Sunday, February 19, 2017

Looking Ahead

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

Quote of the Week: “I’d rather be a failure at something I love than a success at something I hate.” — George Burns

“There’s nothing new in this world” is a phrase often used to describe how the new is really old or, at best, it is the old dressed in new clothes.

One could argue, since we are in a technology age that people 100 years ago could never have imagined.

But in today’s scriptures, we hear words over 1,000 years old that are not new – far from it. They echoed in the ears, minds and hearts of every Jew and became part of what Jesus would describe as the most important commandment: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

But more than just an echo in his mind, this section from Leviticus is foundational and core to everything that Jesus preaches and teaches in Matthew’s Gospel.

Jesus, first of all, gives the reason for loving. It isn’t about getting praise or winning points or even doing things right. There is a reason and meaning that is so profound and fundamental that it goes to our very identity: “Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy.”

God, who is love and who loves all, always, in all ways, calls us to love in the same way; therefore, Jesus captures within his teaching that purity and totality of love which go far beyond what you have heard or what has been taught to you before.

Jesus repeats again and again: “You have heard that it was said ... but I say to you!” In each of these sayings, Jesus asks his disciples, and “all who have ears to hear,” to go way beyond the “righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees” and live the fulfillment of this love: “Offer no resistance to one who is evil; turn the other cheek; hand over your cloak as well; go for two miles; do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.”

The best he saves for last: “Love your enemies; pray for those who persecute you.”

His reason is simple — that is what God does: “He makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.” After all, even sinners love those who love them.

But Jesus asks more: “Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect,” or quoting Leviticus: “Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy.”

There is another reason, perhaps a selfish one or at least self-serving, that is discovered when ones lives Jesus’ teaching. To “love like God loves” brings a peace, joy, contentment, harmony and holiness that is incomparable. It is as some would say: “living in God and God living in us”!

It might behoove us, the disciples of Jesus, to pay extra attention and trust when the master says those words: “But what I say to you is ...”.

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, February 12, 2017

Looking Ahead

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

Quote of the Week: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” — Martin Luther King Jr.

When the scriptures utter things like: “Be holy, like your heavenly Father is holy,” what is it that they are saying?

A clear understanding emerges from the Gospel today.

The Sadducees and Pharisees fulfilled many roles and purposes in Jewish society: political, social, religious. Like anybody, they would at times lean left or right, or even be quite corrupt.

They often quarreled with Jesus, and he frequently disagreed publicly and strongly.

Today is such an example.

Whereas the Pharisees would pronounce the law and claimed to live it to the letter, in fact, Jesus accused them of side-stepping the law by their clever juridical understandings and explanations. They loved places of honor and respect and claimed to adhere strictly to the law.

The scriptures are cluttered with their accusations against Jesus for his blatant breaking of laws and commandments of the Lord, such as, healing on the sabbath.

Today, Jesus draws the line in the sand. He tells them clearly: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law of the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.”

The Pharisees could recite the law; they knew it very well. It was their interpretation and especially their use of it to condemn others that particularly irked Jesus.

First, Jesus gave the complement: “whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven” — which the Pharisees clearly believe applied to them.

Then he dropped the bomb. Perhaps in his most straightforward condemnation of the Pharisees in all of the Scriptures, he spoke: “I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Then he proceeded to unveil what he had described as the fulfillment of the law: “You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

The language is strong. He even speaks about “tearing out your eye” and “cutting off your right hand” should these be an occasion to sin. In Jesus’ concept of the fulfillment of the law, it went way beyond and far deeper than the extreme limit of the commandment: “You shall not kill.”

The fulfillment of the law calls us to love, reconcile, heal, and peacefully coexist with our neighbor.

Jesus sees the law as calling us to be holy as God is holy. To approach the holiness of God in the giving of gifts and sacrifices, Jesus even suggested leaving the gift at the altar if you recalled a division between yourself and your brother.

First, go reconcile. Then, come back and offer your gift: “I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.”

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, February 5, 2017

Looking Ahead

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

Quote of the Week: “Give light, and the darkness will disappear of itself.” — Desiderius Erasmus.

Ask a person with high blood pressure who has recently been told by their doctor: “Remove the salt from you diet.”

Some simply use a substitute. Some say they don’t miss it. Some say: “Without it my food has no taste.”

Jesus said: “You are the salt of the earth.”

A woman, as a result of a serious accident, was blind for four months. After the final surgery and accompanying recuperation, the bandages were removed and she was able to see. She was later quoted as saying: “It’s the light — the light; the most beautiful thing I have ever seen!”

Jesus said: “You are the light of the world.”

Isaiah calls it the “light.” He could equally refer to it as “salt.” In this respect, his writings could almost be called another Gospel, for he certainly speaks the heart of Jesus’ message, at least as it refers to love and care for the vulnerable and the poor.

Speaking for God, Isaiah calls us to: “Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless; clothe the naked when you see them, and do not turn your back on your own.” “Then,” he says “your light shall break forth like the dawn.”

Becoming salt and light is a dual thing. We do it because it seasons and brightens the lives of others, but we also do it because in the becoming of light and salt, our own lives are changed and we discover the power and grace of God in our own lives and actions.

Albert Schweitzer, the 1952 Nobel Peace Prize winner and theologian, organist, philosopher, physician and medical missionary once said: “Do something for somebody everyday for which you do not get paid.” This is one quote out of literally hundreds he wrote in his famous book “Reverence for Life.”

Schweitzer got it. He realized that the Gospel is absolutely true. Living and doing it is not so that we can do good; living and it is so we can be and find good.

We are changed. We discover. We become salt and light.

“One thing I know: The only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve,” Schweitzer wrote. Serving, giving, sharing and forgiving — these are the things of gospel living. Schweitzer saw it so clearly.

Jesus IS truly concerned with our happiness. Jesus knows it gets awfully lonely being stuck. Real happiness happens when we go out of ourselves for others. Money can’t buy it.

Power can make it happen but often doesn’t. Prestige and position could multiply it and does for the few. But real happiness can be found in being salt and light.

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, January 29, 2017

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.

Food gives life. Without it, we die. Who appreciates and is more grateful for food: the rich man or the poor man?

Water gives life. Without it, we die. Who appreciates and is more grateful for water: the rich woman or the poor woman?

One might say both are equally so, given the right circumstances. But on a daily basis, under the ordinary daily circumstances of wealth and poverty, who would appreciate more a piece of dry bread and one slice of bologna: the rich person or the poor one?

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

After eating three times what you usually eat at a fine Thanksgiving Day feast, could you also consume a 28-ounce piece of the finest cut of steak prepared perfectly to your specifications? Or would you finally admit: “I am full. No more! One more bite and I will burst!”

What do we fill ourselves with? What constitutes our riches? What would be considered, in Gospel terms, our treasure?

In what do we place our hope? What usually is the source of power on which we depend? Where do we go when in need?

Is the answer to any of these different for the rich and the poor?

The Gospel and the rich treasure of wisdom that flows from all of God’s word says quite so. The rich tend to put their trust in money and power, for it usually works for them. They can buy friends (at least superficial ones), service (usually quicker and the best available), and the best quality goods.

Money often puts one first in line. Money, power, prestige and fame often give a person the edge over others. How easy it is to begin to believe that I am in control when my money, power, prestige and fame are getting me what I want.

Have you ever heard the statement: “You’re so full of yourself!”? Is this different for the rich and the poor?

The word of God seems to believe so. The poor run on empty most of the time. The poor are almost always in need. The poor have little quality control over their lives. The poor have few resources to depend on, and those are usually not very dependable.

So what is left? God! That’s it! That’s who! There is nothing else.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

There is hope for the rich, however. The beatitude speaks so clearly: “Blessed are the poor in spirit” — even the rich can attain this. But it is difficult.

Life presents many illusions. We love magic; we love illusions, and humans are easily fooled. Money is among the most tantalizing of illusions and can be quite cold and empty.

How rich are those who know that. Usually, the rich are the ones who have the least amount of difficulty giving it away. But then, these are only words of wisdom.

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, January 22, 2017

Looking Ahead

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

Quote of the Week: “Love seeks no cause beyond itself and no fruit; it is its own fruit, its own enjoyment. I love because I love; I love in order that I may love.” — St. Bernard of Clairvaux.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus moves from one local to another: “He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali.”

As the Gospel continues, we understand this not to be a real estate move but a sensitive and prophetic fulfillment – God’s plan being realized.

Jesus moved to the land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles. Jesus was the one who had been called to fulfill what the prophet Isaiah had said: “the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen.”

This “light” was meant to reach all as Jesus began his public ministry. His message was simple: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

To all who would hear this, the light would begin to enter; the connection with God, deep within the spirit, would begin to be realized. It is in this context that he calls his disciples. They immediately left their nets, their work, and their families and followed.

A people sat in darkness for years. Years of occupation, seizure of their crops, robbing them of wealth, taking their children into battles, leaving them out of all decisions about their lives and futures — this was the reality for the people of Zebulun and Naphtali.

Darkness!

But God would not leave them abandoned. He would not allow the darkness to be permanent. God sent Jesus the light; things began to happen. “He went around all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness among the people.”

This was to be the pattern of his whole continuous ministry. He stayed nowhere. He went everywhere. His life was not about being comfortable. He came, as has been said, to “comfort the afflicted” and to “afflict the comfortable.”

He came to bring light to shine in the darkness and to give new life. He taught in the synagogues; he proclaimed the good news. He healed the sick and made them whole.

His ministry still lives on. His light today is the same. The kingdom of God is at hand. His teaching continues to guide our lives to justice and love.

His healing power still makes us whole. We find ultimate wholeness not in the condition of our bodies, but our souls.

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, January 15, 2017

Looking Ahead

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

Quote of the Week: “What we love we shall grow to resemble.” — St. Bernard of Clairvaux.

The power of God abounds in the readings of today.

First, Isaiah speaks of the servant through whom the glory of God is shown. God forms his servant from the womb; God’s strength is revealed through him. Through him, the relationship of Israel and Jacob is restored with God. You will be a light to the nations.

Then Paul speaks of being called to be apostle, called to holiness, and one who now calls upon the name of the Lord.

The Gospel highlights John the Baptist, who recognizes and proclaims that: “Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”

Jesus is the one who pre-existed. Jesus is the one to be proclaimed to Israel. Jesus is the one on who the Spirit rests. Jesus is the Son of God.

Through these scriptures, God’s power bursts forth as he calls, sanctifies, sends, strengthens, forms, and gives light and redeems.

Who are the recipients of this power of God? They are Jesus, Isaiah, Paul, and you and I — indeed, all of the baptized.

As we come back to Ordinary Time in the church year, we are called to see that the extraordinary power of God becomes ordinary every day in our lives. God wishes to love and empower us and to bring his love into the world through us.

We are true apostles, servants, and sons and daughters of God. God does not hold back. He gives to us the greatest dignity in our call and baptismal faith. His will is that peace, justice and love will reign in his kingdom; he invites us to be the instruments to bring it about.

Our greatest and simplest response might be the refrain of the responsorial psalm today: “Here am I, Lord, I come to do your will.”

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, January 8, 2017

Looking Ahead

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

Quote of the Week: “There are people who go clad in tunics and have nothing to do with furs who, nevertheless, are lacking in humility. Surely, humility in furs is better than pride in tunics.” — St. Bernard of Clairvaux.

Epiphany comes from the Greek word epiphaneia (ἐπιφάνεια), which signifies a manifestation or appearance of a god, or of divine intervention or the appearance of kings.

The magi went out to find out about this new god or king and began a difficult journey.

This Gospel manifestation recalls the appearance of Jesus the Christ; it also highlights a comparison between the characters of the magi and Herod.

The magi were pilgrims — seekers. They were searching our a truth they had discovered in the stars. They went on this pilgrimage, and when they entered the home of the Holy Family, found their gift and reward, their souls’ longing.

They offered their gifts quietly, slipped away, went home by a new route, and through it all, discovered a new way within their hearts and souls. These events brought them new life and new understandings.

Herod, on the other hand, was a man of power. Through his power and his armies and his money and his political position, he had established a home (his kingdom) and did everything to protect and preserve it.

He didn't want to share it; he didn't want it usurped. He didn't want to risk losing any of it and, therefore, his only option was to stamp out, eradicate, get rid of, and destroy the child Jesus.

There could be no other king, no other threat to his life.

What a difference between the two: seekers of truth; a liar promising to go and do him homage, but really intending to kill him. Offering gifts of homage and recognition; using any means to protect my kingdom and my wealth and my power.

The Gospel presents a manifestation, and in the light of its truth, reveals the hearts of very different kinds of people: the magi and Herod.

What does the star, the light, reveal to us? Do we discover any new truths about us, about God, about others? Do we bring our gifts, and in the giving, discover that we have been far more gifted?

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, January 1, 2017

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.

Four celebrations are wrapped into one today.

Formerly, today’s feast was called “The Octave of Christmas.” It was also known as the Feast of the Circumcision, since on the eighth day after Jesus’ birth he was circumcised according to Jewish custom and law.

Since 1967, this has been designated the World Day for Peace. What day could be better than the first day of the new year to pray and yearn for peace throughout the world, just after celebrating the birth of the Prince of Peace?

But, finally, the church focuses most keenly on Mary, with this being one of the most important of her feast days, since it so clearly gives her the title that was bestowed upon her by God.

Mary was called by God to be the mother of God by her invitation to birth the Christ.

Every time we pray the Hail Mary, we say the words: “Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death.”

We esteem and honor Mary for the singular privilege given to her by the call to bring God in the person of Jesus into the world in the Feast of Incarnation — Christmas.

This feast is the reason she has such a place of honor in our lives as Christians. Honored so divinely by God, she is super humanly honored by us.

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, December 25, 2016

Looking Ahead

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

Quote of the Week: “Even the holy men who lived before the coming of Christ understood that God had in mind plans of peace for the human race.” — St. Bernard of Clairvaux.

There are four distinct sets of readings for the Solemnity of Christmas: Vigil Mass, Mass at Night, Mass at Dawn and Mass at Day.

Although the readings are very different, there is something they all have in common. Clearly, God entered into our world and our lives, and things, as they say, would never be the same.

Promises and expectations of peace and healing, forgiveness, hope and grace in great measure came into our world. What happened in that manger was a bursting into our world and consciousness of the presence of God into our humanity.

To be sure, it is beyond anything we could fully understand, a mystery in the truest sense of the word. It is no surprise that we have four sets of readings, as if one would do.

We look at this moment in time promised by God as the greatest mystery, full of grace, that broke death and sin, bringing life and grace.

Emmanuel! God with us!

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.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

St. Bernard Catholic School 2016 Christmas Concert

St. Bernard Catholic School students present their 2016 Christmas Concert!

St. Bernard Catholic School students performed their annual Christmas concert on Thursday, Dec. 15, 2016.

Students in grades one to eight performed such classics as "Jingle Bell Rock," "Silent Night," "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing," and "Mi Burrito Sabanero," among others, under the direction of Jerry Islas, director of music and choir.

The show also featured a performance of the school's after school program. Sound Art, under the direction of Lincoln Mendell.