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.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Looking Ahead

Father Perry D. Leiker
By Father Perry D. Leiker 

Does celebrating Eucharist, receiving the body and blood of Christ, satisfy our deepest hungers and thirsts?

What are our deepest hungers and thirsts? Do we long for justice? Is peace something we thirst for among nations, in our cities, on our streets, within our own hearts?

Over time, have our families fractured and disintegrated or simply drifted apart? Are we hungry for reconciliation, healing and a new unity?

Today, the scriptures speak about these hungers and thirsts being satisfied.

“Come to the water. Come, receive grain and eat. Delight in rich fare. Come to me; listen, that you may have life.” Paul proclaims the conviction that the love of God for us cannot be taken from us.

“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

But in the Gospel, Jesus hears the painful news that his cousin, John the Baptist, had been killed, and he goes off alone to a deserted place. But when he disembarks from the boat he finds the crowds who had followed him. He feels compassion, pity, and the need to teach and heal. He even feeds them — 5,000 men, not counting the women and children — multiplying the fish and the loaves. And there were 12 baskets of left-over food.

Why do we come to church? Are we being fed? Does our thirst get satisfied? Do we even know for what we hunger and thirst? Does being fed depend on the priest — somewhat, a lot, entirely?

Does the community touch us, too, with its faith, hope, love and prayerful praise? Does the beauty of the church or temple also touch our hunger for a sacred space that heals, touches, strengthens and brings peace?

We come free, too; there is no cost, yet we give generously because we know the cost of providing all of this?

Do we give generously? Do we love generously? Do we support our church financially, prayerfully and lovingly.

“The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs” (Psalm 14). The host and the cup are the experience that brings us together and opens the many, many, many ways in the liturgy that the Lord feeds us, gives us drink, satisfying our deepest hungers and thirsts.

So come, and eat, drink, listen, love and sing!

Give praise!

Be filled!

Find life!

Share hope!

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