Sunday, September 25, 2016

Looking Ahead

Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor
By Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor 

Quote of the Week: "The measure of love is love without measure.” — St. Bernard of Clairvaux.

Then Abraham said: “If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.”

The verdict is in and most would agree. Truth, love, compassion, generosity – most of these deepest human realities have the toughest time sinking roots all the way down into the heart and soul. They often brush up against the heart and soul, but sink all the way in? That’s a different story.

When roots appear and truly grab onto and into the heart and soul, things are never the same. Jesus is forever speaking about roots and conversion – change of heart and soul.

Today relates to one of the toughest ones: wealth — having more, getting more, keeping more – now this is a reality or illusion that allures most in life.

The famous saying remains true to this very day: “The rich get richer while the poor get poorer.”

Most rich don’t easily give it away unless doing so brings a nice tax break. Thank God for taxes for the rich — if it were so!

Statistics from the Survey of Consumer Finances sponsored by the Federal Reserve Board providing data since 1983 report the following about distribution of wealth in the United States: the bottom 40 percent of our families possess 0.2 percent of wealth; combined with the next two lowest groups, this bottom 80 percent possess 15.3 percent. That means that the top 20 percent possesses 84.7 percent.

It gets better.

The top 5 percent of families alone possess 58.9 percent of all the wealth. To round out the good bad news: 1 percent of U.S. families owns, possesses, has, keeps, a mere 34.3 percent of U.S. wealth.

Since this issue has been around a long time, is it any surprise that Jesus would have an opinion on it?

He tells a story to the Pharisees, the educated, rule keepers, people of means, who supported the system that supported them. These people believed and proved it to be true that given a real chance, you could be what you want to be. You could have what you want to have. You could keep what you want to keep.

And not surprisingly they thought themselves to be better than most because they lived good lives — with one little exception. They knew every loophole how to avoid all except the minimum.

Their usual question was: “What do I have to do? What is expected? What will get me: eternal life; salvation; the kingdom?” It wasn’t: “What can I do?” —  but rather – “What must I do?” Their philosophy was ‘do the least’  and  ‘get the most’! Can’t fault them. It’s in our genes – our DNA. We are sinners.

We like the easy way. We want to get more than to give.  We think we possess wealth; but in truth, it owns us! It is very hard to get this message across. Jesus knew that! “If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.”

Father Perry D. Leiker is pastor of St. Bernard Church. Reach him at (323) 255-6142, Ext. 112; email perry.leiker@gmail.com. Follow Father Perry on Twitter: @MrDeano76.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Looking Ahead

Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor
By Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor 

Quote of the Week: “You will find something more in woods than in books. Trees and stones will teach you that which you can never learn from masters.” — St. Bernard of Clairvaux.

After centuries of enduring the sin and scourge of slavery, we can finally ask the question: “Can anyone be master over us?”

And the true and legitimate answer is resoundingly, yes.

But there is and can only be one master; and that is, of course, the true master — Jesus the Christ.

He does not lord it over us, even though we refer to him as Lord. No, this master gives life, heals life, blesses life, enhances life, sustains life, and renews life.

This master is life. In his own words he reveals: “I am the way, the truth, and the LIFE.”

There are some people in life who do horrible things, say horrible things and, when they are called on it, they double down.

Jesus also doubles down — but with love, blessings, grace, and peace. If we respond only a little, that is all it takes — then he doubles down on our efforts.

Father Perry D. Leiker is pastor of St. Bernard Church. Reach him at (323) 255-6142, Ext. 112; email perry.leiker@gmail.com. Follow Father Perry on Twitter: @MrDeano76.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Looking Ahead

Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor
By Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor 

Quote of the Week: “Spiritual life is like living water that springs up from the very depths of our own spiritual experience. In spiritual life, everyone has to drink from his or her own well.” — St. Bernard of Clairvaux.

“There’s nothing wrong with me! I’m not the one at fault! I didn’t do anything wrong. Why are you picking on me?”

These could have been some of the phrases Jesus used in response to the Pharisees and scribes who, once again, were criticizing Jesus because “he ate with sinners.”

Note: He didn’t just tolerate them or accidentally bump into them and treat them civilly. No, he ate with them. He sought them out. He spent quality time with them.

On this particular occasion, when he was criticized again for this behavior, three wonderful parables come out of his heart and mouth about “the lost.”

Jesus didn’t defend himself. Jesus defended, lifted up, and rejoiced in the lost ones with never a mention of self. In the parable of the lost sheep and lost coin, he focused on the attitude of the one searching for the lost.

They set out aggressively searching and best of all, when they found what was lost, they rejoiced and called their neighbors in to rejoice with them. This was something that had to be shared because in the finding there was great joy.

But something more is happening in the parable of the prodigal son. One son was lost, realized it, then came back repentant and in need of forgiveness. The father rejoiced.

The son seeking forgiveness found unconditional and profound love. The other son, however, was lost and never even realized it. He was lost in anger, self-righteousness, rejection, jealousy. Blinded by all of this, he lost even his respectful love of his father.

But this father, true to character, also loved this lost son without condition. He didn’t condemn. He didn’t chastise. He didn’t compare. He simply sought out his son’s inner spirit of love and tried to lead him to a place of acceptance, forgiveness, and joy for the finding of one who was lost.

He gently led one lost son to wholeness and peace by teaching him how to accept another lost son. This father was clearly an image of God our Father, who always loves without condition.

How do we treat members of our own families whom we consider lost (they don’t go to church, they haven’t been to confession, they are “living in sin”)?

The lessons today are multiple — there are lots of ways to be lost, there are lots of ways to seek out the lost.

There are lots of ways to be found. There are lots of ways to be loved.

There is a lot of life offered through the ways of Jesus, through the ways of the Gospel.

Father Perry D. Leiker is pastor of St. Bernard Church. Reach him at (323) 255-6142, Ext. 112; email perry.leiker@gmail.com. Follow Father Perry on Twitter: @MrDeano76.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Celebration of the Canonization of Mother Teresa

Pope Francis declared Blessed Teresa of Kolkata a saint at the Vatican on Sunday, Sept. 4, 2016.

That same day, Archbishop José H. Gomez, archbishop of Los Angeles, celebrated a special Mass honoring the canonization at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. Faithful and clergy share their thoughts on the canonization of Mother Teresa.


Faithful and clergy share their thoughts on the canonization of Mother Teresa






Archbishop José H. Gomez delivers his homily




"A beautiful day of celebration for the universal church, and for all of us, especially here in the archdiocese," Archbishop José H. Gomez, archbishop of Los Angeles, aid in his homily. "In Mother Teresa, we have a model of holiness ... someone who is a saint of her time and place. The work of Sister Teresa's Missionaries of Charity continues here among the poorest of the poor. The seeds of love and mercy that our new saint planted continue to grow in our hearts, in our homes, in our ministries."


Produced by Michael J. Arvizu/St. Bernard Church

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

First day of school at St. Bernard Catholic School, 2016



St. Bernard Catholic School marked its first day of classes on Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2016. Principal Philip McCreary led morning prayer and introduced new and present staff members. Parents also speak about what they hope their kids will learn and accomplish this year.



First day of school: New staff

St. Bernard Catholic School Principal Philip McCreary introduces his staff for the 2016-17 school year, which includes some new teachers!





First day of School: Letting go

Sometimes, it's hard to let go





First day of school: Philip McCreary, principal

St. Bernard Catholic School Principal Philip McCreary talks about the school's goals and expectations for the 2016-2017 year, which began on Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2016.





First day of school: Parents

St. Bernard Catholic School parents share their thoughts on the first day of school and what they hope their kids will learn and accomplish this year.




Produced by Michael J. Arvizu/St. Bernard Church

Monday, September 5, 2016

Celebration of our patron saint and the 92nd anniversary of St. Bernard Church

In August, with great joy, we celebrated the feast day of our patron saint and the 92nd anniversary of St. Bernard Church. 


Parishioners and clergy shared stories of their time at St. Bernard, who've they've met, what they learned, what they miss most, and their hopes for the future of our parish.


Celebration of our Italian community

Mass to honor the St. Bernard Church Italian community



"In these 92 years, St. Bernard's has faced many situations and challenges," Bishop Joseph Sartoris tells us in his homily for a special Mass celebrating the Italian founders of St. Bernard Church. "They faced the Great Depression. They faced floods, earthquakes, changes in demographics of people coming and going. And yet through all of that, they remained faithful to the spirit of those founders, faithful to the God they love, faithful to the lady they honored."



Stories



St. Bernard parishioners share stories of their time at the church, gatherings, parties, and what they remember most about growing up or serving in the parish.





Bishop Joseph Sartoris, former San Pedro Region auxiliary bishop, sits down with us and talks about his time as an associate priest at St. Bernard from 1966 to 1970. He speaks about Vatican II, the first Mass celebrated in the new church, and he recalls fond memories of his time ministering to the parish's families and youth.



Celebration of our Latino community

Mass to honor the St. Bernard Church Latino community





Celebration of our patron saint — St. Bernard of Clairvaux

Mass to honor our patron saint — St. Bernard of Clairvaux





Choice, culture, proximity sometimes thicker than blood


By Christina Blake 

When I was asked to speak about the Italian community of St. Bernard Church, the hardest part was where to start.
How do you sum your life experiences in what was once a vibrant and active church community? I could tell you about the dinner dances. I could tell you about the carnivals. I could tell you about the picnics or the St. Joseph's Table. But I think I will tell you about some of the people and events of which I have lasting memories. I was fortunate to grow up in the Italian community. I got to experience firsthand what it was like when the Italian community were vibrant members of this church community. I was one of the youngest members of the Italian Catholic Federation Branch 56 at St. Bernard. The ICF at St. Bernard was established in 1937 when our nation was still suffering the effects of the Great Depression. Growing up in this community I had many grandparents, numerous aunts and uncles, and I was the baby sister in many families, not just my biological one. Everyone knew everyone else; adults were expected to discipline any child that was misbehaving, not just their own. Everyone was family. We were related by choice, by culture, and by proximity which, at times, was a much stronger bond than blood. Being a part of the Italian community meant growing up in traditions that emigrated from Italy along with the people. I am the third generation in my family to complete my sacraments in this parish. My grandparents were married in the church in 1932 in what is now the parish hall. My mother completed her sacraments of initiation in this church, attended St. Bernard Catholic School, and married in this church. My brother and I completed our sacraments of initiation here, and I was married here. My children were baptized in this church. St. Bernard is my second home.
“We were related by choice, by culture, and by proximity which, at times, was a much stronger bond than blood. Being a part of the Italian community meant growing up in traditions that emigrated from Italy along with the people.”
Now I would like to take you all on a trip with me into the past. Jenny Lombardo, Pete and Anna Bonino, Jim and Clara Arcaro, Rose Caputo, Florence and John Scandurra, Celia Caizia, Tony and Del Ellena, Angie Penino, Gino Del Ponte, Joe Palesano. Do you remember those names? If you know any of those names, you were probably active in the Italian community from the 1950s to the 1990s. How about Monsignor [Patrick] McNulty's old “Boys Club”? Fred Merlo, Gino DelPonte, Art Looke, John Doble, and Victor Revito? If you drove by the church on Saturday morning, you probably would have noticed the work trucks. Like clockwork, they would be at St. Bernard bright and early to fix whatever was broken. I remember driving by and seeing Gino, Art, Victor, and dad's trucks, along with John's van, all squeezed together and filled with tools. I don't think there was a pew, kneeler, board, window, brick, or piece of tile that wasn't fixed by one of those men. I remember many times when a sermon would run a bit long — not that sermons ever run long, Bishop Sartoris! My dad would start looking around the church. After Mass, the men would huddle to compare notes. This needs to be fixed or that board looks loose, and the next Saturday morning the trucks would be parked in the front of the church. They all cared deeply for this church, but I personally think the guys got together to hang out more than anything. How many of you remember the ICF dinner dances? The dinner/dances are not what I remember most. What I remember is the setup. For days, the ladies of the ICF would cook the sausage, meatballs, and sauce for the dinner. We would go to set up the hall the morning of the dinner. The first thing you noticed when you walked into the hall was the wonderful smell! It was a combination of coffee, donuts, fresh bread, sauce, meatballs, and sausage cooking. I would smile at the ladies in the kitchen bickering over weather, or if the sauce needed salt, or how many sausages would fit in the cooker. I can tell you how many cooks can fit around the stove in the hall: about six or seven, depending on the dance. While cooking, they would all say, “This is the last time; I'm too old for this.” But as sure as the sun rises in the morning, six months later, they were back cooking for another dinner — same bickering, saying this was the last time. For most of those ladies, there was never a last time. They were always ready to jump in and help the parish. Now us kids, we would “kind of” help set up until we got bored or the adults got tired of redoing our work. Then we children would run amok. We ran around behind the stage, played the piano (OK, I admit, “played” is stretching the truth — banged on the keys is a better description), slid down the railing from the volleyball court. Like clockwork, as soon as Tony Palesano would hop on the railing and start to shoot down, Monsignor McNulty would walk through the volleyball court and catch him, then got snacks from Rose and Jenny. Those dinners were about being together. Everyone was dressed up. The men in nice shirts and coats, and the women in fancy dresses. I use to sit at the table, bored, watching John and Florance Scandurra and others dance to the music of a three-piece ensemble with the ever present accordion. It's never an italian dance without an accordion. I miss those days; they were great memories of being with family, even if they weren't related to me. I only wish that I could re-create those days for my kids. Many of the ICF members also made up the Altar Society. I remember coming in with my grandma and great aunt to help clean the church. I hated it, but when I would complain, Clara Arcaro would always pull me aside and say “chickadee, your family made up this church, there isn't a window, baptismal font or candle holder that someone you love didn't buy, and it's your responsibility to take care of your home.”
“I miss those days; they were great memories of being with family, even if they weren't related to me. I only wish that I could re-create those days for my kids.”
Then I would be asked to crawl on the floor under the altar to shine the wood or climb up to clean the sacristy. I thought that was cool, because I got to stand on the priest's chair to do it. The ICF Christmas parties were a blast. Everyone would get together, and because my brother and I were the youngest, we got all the good stuff. We even got to meet Santa (or Joe Palesano, as he was known the rest of the year). Jenny Lombardo and Pete Bonino would sing Christmas songs, then the rest of us would get scolded for not singing along. Then everyone would join in singing “Jingle Bells” as Joe was coming down the attic stairs dressed as Santa. Those were the best times, especially because everyone would give us their candy (except for the menthol ones; they always kept those to themselves). Little by little, the members of my ICF family passed away, and the ICF dwindled and passed. Luckily for me, my parents' generation all remained friends. I have no ICF grandparents physically here, but I still have many aunts and uncles, and brothers and sisters. I wouldn't want it any other way. Though the Italian community dwindled here at St. Bernard, I still have the memories of some good times, great people and a lot of phenomenal spaghetti sauce recipes. Christina Blake is a St. Bernard parishioner.


Diversity has created a complex richness at St. Bernard


By Carol Dal Ponte 


St. Bernard was established as a parish by Archbishop John J. Cantwell in 1924.

In the early years, Italians were the majority. They came to this area because there were other Italians already here.

As a kid, I remember all the shops and stores located on North Broadway that were owned by Italians. There were delis, bakeries, photo studios, etc., all serving the Italian community.

Also located on North Broadway was St. Peter's Italian Catholic Church, which still serves the Italian population.

St. Bernard is not located far from this area.

Any church that had Italians, had an Italian Catholic Federation (ICF). St Bernard’s Branch 56 is one of the oldest in Los Angeles.

In the early years, it was vibrant. Traditions like processions and festivals were celebrated. The ICF provided a place to socialize, meet other Italians, eat, sing, dance, and it served as a safety net for immigrants to learn about being American.

Spaghetti dinners were frequent, and one could always hear the women in the kitchen arguing about whose method of making the sauce yielded the best product. These dinners were social experiences, but also fundraisers for something the parish needed.

There were also discussions about whether it was better to be a northern or southern Italian. Despite differences, there was always a large group of men who worked together to provide needed repairs and improvements on the church.

After finishing a project, beer flowed. It wasn’t unusual for the men to hold a steak barbecue to thank the workers.

The original church site was at the corner of Avenue 33 and Verdugo Road, which is now the location of our parish hall. Bart and I were married there. The exterior looks pretty much the same today. The parish hall was a rickety old wooden building which is now the location of the parish’s multipurpose room.

“Not all those who have contributed to our parish have come from the Italian, Mexican or Filipino cultures. Some have come from many others. All have made an impact with their ideas and visions, wonderful food, and celebrations.”

For many years, the parish was assigned two priests — a pastor and an assistant — most often Irish, who were very much a part of parish daily life. Each new priest brought new talents and vision for St. Bernard.

The parish bulletin, written by the parish secretary, Charlotte [Gipson], to let us know who got married, who was ill, who had died, and other interesting little tidbits about what was happening in the parish and to whom it was happening. It was personal, centered, and much like a small town newsletter. We all looked forward to keeping up with parish news.

After World War II, as quotas allowed, more Italians immigrated. Soldiers stationed in California often brought their families here. Many Mexicans arrived to help improve their family’s standards of living.

My own family arrived in the parish in 1947, my husband’s in 1952.

Italians loved California’s Mediterranean climate. It reminded them of home. They didn’t have to bury their fig trees every winter. There were lots of jobs.

Pater Noster High School, now Ribét Academy, housed the Theme Hosiery factory. Many workers were employed making silk and nylon stockings not available during the war.

Van de Kamp's Bakery, at the corner of Fletcher Drive and San Fernando Road, credited soldiers' time served in the armed forces as years toward retirement benefits.

Things were good.

People understood education was a way out of poverty, and the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (B.V.M.) at St. Bernard provided a good education.

“Relationships have been formed. They have become friends and godparents to our children. This diversity has created a complex richness that we hope will continue to grow. After all, together, we’re all just Catholic people who are part of St. Bernard Parish.”

Tuition was $2 month, and many parish children were enrolled in the school, including me and my husband. People knew each other — both parents and children — and many lasting relationship have endured.

Except for a couple of years in the early part of our marriage, we have lived in this parish. Our seven children all went to St. Bernard School.

The parish is home for us.

Italians might have begun building the early parish. Soon the Mexicans were the next majority and contributed lots of hard work and their own vision.

Now, Filipinos are probably the majority and contributing much. My daughter’s Filipino godfather was the architect for our current church.

Not all those who have contributed to our parish have come from the Italian, Mexican or Filipino cultures. Some have come from many others. All have made an impact with their ideas and visions, wonderful food, and celebrations.

Relationships have been formed. They have become friends and godparents to our children. This diversity has created a complex richness that we hope will continue to grow. After all, together, we’re all just Catholic people who are part of St. Bernard Parish.

Carol Dal Ponte is a longtime parishioner of St. Bernard Church.


Produced by Michael J. Arvizu/St. Bernard Church

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Looking Ahead

Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor
By Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor 

Quote of the Week: “The three most important virtues are humility, humility, and humility.” — St. Bernard of Clairvaux.

Transformation!

As Jesus talks about commitment to discipleship today, it may sound like he has lost it. It is one thing to ask us to renounce our possessions. People have given up all kinds of pleasures for different reasons: sacrificing for their children, saving up for years to get something they really want, giving away much of what they own because they see that others have a greater and more basic need.

But Jesus says more. “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sister, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.”

We know that Jesus is saying both more and less here, because this teaching fits into a whole Gospel and cannot be read accurately without being isolated from the rest.

Nowhere would Jesus ever advocate hating one's parents. Nowhere would Jesus suggest hating oneself. Jesus, like many others in the scriptures, and like any teacher or parent, used a communication device called a hyperbole — defined as a gross exaggeration to make a point.

But at the same time, he was absolutely serious about putting himself and the Gospel first — over everyone and everything.

The truth is that they are not necessarily opposed to each other. What Jesus brings before our eyes and our consideration is: do we wish to live or to really live?

Living and really living are very different things. For example, to say that, “I forgive someone, but I never want to talk to them again” is different from saying, “I forgive them and want the best for them, and will consider a new relationship, probably with different boundaries than before.”

There is a difference between forgiving and really forgiving. In other words, once again, Jesus is after transformation; he wants every relationship with every person and thing in our lives to be different. He wants us to reconsider and rename our relationship with family, friends, enemies, money, job, free time, service, compassion, and prayer.

If Jesus and the Gospel are first, it doesn’t mean we won’t have family and friends in our life. It doesn’t even mean we will spend less time with them. In fact, if Jesus and the Gospel come first, it might mean, in some cases, that I need to spend more time with family or friends.

It will ask us to look carefully at how we use our possessions, spend, buy, and live with everything.

The Gospel of Jesus is about placing a value on persons and things — always in the context of love. The very reason we sometimes give up something is for love – of other, of self, or of the thing itself — to preserve or share it generously with others.

Each of us will, no doubt, decide each of these things in light of our discipleship with Jesus, in light of where we are with the Gospel.

And each will discover personal growth at their own rate, in their own time, and say yes to transformation one step at a time.

Father Perry D. Leiker is pastor of St. Bernard Church. Reach him at (323) 255-6142, Ext. 112; email perry.leiker@gmail.com. Follow Father Perry on Twitter: @MrDeano76.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Christianity meant to 'bring people together with Christ'

By  Jessica

I think that the denominations are a little, well ... I'm not sure what the word would be here.

I believe the point of Christianity is to bring people together in the journey of following Jesus Christ.

We all have different views on certain aspects of our faith. I doubt there are two people in any church who believe exactly the same things.

The Bible is interpreted and applied to each individual differently, based on their life experiences.

So why separate ourselves into all these different denominations when we could just work together?

What matters most is your love for God and your willingness to follow him.

Jessica is a nondenominational Christian from Rochester, New York. She decided not give her full name for this column.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Looking Ahead

Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor
By Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor 

Quote of the Week:  “It is no great thing to be humble when you are brought low; but to be humble when you are praised is a great and rare attainment.” — St. Bernard of Clairvaux.

Transformation!

As Jesus continues to speak about “entrance into the kingdom” or “being saved,” he does so by simply observing those around him.

At a dinner to which he was invited, he observes the way people are seeking the “high places” or the seats of honor. He gives some rather practical advice: Far better to sit at the “lowest” place, and then be invited by the host to come to a “higher” place, than to choose the highest and be relegated to the lowest because someone more important has arrived.

That will truly embarrass you. It is a case of the self-exalted being humbled. He also goes after his host by noting how many people (just like in this dinner) are invited to boost the social status of the host.

Many dinners are hosted primarily so that others will check out the guestlist to see who of great importance has attended. In this way, the host has been rewarded not for his generosity, but because of his self-seeking pride.

Jesus recommends: “Invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you.”

Transformation! Once again, Jesus is inviting us to something more.

Have you ever experienced a truly proud and arrogant person standing beside a truly humble person? The contrast is stunning.

The proud person is so completely self-absorbed, he has very little reserve to love.

The humble individual, on the other hand, delights and discovers the beauty in others, attracts true love and endearment from others, and becomes exalted by all — including God.

Is there really any choice? Would anyone really choose the proud and self-exalted road for themselves? Why? Why do people do it? Is it fear? Is it laziness? Is it grabbing on to an illusion? Is it the quick, fast food mentality that says: “I want and need a payback NOW! Right NOW!”

So, Jesus again goes to the deeper spiritual truth, the road less traveled, the insight far more beautiful but needing trust, to teach.

Transformation — how blessed are the eyes that see it, the ears that hear it, the mouths that speak it, and the hearts that trust it.

Father Perry D. Leiker is pastor of St. Bernard Church. Reach him at (323) 255-6142, Ext. 112; email perry.leiker@gmail.com. Follow Father Perry on Twitter: @MrDeano76.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Looking Ahead

Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor
By Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor 

Quote of the Week: “Ingratitude is the soul’s enemy. Ingratitude is a burning wind that dries up the source of love, the dew of mercy, the streams of grace” — St. Bernard of Clairvaux.

Transformation!

Did you ever know anyone who wanted and needed to lose 30 pounds and was absolutely committed to doing it? The only catch is they didn’t want to exercise, cut back on food intake, watch the amount of calories or sugar, or consider larger meals in the earlier portion of the day. They wanted results but were not willing to put any effort whatsoever into changes that usually bring about those results.

They had a goal but refused to consider any means of reaching it. If a person wants to achieve something, isn’t it a requirement that they do what is necessary to bring about the desired results?

To develop bulging muscles, what does it require? Exercise.

To acquire knowledge, what must one do? Study. To become a dancer, musician, writer or other artist, what must one do? Practice.

To become more than an acquaintance but rather a great friend what must one do? Spend quality time and communicate.

There are no shortcuts. There is no easier way. There are no fixes. Knowing the right person won’t get us there. In the end, the proof will be there for all to see. Either there is an authentic and total transformation into that artist, athlete, or friend, or the illusion of greatness will fade quickly in time when observed by those who recognize quality and truth.

Jesus, essentially, is saying the same in today’s Gospel. “Strive to enter through the narrow gate. Many will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough”; “Many will stand outside knocking, asking the Master to enter. They will say: ‘We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.’ And he will say: “I do not know where you are from. Depart from me.”

Jesus is not talking about joining a club. Jesus is not inviting us to do routine exercises that we can check off as “completed.” Jesus is certainly not asking to “go through the motions.”

Jesus is talking about a spiritual journey in which there is dying and rising, radical change, letting go, becoming, seeking and finding, and selling all that we have to buy the one thing that makes all the difference and embracing last only to discover we have become first.

Jesus is talking not about doing but about becoming. It is not what we will do but what God will do in us when we open to complete and total transformation.

In effect, we will not forgive, or forgive more times or more often; rather, we will become forgivers.

We will not love a little or even a lot more; rather, we will become authentic lovers — even of our enemies.

The door is narrow. The entrance is hard to enter.

Father Perry D. Leiker is pastor of St. Bernard Church. Reach him at (323) 255-6142, Ext. 112; email perry.leiker@gmail.com. Follow Father Perry on Twitter: @MrDeano76.