Sunday, January 31, 2016

Looking Ahead

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

Quote of the Week: “Sitting still, doing nothing. Spring comes and the grass grows by itself” — Zen Wisdom.

The normal way that God speaks to anyone is in the silence of their heart. That is where we hear most clearly. That is the place where we recognize the harmony of any message of God with ALL of his word with which we are and must be very familiar.

That is where we realize that God does not speak contrary to his word. He is not “yes” here and “no” there. No one knew this better than the prophets — except for Jesus.

Jeremiah hears God’s intimate calling: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you.”

Jesus speaks out of a complete connection with God as he proclaims the words of Isaiah the prophet: “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Now the word spoken is heard, and the response begins. Luke tells us: “All spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.”

But they also asked: “Isn’t this the son of Joseph?”

The account almost sounds like cocktail chatter: approval and curiosity all wrapped up in one conversation. But the real challenge came as always with the prophetic word.

Jesus himself acknowledged that no prophet is accepted in his own native place.

But especially when the words became challenging, direct and intrusive, the true colors showed as the people rejected Jesus outright: “When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury. They rose up, drove him out of the town ...”

There, they intended to “finish him off” and be rid of this crazy and offensive prophet!

Does this Gospel mirror our own struggle to listen to and truly hear the word of God?

We are not always going to like what we hear in God’s word. God’s word always takes us beyond where we are or where we want to go.

His word questions our status quo and asks us to give up our own wills and embrace God’s. God’s word often is found in our lives precisely where we don’t want to find it. It is no wonder they drove him out of town.

The question is whether or not we will do the same; or will we listen, hear, open, love, then believe his word in our lives?

Father Perry D. Leiker is pastor of St. Bernard Church. Reach him at (323) 255-6142, Ext. 112.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Looking Ahead

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

Quote of the Week: “The courage to die for their beliefs is given only to those who have the courage to live for them” — Sheila Cassidy.

When the people heard the law of God, they wept.

Ezra told them instead: “Do not be sad. Do not weep. Go, eat rich foods and drink sweet drinks, and allot portions to those who had nothing prepared; for today is holy to our Lord. Do not be saddened this day, for rejoicing in the lord must be your strength!”

Our relationship with God means that we always care for the common good. This is the beauty of our faith. Loving God means loving our neighbor, and when we love our neighbor, we have already loved God.

The simplest way to look at sin is to ask who has been hurt by it, because sin always hurts and/or destroys someone or something.

To begin to live an order of life (lawful) that respects self and others is to live in a way that will always give honor and glory to our God. But we cannot underestimate the power of sin within us.

No need to blame Satan out there or someone else. Each of us must look to ourselves and within ourselves to the attitudes and desires that twist us and contort our thinking.

Sin in its many forms obscures our ability to see our neighbor’s needs or the common good. So quickly we can become selfish, turned inward, desiring only our comfort, seeking only our pleasure, going only after our wants.

Order (law) calls us back to the bigger reality — the common good. In politics today, isn’t one of the most nagging and irritating concerns that of the special interests? These special needs are presented to our law makers by lobbyists who represent often the most wealthy and powerful of interests. Many times we don’t even know who they are. But they spend millions and millions of dollars to influence or even buy the vote of our legislators who, after all, do want to be re-elected; and elections cost lots and lots of money.

But are special interests good for our country, good for our citizens, good for the “common good”? Hardly. Thus, we can see plainly the need for order (law), and we, too, ought to rejoice in it.

With law there are always consequences. Is this what caused the people to be sad and to weep? Did they fear the consequences? Did they fear the punishments that accompanied the law? If people accept law and order, there are always consequences.

In fact, nothing in this life happens without consequences — “cause and effect.” Better than punishment is, however, true consequences. When we do wrong, we should right the wrong. When we are part of the hurting of others, we should be part of the mending, too.

When our actions offend others, we should be responsible to help bring healing. When our choices destroy, we should be responsible to rebuild and to replace.

Today in many circles we hear the phrase “restorative justice.” These two words connect well with love for the law of God.

When we see the destruction caused by sin, shouldn’t we be about restoring and healing?

This is what truly makes us and any day holy to our Lord.

Father Perry D. Leiker is pastor of St. Bernard Church. Reach him at (323) 255-6142, Ext. 112.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Looking Ahead

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

“In the beginning” are the very first words of both Genesis and John's Gospel. To those unfamiliar with the sacred scriptures, this might appear to be a curious accident or a simple coincidence.

It also might seem equally coincidental that Chapter 2 of Genesis and of John’s Gospel both a deal with marriage.

Genesis states: “That is why a man to leave his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body.”

John presents to us the first miracle of Jesus in public taking place at the marriage feast in Cana.

To a student of the scriptures, the meaning is neither accidental nor coincidental, but rather a profound description of God working in our lives through the person of Jesus, his word made flesh.

In ancient times, the wedding feast was one of the most important of celebrations. To be invited to a wedding feast and refuse to come would be one of the most insulting things a person could do.

Jesus uses parables related to wedding feasts, even including such refusals. One of the things to note about a wedding feast is that it was literally a feast. It related to creation. In the feast, all of the good of the earth, all of the fruits of creation, were laid out before the bride.

The linkage between marriage and creation was obvious. One married in order to have children, “to be fruitful and multiply.”

Marriage is about celebrating all the good things in life which God, in his love, has given to us. It is about the abundant love of God for all his creation.

The role of Jesus and Mary, too, in this passage is highly symbolic.

Jesus is the groom of the New Testament and lays down his life for his bride. Mary is the new Eve; she rights the wrongs of the story of creation and the fall. The new creation sees Mary with the serpent beneath her feet; her words instruct all Christians in their efforts to find a way to follow God anew: “Do whatever he tells you.”

What could more succinctly express the proper response of a Christian to Jesus and his words: “Do whatever he tells you.”

The changing of water into wine is a symbol of the fruitful and generative life with God and that will come through Christ the Messiah. And we note that water does not just become wine, but to everyone's taste — especially the wine steward — it becomes the best of wines.

So naturally and so subtly we discover in this passage the meaning of recognizing, hearing, taking to heart and following the Lord our Christ.

In the life of grace and faith, the words of Jesus become true for us: “Be fruitful and multiply.”

Grace upon grace, new life, the gifts of the Spirit, all of these become ours in Christ.

The key, the way, the hope of it happening — the miraculous change — so easily occurs by simply hearing and doing the words of Mary: “Do whatever he tells you.”

Father Perry D. Leiker is pastor of St. Bernard Church. Reach him at (323) 255-6142, Ext. 112.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

10:30 a.m. Santo Niño de Cebú Mass Homily on Saturday, January 16, 2016



Santo Niño de Cebú Mass
Saturday, January 16, 2016
By Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor

"Santo Niño, as child — trusting, believing in God as Father — is a tremendous and powerful and beautiful and faith-filling symbol to us," Father Perry tells us in his homily for St. Bernard's annual Santo Niño de Cebú Mass. "As Jesus said, unless you become like these little children, you can't even get into the kingdom."

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Looking Ahead

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

"The people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts."

How profound is this moment? They were so taken by John and his ways, by his preaching and challenging, they actually thought he might be the Christ.

But John sets them straight. He begins to open up the meaning of the Christ and does so by reflecting upon the difference between his baptism and the one coming from the Lord.

John's forgives sin. Jesus' baptism is a baptism with the Holy Spirit and fire that is all consuming, a radical rebirth and a moment of total commitment.

Was this too much to say? Was John exaggerating? Was his humility blurring his vision?

A moment later, the skies open up; the Holy Spirit descended over Jesus in the form of a dove. A voice from heaven declares, "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased."

This is indeed a dramatic, important and revealing scene. In this entrance of Jesus into the public forum, both John the Baptist and God from above affirm and declare the person and the ministry of Jesus which now begins.

Whatever the literal and exact content of this moment, it nonetheless contains some really interesting details.

There is great excitement and expectation on the part of the people who have come out to see John the Baptist. There is confusion about John’s identity and also the identity of Jesus. John understands and sets the record straight and it is confirmed in a sacred experience of God. As always, the scriptures speak to us on many levels and this passage is no different.

We, too, are born into the world usually accompanied by great expectation and hearts full of love. We, too, have an identity that is recognized yet is just beginning to be realized.

On the day of our own baptism there is a new and deeper identity realized and affirmed by God. The "heavens open, the Spirit descends, and a voice also proclaims" that we are a child of God, and his grace is fully upon us.

If we don’t admit all of this then the story of our baptism is — although a pretty celebration and a familial and social event — not really worth retelling.

But if the details of our baptism are true, like this event at the beginning of Jesus' ministry — we become a child of God, we are baptized by the Holy Spirit and fire — then this event is God-filled, it redefines who we really are, and being reborn truly describes what takes place. We are new! We are filled with grace! We are anointed by the Holy Spirit and sealed, loved, protected, illuminated, guided, and forgiven of sin!

Today's Gospel begins: "The people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts."

Why? Because God has made something beyond human value true in each of us that forever changes who we are, who we become and our eternal destiny.

Father Perry D. Leiker is pastor of St. Bernard Church. Reach him at (323) 255-6124, Ext. 112; or email pleiker@stbernard-church.com.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

El dia de los Reyes Magos — it is magical

Three Kings Day is Jan. 6
By Ana Rodriguez

Three Kings Day (or “El Día de los Reyes Magos”) is celebrated on January 6, or the Epiphany, which marks the day when Catholics believe The Three Wise Men delivered gifts of frankincense, myrrh and gold to the baby Jesus.

In Latino immigrant neighborhoods, some Christmas trees are still up, waiting for this last marker of the holiday season.

On La Víspera de Reyes (the Eve of Three Kings Day), children cut grass to put in a shoe box, adorn it with flowers and place it by their bed for the camels to eat. Their "wish list" is placed on top of the grass.

The Reyes only come if the child has been good all year, and if the children are awake, they bypass the house.

On this night, children sleep lightly, listening for any strange noises, whispers, or maybe the sound of the camels' hooves, or any tale-tale signs of the Kings' arrival. Sometime during the night, Los Reyes arrive and quietly leave their gifts for the children while their camels enjoy their snack.

In the morning, the boxes left by their beds are now empty of grass but filled with gifts. It is a joyful day of celebration. Later in the day, a holiday dinner is prepared and friends and relatives join in the festivities.

That is the way that it happened throughout my childhood. When I left Puerto Rico and had my own family it was extremely important for me to keep this tradition alive for my children. The madness of the holiday rush and the continuing force of assimilation did not made it easy.

According to custom, our Christmas tree went up just before Christmas and remained in place until the Solemnity of Epiphany.

Throughout my children's elementary school years I kept them out of school on "El Dia de los Reyes." In the morning, we went to Mass. During the day, we played traditional tunes and read the story of epiphany and that night we prepared a traditional Puerto Rican dinner and invited our friends.  This provided us an opportunity to share our culture and faith with others.

When my son was about 7 years old, he shared this tradition with our next door neighbor. He promptly asked his mom for permission to go with us to prepare a box for the Los Reyes. She played along and he became, as he said, "Puerto Rican for a day."

As parents and guardians of our culture, one of the responsibilities we have is to educate ourselves, our children and our communities about our culture. They need to know about Three Kings Day because it is such a big part of our culture and faith.

Ana Rodriguez is communications manager for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Migration and Refugee Services.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Looking Ahead

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

Epiphany is defined as an appearance or manifestation.

In today's Gospel, a star appeared in the heavens and led the three Magi to the place where Jesus was born and God manifested his glory in the birth of his Son.

These are the biblical facts of the story, but the energy and drama circles around the activity expressed in the word search.

The Magi were searching for the one whose existence was proclaimed by the star. Everyone had heard of the arrival of these Magi –  strangers from the east, who had come to search for this new king. Everyone feared Herod's response to this news and no one dared to personally enter into the search.

Herod was not happy. Herod did not like the thought of someone competing with him and his power. Herod also began to search so that he could find the whereabouts of his rival and search out a way to put an end to the threat.

A lot of searching is going on in today's Gospel – searching for different things, different needs, different truths, different hopes, different ends.

The Epiphany highlights a very deep truth about human beings. We need to satisfy the deep hungers and thirsts of our spirit. If not, they will consume us. When left unsatisfied – empty – people often turn to addictive behavior.

We humans search all the time for answers, meaning, direction, connections and inspiration. Today’s feast is truly our feast.

Six months ago in this parish we began a parish retreat focused entirely on the words and teaching of Jesus. Nearly 200 people have participated in this retreat in English and Spanish.

What could be the outcome of such a search? If we go on a retreat to search for more faith – for the presence of Christ in our lives, for joy, for hope, for a sense of belonging, to be freed from their pain or confusion – what might occur?

It is nearly impossible that we won’t discover, if not, many things, at least something.

Spiritual searches always come from hungers or thirsts, or from some need to have or to know something deeper. This feast begs the question for us all. It asks if each of us has gone on our most essential search for the questions that are most important to us.

Are we searchers? Do we really seek? Do we dig and look for answers that bring real meaning?

Do we trust what spiritual guides and leaders of old have given to us? Do we expect epiphanies throughout our life to brighten up and give real meaning to us?

Are we an Epiphany people?

Father Perry D. Leiker is pastor of St. Bernard Church. Reach him at (323) 255-6142, Ext. 112; or email pleiker@stbernard-church.com.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Looking Ahead

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

The Gospel passage of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph is the only one that deals with Jesus just about to begin his teenage years. It reveals a typical family with typical problems.

It appears at first that Jesus is irresponsible and not caring which results in distress, panic, fear, hurt and disappointment for his parents, Joseph and Mary.

How could their son not communicate with them? He was 12, not a little boy – how could he "get lost"? Why would he not tell either his father or mother what, where and why he wasn’t with either of them?

Mary's own words expressed their grief: "Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety."

They were not prepared for his response, and Luke's Gospel uses this to reveal where this bigger Gospel story is going to go. This wasn’t about Joseph or Mary. In a sense, it wasn't even about Jesus.


"Why were you looking for me? Did you not know at I must be in my Father’s house?"

Mary did not understand, but kept all these things in her heart. Jesus progressed in wisdom, age and favor before God and man.

This is no ordinary family. There has probably never been another mother in human history that has heard this response from her 12-year-old son after losing then finding him.

If there is a lesson in this story for any family – for every family – what might it be?

Things go wrong. People make poor decisions. Bad judgments are a part of everyone's experience in life. Worse, people are also not caring, and are hurtful, selfish and even vengeful.

All of this can happen between enemies, but it can also happen within families.

But what if we had a kind of spirituality, that is, a way within our hearts, souls and mind that permitted us to not understand – and that would be okay with us?

What if we were able to draw things deep into our hearts and there think about them, ponder upon them and reflect about them before we made decisions or judgments?

What if we really had a relationship with our Father and our Father's house that was so real that to go in there and be with him would always bring results, it would always help?

What if we had the eyes and heart to see the people around us change, grow and advance both in wisdom and age?

In other words, could it be – is it possible – that sometimes the world is as it is and never becomes more because we get stuck, because we are not as open as we could be, because we don’t listen or see?

The miracle of the Holy Family has to happen in each and every member. The miracle of the Holy Family happens when our spirit is open and willing.

Father Perry D. Leiker is pastor of St. Bernard Church. Reach him at (323) 255-6142, Ext. 112; or email pleiker@stbernard-church.com.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Looking Ahead

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

In the Gospel on this last Sunday of Advent, we are presented with two pregnant women — cousins Mary and Elizabeth.

Elizabeth, miraculously pregnant with John the Baptist converses with Mary, mysteriously pregnant with Jesus.

The first reading from Micah provides us with a prophetic utterance that Bethlehem, "too small to be among the clans of Judah," is recognized as the place from which will come "the ruler of old, whose origin is from ancient times."

The Gospel also provides a prophetic utterance from Elizabeth as she recognizes her cousin's pregnancy as much more than just a pregnancy.

Filled with the Spirit she cries out: "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. How does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?"

Two prophetic utterances — both are announcing the coming of the Lord; there is recognition of the holy, of the presence of God, of fulfillment, of God’s work being done in ways unimaginable.

This last week of Advent seeks to open our eyes to the mystery of Incarnation unfolding in time. We, as the followers of Jesus Christ, are welcomed into a reflection of the hope and dream of salvation.

The past dream remembered and proclaimed at Christmas is the dream realized and celebrated by us.

There is also trust and blessing revealed in the words of Elizabeth to Mary. Elizabeth doesn't just reflect upon her personal reaction or response to Mary – although she does that, too. Rather, Elizabeth proclaims: "Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled."

What will this Christmas bring to each of us?

We will again remember the birth of Jesus. We will reflect upon and celebrate Incarnation. We will rejoice with the angels that the messiah has been born and hear the Good news proclaimed in their song.

But what about Elizabeth's final words. Will they be spoken to us also? Will we appreciate that, in baptism, we have been blessed, called, anointed, chosen, loved, graced, saved and sent?

Will we hear words of fulfillment to us? Will we feel blessed and be grateful for it?

Hopefully, each of us will take Elizabeth's words personally and truly hear them addressed to us: "Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled."

Father Perry D. Leiker is pastor of St. Bernard Church. Reach him at (323) 255-6142, Ext. 112; or email pleiker@stbernard-church.com.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Looking Ahead

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

"Gaudete" Sunday – the third Sunday of Advent, is so called because the first word of the opening prayer of the Mass in Latin is "Gaudete" or Rejoice!

When Advent clearly had a penitential spirit including even fasting (like a little Lent), this Sunday, halfway through the season, provided a little break from it all.

Purple vestments and little or no flowers was the norm during Advent. On this Sunday it was permitted to have flowers, more song and rose-colored vestments were worn to signify that the end was in sight – the Lord is very near!

In the first reading from Zephaniah, words like "joy" and "exult" appear six times in only five verses. The tone, and the reason for it, is clear. Twice we are told: "The Lord is in your midst."

Could there be a better reason to be joyful? Then in the Gospel of Luke just before Jesus comes on the scene at the time of his baptism (his entrance into his public ministry), John the Baptist urges everyone to "prepare the way of the Lord."

When the people ask him, "What should we do?" he gives them multiple examples of what God's word is always asking of us.
Do justice! Do it! It is just that someone who has two cloaks should give one over to someone who has none. It is just that one would give food to someone who has none. To tax collectors, it is just that you DO NOT collect more taxes than what is prescribed by law. It is just that you: "do not practice extortion"; "do not falsely accuse anyone"; "be satisfied with your wages" and, I will add, "give fair wages to all" – wages upon which a person can actually make a living.

Do justice! Make justice! Live justice! Stand for justice! Do not accept injustice!

Justice in the scriptures is not equality – everyone having the same. It is, rather, everyone having enough. No one goes without. No one is abandoned. The goods of the world belong to all. They are signs of God’s goodness to us. Just people see to it that everyone has a just share.

When justice is done, the words of St. Paul in the second reading today are realized: "Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."

Father Perry D. Leiker is pastor of St. Bernard Church. Reach him at (323) 255-6142, Ext. 112, or email pleiker@stbernard-church.com.