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.