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.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Looking Ahead

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

Quote of the Week: “A saint is not someone who never sins, but one who sins less and less frequently and gets up more and more quickly.” — St. Bernard of Clairvaux.

When a person has something tough or strong to say and knows that it may divide their listener within, they often will tag on this line: “I’m just sayin,’” as if to lessen or weaken, even just a little, the blunt or hard truth that they have just uttered.

Jesus doesn’t do that in this scripture passage. On the contrary, he doubles, or triples, up the ante.

His implied intentions become directly stated and emphasized: “I have come to set the earth on fire”; “how I wish it were already blazing”; “I have come to establish … rather, division.”

Then even more explicitly he draws out clearly the divisions he intends: father against son, son against father, mother against daughter, daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law, daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.

Does Jesus really want division? Is division just a consequence that follows when one makes decisions about opening to God’s kingdom within one’s heart and one’s choices?

Even family, friendship and love can intrude upon living the values and choices which flow from choosing a kingdom life centered on God and his word.

A kingdom choice — like deciding to forgive — can surprisingly, at times, cause division.

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 7, 2016

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.

Jesus speaks about the deepest themes of faith and trust.

Today’s Gospel is placed in the broader context of references to Moses and the Passover (an evening of complete trust and confidence in the saving power of God).

Abraham was willing to sacrifice his only son to God simply because of the promises God had made to him. This faith, trust and confidence is the stuff of which Jesus speaks in the Gospels.

Because of such trust, there is no room for fear. Jesus says that: “your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your belongings and give alms.”

This place (interior) in which Jesus invites us to welcome the kingdom of God, places us in a completely different frame of mind and heart. When we trust and when we know with all our heart and soul that the promises of God are always good, and that his love is everlasting, we live with a generosity of heart that makes us new and alive.

Here, one discovers the power of loving, serving, giving, receiving, forgiving, compassion and making peace. Here, one discovers God in all and all in God.

Here, one discovers that being ready is being open and, that in openness and readiness, the kingdom is alive and powerful.

In this sense of alert openness to God here and now, Jesus uses a very ordinary example of the only acceptable attitude for a servant of a household.

The master is away and will return at a time that no one knows. The role of the servant is to be ready, waiting, alert, and up to serving the master’s every need. Any servant should know that this is the only acceptable attitude.

But Jesus says more. He speaks about the reward given to a servant ready and alert: the master will wait on him. He speaks about the blessing of a house not being broken into because the master was ready; such a blessing belongs to the servant who is ready and alert.

He finally tells about the beating given to a servant knowledgeable of the master’s will and a servant equally ignorant of it – both of whom do NOT do his will. Both will be beaten, but the first worst than the last. But the servant who is ready and alert AND doing the will of the master will be blessed.

The context of deep faith and trust – that of Moses, the ancients, and Abraham – reveals the proper attitude of those who are capable and desirous of experiencing the kingdom of God.

Be alert! Be ready! Be a true servant! Believe in God’s constant love and faithful promises!

Know what the treasure is, where the treasure is, and how to be open to the treasure, for this is an inexhaustible treasure “that no thief can reach nor moth destroy.”

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, July 31, 2016

Looking Ahead

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

Quote of the Week: “Vanity is the quicksand of reason.” — George Sand.

Have you made out your will yet?

Have you carefully decided what each child or survivor will receive when you have gone to heaven? Have you taken care of all of the details of your inheritance?

If not, you may watch from the heavens above exactly what is described in the scriptures today. You may see your children and others fighting over material goods. You may hear from beyond the complaints and anger surrounding your family’s protestations that “they should be getting more of the inheritance.”

It happens all the time. For the parent who wants their children to stay united after they have died, it is imperative that these things be taken care of.

Why? The scripture gives a clear reason.

The word of God guides us to see the truth and reality of sin, of envy, of dependence on material things. The first reading from Ecclesiastes begins: “Vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!”

And, quite soberly, Psalm 90 reminds us that indeed we “turn back to dust. A thousand years in (God’s) sight are as yesterday, now that it is past.”

And this is true for us all.

Paul tells us to “seek what is above.” In super powerful language he warns us to focus on what is important and to see the material and merely physical (old self) through the new self (spiritual) that has been renewed, reborn, made free in Christ, “who is all and in all.”

Jesus never minces words, and so today should be no surprise when he answers the brother who is complaining against his sibling over inheritance. Jesus’ answer: “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.”

Then he tells them a parable about a man who wants more and more and more — building bigger barns to fill with more grain. He can’t get enough. Then he dies. He cannot keep any of it. This man became rich in things then dies.

“Vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!” and “You fool!” says Jesus. “This night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?”

The second reading takes on even stronger meaning in the Gospel’s context when Paul says: “Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry.”

And he tells us what really matters: “Stop lying to one another, since you have taken of the old self and put on the new self, which is being renewed, for knowledge, in the image of its creator. Here Christ is all and in all!”

In other words, grow in the spirit. Grow in the things of the heart. Grow in love and truth. Inheritances are wonderful; they are a blessing.

Money is a necessity; a little extra can make life easier and give us more choices. Receiving a gift from our parents who worked hard and sacrificed so that we could have more than they did, it’s all good, but it isn’t everything.

Never forget: “Vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!”

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, July 24, 2016

Looking Ahead

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

Quote of the Week: “If you do all the talking when you pray, how will you ever hear God's answers?" — A.W. Tozer

There are two important themes in the readings today: hospitality and prayer.

Hospitality was one of the most important things required of a good Jew and many other cultures of the Middle East.

In an arid and unforgivable climate, an act of hospitality could mean life or death for a traveler. Any time a story included any aspect of hospitality, a Jew would immediately get the point.

The story of Lot included the threat of an act of violent and humiliating inhospitality. Lot, as any Jew, would be expected to protect them at any cost (Genesis 19:8).

This place (Sodom) had turned far away from God. The prophet Ezekiel (Ezekiel 16:48) said of Sodom: “She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.”

When God decided to destroy Sodom for her many acts of arrogance and pride and inhospitality, Abraham bargained with God. This was another custom of the Jews and people of the Middle East. They did the same with God. They were very much themselves when dealing with God.

Abraham’s dealing gets down to the minimum number 10 (a minion), the number that would be required to have a Jewish burial. For this reason, Abraham bargained (prayed) intensely with God to spare the people of Sodom.

PRAY THIS WAY!

The intensity of the call to be hospitable is accentuated in Luke: A man asks his neighbor to lend him three loaves of bread so he could provide hospitality to a visitor who came to his home at midnight. The time is significant because by this hour a man, his wife, his children, his animals, and everyone and anything needing protection was brought into his small house. Any request at this hour would require waking up and inconveniencing the entire household.

The act of inhospitality (to not feed a tired visitor) was so serious it would make any Jew persistent to the point of obnoxiousness, even disturbing his neighbor at any hour. Any neighbor knew it was better to give in to the request rather than to put up with what would follow.

PRAY THIS WAY!

That is the advice of scripture. What follows is mystery. Does anyone ever get everything they ask for? Is anyone ever disappointed in prayer? Is God there waiting just to satisfy every want we have?

What about when we ask for good things, like the cure of the cancer of a mother with five little children? Is it conceivable that God would not give us the healing we would seek? Why are some prayers seemingly answered and others not?

It is truly mystery. It is also about hearing and seeing God answer in more ways than just for what we ask.

Sickness and death are part of life; they will probably come to us all. But God doesn’t avoid or go around life, he works through it.

Facing life on life’s terms is part of what it means to be human. Healing isn’t the only option. Facing reality, accepting consequences, being bold and courageous, and surrendering, are answers to our prayers.

Our final piece of peace comes with the promise: “How much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”

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, July 17, 2016

Looking Ahead

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

Quote of the Week: “The great man is he who does not lose his child's heart.” — Mencius.

“The proof of the pudding is in the eating.”

This familiar saying sums up the scriptures today. The word of God is a word not just to be spoken, but to be heard and lived.

Throughout the Hebrew scriptures (Old Testament), whenever God’s word was not lived, problems and disasters always followed. When people listened to God and were obedient to him, their lives were good. When they refused to listen, or got out of alignment with God in their lives, things tended to fall apart.

In the first reading today, God intends and promises to send Abraham a child in his old age. When Abraham went about it his way — fathering a child (Ishmael) with Hagar, the handmaiden of his wife, Sarah — the consequences prove disastrous for his family.

In a very short time, Sarah and Hagar were at each other’s throats, and happiness and peace deserted their household. But when Abraham followed the ways of the Lord, and acted in accord and alignment with God in his life, all things improved. Now he received a proper son born of Sarah.

Similarly, in the Christian scriptures (New Testament), Martha and Mary were showing hospitality to Jesus, as was proper. But when Jesus began to teach, Mary sat at his feet to listen, to hear, to be a disciple.

Martha continued to carry out the acts of hospitality that were proper to a Jewish home with guests. Jesus, however, spoke the same message of old to Martha: “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”

Mary aligned herself completely with the Lord Jesus, as he began to teach and open up to her and others the mysteries of God’s love.

What could be more important than listening and being present to God in the person of Jesus?

Mary got it! Hospitality is very important, but being focused and completely present to God is even more important: “Mary has chosen the better part.”

In this modern day, with all of the noise, distractions, business, texting, cell phone availability, constant interruption and interaction, we make Martha look lazy and inactive. We are constantly on the move, at it, doing, accomplishing, occupied — constantly.

The Abraham and the Martha in each of us would be blessed to learn from the Mary in the word today. “The proof of the pudding is in the eating” and “the experience of God’s abundant life is in the hearing and the living of the Word.”

We can do no better than to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen.

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.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

'I pray'

Gabriella Isabel
Maynetto
By Gabriella Isabel Maynetto 

I ask myself, why do people want to kill each other?

Would our social reality be any different if we had more doctors and nurses running for office, people who have seen and dealt with the traumas of violence, of tragedy?

Would we find ways of preventing the sort of chaos we are witnessing across nations scattered across our shared Earth?

Show compassion, show kindness, show care for your neighbor, for your friends, and for your loved ones and family.

Why do we push each other toward violence? Why do we subsidize building national armaments domestically and abroad instead of sending materials for schools and hospitals, clinics and universities?

I pray that our world finds healing past the many social traumas we are enveloped in.

I pray that more people engage in dialogue and understanding.

I pray that more people will intervene before something tragic happens.

Show compassion, show kindness, show care for your neighbor, for your friends, and for your loved ones and family.

Gabriella Isabel Maynetto is a St. Bernard Church parishioner.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Looking Ahead

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

Quote of the Week: “If and when were planted. Nothing grew.” — Turkish saying

“Hawthorne — city of friendly neighbors!”

That is the inscription on signs all over the city of Hawthorne, a city adjacent to Los Angeles International Airport.

How beautiful and how dangerous to post such a sign. If you bear the title, you are responsible for living it! “Do you walk the talk?”

There is no attempt here to denigrate the fair city of Hawthorne, but rather to state how dangerous it is to claim a title.

The danger is that the words could remain merely words without real meaning. But isn’t that so also true when we claim the name “Christian”?

We say, by that title, we are followers of Christ. That means that his words and actions — his teachings and example — are meant to become our own.

Just how difficult that can be is revealed in the Gospel narrative today.

A scribe, a good and outstanding religious leader and practitioner of the law, claimed to be a true follower of the law. In trying to claim what he had to do in order to gain everlasting life, he answered Jesus’ question about the law and stated the Shema or, “Hear, O Israel.”

Loving God and loving neighbor as yourself always will be for the Jews the call of how to live everyday, always.

This is recited frequently throughout the day as THE way to show that God is at the center of one’s life. Loving neighbor is inextricably united and flows in and out of our love of God.

John’s first letter (1 John 4:20b) said it even more bluntly and straightforward: “For whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.”

The only wiggle space or loophole which might help one escape this call would have to be justified by the law itself. So when the scribe asked Jesus “who is my neighbor?” it is evident that he was looking for that space where perhaps one could wiggle away from walking the talk.

As usual, Jesus took the challenge head on. He told a story of a neighbor robbed and beaten, lying on the road to die. A priest and Levite walk by and, because of ritual purity laws, they justified their actions to pass the man without responding to his needs or showing compassion.

The one who proves himself to be neighbor, angel, savior, friend, doctor, and man of compassion, is the one who placed neighbor ABOVE the law — a Samaritan.

He acted with love. He took care of ALL of the needs of a stranger at his own expense and went far above and beyond the call of duty.

The Gospel today asks us: Who is my neighbor? What is compassion? How does one love?

What is the kingdom really about? How does one follow Christ and claim the name Christian?

The question we have to ask ourselves is: “Do we walk the talk?”

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.

Friday, July 8, 2016

USCCB president calls for prayers, reflection, civility and dialogue

Archbishop Joseph E.Kurtz
By Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, USCCB president 

WASHINGTON — Following the deadly attacks on police officers in Dallas, during a protest rally stemmed by the killings of two men in Louisiana and Minnesota, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops extended a call to prayer, reflection, civility and peaceful dialogue. 

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, issued the following statement July 8.

Let us gather at the cross

The assassination of Dallas police officers last night was an act of unjustifiable evil. To all people of good will, let us beg for the strength to resist the hatred that blinds us to our common humanity. To my brothers and sisters in Christ, let us gather at the cross of Jesus. Our savior suffered at the hands of humanity's worst impulses, but he did not lose hope in us or in his heavenly father. Love overcomes evil.

The police are not a faceless enemy. They are sons and daughters offering their lives to protect their brothers and sisters. Jesus reminds us, "no one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends" (John 15:13). So, too, the suspects in crimes or routine traffic stops are not just a faceless threat. They are members of our family in need of assistance, protection and fairness. When compassion does not drive our response to the suffering of either, we have failed one another.

The need to place ever greater value on the life and dignity of all persons, regardless of their station in life, calls us to a moment of national reflection. In the days ahead, we will look toward additional ways of nurturing an open, honest and civil dialogue on issues of race relations, restorative justice, mental health, economic opportunity, and addressing the question of pervasive gun violence.

Let us pray for the comfort of everyone affected and that our national conversation will bear the good fruit of healing and peace.