways throughout history, his divine nature. In the “fullness of time” (Gal 4:4), when everything had been arranged according to his plan of salvation, he sent his only Son into the world, born of the Virgin Mary, to reveal his love for us in a definitive way. Whoever sees Jesus sees the Father (cf. Jn 14:9). Jesus of Nazareth, by his words, his actions, and his entire person reveals the mercy of God.

2. We need constantly to contemplate the mystery of mercy. It is a wellspring of joy, serenity, and peace. Our salvation depends on it. Mercy: the word reveals the very mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. Mercy: the ultimate and supreme act by which God comes to meet us. Mercy: the fundamental law that dwells in the heart of every person who looks sincerely into the eyes of his brothers and sisters on the path of life. Mercy: the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness.

3. At times we are called to gaze even more attentively on mercy so that we may become a more effective sign of the Father’s action in our lives. For this reason I have proclaimed an Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy as a special time for the Church, a time when the witness of believers might grow stronger and more effective.

The Holy Year will open on December 8, 2015, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. This liturgical feast day recalls God’s action from the very beginning of the history of mankind. After the sin of Adam and Eve, God did not wish to leave humanity alone in the throes of evil. And so he turned his gaze to Mary, holy and immaculate in love (cf. Eph 1:4), choosing her to be the Mother of man’s Redeemer. When faced with the gravity of sin, God responds with the fullness of mercy. Mercy will always be greater than any sin, and no one can place limits on the love of God who is ever ready to forgive. I will have the joy of opening the Holy Door on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. On that day, the Holy Door will become a Door of Mercy through which anyone who enters will experience the love of God who consoles, pardons, and instils hope. 

On the following Sunday, the Third Sunday of Advent, the Holy Door of the Cathedral of Rome – that is, the Basilica of Saint John Lateran – will be opened. In the following weeks, the Holy Doors of the other Papal Basilicas will be opened. On the same Sunday, I will announce that in every local church, at the cathedral – the mother church of the faithful in any particular area – or, alternatively, at the co-cathedral or another church of special significance, a Door of Mercy will be opened for the duration of the Holy Year. At the discretion of the local ordinary, a similar door may be opened at any shrine frequented by large groups of pilgrims, since visits to these holy sites are so often grace-filled moments, as people discover a path to conversion. Every Particular Church, therefore, will be directly involved in living out this Holy Year as an extraordinary moment of grace and spiritual renewal. Thus the Jubilee will be celebrated both in Rome and in the Particular Churches as a visible sign of the Church’s universal communion.

4. I have chosen the date of December 8 because of its rich meaning in the recent history of the Church. In fact, I will open the Holy Door on the fiftieth anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. The Church feels a great need to keep this event alive. With the Council, the Church entered a new phase of her history. The Council Fathers strongly perceived, as a true breath of the Holy Spirit, a need to talk about God to men and women of their time in a more accessible way. The walls which for too long had made the Church a kind of fortress were torn down and the time had come to proclaim the Gospel in a new way. It was a new phase of the same evangelization that had existed from the beginning. It was a fresh undertaking for all Christians to bear witness to their faith with greater enthusiasm and conviction. The Church sensed a responsibility to be a living sign of the Father’s love in the world.

We recall the poignant words of Saint John XXIII when, opening the Council, he indicated the path to follow: “Now the Bride of Christ wishes to use the medicine of mercy rather than taking up arms of severity…

The Catholic Church, as she holds high the torch of Catholic truth at this Ecumenical Council, wants to show herself a loving mother to all; patient, kind, moved by compassion and goodness toward her separated children.” Blessed Paul VI spoke in a similar vein at the closing of the Council: “We prefer to point out how charity has been the principal religious feature of this Council… the old story of the Good Samaritan has been the model of the spirituality of the Council… a wave of affection and admiration flowed from the Council over the modern world of humanity. Errors were condemned, indeed, because charity demanded this no less than did truth, but for individuals themselves there was only admonition, respect and love. Instead of depressing diagnoses, encouraging remedies; instead of direful predictions, messages of trust issued from the Council to the present-day world. The modern world’s values were not only respected but honoured, its efforts approved, its aspirations purified and blessed… Another point we must stress is this: all this rich teaching is channeled in one direction, the service of mankind, of every condition, in every weakness and need.”

With these sentiments of gratitude for everything the Church has received, and with a sense of responsibility for the task that lies ahead, we shall cross the threshold of the Holy Door fully confident that the strength of the Risen Lord, who constantly supports us on our pilgrim way, will sustain us. May the Holy Spirit, who guides the steps of believers in cooperating with the work of salvation wrought by Christ, lead the way and support the People of God so that they may contemplate the face of mercy.

5. The Jubilee year will close with the liturgical Solemnity of Christ the King on November 20, 2016. On that day, as we seal the Holy Door, we shall be filled, above all, with a sense of gratitude and thanksgiving to the Most Holy Trinity for having granted us an extraordinary time of grace. We will entrust the life of the Church, all humanity, and the entire cosmos to the Lordship of Christ, asking him to pour out his mercy upon us like the morning dew, so that everyone may work together to build a brighter future. How much I desire that the year to come will be steeped in mercy, so that we can go out to every man and woman, bringing the goodness and tenderness of God! May the balm of mercy reach everyone, both believers and those far away, as a sign that the Kingdom of God is already present in our midst!

I welcome those visiting St. Denis this weekend, along with our new parishioners whom I invite to register with us. We have many programs and ministries here and I invite you to join one of them. I welcome those of you who are not of the Catholic Faith; you bless us by your presence. I congratulate all of those celebrating birthdays, jubilees, anniversaries or quinceaneras along with the recently married and newly baptized. I want to assure our families who have sons or daughters, brother or sisters in the military here or overseas that we remember them in prayer, asking God to protect and keep them from harm’s way. I offer prayers for those who are ill, those facing surgery, recuperating or homebound and sympathy to those who have lost a loved one. 

God Love You,
Msgr. Jim

  

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - June 26, 2016

In this space last week, I included a message from Archbishop Jose H. Gomez regarding the Assisted Suicide Bill that went into effect in the State of California on June 9. In his message he encouraged us to pray for the elderly, the sick and dying; and to do everything we can to reverse that State Law. I was very impressed by Deacon Dennis Shin’s homily on the tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time; he preached a powerful homily that day on the same topic – Assisted Suicide. I asked him for permission to share with you and he graciously consented. The following is the homily that he preached at the 12.00 and 1.30PM Masses that Sunday, June 5. I encourage you to read it, reflect on it and try to help those who face the possibility of being victims of the new law.

“In today’s readings, we hear about death and revival. The stories are about our celebration of the preciousness of life, especially in bringing life back to someone they thought had no life. In our first reading, Elijah comes to a woman’s house and finds her son who had been ill and finally stopped breathing. And Elijah revives him back to life. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus sees a weeping mother whose son had just died. He tells the son, “arise” and the young man is revived back to life. They reaffirm to us the preciousness and the sacredness of this “gift of life” that we were all given.

Right now for us here in California, there is another big issue of life and death that we are still grappling with. It is our new Assisted Suicide Law that will go into effect on June 9.  So, starting this coming Thursday, California becomes the fifth state in America where a person can legally kill themselves with the help of a doctor who will give them the poison pill to do it.  And in Canada, a similar law goes into effect tomorrow morning.

The proponents of this new law say that it would give people the ”freedom of choice” and that it is compassionate and merciful. It gives them dignity. Their logic is, “Hey, its my body, so I can do whatever I want with it. If I think and my family agrees that I am already as good as dead, or no better than dead, why shouldn’t I be allowed to just end it a little bit early? Why should I have to prolong this misery?” 

The proponents say that this law imposes very strict safeguards and conditions before you can legally kill yourself. You have to be of sound mind and that you only have less than six months to live. Then, you can demand that poison pill from your doctor so you can end your life. According to a recent Gallop poll, almost 70% of Americans, that’s 7 out of 10 people, they agree with this law and this way of thinking that we should allow terminally ill patients to commit suicide if they want to.

For us as Catholics, taking a life, even our own, is a fundamental violation of our faith, “Thou shall not kill.” Life is a gift given to us by our creator of which we are only stewards, that every human life is always sacred, valuable and inviolable from conception until our natural death. And yet, 70% of Americans, that’s a huge chunk of our society, they support this idea of assisted suicide as a “Right to Choose.”

Now, I am sure that their intentions are good, based on “their” idea of compassion, mercy and respect for a person’s choice on how they want to die. But does it really give that freedom of choice? Is it really based on dignity, compassion and mercy? Of course, I can’t speak for those who are facing imminent death, who are suffering, feeling that they have no more value left in life. Honestly, I have never been there, so I don’t presume to know what they are going through.  But SUICIDE . . . , is that the solution? Yeah, it may end the immediate problem of their suffering and despair, the loneliness and all those bad things they may be feeling. But suicide, . . it eliminates these problems by simply eliminating the person. It makes that SOMEBODY into a NOBODY. Now, is that really compassion and mercy?

Our society puts great personal value on health, beauty and talent. Just look at the commercials. They tell us how we “ought to be” but when a person becomes sick and they are no longer productive and become completely dependent on other people, they are made to feel like they have no more dignity. It puts them in doubt of their personal worth, their value and how other people see them. They start thinking that they are now useless and a burden on themselves and a burden on their family, almost thinking to yourself, “Why haven't you gotten rid of yourself yet? You are useless and nothing but a burden to everyone you love.” But the TRUTH is, no matter what our secular society tells us, EVERY human being, regardless of their station in life or their condition, has inherent and immeasurable worth and “DIGNITY” that never goes away, even when you are sick and you may feel useless. We are all created in the image and likeness of God. We are all very special.

When you are sick and your insurance company says to you that they can’t pay for your surgery or for your drugs anymore and that your family has to now pay $200,000 for the surgery and $5,000 a month for your drugs. But it says, if you take the suicide option, your insurance will pay for that poison pill for you to take. Would you not think that there is an element of coercion in that so called “voluntary decision” to go for suicide in that situation? So, is that really giving that physically and emotionally vulnerable person a meaningful “freedom of choice?”

And as for the requirement that you only have less than six months to live . . . well, you know that the medical experts are wrong on that half the time. Prognosis of six-months-to-live are notoriously wrong. A study in Oregon showed that many who were diagnosed with less than six months to live, actually end up living two years and more and many of them actually later die from other causes than what they were diagnosed for. Stephen Hawking, the British scientist, he was diagnosed with ALS when he was 21 years old and was given only 2 years to live. Well, he’s now 74 and his contribution to science, to Cosmology and Astrophysics, equal only to that of Albert Einstein.

My mother, when she was diagnosed with her brain disease and when her body started to break down, I was a just a teenager. The doctors told us to be prepared that her death could come at any time because of her disease that was taking over and crippling her body. But she held on for 10 years. My memories of my mother during my high school and college years were mostly of her illness and her suffering. But what really bothered her even more than her illness was that she became completely helpless and dependent. After she got sick, she felt like she had nothing to contribute. She felt useless. My mother, she felt like she was nothing but a burden to her family.

My mother passed away a couple of years after I graduated from college. She never did get to meet my future wife and my children. And when I thought of my mother and her final years of her suffering and illness that she endured, I didn’t see anything good in that. I questioned. “Why was that necessary? Why did she have to go through those years of quiet suffering?”. . . and the unfairness of it all. But it wasn’t until more than 20 years after my mother passed away that I realized the gift that she had given me. Many years later, when I experienced my conversion to Christ, it was only through my memories of my mother that I came to know who Jesus really was. It was through the IMAGE of my mother during those final difficult years of her life that I came to understand the true essence of who Jesus really is, that my mother’s life, even in her suffering was bringing Glory to God. Even through her illness, God was still at work in her and through her.

Assisted suicide is an attempt to eliminate the suffering by simply eliminating and erasing the person, a person for whom God is still at work and a person who continues to deeply touch others even in the midst of their suffering. And that work continues until God calls them home, not when we decide to end it. The real problem of going down this road of legalizing and sanctioning suicide is that it now changes the whole social dynamic in our perception of suicide as a legitimate solution to our problems. When we start making exceptions to say that, “It is okay to kill yourself when things get really, really bad,” where does it stop? What do we tell our teenagers when they ask us “Mom, I am having a terrible problem, so would suicide be okay to end that problem?”  And in light of what our new Assisted Suicide law stands for, how do we even begin to answer that question?

Even though this new law will now go into effect, we still have a choice to choose LIFE over SUICIDE.  And what we can do as family and friends of our loved ones who may be facing this dilemma, we can make sure that they never forget that their dignity as precious human being is NEVER diminished by their illness. And we give them HOPE in LIFE that remains here and in LIFE that awaits them hereafter. As in our readings today, Elijah and Jesus remind us of the preciousness and sanctity of our gift of life. Our lives are sacred. For human beings, there is no such thing as a mercy killing. And in the words of our Archbishop Jose Gomez, “Assisted suicide offers a hollow compassion. Helping someone to die even if that person asks for that help, is still killing. And killing is not compassion, it is just killing.”

I want to thank all those who celebrated with me at the Vigil Mass on Saturday, June 18, my 55th anniversary of ordination. I am grateful to Petita Virata and the many people who worked with her to prepare such an enjoyable evening. I am grateful to Fr. Sev, the visiting priests, our two deacons, the Lectors, Eucharistic Ministers, shers, Altar Servers; Connie Salazar, our cantor, Julianne Choi our pianist and organist, the youth choir, Sr. Edith Prendergast along with Tom and Mary Ann Berntsen who presented the gifts of bread and wine at the Liturgy. I am grateful to the members of our Pastoral Staff, organizations and programs for their roles in the festivities. I want to thank those who prepared dinner and served it. Thanks to those who presented cards, gifts and an assurance of prayers. I appreciate all your kindness and thoughtfulness. You all have been most generous and kind. You will be remembered in my prayers and Masses.

I welcome those visiting St. Denis this weekend, along with our new parishioners whom I invite to register with us. We have many programs and ministries here and I invite you to join one of them. I welcome those of you who are not of the Catholic Faith; you bless us by your presence. I congratulate all of those celebrating birthdays, jubilees, anniversaries or quinceaneras along with the recently married and newly baptized. I want to assure our families who have sons or daughters, brother or sisters in the military here or overseas that we remember them in prayer, asking God to protect and keep them from harm’s way. I offer prayers for those who are ill, those facing surgery, recuperating or homebound and sympathy to those who have lost a loved one.  You are my inheritance, O Lord.” (Responsorial Psalm).

God Love You,
Msgr. Jim

 

 
   

 

Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time - June 19, 2016
 

Just ten days ago on June 9, the Assisted Suicide Bill signed by the Governor several months ago, went into effect.  That was a sad day for our State and a sad day for the sick, elderly and dying among us.  Even though we are told that 70% plus of our citizens agree with it, hopefully, our opposition to it and the power of prayer can change that.   The life that is ours was given to us by our loving God.  In fact, he made us in his own image and likeness.  It is important that we realize and believe that only God in his own time, can take away that life.  We were taught as youngsters that we were made to know, love and serve God in this life and to be happy with him in the next.

Ever since Jesus suffered and died for us, we have been advised, told and encouraged to offer any suffering that might come our way with his suffering on the Cross.  This is known as Redemptive Suffering.  Trying to avoid that and ask for some pills that can expedite our departure from this vale of tears do not in any way help us on our final journey.  Such an approach would also impact our celebration of Reconciliation and the Sacrament of Anointing. 

Our Chief Shepherd, Archbishop Jose H. Gomez wrote a beautiful article in last week’s Tidings which did not arrive at the Pastoral Office until Monday.  We then placed them in the vestibule, so you may or may not have picked up your copy.  For your benefit, I am printing here that article of the Archbishop.  I hope you find it enlightening and helpful in understanding why we must oppose the signed bill on Assisted Suicide and how wrong it is.

“Coming to the end of life in California -By Archbishop JOSÉ H. GOMEZ

On June 9, California becomes the fifth state in the nation to allow doctors to prescribe lethal medications for patients who ask for them.

With the new “End of Life Options” law we are crossing a line — from being a society that cares for those who are aging and sick, to a society that kills those whose suffering we can no longer tolerate.

Our government leaders tell us that granting the right to choose a doctor-prescribed death is compassionate and will comfort the elderly and persons facing terminal and chronic illness.

But killing is not caring. True compassion means walking with those who are suffering, sharing their pain, helping them bear their burdens. Loving your neighbor as yourself is not a duty we fulfill by giving our neighbor a lethal dose of pills.

Assisted suicide represents a failure of solidarity and will only increase the sense of isolation and loneliness that many people already feel in our society. With this new law, we are abandoning our most vulnerable and frail neighbors — dismissing them as “not worthy” of our care and as a “drain” on our limited social resources.

This new law will worsen the inequalities in our health care system. The poor elderly already have far fewer treatment options and far less access to palliative care and nursing home services.

In a state where millions are forced to rely on government-subsidized care, who can imagine the government will continue paying for months and perhaps years of costly treatments rather than prescribing a cheap bottle of suicide pills?

And faced with growing numbers of elderly suffering from Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, how long will it be before we start hearing appeals to offer “compassionate choices” for those who can no longer choose or speak for themselves?

This is the danger of this new law: the death that some demand for themselves today may become a “choice” that many will not be able to refuse tomorrow.

The logic of assisted suicide leads inevitably to the government and corporate administrators essentially deciding which lives are worth saving and caring for and who would be better off dead. The criteria for such decisions will always be arbitrary and the process will always mean the strong and powerful deciding the fate of those who are weak and less influential in society. This is the beginning of tyranny.

Californians deserve and should demand better from our lawmakers. Giving doctors a license to kill is not leadership on health care.

On June 9, when this new law takes effect, we will still have all the same problems that make people afraid to grow old or become sick or disabled in California today.

We will still have a health insurance system that prices pain-relief medication beyond the reach of ordinary people and makes it nearly impossible for them to receive the palliative care and other services they need to live their final days with dignity.

On June 9, workers in nursing homes will still be overworked and underpaid and their working conditions will make it difficult for them to provide quality medical care with excellence and compassion. Medical schools still will not be providing future doctors and health professionals with proper training in palliative care and end-of-life treatment.  

These are the real issues that make the prospect of terminal illness and dying so frightening to people in California. I appeal to thoughtful leaders in the legislature and medical profession — now is the time to come together and begin to decisively address these issues.

I also appeal to physicians, nurses, health administrators, hospitals and care facilities — this new law protects your rights of conscience. It does not compel your cooperation or participation.  

The proper response to an unjust law is conscientious objection. And this is an unjust law.

Helping patients to kill themselves denies patients their dignity and diminishes the humanity of those entrusted to care for them. Medical professionals are called to be servants of life, not dispensers of death.

All of us in California need to pray and work to rebuild a culture of human dignity in the face of this unjust law. We need to proclaim and demonstrate by our actions — that all human life is precious and sacred and is worthy of our care and protection, from conception to natural death.

A person does not stop being a person, does not lose his or her dignity or right to life, — just because he or she loses certain physical or mental capacities. Indeed, it is when people are most vulnerable that they are most in need of our compassion and love.

Let us pray for our great State of California as we enter this new moment.

May God give all of us the courage to do what is right. And may our Blessed Mother Mary help us to see that everyone is a child of God and that we are all brothers and sisters called to love and care for one another”.

You have heard me speak a number of times about our Parish Missionary Disciples; that nine of us were trained, formed over twelve months and commissioned by Bishop David O’Connell on February 23 of this year. We are trying to build our numbers and to form at least 72 of these disciples in the next several months and then commission them for ministry in the parish and the Community of Diamond Bar. I invite you to consider becoming one of those disciples, call me for an interview, join us for the training and formation that begins in August. There are at least a half dozen opportunities for Ministry in our Parish and one of these is how we might work together to help the sick, elderly and dying. They need our attention very urgently and it cannot be given in the form of a handful of pills.

I wish all fathers a very happy and blessed Father’s Day. Toward the end of the Liturgy you will receive a special blessing and a small token of our appreciation will be given to each father at the end of Mass. A special Novena of Masses will begin today and will continue for the next eight days. Please keep your dad and all dads in your prayers during this special week.

Our annual Golf Tournament will take place on Friday, September 23 at Los Serranos, Chino Hills. Green fees will be $125.00 per player. However as a gift for dad for Fathers’ Day, the fees this weekend (Father’s Day) will be only $100.00 each. Please stop at the table in the courtyard after Mass.

At our Pastoral Staff Meeting on June 6, Fr. Sev informed the members that he was notified of a transfer from St. Denis at the end of June and is awaiting another assignment. I want to thank him for his two years of Ministry at St. Denis and wish him well in his next assignment. On Sunday next, June 26, you will have an opportunity to greet Fr. Sev, thank him for his ministry here and enjoy some donuts and cake with him after each Mass that day.

During the coming week I will be leaving for Ireland to celebrate marriage anniversaries for two of my brothers and their wives, a number of significant birthdays for other siblings and my own 55th Ordination Anniversary. All ten of us siblings along with their children and grandchildren will be together next Saturday and Sunday for Liturgy and festivities.  I wish all of you who are traveling and celebrating this summer a pleasant time and safe travels to and from the events.

I welcome those visiting St. Denis this weekend, along with our new parishioners whom I invite to register with us. We have many programs and ministries here and I invite you to join one of them. I welcome those of you who are not of the Catholic Faith; you bless us by your presence. I congratulate all of those celebrating birthdays, jubilees, anniversaries or quinceaneras along with the recently married and newly baptized. I want to assure our families who have sons or daughters, brother or sisters in the military here or overseas that we remember them in prayer, asking God to protect and keep them from harm’s way. I offer prayers for those who are ill, those facing surgery, recuperating or homebound and sympathy to those who have lost a loved one. “My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God” (Responsorial Psalm)

God Love You,
Msgr. Jim

 

Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time - June 12, 2016
 

This incident in the life of King David, who lived three thousand years ago, has been preserved in the Sacred Scripture because it contains a lesson for all people.  It shows us the weakness of human nature, even in one so exalted as the king whom God had placed over his people.  At the same time, it shows the infinite mercy of God when he is dealing with a repentant sinner.

David had sinned grievously in his adultery with Bathsheba.  How often does it happen that one sin leads to another, and even to a worse or greater sin?  In trying to cover up his adultery, David had the husband whom he had offended, murdered.  In the eyes of people, his adultery might have gone unnoticed.  The death of Uriah, in battle, could have been laid at anybody’s door.  But God, who sees even the secrets of our hearts, was not deceived, and he did not delay in telling David so.

Adultery and murder are serious sins against the neighbor.  They are expressly forbidden by God in his commandments.  David did injury, and serious injury, not only to Uriah but to God also.  He knew this, for he knew the commandments and knew he was bound to observe them.  However, he had the good grace to admit his sins when challenged by God’s representative, the prophet Nathan.  He made no excuses and no attempts, on this occasion, to cover up his faults.  He knew it was God who was speaking through Nathan.  He could, perhaps, have claimed some exemption from the commandments, because he was king, the highest power in the land.  Lesser men have done so down through our history.  David, however, was a man of strong faith.  He realized full well that the word of the Lord, the commandments of God, bound both king and people.  Because he humbly admitted his sins (“I have sinned against God”) he had thrown himself on God’s mercy – and God’s mercy did not fail.  God forgave him.  He remained loyal to God and his commandments for the rest of his life.  He suffered many heart-breaks from the members of his own family.  These were, as Nathan told him, punishment for the serious sins of his life.  He bore them with great patience to the end of his days.

There are few among us who can, in all honesty, point the finger of shame at David.  We may not, thank God, have committed such serious sins as he did on that occasion.  We have, however, offended God in lesser ways, through lesser injuries to our neighbor.  But have we always had the humility and the honesty of David to admit our guilt as sincerely as David did?

If we are sincerely repentant in our confessions we have the word of God assuring us that we are forgiven, just as definitely as David was.  The priest’s words of absolution, “I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit,” are a repetition of, and as effective as the words of Nathan to David: “God for his part forgives your sin.”  Thus, the infinite mercy of God is there for us sinners too, as it was for David, if we turn to him with a truly contrite heart.

We are all weak.  We are capable of offending God, and thus of losing eternal life.  But our God is a merciful father, who is ready to forgive the repentant sinner and to welcome the prodigal son home. St. Luke’s story of the penitent sinner, forgiven by Christ, is but one of many such incidents which occurred but are not narrated in the Gospels.  He was accused by his enemies of associating with sinners and tax collectors.  He did not deny the accusations; “it is the sick that needs the doctor, not those who are well,” he said.

While the mercy of God for sinners and the willingness, even eagerness, with which he welcomes back the sinner is the principal teaching in this gospel story, most if not all of us, can be cheered by that teaching.  But there are two other lessons in it for us.  The first is, that the pardoned sinner should show gratitude to God.  One of the greatest proofs of gratitude is the firm resolution to avoid offending our good God anymore.  Do we really mean it when we solemnly promise in our act of contrition in confession “never more to offend you and to amend my life?”  There is a great danger that we may make this promise out of habit or routine, without seriously intending or meaning what we say.  Non-Catholics often accuse us of hypocrisy in this.  “You Catholics can sin and just tell it in confession, be forgiven, and go back and sin again.”  This is not so.  The priest’s power to forgive sin, given by Christ himself, has effect only on a repentant sinner.  If a person goes to confession with serious sins and has no intention of avoiding those sins and the occasions which cause them, he is not only not forgiven, but is adding a further sin to his conscience by abusing and insulting God in that great gift of his mercy, the Sacrament of Penance.  Such cases are rare, thank God.  We are repentant and we mean to avoid such sins in future.  However, the fact that one may fall again is always possible.  This does not prove the previous confession to be invalid.  But the penitent’s attempts to avoid the occasions will be proof of one’s sincere repentance.  It will also be a sign of his gratitude to the merciful God who forgave him his sins.

Yes, avoidance of serious sin is something which we must thank God for.  We should never praise ourselves because of this, and never, never should we despise the neighbor who is not so fortunate.  Instead, we must help that neighbor by every means in our power to return to God’s friendship through sincere repentance.  This will prove our love for God and neighbor, and our sincere appreciation of the great graces given us by our merciful Lord to keep us free from grave sins.

Many of those wonderful priests who prayed the forgiveness of God on you, his people are now retired.  That does not mean that they have ceased presiding at Mass or celebrating the Sacraments.  It just means that they have given up administration.  We need to thank them for their years of ministry and priestly service.  This weekend, we are invited to pray for them and make a financial gift to the Priests’ Retirement Fund to help them with their expenses.  A second collection for that purpose will be taken up this weekend.  Try to be generous toward them.

I want to congratulate our parish choirs, directors, members (children, youth, young adults and adults) musicians, and soloists, along with those who prepared the program, welcomed and greeted families and guests, also those responsible for the stage and equipment.  Each and everyone did a wonderful job.  As many of you know our Religious Education/Faith Formation Office is offering two wonderful programs called “Jesus Time” and “More Jesus Time” on Tuesday and Thursday for two more weeks.  Our annual VBS program will begin on Monday, July 11 and continue through July 15, from 9:00am to 12:30pm.  Our Young Adult Ministry will provide Theology on Tap which is a program sponsored by the Archdiocese on Mondays, June 13, 20 and 27.  The program will be conducted from 7:00-9:30pm by priests, religious and lay people selected by the Archdiocese and will take place here at St. Denis.  The fourth and final session this summer will take place on July 11.

I am also grateful to the staff of El Sembrador – the Sower, who presented a wonderful Tea and Retreat for the ladies last Saturday.  I understand that some participants did not understand the Closing Prayer Service.  I just want to say, I am willing to meet with those people and explain to them the Charismatic Movement, their prayer style, and answer any questions.

I welcome those visiting St. Denis this weekend, along with our new parishioners whom I invite to register with us. We have many programs and ministries here and I invite you to join one of them. I welcome those of you who are not of the Catholic Faith; you bless us by your presence. I congratulate all of those celebrating birthdays, jubilees, anniversaries or quinceaneras along with the recently married and newly baptized. I want to assure our families who have sons or daughters, brother or sisters in the military here or overseas that we remember them in prayer, asking God to protect and keep them from harm’s way. I offer prayers for those who are ill, those facing surgery, recuperating or homebound and sympathy to those who have lost a loved one. “Lord, forgive the wrong I have done” (Responsorial Psalm)

God Love You, 
Msgr. Jim

 

 

 


 

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