Sunday, March 23, 2014

Looking Ahead

Father Perry D. Leiker
By Father Perry D. Leiker

This week, the catechumens (elect) throughout the church celebrate their first scrutiny. They take a close look at — scrutinize — their inner life and notice any things that are keeping them from following Christ completely. In this examination, they make the choice to tear out of their lives the obstacles to following Jesus Christ completely.

The gospel of the Samaritan woman at the well is the story that tells of a very deep and intimate conversation between herself and Jesus. Jesus sees the woman and her life fully. He reveals inner truths to her that convinces her that he is a prophet.

When she runs home to her townspeople, she shares her newly discovered faith: “Come see a man who told me everything I have done. Could he possibly be the Christ?” Their initial curiosity turns into a convinced faith after they meet the Lord. Their own words will finally reveal their conviction: “We no longer believe because of your word; for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the savior of the world.”

Is this not the journey of every Christian? Do we not have to have an experience of Jesus Christ that goes beyond liking or loving his words, his teachings, his way of life? The woman of Samaria represents something inside each of us.

When we begin to recognize God’s love for us that accepts us as we are with all of the good and bad choices we have made, then we begin to know the Samaritan woman's experience. When who we are is more than what we have done — or not done — with our lives, we begin to appreciate this woman’s testimony. Jesus shows her that he understands her life. She experiences being known and accepted.

Today, our elect take a good look at their lives, and they open their lives fully to the Lord, as they admit their sins and recognize their obstacles to a full commitment of faith. This is an important part of the journey that invites us to become his true disciples.

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, March 21, 2014

To hunger for holiness and thirst for justice

Archbishop José H. Gomez
By Archbishop José H. Gomez

Our Archdiocesan Religious Education Congress this past weekend was a great celebration of faith.

What a blessing to have so many thousands of people, from countries all over the world, coming to learn more about our Catholic faith and to be renewed in their dedication to the church’s mission of the new evangelization.

It was a joy for me to be able to talk to so many of you and celebrate the Eucharist with you. It was a special joy to participate in the Youth Day at the Congress — and to see so many of our young people so happy to live and share their Catholic faith.

We are living in a beautiful springtime in our church, as we enter the second year with our Holy Father Pope Francis.

This is a time for all of us to deepen our conversion to Jesus and to the journey of holiness he sets before us. As we have been reflecting during this Lenten season, Jesus is calling us to be people of the Beatitudes.

The Beatitudes teach us God’s way for us to find true happiness. And we know that God created us to be happy, to be blessed. Every one of us was born with this desire for happiness in our hearts. And God alone can fulfill this desire.

St. Augustine said many centuries ago: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”

This is still true. God alone satisfies.

The trouble is that we are tempted by our weakness and by our culture to forget that. Often we end up seeking happiness in the wrong places — in behaviors and pursuits that can entertain us or give us pleasure, but cannot satisfy the true longings of our hearts.

The Beatitudes express that “right order” that God intends for our lives. Through the Beatitudes, he is teaching us what we should desire and what we should be seeking in our lives. He is teaching us to seek the things that can really make us happy.

So in the fourth Beatitude, Jesus is calling us to hunger and thirst for righteousness.

Righteousness does not mean “absolute perfection” or that we never make a mistake. Righteousness in the Scriptures means “rightness” or justice.

Things are righteous when they are the way God wants them to be. As this Beatitude suggests, righteousness is something we are called to strive for; it’s not something we can hope to achieve in this life. Righteousness is the work of God. And we are waiting, as St. Peter said, for the day when he will bring “a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”

To seek righteousness means seeking to get “right” with God and “right” with the people around us. It also means seeking to make things “right” in the world we live in.

This is important to remember: The Beatitudes are not “private” virtues; even though they sound like they should be.

Jesus calls us to be “poor,” “meek” and “mourning.” These are personal qualities, character traits. But Jesus calls us to live these aspects of our Christian personality in ways that have consequences for our personal relationships and our mission in the world.

He wants us to be poor so we have more to give. He wants us to mourn in solidarity with those who suffer injustice. To be meek means we resist evil with good.

In the same way, in calling us to hunger and thirst for righteousness, Jesus wants us to seek holiness in our own lives and justice in our society and our world.

Again, Jesus is our model for the Beatitudes. In the Acts of the Apostles, he is called “the Holy and Righteous One.”

And he is the one we are called to seek. We are to hunger for Jesus — because he is bread of life. We are to thirst for him — because out of his heart, living water flows.

In this Beatitude, Jesus is calling us to be people of longing. Always seeking what is above — truth and beauty and the higher things of God. Always striving that God’s will be done on earth as it is heaven. That everyone in our world has what he or she deserves as a child of God, created in God’s image.

This longing for holiness and God’s kingdom — this is the true path to the happiness our heart desires.

So let’s pray for one another this week. Pray that we may all grow in our desire for God.

And let’s ask Our Blessed Mother Mary to help us to hunger for holiness in our lives and to thirst for justice in our world.

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

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Looking Ahead

Father Perry D. Leiker
By Father Perry D. Leiker

"Listen! If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts! Listen!"

The transfiguration of Matthew sends an important message, not only to the disciples who shared the moment with Jesus, but to all of us, every Christian.

Jesus took three disciples with him up the mountain, the place where sacred things occurred. There, they experienced God’s presence. Moses and Elijah appeared standing near Jesus. Immediately, Peter felt the need to "do" something. He wasn’t content or peaceful enough to just "take in" the experience. It wasn’t enough to simply receive what God was clearly giving to them. He wasn’t aware that, in that moment, God was calling him.

So while Peter was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them all. In fear the disciples fell face down on the ground. A voice — the voice of God — spoke: “This is my beloved Son, listen to him.” Jesus then touched them saying: “Get up and do not be afraid.” When they did get up, they saw "just Jesus."

What a scene! What a moment! The amazing and the ordinary stood side by side. Visions of prophets, a glorified transfiguration, bright lights and voices, all streamed together to "call" the disciples deeper into the mystery of God revealed in Jesus. All were "calling" the disciples to faith. Initially, they feared. It really was too much. But at the gentle touch of Jesus the disciples were once again "called" to not fear but to have faith.

This whole experience was a very deep call to enter more deeply into the unfolding mystery of Jesus who asked for the mystery to be fulfilled before they shared it with others.

How does this story call us? Do we ever experience the voice of God clearly speaking to us in the ordinary? Do we have "mountain top" experiences in church, at work, in our family, with neighbors, with friends, with enemies? Do we find ourselves fearing, then being touched, only to discover we are being "called" to faith?

Grace is indeed amazing. God is always at work in all things. Faith leads us to see and understand in new ways. To be open, waiting, wanting, seeking is the attitude we need to experience those little mountaintop moments again and again. Not fear, but faith!

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, March 9, 2014

Looking Ahead

Father Perry D. Leiker
By Father Perry D. Leiker 

Let’s begin with sin – yes, the primordial sin, the one that we say goes back go our beginnings as recorded in the second story of creation in Genesis.

The story goes to the roots of sin. We think we are like gods or like the God. Now that is some fruit and some tree!

Imagine to be like, equal and able to stand up to, in competition with, or be able to reckon with God! Imagine that. Again, it brings us back to the primordial sin or the original sin.

We are not gods. We have been wonderfully made in God’s image and likeness and, therefore, have something very special and wonderful within us, which we often forget. Instead of letting God’s grace, spirit and love flow through us and within us, we seek to be what we cannot be and fail to live out our human nature in its fullness. It has fallen! It is broken!

Jesus, in naked humanness, goes out into the desert and is tempted. Because Jesus’ spirit and God’s spirit were truly and divinely one, he was able to empty self and be weak, naked, thirsty, hungry and completely open – he was tempted in that inner space. In that place of total emptiness and vulnerability, his spirit was aligned perfectly and wholly with God the Father.

Can Lent offer us something of the same? Are we capable of and open to emptying ourselves? Whatever special sacrifices we do this Lent, will they help us to become more human and more divine? Will we enter into the death of Jesus so that we can also experience his resurrection and new life? Let us do Lent so we can do Easter and be renewed as disciples of Jesus.

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

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Lent 2014: Give Up, Take Up, Lift Up!

In his Lenten message for 2014, Pope Francis takes inspiration from the words of St. Paul (Corinthians 8:9), and asks us to contemplate Paul's invitation to live "a life of evangelical poverty."

Embrace his call by fasting from or "giving up" material things, including food, superfluous to your basic needs; "taking up" charitable habits directed to helping and caring for others; and "lifting up" those in need through giving alms, praying and participating in devotional practices.

Inspiration for your Lenten journey from the words of Pope Francis featured on this calendar and contemplate the suggestions for prayer, fasting and almsgiving. 

Download the calendar here.

TODAY

Friday After Ash Wednesday

Today, we remember two early Christian martyrs, Perpetua and Felicity, who are always mentioned together for good reason. Read about these saints and you'll understand why.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Looking Ahead

Father Perry D. Leiker
By Father Perry D. Leiker

“I will never forget you. Your heavenly Father knows you need them all. All these things will be given you besides.”

Any questions? Is there still any doubt about God’s relationship with us, as described by Jesus Christ? Shouldn’t we still be worrying — just a little bit?

It might be hard to imagine a better way to end Ordinary Time before entering the season of Lent next Sunday. Before we strip away the excesses and encrusted stuff that fill our lives, often with great illusions, we listen to a word that describes unbelievable, unlimited and unconditional love.

God really cares — at least, that is what Jesus tells us. If birds and grass and flowers are cared for and produce beautiful fruitfulness without any cares or worries, why not us? Why not even more? To allow ourselves to be loved without earning it seems scandalous. To accept such unconditional love and care seems, at the very least, a bit generous.

Could it be really true? Is this how God really is? Shouldn’t we have to do something to deserve it all? If, indeed, this is so then, perhaps, the refrain from today’s responsorial psalm not only is but also should be a life-long refrain: “Rest in God alone, my soul.”
  
Father Perry Leiker is pastor of St. Bernard Church. Reach him at (323) 255-6142, Ext. 112, or email pleiker@stbernard-church.com.