Sunday, October 27, 2013

Looking Ahead

Father Perry D. Leiker
By Father Perry D. Leiker

There has always been controversy between Protestants and Roman Catholics over the question of "justification."

Justification is a divine act where God declares the sinner to be innocent of his sins.  It is a legal action in that God declares the sinner righteous, as though he has satisfied the law of God. On that, much all agree. But how does one receive justification?

For the Protestants it was by faith alone: "For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law" (Romans 3:28). It did not depend upon works, but solely upon faith.

For Catholics, it depends upon faith and works: "You see that a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone" (James 2:24). James asks the question himself in 2:14: "What use is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him?"

***

Jesus tells a parable about a Pharisee and a tax collector. The Pharisee believes he is justified (has saved himself) because he has followed the law to the letter; he has done good works. In the process he judges another as unfit; the tax collector simply admits he is a sinner, not justifying himself, but believing he must rely on God’s mercy – that is his only justification (salvation).

Who seems more spiritually in touch with God’s grace, mercy, love, guidance, spirit, and truth? Can we do it alone? Do we need God in our lives? Is more than just believing required of us?  Are acts, in themselves, saving?

In truth, it seems that both are necessary and work like hand in glove. In humbling ourselves, will we be exalted?

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

Monday, October 21, 2013

Religious Education Congress keynote address speaker announced

Father Robert Barron
The 2014 Religious Education Congress keynote speaker is Father Robert Barron. Father Barron will present “Hope to Set the World Afire” on March 15, 2014.

Start making your plans now to attend. We now have all our speaker information — workshops, session numbers, and topics — listed on its website — www.recongress.org. There, you can choose which speakers you would like to see. You can also find information on lunchtime events, evening concerts, and liturgies taking place at Religious Education Congress.

You can register by mail or online. The Religious Education Congress Registration Guidebook will be available in early November; online registration will begin in mid-November.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Looking Ahead

Father Perry D. Leiker
By Father Perry D. Leiker 

An old saying goes something like this: “There’s two sides to every argument.” The same can be said of prayer. There are two sides: the scriptures comment on both sides. The person who is praying is encouraged in God’s word to never give up, be persistent, and call out to God "day and night."

Jesus advises us to keep bothering God like the woman bothering the judge "until he delivers a decision that is just for her." With that advice he reveals what he thinks about the other side.

How does God respond? What is his part in the process of prayer? Does he really listen? Does he really care? Do we get what we want? Does he sometimes say "no"? Prayer is a very personal and intimate experience. The process of prayer is clear; the effects of prayer are a bit more mysterious. What happens is highly interpretive. Did God "answer me"? People give all kinds of replies to that question.

People give all kinds of replies to that question. Asking and seeking constantly in prayer does something profound to the one who prays. One cannot pray to God without being changed. Justice from God unfolds like a flower. Receiving "an answer" also unfolds.

What we ask for and what we seek often change as we pray and begin to see the bigger mystery unfolding before us. Therefore, be persistent, and never stop praying.

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

Monday, October 14, 2013

Bishops express appreciation for veto of SB 131

Bishop Gerald Wilkerson, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and president of the California Catholic Conference (CCC), released the following statement today following Gov. Jerry Brown’s veto of SB 131 (Beall). The bill would have reopened the statute of limitations against private employers for child sex abuse for a period of one year, but would have forbidden lawsuits against public schools, other government agencies and the actual perpetrator of the abuse:

We are grateful that Gov. Brown chose to veto SB 131. It was unfair to the vast majority of victims and unfair to all private and non-profit organizations.

The fact SB 131 discriminated against victims clearly played a major role in prompting a veto, but at the same time, we hope the way the Catholic Church in California has responded to the abuse crisis over the last 10 years, and ‘walked the walk’ with respect to protecting young people and reporting allegations to law enforcement helped play a role, too.

The church’s reaction has gone way beyond settling more than 1,000 cases and paying $1.2 billion in settlements. It’s changed how we operate as a church. Millions of children and tens of thousands of church workers have received ‘Safe Environment’ training to learn how to keep children safe and spot potential abuse. Hundreds of thousands of workers and volunteers have been fingerprinted and background checked to screen them for red flags in their background. We continue to provide counseling to anyone who comes forward and we actively work with law enforcement to report allegations immediately and suspend anybody, clergy or otherwise, suspected of abuse.

In the end, however, all we know for sure is that there can be no half-measures where victims are concerned and that the way SB 131 discriminated and treated victims unequally was impossible to morally or legally justify.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Looking Ahead

Father Perry D. Leiker
By Father Perry D. Leiker 

Naaman did not expect to be healed in the waters of the Jordan. If healing were going to take place, it should have occurred in the mountain spring waters of Damascus. Naaman tried to take control of the what, when and how of healing, but it came to him as a surprise; it was unexpected. One could even say it was his doubting that eventually led Naaman to trust in the prophet's words.

The 10 lepers expected, or at the very least hoped, that Jesus would heal them. They cried out for his mercy as so many others before them had done. All 10 were healed. The unexpected happened again. The non-Jew – a Samaritan – was the only one who came back to give thanks and praise. It should have been any or all of the Jews, for they shared the faith and expectation realized in Jesus. But it was the Samaritan who was surprised and had a great moment of faith that transformed him, expressed clearly and with great conviction. The gift not only healed but gave Naaman a new and greater faith.

These are our stories. Are we willing to accept gifts we did not expect? Does God ever leak into our lives by surprise? Do gifts and surprises ever lead us to greater faith and deeper conviction?

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

Monday, October 7, 2013

Celebration of the the feast of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary

Today, the church celebrates the feast of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary and commemorates the Devotion of the Rosary, a prayer which is at the heart of Christian and religious practice.

The holy rosary is considered a perfect prayer, because within it lives the awesome story of our salvation. With the rosary in fact we meditate the mysteries of joy, sorrow and the glory of Jesus and Mary. Let us make sure to incorporate this perfect prayer in our daily lives.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Looking Ahead

Father Perry D. Leiker
By Father Perry D. Leiker

A true servant "knows his or her place." In the parable today, Jesus states it this way: "When you have done all you have been commanded, say: 'We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.'" In that, there is a certain nobility. A good servant knows that he or she is, in fact, a servant. Serving is what a servant does. The servant is not less a person, but the servant knows their place.

The great truth being told today is that all are servants – both rich and poor alike. All persons were created by God. They have not earned it by themselves. No one brought themselves into existence, but they clearly are a creation of God. Therefore, no matter what class, position, office or identity a person has, they are the same in God's eyes.

Much of the violence and destruction in the world comes about precisely for that reason. People truly do bring it upon themselves and upon others, and they forget this simple, yet profound, truth. The only society or community that continues to move forward, upward and onward is one that understands true service to others. From service will come: love, caring, compassion – the binding of wounds. Without it comes the long list of sins so often remembered in the scriptures: hatred, division, prejudice, slavery of all sorts, killing of the innocent, and injustice of every type and form.

Imagine "needing" Respect Life Sunday and Respect Life Month. I guess we don’t yet really "know our place."

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

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Service 4 Life

Archbishop José H. Gomez
By Archbishop José H. Gomez 

This Sunday, we join with Catholics across the country in marking the start of Respect Life Month.

Among the initiatives sponsored by our Archdiocesan Life, Justice and Peace Office, I’m excited to be taking part in “Christian Service 4 Life” at the StubHub Center on Oct. 9.

This event is a partnership with LifeSoCal. It will bring together 5,000 of our Catholic school students to praise the God of Life and renew our commitment to defend the sanctity and dignity of all human life, from conception, through life until natural death.

The church serves life by building the kingdom of God. God’s kingdom is a culture of life. It is a culture where life is welcomed, cherished and cared for. Especially those lives that are “inconvenient” or a burden to others — the child in the womb, the sick and the handicapped, the elderly.

The kingdom we seek is a culture of compassion and mutual concern. It is a place where we see others as our brothers and sisters. It is a place where no one is indifferent to the sufferings of others.

The church — and each one of us — has the mission of showing God’s merciful face to our neighbors. We know that our neighbors need bread to eat but they also need spiritual food.

In his latest interview, with the Italian newspaper, La Repubblica, our Holy Father Pope Francis reminds us: “The church must feel responsible for both souls and bodies.” (Read the interview).

This is what the church has always done.

Our historical memory is short. We forget that until the coming of Christianity, there were no organized social services and no ethic of responsibility for the poor.

The great empires of pre-Christian history ignored the poor, the hungry, the stranger and the imprisoned.

Before Judaism and Christianity, there was no concept of a God who loved individuals with a personal love — a love that begins before the person was born. Before Christianity, no religion had ever taught that God could be found in our neighbor.

But Jesus taught that what we do for the least among us, we do for him. This was revolutionary then. And it still is.

The first Christians founded the first hospitals and shelters for the poor. They also challenged abortion and birth control that were rampant in the Roman Empire. In the year 176, a Catholic layman, Athenagoras, said: “We regard the very fetus in the womb as a created being, and therefore an object of God’s care.”

So from the beginning, to be Christian has always meant to serve the poor and the suffering.

This is who we are. We are a people of life. And for us, life begins with God and only God can decide when that life ends.

The church’s work — and our work as Christians — is a work of love. And love in practice means “to identify the material and immaterial needs of the people and to try to meet them as we can,” the pope says.

And our Christian love begins where God’s love begins — when the person is in the womb.

The church has always known that society must be founded on a deep respect — a reverence — for human life. We know that a culture without respect for life — a culture that has lost reverence for the mystery of what life means — is a culture that will always be tending toward new ways of servitude and death.

That is why we reach out to everyone with the helping hand of Jesus Christ — from the woman expecting a child to the handicapped and the aged. Always we are responsible for healing those broken in body and those broken in spirit.

That is also why the church is a voice for those who have no voice. And in this culture, we need to insist that our government’s primary obligation is to protect the innocent. That means insisting that no one — no individual and no institution — can define what lives are “fully human” or worth living. That means insisting that no one can be allowed to choose whether somebody else lives or dies or is welcomed into the community of the living.

So in this Respect Life Month, let’s pray for one another and let’s pray for our nation.

Let’s ask Mary, the mother of life, to help us be witnesses to the new world that Jesus Christ came to bring. The kingdom of God is a culture of life, joy and freedom. Joy in God’s creation. Freedom in accepting God’s gift of life and living to share it with others.

Archbishop José H. Gómez is archbishop of Los Angeles. His weekly column is provided by and appears in The Tidings, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Reach Archbishop Gomez at (213) 637-7000, or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/archbishopgomez.