Father’s Weekly Message

Fr. Bob Writes – November 19, 2017

Fr Bob writes: “When one finds a worthy wife, her value is beyond pearls…” (Proverbs 31:10)

The author, or better said, the compiler of the book of Proverbs in the Old Testament began by stating the purpose of the work: “that people may appreciate wisdom and discipline, understand words of intelligence, receive training in wise conduct (in what is right, just and honest), that resourcefulness be imparted to the simple, and knowledge and discretion to the young man, a wise man advance in learning, and an intelligence man gain sound guidance.”  The study of wisdom, the artful discussion of the details of God’s word, the education in the ways of wisdom were the work of Jewish men carried out in synagogues, town squares and in their homes. Women did not play a part in these discussions. All the students in synagogue schools were boys, no girls.

The compiler of Proverbs chose to end his work with two sections focused on the wisdom of women. 31:1-9 are words of advice from a mother to her son who was a king. 31:10-31, which make up our first reading this Sunday at Mass, tell of the ideal wife and mother whose life, not just her words, shows how to live wisely.  Girls learned from their mothers and grandmothers. The influence of a wife on her husband, even in a male-dominated culture, should not be underestimated… much less the influence of a mother on both daughters and sons.  Ending his work with these reflections on the wisdom of women reflects on the wisdom of the compiler who, in doing so, reminds the reader to learn wisdom, not just in the male-dominated debates in synagogues and classes at school, but from the living examples of wives, moms and grandmas right there at home.

(thanks to Fr Denny Dempsey for his insights into our first reading this Sunday)

Fr Bob Writes – November 12, 2017

 “so that you do not grieve like the rest who have no hope ” (1 Thessalonians 4:13).

The grief of those who have no hope is that of those who do not believe in life after death.  Belief in Jesus’ resurrection is the basis for our hope.

Trying to figure out when and how Jesus would return was an important topic of conversation among the early Christian communities reflected here in this text from our second reading this Sunday.  It also seems to be a concern for many evangelical Christians even today.

St Paul seems to have been of the opinion that the Second Coming would occur before all of his readers would physically die, thus his referring in our second reading , to “we who are alive.”  The image of the living, or a select group of the living, being raised up to heaven is often referred to as the “Rapture.”  Sacred Scripture gives no basis for a belief in some being taken up to heaven before the return of Christ, and some being “left behind.”  The Catholic Church has no teaching using the ideas of a “Rapture” before the return of Christ.  What we believe is expressed in the Creed, that Jesus will return and that those who physically died as well as those still living will be raised with some manner of a final judgment.

Although we believe in the Second Coming, we don’t know when Jesus will return.  After so many centuries have passed since the resurrection of Jesus, determining when Jesus will return is not a major issue for Catholics as it is for some Christian groups.  It is hard to understand how significant this question was for Christians in the first century.  But in our day and age, when it is not even a question for most people,  we have to hold onto our belief that Christ will return at some point in time to bring the world to judgement.  How ready are we for this moment?

Fr. Bob Writes – October 15, 2017

“On this holy mountain the Lord of hosts will provide…”   So begins our first reading this Sunday.  Going up on mountains was considered getting closer to God.  Believing the world to be flat with God or gods being up above controlling everything, it is understandable that people in all cultures and religions went up on mountains to communicate with their gods.  Where no natural mountains existed, people built ziggurats in Mesopotamia and pyramids in Egypt, the Americas and many other locations around the world.  The mountain in this first reading is Mount Zion, the mountain on which the Jewish Temple was constructed, in Jerusalem.  It was a symbol of the heavenly Jerusalem, a perfect city of complete unity between God and his people.

The first reading promises that on this mountain God would destroy “the shroud that is cast over all mountains.”  This shroud, or pall, could be interpreted as the curse of death which hangs over all peoples.  But it could also be interpreted as the attitudes which focus on our differences in ethnic, religious and national backgrounds and tend to divide us in this world.  The prophet Isaiah foresees a time when that shroud which keeps us from seeing things as they really are will be lifted, and people will no longer be caught up in separation and competition among groups. The invitation to the great feast contained in this passage will be open to people of all nations.

Fr Bob Writes – October 8, 2017

“Have no anxiety about anything…”  So begins our second reading today from S Paul’s letter to the community at Philippi.  It is edifying to remember that Paul is speaking these words from prison, where each moment he faced the possibility of a violent death.  Yet his concern is not with himself or his own fate, but with the members of the Christian Church.

This passage, exhorting the community to peaceful relationships, has its own sense of serenity, and is a striking appeal to love and respect whatever in life is wholesome and sound.  Paul instructs the community to follow his example and put aside their preoccupations and turn to the Lord in prayer.  Then that gift of God which is his peace will be theirs.

Biblical peace springs from harmonious relations between God and his people and then among the people themselves.  It is found when one turns his or her life over to the crucified and risen Christ.  This is clearly what Paul himself has done.  Thus he can be at peace whatever fate awaits him.  What about you – can you say the same?

Fr Bob Writes – October 1, 2017

Last Sunday’s first reading from the prophet Isaiah reminded us that “God’s ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts.”  Perhaps many of us, myself included have questioned God’s ways at times in our lives.  The people in the prophet Ezekiel’s time certainly did, as our first reading this Sunday tells us ” The Lord’s way is not fair!” they complained.

Why? Because Ezekiel had relayed to them a word from the Lord regarding a previous common belief that children share in the guilt and punishment for the sins of their parents and vice versa.  The lesson makes it clear that God will not punish anyone for the sins of another.”  I will judge you each one according to his ways” (18:30). Within that teaching is given the message of complete forgiveness for the sinner who turns away from sins to lead a virtuous life.  “None of the crimes he committed shall be remembered against him” (18:22).

We are reminded again that God is so much more gracious and merciful than we are, so much more willing to pardon offenses than we.  Instead of complaining about the Lord’s generosity, perhaps I should question why we are so unwilling to follow his example?

Fr Bob Writes – September 24, 2017

One of my first parishes was based in a very Irish area in North London, England. It was very common at that time for young men looking for construction jobs, to wait around in the town centre, until a truck stopped and a manager chose a dozen or so for work that day.

This scenario is very close to that described by Jesus in this Sunday’s Gospel parable. Obviously, the men chosen first for work would have been the fittest and strongest. Imagine how you would feel if you didn’t get chosen for work day after day because of some weakness and disability.

The point Jesus is making in this parable is that recruitment for work in the Kingdom of God is based on very different criteria than the world. As far as God is concerned, the only qualification is willingness. It doesn’t matter to God if you suffer from physical, mental, emotional or spiritual disabilities. He still wants to use you for the work of spreading the gospel and building up the Kingdom of God.

Another point is equally important. The “wage” for doing the Lord’s work is life in heaven. There is nothing greater good this. It doesn’t matter whether you have been working for the Lord for thirty years or thirty minutes (remember the good thief on the cross besides the dying Christ?) You can’t receive more than one gift of eternal life, no matter how many years you have been in the Lord’s service!

Fr Bob Writes – September 17, 2017

Our Gospel today gives a clear self-explanatory presentation of the Christian teaching on forgiveness.  Beginning with God’s treatment of us, Jesus makes an appeal for a similar Spirit of mercy among his followers.  To Peter’s question of how often forgiveness should be extended, Jesus responds that it should be without limit.  Seven is a perfect number; it’s multiples express the incalculable, seventy-seven times pointing to forgiveness that cannot be limited to a certain number of times.

The figure owed by the slave to the king is deliberately fantastic, amounting to the equivalent of $9 million, as opposed to the mere $200 owed to the slave by his fellow slave.  The former is the recipient of pardon for hugely more than he is owed, therefore his spirit should be magnanimous because of his own experience.  The implication for us as Christians is clear.  Given the fact that we have already received God’s forgiveness through baptism and countless other moments in life, we are in a unique position to offer that same spirit to others.  Are there people we are holding back from forgiving, demanding judgement by God on them, while we ask mercy from God for ourselves?