Our Pearl of Great Price

Jesus continues to speak to the disciples about what the kingdom of heaven will be like.  This time, he likens it to someone who finds a treasure or one who finds a pearl.  My friends, we are called to pray for the ability to recognize the gift.  Are we able to recognize our gifts?

All of us, I’m sure, can think of examples where gifts seem to be wasted or unappreciated.  I think of an athlete, who is so talented and for whatever reason has gotten into trouble.  And now, no longer is able to participate in his sport.

Friends, we are called to be aware of the gifts we have received from God so that we do not let them go to waste.  In the first letter of Peter, we read, As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace. The gifts we have received are not meant for ourselves, they are meant to be shared with others, and with God too!

What is the greatest gift that we have received?  The greatest gift that each of us has received is the gift of our salvation.  John writes beautifully in his Gospel, that Jesus loved his own and he loved them to the end.  This is our pearl of great price because there was a great cost

One way that we honor our Lord, is that we recognize both the gift of our salvation and that this gift was bought with a great price.  As saint Peter reminded us, the gifts we have been given are meant to be shared.  This is why Christ is speaking these parables to the His disciples because he wants to increase their urgency/desire to evangelize the world.  Fr.  Arrupe, a Jesuit priest, writes about how we respond to this gift:

Nothing is more practical than finding God, than falling in Love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, whom you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in Love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.

May the Eucharist we receive today remind us of the gift of God’s love in our lives, and inspire us to make others aware of this precious gift.

In Christ’s Friendship,

Fr. Stephen

We Will Shine Like the Sun

Notes: “However, if we exclude the possibility of conversion by too literal an interpretation of the text, we face the theological absurdity of a parable within the Gospel that presents a Christian view of the world in which the very essence of the Gospel, metanoia (conversion)… is an impossibility.”

“The whole Gospel consists in God’s invitation for us to join in this exodus from demonic darkness into divine light, which is … God’s most passionate desire for us”.

“God’s Being can embrace for all eternity only what has become like himself, that is, what has come to share in His own nature as fiery love”.

A couple of months ago I saw Beauty and the Beast.  I loved it, but I was surprised that it included some new songs.  One of those songs was entitled “Days in the Sun”.  I was captured by this songs depth. It allowed those watching the movie to experience what the servants of the castle were experiencing.  They longed for transformation.  They longed to be transformed back into human beings; as most of you know, the servants of the Castle had become material items (clocks, candlesticks, wardrobes etc.) they were no longer human.  Why?  Because they were included in on the curse that turned the young prince into a beast. This may seem unfair to us, but Mrs. Potts explains that they were all responsible for the man that the prince had become, and as a consequence, they too were ‘punished’ for their sins… So this song, Days in the Sun, expresses their hope that one day they will be human again: Days in the sun will return, we must believe, as [people who love] do, That days in the sun will come shining through

This weekend, we too, are called to long for our own transformation.  In our first parable, the servants come back to the Master, the sower of the field, and ask:  Master, should we remove the weeds that the evil one has planted? He says emphatically, No!  Why?  One reason could be that the servants were unable to distinguish from the weeds and the wheat.  The particular weed mentioned would resemble wheat in its early stages of growth. So, the master sends back the servants to the fields not to purge it, but so that the servants themselves will grow and mature in the process.

Jesus, this weekend, is asking us to listen carefully to the words of the parable: He who has ears, let him hear — In other words, Jesus is warning us “against understanding” this parable “as clearly defining ‘us the saved’ (wheat) over ‘them the damned’” (weeds).  This parable can lead us to categorize ourselves too quickly.  Some of us hearing it immediately might think, “well, of course, I am one of the good ones, I am among the wheat!” Those in this situation, believe they have already become saints, that they are no longer in need of conversion.  Conversely, some of us hearing this Gospel might think, “well, of course, I am one of the evil ones, I am among the weeds.”  Those in this situation, usually are despairing of God’s love, and sadly, view themselves as lost already…

But here’s the reality check, we are all in fact still in the process of maturation.  We are the servants sent back into the fields called to be transformed. For the servants in the Gospel, it was too early for them to tell which of the crop was weeds and which was wheat.  The same is true for us.  But! The purpose of the Gospel, we hear from Jesus over and over again, is to Repent and believe in the Good News – to be transformed! Jesus is serious in his challenge! He wants us to seek transformation.  This means actively responding to God’s grace in overcoming the sins in our lives.

We hear in our first reading that God is patient.  We hear also that God judges with mercy.  We also hear that God gives His children good ground for hope that He would permit repentance for their sins. Yes, God is serious about repentance.  Yes, God is serious about us turning away from our sinful lives.  But God is also patient.  I am reminded of one of Pope Francis’ most beautiful comments regarding God’s mercy:  God never tires of forgiving us; we tire of forgiving ourselves.   Whenever we recognize that we have fallen off track, and are in need of God’s mercy, we have the beautiful gift of the Sacrament of Reconciliation to put us back on track.

Friends in Christ, if we want to join the kingdom of heaven, the place that our parables speak about today, the place that God desires for all of us, then let us have hope.  Let us have hope that the God who has become man, can surely change each us.  Christ indeed has the power to change each of us from weeds and the power of the evil one, into wheat as children beloved by God.  For Christ assures us in the Gospel that one day we will shine like the sun in the kingdom of our Father.

May the Eucharist we receive today, transform us and make us more like Christ, so that when the day of God’s kingdom arrives, God will recognize us as one of His own.

In Christ’s Friendship,

Fr. Stephen

The King of Peace

Is anyone here searching for peace in their lives?

Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.  These are very comforting words for all of us to hear.  But what kind of burdens are we carrying?  In what way is the Lord going to give us rest?

The Lord gives us rest by offering us peace.  In our first reading from Zechariah, we hear about how the future King who will come to us by riding on a Donkey.  Many scripture commentators point out that the king who comes riding on a donkey is a sign of humility.  And that certainly is true, but it also has another deeper meaning.  Bishop Barron explains, in ancient times, the way Kings would enter into their cities depended on the situation.  If it was a time of war, the king would enter in a grand way, on a great battle horse. But when a king would come in peace, he would come on a colt, or a donkey. He would come to establish peace.

And so Jesus says to us today, come to me all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. If I were to take a poll right now I’m sure these would be some of the burdens each of us carry:  frustration over the never-ending violence in the world and especially frustration over the violence in our own country, sadness due to broken relationships in our families, exhaustion due to the busy-ness of our lives, and finally, we are burdened by the reality of our own struggles with sin.  I’m sure there are more examples, these are just some of the common ones we all experience.  But Jesus wants us this weekend to know of His peace. 

How do we obtain this peace?  Jesus invites us to take on his yoke, to learn from him who is meek and humble of heart.  It’s a strange image, isn’t it? Putting on a yoke evokes the image that we are servants or slaves.  And in a sense that is true, we are to be servants of Christ.  But here lies the paradox, we become servants in order to obtain freedom.  We are christ’s slaves because he wants to break us free of from our chains and to take away our burdens.  Putting on the yoke of Christ means putting on the yoke of freedom. 

And it is through the yoke of freedom that Christ gives us peace.  And so how do we experience this peace?  First, we experience it here, together as a Christian community united by the bond of peace in the Eucharist.  So, when we become frustrated with the violence in the world, we bring our prayers to the Lord in the Eucharist for peace in our world.  When we experience division in our own families, we hand over our loved ones to God in prayer and trust that he will take care of them.  And when we face the reality of sin in our own lives, we remember that Jesus heals us with these words, Peace be with you. As followers of Christ, we will continue to experience frustration, trials and suffering, but these burdens become lighter and more bearable with the Lord’s help.

The Lord truly does help us.  I think of that beautiful scene in the Gospels, when Jesus is tired an carrying His cross.  Eventually, he needs some help, and along comes Simone of Cyrene.  This cross is not unlike the yoke we are called to wear.  Christ’s message to us this weekend is that his yoke that we put on, means that he is with us to carry us through our trials, anxieties, and suffering to give us peace.

We hold on to the peace of Christ by staying close to Jesus in both prayers and in the Eucharist. May the Eucharist we receive today give us the spiritual peace we all seek.



Fr. Stephen


Whoever Receives you, Receives me

Notes: “Our love for Jesus is to be as spontaneous, unconditional, and inevitable as our love for father, mother, or child, only infinitely more absolute”.

“Once again Jesus reveals his divine origin, his divine nature as Son of God, not conceptually, through abstract definition, but dynamically, by proclaiming himself more worthy of any man’s love than the very beings to whom that man owes his physical life.”

The words of our Gospel this morning I find very moving.  They are a great encouragement for me as I begin my time here at Our Lady of Consolation.  Jesus says, Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.  Friends, I have been sent here by Bishop Walkowiak, to serve you as your parochial vicar.  His hope is that I, along with Fr. Tony, are able to bring each of you into a deeper relationship with God.  It is a hope, most likely, shared by each of you.  And so, you expect, and hope, that as you receive me here at this parish, you will encounter God in a deeper way.  These words for me have been an encouragement and a challenge: How will I represent Christ’s love to this community? We’ll pray for one another as we begin our time together at OLC.  And, I’m excited to be here. 

But our Gospel has a strange message… Jesus says, Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me.  Why would he say this? Further, why does it seem like we have two separate messages for us in our Gospel today? The truth is that these two statements, 1) whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and, 2) whoever receive you receives me and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me are very intentional statements said together by Christ to emphasize something. They are together a profound Christological statement.  They teach us about who Christ is.

Is Jesus saying that we should not have a deep love for our parents? For our sisters and brothers? And for our close friends?  Of course not.  But what is he saying?  The verb that Christ uses for love in this statement is Phileo – it evokes a tender love for another person.  In other words, it evokes that same kind of love we exhibit with our family.   The bond and connection between the family, for us, can be the highest kind of love we experience on earth.  The closeness and tenderness that can exist amongst family members is unconditional.  We love our family simply because they are family. 

So when Jesus says you must love me more than your father and mother, he is asking for us to give our hearts to him totally.  Christ wants a close and tender relationship with all of us.  But here is why the call to love him more than members of our family is a profound statement about who Christ is.  For the Jews, something that was already expected was to love God with one’s whole heart, mind, and soul.  They would not have been scandalized at all if Jesus had said, whoever loves father or mother more than God is not worthy of Him.  But instead, he referred to himself.  But, “Only God can deserve such absolute love from each person individually and from humankind collectively”.  Jesus asks for us to love Him with all our being; as if he is God, and it is because he is God.

Jesus has revealed his divine origin.  Whoever receives one of his disciples, receives the one who sent him.  Jesus’ mission is to proclaim the Heavenly Father to the world.  So, if we receive Jesus, and seek to love him, the kind of love experienced between close friends, then we, in fact, come to know God in a more intimate way.

And this reality that Christ comes from God – that Christ is God – changes us!  Saint Paul reminds us of the beautiful gift that we have received from Christ by being baptized.  He says, Brothers and Sisters, Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?… so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life.  One of the most amazing truths about our Christian faith is how we come to know God.  In other religions, finding God is our task, our search for God.  But what separates Christianity is God’s search for us.  God sent his son Jesus, into our lives to reveal himself to us and his profound love for us.  Our challenge is to take the call of our baptism seriously.  To turn away from our old selves, our bad habits, vices, and struggles with sin.  Now we are defined by who we are in Christ.  Each of us a son and daughter of God. 

So today, as we receive the Eucharist, we come before Jesus with gratitude, that it is truly God that we approach.  May the Eucharist we receive strengthen us to turn away from our old lives and live in the newness of life that Christ has given us.