Sunday, December 28, 2014

Looking Ahead

Father Perry D. Leiker
By Father Perry D. Leiker

From the very first chapter of the scriptures, when it comes to family, it is clear what God intends: “Be fruitful and multiply.”

Today’s feast focuses on the holy family: Joseph, Mary and Jesus. From the beginning of Genesis, we see God’s desire and plan for a regenerating of the species through a fruitful multiplication.

God tells Abram (who becomes Abraham in the Covenant with God): “Look up at the sky and count the stars, if you can. Just so shall your descendants be.”

Even in Abraham’s old age, God provides for the beginnings of a mighty nation with many descendants. Sterility is no obstacle for God.

But there is more in the feast today as we listen to the Gospel of Luke. The Jews had a very deep faith understanding of the God-gift that family was. Both in thanksgiving and in the deepest sense of dedication, after 40 days the child was to be presented to God. In this particular family story, prophecy and grace and the beginning of redemption surround this ordinary family event.

Devout Simeon declares: “My eyes have seen your salvation ... a light for revelation to the Gentiles and glory for your people Israel.”

And he continues: “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted.”

Even Mary’s future pain and sorrow is predicted.

Is this what we can expect from family, whether a small family like Jesus’, or the enormous human family promised to Abraham by God? Is it always to include suffering? Will there always be struggle? Is there no doubt that both falling and rising is in the picture? And so, what makes it holy?

“The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.”

The favor of God falls upon all of us; especially those anointed with God’s own Spirit in baptism. There is no question about God’s promise of fruitfulness – just count the over 6 billion presently inhabiting the earth.

Neither is there any question about the favor of God – available to any and all who open their heart to him.

Perhaps the call of this feast day is to re-dedicate our self, our life, our day, our future, to the God of Abraham, and our God, too!

Perhaps this is what makes each of us and any family holy.

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

Together in Mission 2014

In his pastoral letter, “Witness to the New World of Faith,” Archbishop José H. Gomez writes: “Through our love for others, we bear witness to the reality of our God who is love. Through our work to make this a society of truth and love, we make God’s love for all men and women a reality in our world.”

One way we can make love for our neighbors “real” is through our support of Together in Mission. This year’s annual appeal will provide essential financial support for 35 parishes and 56 schools in our archdiocese.

Your generous contribution to Together in Mission will make a big difference in the lives of tens of thousands of our brothers and sisters. Because of you, the church will continue to be a force for human dignity and social justice in our communities.

When you receive your Together in Mission pledge form in the mail, please fill it out and mail it back or bring it with you to Mass.

God bless you for your generous gifts to those in need.

TOGETHER IN MISSION/CAMPAÑA UNIDOS EN MISIÓN 2014

267 Persons pledged as of Dec. 21
267 personas comprometidas hasta el 21 de diciembre

10% previous year income/10% del ingreso del año anterior

Pledge Goal / Meta Parroquial:  $36,461.20

Amount pledged/cantidad prometida: $39,744.51
Paid/pagado:  $34,667.51

Total amount needed to reach assigned goal: $1,793.69
Cantidad por cubrir (compromiso asignado): $1,793.69

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Looking Ahead

Father Perry D. Leiker
By Father Perry D. Leiker

“... For nothing will be impossible for God.”

That famous line known by all who have developed within themselves a biblical spirituality is the foundation of today’s scriptures.

God spoke through Nathan the prophet to King David, making it abundantly clear that the issue wasn’t what David could do for God, but what God could do for David.

The letter to the Romans echoes the same message when it proclaims the truth: “to him (God) who can strengthen you …”

God is clearly seen as powerful, capable, loving and desirous of calling, sending and sustaining his faithful ones. The most intimate statement of the same truth is revealed in the “annunciation” in today’s Gospel.

The angel Gabriel brings the call of God to Mary to be the one chosen to bring God into the world in human form through her child, Jesus — the great “incarnation,” “ … for nothing is impossible for God.”

Then the seemingly ordinary but wonderful and terrible events begin to unfold. For the eyes of faith, these “ordinary” events would have extraordinary causes and significance

An “ordinary” pregnancy would be the result of God pouring out his spirit in an abundant and fruitful way. God’s entrance into our world in human form would happen in an “ordinary” birth. Elizabeth, advanced in age, would also experience an “ordinary” pregnancy and give to the world her son John, known as John the Baptist.

Mary would understand that in her humbleness, her nothingness — God had made her great. Mary gives all of the glory to him, for she understood that “nothing will be impossible for God.”

In her simple understanding and acceptance of her call, she responds: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”

How many of us, people of faith, seem so discontent with the “ordinary”?
How many yearn for and are fixated on the extraordinary — the miraculous.

Can we not believe that in the “very ordinary” God is present?

Can we not believe that in the daily stuff of life that God is working, calling, sending, giving and sustaining?

It is not the events of our lives that need to change. It is more the understanding and appreciation that God is there in “ordinary” daily life experiences — pregnancy, job loss, change of life, graduation, failing a class, death of a loved one, being talked about, giving thanks, marrying, separating, both in the good and bad. In all of it, God is there.

The challenge is to believe that through it all we are loved, we will be loved.

The grace of God will see us through “for nothing is impossible for God.”

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

Friday, December 19, 2014

Christmas and the love of God

Archbishop José H. Gomez
By Archbishop José H. Gomez

Jesus came into this world as a child, vulnerable and dependent.

He made himself little so that we could love him. So that we could pick him up, hold him in our arms and take care of him, just as Mary and Joseph held him on that first Christmas night in Bethlehem. 

Jesus made himself a little child so that we could know how precious each one of us is to God. My prayer for us this Christmas is that we will fully realize the reality of God’s love for us. 

The revelation of Christmas is that God is our loving Father.

Our Father! To understand God’s love we have to know that we are his children. Children of God! He loves you and me and he loves every one with a personal love. As a good Father loves his sons and his daughters.

Jesus taught us that every hair on every head is numbered. That every child is born with an angel watching over him or her in heaven. That God cares for all and for our smallest needs.

God wants only the best for his children, for you and for me. There is no sacrifice he will not make for us to be happy and at peace. He will go to any length to seek us out, to bring us back to him. Even sending his only begotten Son to suffer and die for us.

In showing us the merciful face of our Father in heaven, Jesus revealed that every life is sacred and precious and has a purpose in our Father’s loving plan for the world.

This was a radical message then and it is a radical message now.

I still think this is perhaps the hardest Christian truth for people to accept. The universe is so vast — how can God possibly know and care for me? How can I be “somebody” to God when I’m living in this big, anonymous world where I am a nobody to almost everybody else?

It sounds too good to be true. But Jesus taught us that it is true. Before the world began, God knew your name and mine and he had a plan for our lives.

This is the promise of Christmas. And this promise is an invitation to each of us — an invitation to a new life as sons and daughters of God. 

Knowing that we are loved by God should free us from our fears, our pride and selfishness. Knowing his love should give us joy every day. It should change everything for us — how we relate to God and our relationships with others; how we see ourselves and how we understand our place in the world.

What if we really believed that we are loved, that we are wanted, that we are needed by God? What if we really lived every day as if the Creator of the universe loves us with a parent’s love, as if each person we meet is loved as we are, and also has a part to play in the higher purposes of God’s love?

So as we prepare for Christmas, let us pray for each other, that we may open our hearts to our Father’s love.

He wants our joy, our happiness. And we find that happiness — when we stay close to Jesus. This is where our happiness comes from. It comes from being with God, being near to Jesus, feeling his love and presence in our lives. 

Jesus became a child of Mary so that we could become a child of God. And as God’s children we are called to continue Jesus’ mission in the world — the mission of his Church, his family.

Christmas is also a call to renew our sense of purpose and belonging to the church.

Christmas calls us again to walk the pathways of this world with Jesus, in the company of our brothers and sisters in the church. To live as Jesus did — with kindness for all and compassion and gentle understanding.

The mission that began on Christmas continues in you and in me.

Knowing that we are loved by God, we should live to share that love with others through works of mercy and acts of justice — seeking the kingdom that God intended for his children. A world where no one is a stranger, where everyone is welcomed and wanted and nobody is discarded or marginalized.

Please pray for me during this holy season and I am praying for you and your families.

Merry Christmas to all of you!

May our Blessed Mother Mary, the Mother of Jesus and the Mother of each one of us, help us all to know the love of God our Father that comes to us on Christmas. ν

Archbishop José H. Gómez is the fifth 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.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Sunday bulletins


On this page you will find our weekly Sunday parish bulletin in an electronic format, viewable on most computers and tablets.

Submissions of articles and events are always welcome, and they will appear on the bulletin at the discretion of the pastor and bulletin editor.

To publish an event or for more information about our Sunday bulletin, e-mail stbernardla@stbernardla.cc.

Bulletins are archived in Adobe Acrobat format.

To properly view the electronic version of our Sunday bulletin, you must download Adobe’s Acrobat Reader which is available for free from Adobe’s website.



Full St. Bernard Church Sunday bulletin archive



2014


January

     • January 5
     • January 12
     • January 19
     • January 26

February

     • February 2
     • February 9
     • February 16
     • February 23

March

     • March 2
     • March 9
     • March 16
     • March 23
     • March 30

April

     • April 6
     • April 13
     • April 20
     • April 27

May

     • May 4
     • May 11
     • May 18
     • May 25

June

     • June 1
     • June 8
     • June 15
     • June 22
     • June 29

July

     • July 6
     • July 13
     • July 20
     • July 27

 August

     • August 3
     • August 10
     • August 17
     • August 24
     • August 31

 September

     • September 7
     • September 14
     • September 21
     • September 28

 October

     • October 5
     • October 12
     • October 19
     • October 26

 November

     • November 2
     • November 9
     • November 16
     • November 23
     • November 30

 December

     • December 7
     • December 14
     • December 21
     • December 28

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Looking Ahead

Father Perry D. Leiker
By Father Perry D. Leiker

Gaudete means rejoice in Latin.

Traditionally, the Third Sunday of Advent has been called Gaudete Sunday because our Advent journey has almost come to an end.

There is always joy when one comes closer to reaching the goal, or arriving at the destination. But isn’t it more than just coming to the end? What happened to us along the way? Was there any change? Is our goal or destination the point of this journey, or is the journey itself the important thing?

If we have been listening to God’s word these days, we have heard a lot about justice and peace. We have understood that something or someone has changed the universe forever. We have understood how deeply loved we are by God and that this divine visitation has forgiven and healed everyone and everything.

The journey of faith stands beside a bustling holiday season. One says, “buy, buy, buy” and accumulate as much as you can – then get more. It's never enough!

The other says: “Let go, simplify, empty yourself, embrace silence and peace, open.”

One distracts and clutters. The other focuses and prepares us to receive love and meaning deep within the spirit.

It is a great time. It is a great season. Everyone enters in different ways and to different degrees. It’s all good. But, undeniably, there is something that is greatest here.

It has been the journey. It continues. It is near its end. There is more grace and love to go around.

“Gaudete – rejoice”! As church, we say it together this Sunday.

Together may we discover what the journey has been about. Together, may the journey help us to discover who we have become.

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 7, 2014

Looking Ahead

Father Perry D. Leiker
By Father Perry D. Leiker

No one can doubt that Christmas is coming.

Turn on the radio or television. Pick up a newspaper or magazine. Walk anywhere near a store. Look at billboards. Even some streets are already decorated. Even if we are able to focus on the real meaning of Christmas (the birth of Jesus), it still may be nearly impossible to grasp the deeper meanings of this feast day.

We don’t just celebrate the birth. We celebrate to whom he comes, why he comes, what he comes for, and what are the implications of his coming even today.

We talk about messiah. We listen to scriptures of "longing" and "Waiting." We reflect upon being steeped in sin and needing to become free and liberated from desires and forces and even temptations that constrict and control and demean.

We celebrate not just the birth of Christ but also a time of salvation. We celebrate history and human kind experiencing a radical and irrevocable change that is simply and most profoundly the time of grace. We are invited to embrace our brokenness and find wholeness.

This healing will involve not just a birth but also a death – not just a crib but also a cross. There is mystery everywhere. There are signs and invitations that point to new life and hope in abundance.

This is a time of preparing and a time of finding. It cannot be wasted or be a time focusing only on the birth. It certainly must look far beyond a heavy-bearded man dressed in red. It must look to the past and to the end of time.

That is because what happened 2,000 years ago changed us forever. We are changing even in these days of preparation because of what happened way back then.

So, as the scripture says so simply today: “Be watchful! Be alert! What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’”

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

Friday, December 5, 2014

OneLife LA — and a challenge for Advent

Archbishop José H. Gomez
By Archbishop José H. Gomez 

Advent is a season of mercy.

The mercy of God is the great theme running through the first stories of Jesus’ coming.

In her Magnificat, Mary sings: “His mercy is from age to age.” Zechariah, father of St. John the Baptist, sings: “The tender mercy of our God … will visit us.”

So during this Advent season, I want to reflect with you on the Church’s traditional “corporal works of mercy” — feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, visiting the sick, visiting the imprisoned, and burying the dead.

Jesus says these works of mercy will be the measure of our love for God and our love for our neighbor. He tells us the love that we show to the homeless and the hungry, to the prisoner and the sick, is the love that we show to God. And he warns that our indifference to those who need our mercy reflects our indifference to God.

Pope Francis has made mercy the “keynote” of his teaching. He reminds us again and again that our Christian identity and duty are defined by the Beatitudes that we find in the fifth chapter of St. Matthew’s Gospel and the works of mercy that we find in Matthew 25.

Taken together, he says, the Beatitudes and works of mercy show us the face of Jesus and help us to imitate his way of life. They give us an “action plan” — a practical path to follow to find happiness and salvation.

So during this Advent, I want to challenge all of us to go deeper in our experience of God’s mercy and our imitation of Jesus Christ’s works of mercy to others.

As you know, on Jan. 17, 2015, we are hosting OneLife LA, a one-day procession and festival that will highlight the works of mercy being done in our community — and the beautiful calling to mercy that God has given us for our lives.

I am excited about OneLife. This will be a day to celebrate the beauty of human life and our duty to serve our brothers and sisters and defend their rights and dignity, especially those who are the weakest and most vulnerable.

Our Archdiocesan Office of Life, Justice and Peace is proud to be sponsoring this positive and family-friendly event along with the Knights of Columbus and the Right to Life League of Southern California. We are honored that Supreme Knight Carl Anderson will be joining us for the day. We are also partnering with our neighboring dioceses of Orange, San Diego, San Bernardino and Fresno and we have the generous support from local foundations.

OneLife LA will be ecumenical and interfaith. We will have surprise celebrity guests and musical entertainers and food trucks — a real fiesta of the human spirit!

Through OneLife LA, we are trying to build understanding and friendships and bring together the many good people who are working to build a culture of life and mercy in our communities — including Catholic Charities and St. Vincent de Paul programs and ministries serving the unborn and expectant mothers, the homeless, orphans, victims of human trafficking, refugees, the handicapped and the terminally ill.

The program for OneLife LA reflects the beautiful clarity of the Catholic vision — that all human life reflects the image of our Creator and that every life, even the weak and the small, has infinite significance in God’s plan for creation and history.

Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta is our inspiration and “patroness” for OneLife LA. Because by her witness, she showed us the beauty of all human life — and the need to protect life— from the child in the womb, to the innocent victims of war, to the sick and the dying.

Mother Teresa used to say, “Be somebody to somebody.” It is a beautiful way to express our duty to do works of mercy.

So I invite you to join me in a “challenge.” Let’s try every day in Advent to “be somebody to somebody” — especially those in our families and those who are poor and lonely — so they will feel God’s mercy and love.

On my Facebook page during Advent, I'm going to be highlighting organizations that are making a difference in our community, building a culture of life and mercy. I invite you to share the good things you are doing with me and on my page and by tagging #OneLifeLA on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Let’s keep praying for one another during this Advent! And let’s ask our Blessed Mother Mary to teach us to be somebody to somebody every day, as we await the birth of Jesus.

To participate in the “Be Somebody to Somebody Challenge,” visit Archbishop Gomez on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ArchbishopGomez.

Archbishop José H. Gómez is the fifth 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.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Looking Ahead

Father Perry D. Leiker
By Father Perry D. Leiker

We have all probably loved or cared for someone in our life so much that we declared: “If he’s not welcome here, than neither am I” or “If you don’t let her play, then I don’t want to play either.”

Our response says: “to not accept my friend is to not accept me.”

Jesus not only speaks in this manner, but he says two more things which clearly makes this one of his most demanding teachings. It is also the testimony of his manner of living.

First, he identifies not just with his friends, or with those whom he loves or those who love him. Rather, he identifies with the least, the most “insignificant.” He tells us that what we do to them we do the same to him.

What we fail to do to and for them, we fail to do to and for him. In so doing this, he lowers the bar of loving and caring to include everyone.

At the same time, he raises the bar of expectation so that our lives, clearly, are called to become lives of love, service, caring, generosity, compassion, outreach, understanding, forgiveness, reconciliation and respect. He is seeking nothing less than total transformation of our thinking and acting.  

Second: he makes this issue so important that he presents it as the condition of our judgment. He describes the scene in which these words are spoken as the judgment scene with the Son of Man seated upon his throne. There could not be a more frightful or definitive place to speak these words.

In other words, Jesus means for these words to be taken quite seriously. And why would he not? Isn’t the safety and salvation of all in this life dependent upon this kind of caring? If individuals and whole peoples can end up being the least and most insignificant, doesn’t this teaching grant them the possibility of hope? Isn’t the opposite of this hope simply suffering and despair?

Imagine proclaiming this passage in prison or on death row. Imagine hearing this spoken to us by our worst enemy, or by the person whom we cannot, or will not, forgive. It seems to be an impossible teaching! It is way too much to expect! Unless, of course, it is meant to invite us to become more like Christ himself and to transform us into a people who love one another as God loves us.

So says Jesus: “I have the words of everlasting life!”

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, November 16, 2014

Looking Ahead

Father Perry D. Leiker
By Father Perry D. Leiker

When we give to the poor, do we give so that we will receive thanks? Do we give because we believe that reaching out in love and compassion is a right or good thing to do? Where is the reward?

Is it in "getting something" from the person or aligning our actions and our cares of the heart with something we believe?

Today’s Gospel speaks of multiplying one’s talents or burying them out of fear. Using and giving our talents to others, using and giving our energy and time to others, using and sharing our money with others, all of these are ways of multiplying.

Burying any of these out of fear freezes, paralyzes, stagnates, lessens, destroys even the hope that something more might come about by the use of or sharing of our talents, our energy or time, our money.

To put it in Gospel terms: “For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what little he has will be taken away.”

Giving/sharing talents, time, energy, money IS the gift given and received. Giving/sharing is in itself the reward. This is the great secret revealed by Jesus. This is the key given to open the doors of inner peace and happiness. Jesus understood this. Jesus taught this. Jesus gives this as gift.

Every once in awhile, people will say: “Father, after I have given so much money to the church, or so many hours of service, doesn’t the church owe me something in return. Surely, the church should make an exception for me.”

It is an interesting comment. When we give to the church of our talent, our energy or time, or our money, we need to ask ourselves why we give? Is it to give thanks to God for all he has given? Is it so we can be paid back in special favors? Is it to be recognized? Or is it because we have discovered that Jesus’ words are absolutely true? It is because we hear the echo of Jesus’ words in our heart: “Come share your master’s joy.”

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, November 9, 2014

Looking Ahead

Father Perry D. Leiker
By Father Perry D. Leiker 

People who do not have a love for architecture or history can look at a building and say: “It’s just a building.”

Tearing it down is often just a practical issue of making way for the new. Those who love architecture and history at first are stunned but eventually reply: “Are you kidding? This is the most important building in the city.”

They then speak about how important is the ‘symphony hall’ where the greatest music comes to life. Or they speak about this ‘civic building’ where the greatest political and historic moments have changed the course of life for a people. Or they share the pride of a ‘university hall’ where generations of young men and women have come to learn and grow in knowledge and be formed in their future roles for society.

They speak of ‘museums’, and ‘synagogues’, and ‘theatrical venues’ and even a famous ‘restaurant’ or ‘bar’ that the famous have frequented.

But we as a Catholic community would say without skipping a beat: ‘the cathedral’ – it clearly is the most important building of our faith community. This is not only the cathedra or seat of our bishop, but the gathering place that unites us as the people of God.

St. John Lateran is the pope’s seat in Rome. It is the mother church of the entire Roman Catholic Church. The first reading speaks of the temple where the life giving waters flow. The temple which is clearly sacred space gives life. The second reading speaks about the people who through Baptism become a living building, living stones, the living temple of God.

For this reason, Jesus’ cleansing of the temple becomes singularly significant as he proclaims: “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.”

And the Scripture notes: “He was speaking about the temple of his Body.”

‘Building’ takes on a new meaning. Cleansing the temple also takes on a new meaning as we seek to be ‘living temples’ that are grace filled as well as the ‘living church’ – a temple of hope, a temple of peace, a temple where God truly dwells within and among us.

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, November 2, 2014

Looking Ahead

Father Perry D. Leiker
By Father Perry D. Leiker

It is hard to move from mourning to hope. Some people don’t ever accomplish it. Some take a long time. Some, forever, have a kind of mixed mourning and hope of experience of faith.

Death is indeed a profound mystery. The only other life mystery that probably even comes close is conception and birth. For that reason, the feast of All Souls and the readings of this day are so important and speak so richly to our faith and hope in God.

The word of God tells us today that “we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed.”

This is in perfect keeping with the great mystery of death and resurrection. We don’t have it all figured out nor can we describe it. We hope in it. We have faith that new and eternal life will be ours in Christ. We believe that the faithful departed are now graced with peace, understanding, love and mercy. Surely, this is a day of hope!

That is also why we care for the remains of our departed. We bury them with dignity and respect. We adorn their graves with signs of beauty, like flowers, and decorate headstones with names and images that have personal meanings. We pray for and with them, especially at every Eucharist. We even dedicate Masses to special intentions, because death does not take them from us.

Their souls and ours are wrapped tightly together through love and the experiences we have shared. It may be hard to move from mourning to hope, but with the grace of Christ, all things are possible.

Preparing the details of our own funeral could sound a bit morbid, or it could suggest that not in fear, but in hope and faith, do we look to our new life in Christ.

After all, death equals life in Christ!

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, October 26, 2014

Looking Ahead

Father Perry D. Leiker
By Father Perry D. Leiker 

“The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

Is this hyperbole? How could a Jew (Jesus) make such a statement?

For a Jew, the law and the prophets sum up love for God and the hearing of God’s voice in one’s daily life. In Christian terms it might be expressed as: “The whole gospel depends on these two commandments.” Could we say that? We must!

The word of God in today’s scripture readings works together beautifully as usual. The first reading lays out before us what love of neighbor looks like.

“You shall not molest or oppress an alien, for you were once aliens yourselves. You shall not wrong any widow or orphan. If you lend money to one of your poor neighbors ... you shall not act like an extortioner toward him by demanding interest from him. If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, you shall return it to him before sunset; for this cloak of his is the only covering he has for his body.”

Love.

Act humanly.

Care for one another.

Do unto others what you would want done unto you.

Do no one harm.

Love your neighbor as you love yourself.

And love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Why? How does God love us?

No conditions.

No limits.

Loved us first.

Loves us always.

Loves for eternity.

Loves us when we don’t love him.

Loves the good and the bad, the bad and the good – equally.

Gives his sun and his Son, and the rain and his reign to all, no questions asked.

Just reflecting a tiny bit ought to lead us to this very simply yet very profound truth.

“The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

“The whole gospel depends on these two commandments.”

Are we willing to hear this? Are we willing to open our hearts to this? Are we willing to live this?

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

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Looking Ahead

Father Perry D. Leiker
By Father Perry D. Leiker

Actions always have consequences.

So if you eat contaminated food, you get sick. It is just logical.

Jesus makes that point as well in today’s Gospel.

If you use a particular currency, you are subject to the laws and limitations that are a part of that currency. It seems reasonable to presume that since the Pharisee had a Roman coin he was probably using that currency.

Israel was an occupied territory of the Roman Empire. Using Roman currency had its benefits, and it was a strong currency. But it also had its limitations – taxes were imposed. So Jesus applied the logic to the question presented to him: “Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar?”

If you use Roman currency, you are obligated by your use to pay taxes: “Pay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar” was Jesus’ reply. That’s just logical. That really wouldn’t, nor shouldn’t, be opposed to God’s law. It would appear that the question set to trap Jesus, in fact, trapped the Pharisee.

Jesus took it a step further and answered a question that was implied but was not asked. He said: repay “to God what is God’s.”

What does belong to God? Well ... everything! Are we giving all to God? Daily the Jews recited their Schema: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.”

Actions always have consequences. To be in relationship with Caesar involves giving him certain things. To be in relationship with God means giving all to him, since all comes from him and belongs to him and shall return to him.

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

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Heaven is for real and forever

Archbishop José H. Gomez
By Archbishop José H. Gomez 

God’s ways are not our ways, and his will is not always easy for us to understand.

We know that God has a plan of love for every life. But we also know that within his plan, people can find sickness and suffering that seems to have no reason, no justification.

These are some of my reflections as the sad drama of a young California woman has been unfolding this week on cable news and in the social media.

By now, many of you have heard of Brittany Maynard. She is 29 and suffering from brain cancer that cannot be treated. Doctors say it will claim her life within six months.

She and her husband moved to Oregon because it is one of five states in our nation that allow physicians to help patients commit suicide. She has announced that she plans to kill herself with an overdose of pain medication sometime in the next couple of weeks.

In her final days, Brittany is working with a national euthanasia group to advocate that the “right” and “choice” of physician-assisted suicide be granted to every American.  

Her story makes my heart heavy with sadness. And her public confession had led to an outpouring of prayers, commentary and debate.

I’ve read some beautiful testimonies and appeals from persons who are facing their own terminal illnesses with Christian faith and hope — and urging Brittany to seek beauty and meaning in her sufferings.

All of this reminds us — that we are born toward death. Our life is a journey that will come to an end some day. Every one of us knows this.

As Christians, we know that our God is a God of the living and he has shared in our sufferings. Jesus wept with human tears, and his heart was moved with compassion for the sick, the diseased and the dying. He has gone before us, entering into our pain and suffering, so that he can lead us through the valley of death into the land of the living. 

Death is real for us, but death is not the end.

But for our secular society, death still remains a closed door. The one horizon we can never see beyond.

Our science can discover the inner workings of the tiniest cells in our bodies and probe the depths of outer space. But what lies beyond this life — we will never find out for sure until it happens.

We get hints and glimpses along the way. From stories that caregivers tell about the last moments of their loved ones’ lives. From accounts of near-death experiences. From people who have been in comas for years and been awakened. 

A while back I read a book, “Heaven Is for Real” — they made it into a movie last year.

It’s the true story of a 4-year-old boy who almost died while in surgery. When the boy recovered he described how he saw Jesus and Mary in heaven and how he met family members he never knew about — a great-grandfather and an unborn sister who had died in a miscarriage.

We don’t really know what to make of all these kinds of stories.

But as Christians, we know that heaven is for real and forever. And the hope for heaven gives a new horizon to all our tomorrows here on earth. 

Our challenge as a church is to share this hope with our neighbors. It is another aspect of the new evangelization of our society, which is losing its sense of God and its sense of heaven.

The sufferings of others in our society must be a summons to us.

We need to accompany our brothers and sisters with love and compassion. Through our work to comfort them and ease their pain, we can help them to know — that God draws near to them in their sufferings.

Through our kindness and care, we can help those who suffer believe in heaven. We can show them — that when they breathe their last breath, God will be there, too. To take their hand tenderly and lead them along the last steps of their journey. Through the door, to the love that never ends.

So this week, let us pray for that young woman and for all those who are bearing heavy burdens of illness and pain.

In their time of trial and suffering, may they find tenderness and beauty in the care of their loved ones. May they know that to God their lives are precious and worth living even in their weakness and vulnerability. 

And in this month of the rosary, let us ask our Blessed Mother Mary to help all of us to live with new confidence — that in the hour of our death, all our sorrow will be turned to joy.

Archbishop José H. Gómez is the fifth 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.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Looking Ahead

Father Perry D. Leiker
By Father Perry D. Leiker

Perhaps, only once in a year, the familiar question might go something like this: “Are you going to the party on Friday night?”

The equally rare and stunning response follows: “Are you kidding? I wouldn’t miss it! This is the social event of the year!”

What kind of event would qualify for that response? A presidential ball? The consecration or funeral of a pope? The grand opening of a world class opera house? The unveiling of a newly found Picasso? The last game of a World Series or the World Cup?

In today’s Gospel, it is the wedding of a king’s son. This is an event that, if invited to attend, one would never want to reject. Not only would it truly be the social event of the year, this would be a personal invitation from the king himself.

Or to put it in other words: cancel everything. Rearrange everything. Put everything on hold. Everything takes a back burner to this one!

To reject the event for whatever reason would also be to reject the king himself.

Unthinkable!

This is Jesus’ way of presenting, once again, the kingdom of God.

Here it is among you. It has arrived. It is now. It is forever. It is the single most important event, invitation, reality that you could ever and will ever know.

To reject the invitation of the kingdom is to reject God himself.

Unthinkable!

This is the third week in a row that the liturgy presents this reality to us. The kingdom of God is offered and there are those who will not receive it, who cannot recognize it, who reject the offer.

Jesus says: the offer will be taken away from you and given to someone else. These are startling words. This is truly unthinkable.

The only response that makes real sense is simply: “I wouldn’t miss it. This is the event of a lifetime. This is the event that brings eternal life. Thank you for the invitation. I accept! I accept!! I accept!”

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, October 5, 2014

Looking Ahead

Father Perry D. Leiker
By Father Perry D. Leiker

God is in it for the long haul.

We estimate 3,700 years of “salvation history,” beginning with the time of Abraham to the present.

The Earth is estimated to be about 4.6 billion years old.

The Milky Way galaxy that contains the solar system was probably formed around 13.6 billion years ago.

The universe is calculated to be about 13.7 billion years old.

The beginning of civilization, dated from 160,000 to 130,000 years ago, was the beginning of the African/Oceanic Ice Age Civilization, as modern humans displaced the Neanderthals in Africa and oceanic areas.

Looking at these dates alone, one must conclude that God is in it for the long haul.

In today's readings, Isaiah speaks of a fertile vineyard producing wild grapes. God proclaims that he would “take away its hedge, give it to grazing, let it be trampled, make it a ruin, (neither let it be) pruned or hoed, (let it) be overgrown with thorns and briers, not send rain upon it.”

Israel and Judah are respectively referred to as the vineyard and the cherished plant. God would take from them the fruitfulness he had promised because they produced nothing as they lived for “bloodshed” and refused to seek “justice.”

In the Gospel, we hear another vineyard story in the parable of the vineyard and the evil tenants who leased the vineyard.

Instead of producing a yield of good grapes, they beat the servants and even killed the son, the heir of the owner of that vineyard. Even the Pharisees were able to answer Jesus’ question: “What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?” They answered correctly: “He will put those wretched men to a wretched death and lease his vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the proper times.”

What they didn’t understand was that he was referring to them.

“Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.”

God does not destroy. God does not punish this act or that. God does not kill. God is in it for the long run. If indeed humans have existed on this planet for 160,000 years, God definitely has hung around with us, put up with a lot, loved us in spite of ourselves, and continues to grace us and gift us without conditions and without limits.

As always, the subjective variable is expressed in this question: “Are we open to and willing to produce good fruit?”

God is in it for the long run.

Are we?

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, August 31, 2014

Looking Ahead

Father Perry D. Leiker
By Father Perry D. Leiker

“Paschal Mystery” is today’s word of God in two words.

It is expressed in several different ways. Jeremiah the prophet declares: “you duped me, O Lord; you triumphed; all the day I am an object of laughter; ... has brought me derision and reproach; I will speak his name no more ... but then it becomes like fire burning in my bones.”

The psalm eloquently describes the yearning of the spirit for God and the emptiness without him: “my soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God; my soul thirsts like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water.”

The letter to the Romans pointedly challenges: “offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God.”

Then Jesus foretells his journey and the journey of every disciple: “whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me; whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

The Paschal Mystery involves dying, emptying, losing, finding, struggling, enduring, thirsting, longing, waiting, being rejected, and the cross. All of this is really about discovering how to love, hope, give, and live more.

It would be foolish to think we can make it through this life with the cross. There is physical and emotional suffering, failure, the dashing of our hopes and dreams, betrayal and rejection, misunderstanding, loss of esteem and, in the end, death itself.

Are these the crosses we all must bear? Or is the cross even more, bearing these struggles like Jesus did, without losing faith or hope in God, and looking into the face of hatred and injustice with love and forgiveness, always discovering more within his spirit that which could help him to “find himself by loosing himself”?

Jesus models for us a limitless ability to trust and love and find life — even in dying.

“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me; whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

Are we ready to follow and to live the life of the disciple?

Are we ready to embrace the Paschal Mystery?

Are we ready?

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, August 20, 2014

'Man of the 12th century — there is no doubt or controversy, it has to be Bernard of Clairvaux'

By Father Perry D. Leiker

"So that we could, over the next 10 years, grow in an appreciation of our patron and come to appreciate who Bernard was and who he could be for us, and what kind of charism and gifts he might help to bestow in us and draw out of us so that, through him and through his life as a saint, this parish itself could become a more holy reflection of  God's word alive in us through the intersession of Bernard," Father Perry tells us in his homily for the Memorial of Saint Bernard, abbot and doctor of the church.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Praying for the world

Archbishop José H. Gomez
By Archbishop José H. Gomez

As we look around the world during these summer months, we see that there is a lot for us to pray about.

Close to home, of course, we’ve been praying and working to address the humanitarian emergency caused by the thousands of undocumented children crossing our borders from Central America.

In fact, I’m writing from Mexico City, where I’ve come to take part in a meeting of religious and diplomatic leaders from Central America with [California] Gov. Jerry Brown.

Gov. Brown reached out to me several weeks ago and asked if I would help him to organize a meeting to discuss the present emergency and the broader issues of immigration and development in the region.

Recently, the Vatican and the Mexican government held a similar meeting. These conversations are a very good sign. Because it is essential that governments, business leaders, churches and religious people work together to find solutions to the challenges we face in our societies.

Through these conversations, we are coming to understand that the great migrations we are seeing in the Americas — and in countries all around the world — are part of the daily reality of “globalization.”

We can’t continue to treat immigration as if it is always an “emergency” or a “crisis.”

People are on the move everywhere, and this dynamic fact will only increase. So we need a long-term strategy to address this complicated reality of immigration — as our societies become more and more integrated into the global economy.

We need to examine whether the laws in our countries are fair and whether our borders are secure. But we also need to talk about issues of injustice and inequality in the region. We need to talk about education and economic development; the violence of the drug trade and arms trafficking and human trafficking. We need to find creative ways to promote safe and legal forms of migration.

Also — and I say this as a pastor — we need to examine our hearts. Because immigration, above all, involves issues of our common humanity.

It is more and more clear every day that we need a new commitment to promoting and protecting human dignity and the awareness that we are all brothers and sisters.

This is one of the hard truths that we are learning from our debates over immigration here in the United States.

But it is a hard truth that we also learn from the fighting and bloodshed and suffering that we have been seeing this summer — in Ukraine, in Israel and Palestine, in Syria, and throughout the Middle East and parts of Africa.

It is always the innocent who are suffering the most in these conflicts, especially families and children.

I am praying in a special way for the persecuted Christians of Iraq. Sadly, we are witnessing the violent eradication of Christianity in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East. Those are hard words. But they are true.

In Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, Christian homes are marked with an “N” for “Nazarenes.” And Christians were recently ordered to either convert to Islam or risk death and exile. Thousands fled, many with only the clothes on their backs. So many left, that authorities now say there may be no Christians left in Mosul.

So in our prayers this week, let us join Pope Francis and Christians around the world in praying for our persecuted brothers and sisters. May God give them the strength and courage they need to endure!

As faithful citizens, we need to form a community of conscience — with other believers and with all people of good will.

We need to urge our leaders to do more to defend those in Iraq and everywhere who are being oppressed in the name of religion. And we need to urge our leaders to do more to provide humanitarian assistance and to promote dialogue and diplomacy in places where there is war and conflict.

This week, let’s pray with our Holy Father Pope Francis: “May the God of peace rouse in everyone an authentic desire for peace and reconciliation. … Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for us!”

And let us continue to ask Our Blessed Mother to help us to find solutions to the challenges we face in our society — most urgently the challenge of creating a culture that welcomes the immigrant and defends freedom of conscience and the dignity of the human person.

Archbishop José H. Gómez is the fifth 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.