Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Confirmation Mass: 'All of us are called to help each other be faith-filled disciples'

 7 p.m. St. Bernard Mass of Confirmation Homily on Tuesday, May 27, 2014

By Bishop Gerald Wilkerson

 "When we work together to support one another and to help one another be true disciples of Jesus, that's when the face of Jesus is visible in the world," Bishop Gerald Wilkerson tells us in his homily for the 2014 St. Bernard confirmation Mass. "All of us are called to help each other be faith-filled disciples, courageous disciples, of the Lord Jesus. So let's call commit ourselves to help one another by the way we live our lives, by what we say, and by what we do."

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Looking Ahead

Father Perry D. Leiker
By Father Perry D. Leiker

How one reads the scriptures has a lot of impact on the kind of faith that will develop and grow within them.

There is an old phrase: “The devil can quote scripture for his own purposes.”

One meaning of this is that scripture can be quoted to do harm or even horrible things. It also has to do with how we quote it, that is, in or out of context.

It has long been a Catholic tradition to discourage picking out a word or phrase of scripture and interpreting it completely out of context. Context isn’t everything, but it is almost everything.  It can focus our understanding more clearly or even change the meaning of a passage completely. But to take a word or passage out of the scriptures, knowing its integrated meaning, allows it to retain its true sense and makes it much harder to be used for devilish purposes.

Today’s Gospel is a good example. It is not a blessing of the Ten Commandments or every one of the Jewish laws, even though Jesus said that he did not come to diminish or remove even a letter of the law. Knowing the whole of the Gospels — context — we know Jesus’ clear proclamation of the core, or center, of the law and what was most important to him.

Discussing it with others brought a clarifying reflection that it was "more important than all of the law and the prophets" and "more important than any burnt offering or sacrifice."

It can all be summed up, he said to: “love God with all your heart, soul and strength and love your neighbor as your self.”

Knowing the importance of this passage, and integrating today’s Gospel into this larger context, is the key to understanding it.

Following this command is: to love God our Father; and to know the Father; and to live in the Father and the Father in us; and to know Jesus Christ; and to experience him remaining in us (not leaving us orphans); and to know the Spirit as advocate; and to know Jesus the Christ loving us and always revealing himself to us.

The entire Gospel today is understood, lived out, realized, proclaimed, and integrated into our lives, by knowing the two great commandments so central to Jesus’ message. This makes evangelization of the Gospel to the world a much more gentle activity of Christians.

We don’t need to be standing on a corner, screaming at others to accept Jesus as Lord and savior if they want to be saved. No. We can, rather, follow the advice found today in Chapter 3 of Peter’s first letter: “Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence.”

Integrating that passage and its meaning into our lives will lead us to sharing Jesus Christ gently by showing to others that he is the sanctification of our hearts and lives. This is testimony of the highest order. It is truly: “show and tell,” and it will have great impact in our lives.

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, May 23, 2014

History and suffering in the Holy Land

Archbishop José H. Gómez
By Archbishop José H. Gómez

This week, our Holy Father Pope Francis makes his first trip to the Holy Land.

His pilgrimage reminds us that our Christian faith is rooted in the history and geography of the land that was made holy because God once walked upon it.

Our faith is unique among the world’s religions.

As Christians, we believe that at a certain time and in a certain place, God came down from heaven and became man. He was even identified by the village he grew up in. He was known as Jesus of Nazareth.

The Creed we profess is rooted in this memory. We believe, as an article of our faith, not only that Jesus was made to suffer and die, but that he was made to suffer and die “under Pontius Pilate.” In other words, during the specific years when Pontius Pilate was prefect in Judea, a province of the Roman Empire.

The Holy Father’s visit will be anchored in this history. He will celebrate Mass in Bethlehem, where Jesus was born. And he will pray at the Holy Sepulcher, where Jesus was buried.

Pope Francis knows that this land is sacred, not just for Catholics, but also for the religions of Judaism and Islam.

To symbolize this, he will travel with two old friends and collaborators from his days in Buenos Aires — one a rabbi, the other a Muslim leader.

He will lay flowers on the grave of Theodor Herzl, to honor the founder of the state of Israel.

And at the Holy Sepulcher, he will be joined in prayer by the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, to highlight the ancient unity of the Christian faith.

These gestures of ecumenical and inter-religious friendship are significant at this moment in history. Because today, in the land where Jesus was born and throughout the lands where his church first grew and flourished — the Christian faith is under attack.

At the start of the last century, followers of Jesus made up 20 percent of the population of the Middle East. Today, Christians number less than 5 percent.

In some countries it is a crime to wear a crucifix or carry a Bible in public. Christians are harassed, beaten, their churches destroyed. There are kidnappings of priests and clergy, and forced “conversions” under the threat of death.

On Christmas Day, more than three dozen Catholics were killed by bomb attacks in Baghdad as they worshiped at Mass. A couple weeks ago, it was reported that two Christians were crucified in Ma’loua, an ancient Christian village in Syria.

What makes this persecution more painful is that the persecutors claim to be motivated by their belief in God. But as Pope Francis has said, the living God is a God of mercy and love and “to say that you can kill in the name of God is blasphemy.”

So the Pope goes to the Middle East this week carrying a message of peace and mutual respect and tolerance for all religions and peoples.

And as we pray for his pilgrimage, it’s important for us to renew our sense of solidarity with the universal Church. The Catholic Church is more than the parish we worship in or the church of our archdiocese or nation. Catholic means “of the whole,” or “universal.”

In the face of anti-Christian persecution in the Middle East and throughout the world, we need to commit ourselves to praying daily for those who are suffering and giving their lives for their faith in Jesus.

We need to allow their suffering to touch our hearts. We cannot be indifferent. These are members of our family — our brothers and sisters.

We are brothers and sisters in the family of God. But we are also citizens in a nation that is founded on the principles of religious liberty and freedom of conscience. So we need to urge our government to make these issues a priority in our diplomacy with other nations.

In a world marked by rising secularism on the one hand and religious fanaticism on the other, we need to insist that freedom of conscience is a fundamental human right.

So let’s pray for our Holy Father this week. And let’s pray for the Church in the Holy Land and throughout the Middle East.

And let’s pray for one another — that we may intensify our identity as Christians. With so many witnessing to Christ by the testimony of their blood, let’s honor their sacrifices, by living out our own faith with courage and joy.

And let us ask Our Blessed Mother, Queen of Martyrs, to be a mother to all those martyrs — known and unknown — whose blood is the seed of the church.

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 follow him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/archbishopgomez.

Archbishop Gomez’s book, “Immigration and the Next America,” is available at the Cathedral Gift Shop (www.olacathedralgifts.com/immigrationandthenextamericarenewingthesoulofournation.aspx).

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Looking Ahead

Father Perry D. Leiker
By Father Perry D. Leiker

Jesus promises: “I am going to prepare a place for you ... so that where I am you also may be.”

When Thomas questions him, declaring, “We do not know where you are going: how can we know the way?”

Then Jesus opens up the mystery. He first explains: "I am the way.” Then he reveals that "where" is not so much a place as it is a relationship with and through him. He talks about knowing, seeing, being in relationship, dwelling: “If you know me, then you will also know my Father”; “from now on you do know him and have seen him”; “whoever has seen me has seen the Father”; “I am in the Father and the Father is in me”; “the Father who dwells in me ...”.

Jesus describes the place where he is going to take his disciples is not a location but a relationship. Where we will go is into a place of being with him and with God our Father.

The big revelation is that having a relationship with Jesus is having a relationship with the Father — both are one. In this way we begin to really grasp his answer to Thomas.

“I am the way and the truth and the life.” All of these are true. It is relationship with Jesus that brings us into relationship with the Father — he is the way. Therefore, all that Jesus teaches us, both by word and example, is the truth by which a true Christian lives — he is the truth.

Living this truth of Jesus gives us life now and it gives us life eternal.

He is the 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.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Rediscovering the rosary

Archbishop José H. Gómez
By Archbishop José H. Gómez

May is Mary’s month and the rosary is Mary’s prayer.

It is a simple prayer, one that many of us learned as children. And as we grow older, the rosary grows with us.

I know many of you pray the rosary every day. I do, too. I love the rosary and I’ve had this devotion for many years.

And I know that many of you share my own experience — that the rosary is new every time I pray it. With each passing year, this prayer takes me to different places in my heart, and to different places in my contemplation of Jesus and his mysteries.

The rosary is the prayer of the disciple’s journey, a prayer of the heart that is made for praying as we walk along the path of faith, the path of following Jesus Christ.

No rosary is ever the same, although we are always praying the same words in the same way. It is hard for me to describe, but the Rosary to me seems to be a prayer that is beautifully suited to the nature of our human heart and human mind.

The Hail Marys we repeat with our lips become a kind of background setting as we are lifted up into contemplation.

As we ponder the mysteries of Christ’s life, often our mind wanders to the concerns of our own lives — our cares become prayers for our families and friends, our work and our world — and then we drift back again to considering the Gospel scenes.

Our prayer seems as natural as breathing. We linger on some thoughts longer than others. Time seems to slow down and become part of the quiet rhythm of Hail Marys. We find ourselves dwelling on a single word or group of words in the prayer.

The repetition of Hail Marys in the rosary is like a litany of love. It reminds me of that Easter scene where Jesus asks St. Peter three times, “Do you love me?”

As we all know, “I love you,” isn’t something we say only once to the ones we love.

The rosary is the prayer
of the saints. And it
should be the prayer of
every Catholic who
wants to follow the path
of Jesus and grow in his
image. (Photograph by
Sister Nancy
Bruno, C.S.J.)
We express our love over and over, many times in many ways each day. So every Hail Mary we repeat in the rosary is like an “I love you” that we are saying to Jesus and to Mary, who is his mother and our mother.

The rosary tells us that we can be as close to Jesus as Mary is, that we can live for Jesus as Mary does.

And in the rosary, we are learning how to look at Jesus the way Mary looked at him.

The scenes that pass before us in the joyful, sorrowful, luminous and glorious mysteries — are all scenes that Mary saw with her own eyes. The Gospels tell us that Mary “kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.”

So Mary’s prayer is a prayer of remembering — in which we keep the memory of Jesus’ words and his example present and alive, pondering these mysteries until they come to fill and shape our own heart.

St. Paul taught us to pray without ceasing and to seek the mind of Christ. He spoke of Christ dwelling in our hearts and being formed within us. All of this is happening when we pray the rosary.

Through our contemplation of his life, we are being drawn into communion with Christ. As we repeat the angel’s words in the Hail Mary, his promise to Mary is being delivered in our own lives. We are being filled with God’s grace, the Lord is with us.

Through the repetitions of the daily rosary, the patterns and virtues of Christ’s life are being impressed upon our hearts.

Through his joyful mysteries, we learn his humility. Through his luminous mysteries, we share his zeal to bring God’s light to the world. Through his sorrowful mysteries, we learn that love requires sacrifice. Through his glorious mysteries, our confident hope for heaven grows.

What a beautiful prayer! Simple enough for a child, yet so deep that it can bring us into the heart of Christ and into the depths of his Gospel!

So this week, in the middle of this month of Mary, let’s rediscover the spiritual treasure of the rosary. It is the prayer of the saints. And it should be the prayer of every Catholic who wants to follow the path of Jesus and grow in his image.

This week, let’s all pray a rosary — or just one decade of the rosary — for the cause of the family and the cause of peace.

And let us ask Our Blessed Mother to help us to pray her prayer of the rosary with a new spirit of faith and love — in our families and in our parishes and in our hearts.

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.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

What does it mean to have a vocation?

 Archbishop José H. Gómez
By Archbishop José H. Gomez

As we do every year on the fourth Sunday of Easter, this Sunday we join the universal church in praying for vocations to the priesthood and the religious and consecrated life.

In his message for this year’s World Day of Prayer for Vocations, Pope Francis invites all of us “to listen to the voice of Christ that rings out in the church and to understand what their own vocation is.”

Every life is a calling, a vocation. We would not be here, we would not have been born, unless God called us into existence. God calls us into being from his very heart. And he calls us into being for a reason.

Every vocation requires conversion. We have to overcome our selfishness and make Jesus and his Gospel the center of our lives. We have to change all those ways of thinking and those ways of acting that are not in keeping with his Gospel.

Jesus calls each of us by name and he calls each of us to conversion. He calls us to live — not for ourselves, but to glorify God and to serve our brothers and sisters.

Following Jesus means listening to his voice and his example. He is like a bright light who walks before us in the darkness. Jesus wants to draw everything in our ordinary lives into the light of his divine life.

He wants us to understand our lives in the light of his life. He wants us to see the beautiful life that God sets before us — the beauty of walking by his light. He wants to share his light with us, so that we can radiate his light and share his light with others.

Each of us is called to radiate his divine light in a unique way. Your life belongs to him, just as my life belongs to him. But every life is different and what Christ is calling you to do in this life — he is asking this of you, specifically. He is asking something specific of me, too. This is true for everyone.

Because our lives are different, the way we are called to follow Christ will be different.

There are many paths, many callings. But the call of Jesus is always a call to share in his mission. He is sending all of us out into the world. Most of us, he sends to serve him in the worlds of work and family, the worlds of culture and civic duty.

But some are chosen by Jesus for a special calling, to conform their lives more closely to his image of Jesus. Some he chooses for his priesthood. Some he chooses to follow him in one of the many forms of religious and consecrated life in the church.

So we have to listen for the voice of Christ and we have to respond to his call with all our hearts and all our strength.

We are not born in isolation. And we do not listen for the call of Christ alone. We are born into families, communities and parishes. We are part of God’s own family, baptized into his church.

A vocation always has a context and that context is always the Church. So our task in the church — at every level — is to welcome and accompany people and to open their hearts to know God’s calling in their lives.

In our parishes, schools, and ministries we need to encourage people to seek the path of holiness and friendship in Jesus. If we guide our people on this path, if we inspire them with the beautiful ideals of the Christian life, we will see new vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

Vocations begin in the hearts of those who want to be true friends and followers of Jesus Christ. So our homes and our church must become places where Christ’s voice is heard and where people can learn to follow him — through prayer, study and service, and through the bonds of fellowship and mutual love.

Growing up in Monterrey, we were asked by the archbishop to say this simple prayer asking for vocations every day. This would be a beautiful practice for us as well, especially as we prepare for 2015, which our Holy Father has designated as the “Year for Consecrated Life.”

So this week, let’s rededicate ourselves to the habit of praying in our homes and parishes for vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life. We can say this same simple prayer that I prayed in my youth:

Lord, we ask You to grant us vocations.

Grant us many vocations.

Grant us many and holy vocations!

And let us ask our Blessed Mother Mary to help us also. That we may all hear and answer God’s calling in our lives and know the joy of living for him.

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, May 4, 2014

Looking Ahead

Father Perry D. Leiker
By Father Perry D. Leiker

Again we are blessed with an appearance story of Jesus. This one takes place Easter night. Two disciples experience Jesus on the road to Emmaus, without recognizing him while on the journey. Jesus gives them no hint that it is he, except that he dives into the scriptures, especially those that “referred to him."

Later, they would comment: “Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?” But still they did not recognize him.

Having arrived at their destination, they invited Jesus to stay with them, for it was already late. Stay he did, “And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him; but he vanished from their sight.”

The moment was "Eucharistic." The details matched what had happened only days before – before the fateful arrest, condemnation, and brutal killing of Jesus. He broke the bread – and immediate recognition occurred. They discovered him in that breaking of the bread. He had already broken open the word – the scriptures. The Lord was present among them.

This story is our story as church. It is why we gather each Sunday or each day, if we desire. Together, as present day disciples of the Lord, we find ourselves joined in celebration to break open the word and to break the bread. We share this: word, bread, cup, faith and prayer. All of this binds us together in the Lord.

At the deepest level of our spirit, Jesus comes among us and is recognized and shared through these Eucharistic moments. He gave us the perfect activity and ritual.

Eat! Share! Drink! Listen! Open! Welcome! If we stop and think about it, Jesus chose the most intimate communal gathering where love, comfort and peace collide – a meal. We don’t just eat. We eat and share and commune and become more ONE! This is indeed a holy meal. This is the mixing of human and divine. In our remembering, Jesus truly becomes present. Remembering is the way to bring past to present and to experience its power still.

The past is our present when it opens within our spirit remembered truths and power.

Alleluia! He is risen! We, too, have come to know him in the breaking of the bread.

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