Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Looking Ahead

Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor
By Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor

The Gospel passage of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph is the only one that deals with Jesus just about to begin his teenage years. It reveals a typical family with typical problems.

It appears at first that Jesus is irresponsible and not caring which results in distress, panic, fear, hurt and disappointment for his parents, Joseph and Mary.

How could their son not communicate with them? He was 12, not a little boy – how could he "get lost"? Why would he not tell either his father or mother what, where and why he wasn’t with either of them?

Mary's own words expressed their grief: "Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety."

They were not prepared for his response, and Luke's Gospel uses this to reveal where this bigger Gospel story is going to go. This wasn’t about Joseph or Mary. In a sense, it wasn't even about Jesus.


"Why were you looking for me? Did you not know at I must be in my Father’s house?"

Mary did not understand, but kept all these things in her heart. Jesus progressed in wisdom, age and favor before God and man.

This is no ordinary family. There has probably never been another mother in human history that has heard this response from her 12-year-old son after losing then finding him.

If there is a lesson in this story for any family – for every family – what might it be?

Things go wrong. People make poor decisions. Bad judgments are a part of everyone's experience in life. Worse, people are also not caring, and are hurtful, selfish and even vengeful.

All of this can happen between enemies, but it can also happen within families.

But what if we had a kind of spirituality, that is, a way within our hearts, souls and mind that permitted us to not understand – and that would be okay with us?

What if we were able to draw things deep into our hearts and there think about them, ponder upon them and reflect about them before we made decisions or judgments?

What if we really had a relationship with our Father and our Father's house that was so real that to go in there and be with him would always bring results, it would always help?

What if we had the eyes and heart to see the people around us change, grow and advance both in wisdom and age?

In other words, could it be – is it possible – that sometimes the world is as it is and never becomes more because we get stuck, because we are not as open as we could be, because we don’t listen or see?

The miracle of the Holy Family has to happen in each and every member. The miracle of the Holy Family happens when our spirit is open and willing.

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 20, 2015

Looking Ahead

Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor
By Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor

In the Gospel on this last Sunday of Advent, we are presented with two pregnant women — cousins Mary and Elizabeth.

Elizabeth, miraculously pregnant with John the Baptist converses with Mary, mysteriously pregnant with Jesus.

The first reading from Micah provides us with a prophetic utterance that Bethlehem, "too small to be among the clans of Judah," is recognized as the place from which will come "the ruler of old, whose origin is from ancient times."

The Gospel also provides a prophetic utterance from Elizabeth as she recognizes her cousin's pregnancy as much more than just a pregnancy.

Filled with the Spirit she cries out: "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. How does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?"

Two prophetic utterances — both are announcing the coming of the Lord; there is recognition of the holy, of the presence of God, of fulfillment, of God’s work being done in ways unimaginable.

This last week of Advent seeks to open our eyes to the mystery of Incarnation unfolding in time. We, as the followers of Jesus Christ, are welcomed into a reflection of the hope and dream of salvation.

The past dream remembered and proclaimed at Christmas is the dream realized and celebrated by us.

There is also trust and blessing revealed in the words of Elizabeth to Mary. Elizabeth doesn't just reflect upon her personal reaction or response to Mary – although she does that, too. Rather, Elizabeth proclaims: "Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled."

What will this Christmas bring to each of us?

We will again remember the birth of Jesus. We will reflect upon and celebrate Incarnation. We will rejoice with the angels that the messiah has been born and hear the Good news proclaimed in their song.

But what about Elizabeth's final words. Will they be spoken to us also? Will we appreciate that, in baptism, we have been blessed, called, anointed, chosen, loved, graced, saved and sent?

Will we hear words of fulfillment to us? Will we feel blessed and be grateful for it?

Hopefully, each of us will take Elizabeth's words personally and truly hear them addressed to us: "Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled."

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 13, 2015

Looking Ahead

Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor
By Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor

"Gaudete" Sunday – the third Sunday of Advent, is so called because the first word of the opening prayer of the Mass in Latin is "Gaudete" or Rejoice!

When Advent clearly had a penitential spirit including even fasting (like a little Lent), this Sunday, halfway through the season, provided a little break from it all.

Purple vestments and little or no flowers was the norm during Advent. On this Sunday it was permitted to have flowers, more song and rose-colored vestments were worn to signify that the end was in sight – the Lord is very near!

In the first reading from Zephaniah, words like "joy" and "exult" appear six times in only five verses. The tone, and the reason for it, is clear. Twice we are told: "The Lord is in your midst."

Could there be a better reason to be joyful? Then in the Gospel of Luke just before Jesus comes on the scene at the time of his baptism (his entrance into his public ministry), John the Baptist urges everyone to "prepare the way of the Lord."

When the people ask him, "What should we do?" he gives them multiple examples of what God's word is always asking of us.
Do justice! Do it! It is just that someone who has two cloaks should give one over to someone who has none. It is just that one would give food to someone who has none. To tax collectors, it is just that you DO NOT collect more taxes than what is prescribed by law. It is just that you: "do not practice extortion"; "do not falsely accuse anyone"; "be satisfied with your wages" and, I will add, "give fair wages to all" – wages upon which a person can actually make a living.

Do justice! Make justice! Live justice! Stand for justice! Do not accept injustice!

Justice in the scriptures is not equality – everyone having the same. It is, rather, everyone having enough. No one goes without. No one is abandoned. The goods of the world belong to all. They are signs of God’s goodness to us. Just people see to it that everyone has a just share.

When justice is done, the words of St. Paul in the second reading today are realized: "Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ 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.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Looking Ahead

Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor
By Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor

The season of Advent has two purposes: to prepare us for the celebration of Christmas, the birthday of Jesus; and to turn our attention to the Christ of glory who will come at the end of time.

Advent, then, is a preparation time for more than Christmas day which is filled with tremendous sentiment and feelings; the season itself is a time for us to judge how well we prepare for the second coming of the Lord by examining how well we live Jesus' gospel teachings and preaching.

The Christmas day celebration is a natural and easy one to prepare for and doesn’t demand too much from us. The Advent season focusing on the second coming of Christ asks for transformation of our lives and true adherence to the Gospel.

Baruch invites us to have hope by reminding us of great themes coming from our relationship with God: exiles are "remembered by God" and "advance secure in the glory of God."

Paul encourages us prayerfully inviting us to continue in living our "partnership for the gospel." He reminds us of God's activity in our lives: "the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus."

The transformation of our lives is expressed in his prayer for us "that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge ... so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ."

Jesus is not coming – he already came in his birth in Bethlehem, but we have a great need to remember this redemptive event that has changed all of time.

Jesus Christ is coming again and in him will be revealed the "glory and praise of God." This is the real event we are preparing for by listening to Christ's teachings and putting them into effect in our lives by becoming true disciples of the Lord.

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 29, 2015

Looking Ahead

Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor
By Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor

The season of Advent is about preparing us for the coming of the Lord.

This purpose in Advent is really twofold. The immediate purpose is to prepare for the coming of Jesus in his historical birth at Christmas. With this purpose there is the built in tension between the Christmas of the Christian and the Christmas of the world.

One is spiritual and filled with joy as we await then celebrate the Incarnation — God becoming man — as he entered this world through Mary's conception and birth. The other is materialistic and centered on Santa Clause, gifts, endless buying and debt for the new year.

There is no question that the season affects nearly the whole world and is important spiritually, economically, socially and on levels that are even unconscious.

The other spiritual purpose is equally as strong throughout the entire season of Advent. The coming of Jesus Christ is his long awaited coming at the end of time — the second coming of Jesus Christ. This one demands our spiritual attention and deepest personal commitment.

This is the moment when there will be no hiding, no escaping, no mistaking, no Plan B. When this moment comes, we must be ready. When this moment comes, it will all be over.

This is the time when Jesus Christ will take back everything that has come from God to return it to God. This is the time referred to as the "final judgement."

It should be no surprise then that the word of God repeats again and again: "prepare the way of the Lord; be ready; stay awake; be alert; open up; listen."

The language of the Bible that greets us during this time is apocalyptic, strong, demanding, forceful, promising, hopeful, and it seeks our commitment. This is John the Baptist’s time. This is the time of renewal and change of heart.

If we ready our spirit for the celebration of the birth of Jesus, we should have a spirit that is open and ready to meet Jesus Christ any way and any time that he comes: in his word, in the Gospel, in one another, in our sin and struggles, in the darkness of our world.

This is what the church believes. This is why we celebrate. Indeed, the good news of Advent is: "The Lord Jesus shall come! Rejoice!"

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, November 26, 2015

9 a.m. Thanksgiving Day Mass Homily on Thursday, November 26, 2015



"How deep does gratitude come into our lives?" Father Perry asks us in his homily for Thanksgiving Day. "Is it the central thing about us? I'm convinced that if we live out of gratitude, anxiety leaves; if we live out of gratitude, depression often can leave. If we live out of gratitude, we can see life as the glass half-full, that we begin to live in a freer way, a different way. Even losing our sight, we begin to see that we can hear like we've never heard before. Now that's a gift."

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Looking Ahead

Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor
By Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor 

Every year on this feast, with Daniel, we see the vision of the Son of Man who will come and who has "received dominion, glory, and kingship."

We are also routinely told: "all peoples, nations, and languages serve him" and "his dominion is an everlasting dominion."

The evangelist John reflects as Jesus stands before Pilate who questions him: "Are you the King of the Jews?" Jesus never answers the question. Rather, Jesus' questions make Pilate declare it: "Then you are a king."

But perhaps the most provocative thing that Jesus says in this conversation is: "My kingdom does not belong to this world."

People of this place called earth love to ponder on outer space – what's out there? But Jesus invites us to ponder on inner space – what’s in here?

This kingdom of God is deep within us. It truly does not belong to this world, because this world has such a hard time recognizing and staying in touch with it. This inner kingdom is to be found at the deepest point within our souls where God dwells for all. Here, in this innermost place within us, we find the truest answers to life and our real meaning.

Jesus tells us about this kingdom then declares: "Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice."

How true that is. Whether Catholic, Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, Sikh, Hindu, it doesn’t matter. All hear the voice of Jesus because his voice is universal. It doesn't even have to be acknowledged as "his" voice. It is simply the truth. And the truth that all religions speak about is this kingdom within that knows the good and the true nature of all things as given to us by God.

In this kingdom, people know peace, love, goodness, caring, forgiveness, healing, hope, kindness and joy. In this kingdom, "all peoples, nations, and languages serve him" and "his dominion is an everlasting dominion."

Rejoice in this Feast of Christ, Our King!

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

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A statement of solidarity from the Administrative Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Terror always seeks to separate us from those we most love. 

Through their suffering, courage and compassion, Parisians are reminding us that the common bond of humanity is strongest when the need is greatest. 

We pledge our prayers for everyone who suffers from this horrific violence and our advocacy to support all those working to build just and peaceful societies.

To the people of France, we mourn with you and honor the lives lost from several nations, including our own. 

To our brothers and sisters in the church in France, your family in the United States holds you close to our hearts. 

May the tender and merciful love of Jesus Christ give you comfort during this great trial and lead you on a path toward healing and peace.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Looking Ahead

Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor
By Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor 

The film "2012" is a movie based on ancient Mayan predictions of the end of the world brought about by a historic alignment of all the planets.

With the release of that movie came the release of fear.

Fear is the common factor among all those who believe that this prediction is authentic and correct. The best antidote to fear is fact. The antidote is to seek more and perhaps better information.

Predicting the end of the world is a sport to many people. For most of our lifetimes we have heard countless predictions put forth by differing Christian communities who seem fixated on these predictions and instilling fear.

Not intending to one up anyone, it must be noted that our sacred scriptures do the same thing, as we can see from our readings today.

The "apocalyptic literature" within the Bible had, as its specific purpose, the task of proclaiming the end times. The specific goal was that in doing so, people would become alarmed and hopefully want to change their lives.

Who wouldn't want to be ready for the end of time? Daniel does a grand job in speaking apocalyptically in today's first  reading: "It shall be a time unsurpassed in distress ...".

Jesus, in Mark, echoes this theme in similar apocalyptic language: "In those days after that tribulation the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken."

But at the same time Daniel speaks hope: "But the wise shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament, and those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever."

Isn’t this enough to reassure us? Shouldn’t we find comfort in following the advice of Daniel? If we live justly as is our call as Christians, won't our future with God be secure?

That appears to be the fact proclaimed today which should alleviate the feat. But there is more fact.

Even the most superficial reading of Mark's Gospel passage today should put this whole question to rest. Jesus' own words say simply and definitively: "But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."

For whatever it is worth, if there is any voice out there that might be deemed an expert or having some factual knowledge, perhaps that might be Jesus. At least this author is placing his bets on him.

Go, enjoy these movies! It is Hollywood at its best. The effects, they say, are astounding.

Perhaps, like the apocalyptic literature, these movies might even move or scare some people to change their lives. That is Hollywood at its best.

However, one grand difference between Hollywood and Jesus is Jesus would call us to change not out of fear, but out of love.

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

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Loving the church

Archbishop José H. Gómez
By Archbishop José H. Gomez 

Our faith in Jesus Christ is deeply personal. But we do not have faith as solitary individuals. We do not believe on our own.

From the moment of our baptism, our faith in Christ is lived in the company of others who believe in him, in the fellowship of the church on earth and in the communion of saints in heaven.

These past two weekends I’ve had the privilege to dedicate new altars at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Los Nietos and St. Raymond in Downey.

And as I was praying and talking with my brothers and sisters in these parishes, I started thinking about our love for the church.

Our relationship with the church begins in the sacrifice that takes place on the altar.

The altar is so much more than a table placed at the front of the church building. Human hands made the altar. And the human hands of the priest offer bread and wine on the altar. But every consecrated altar is Christ’s altar, the altar of his sacrifice.

What happens at the altar brings us into the mystery of Jesus Christ’s love for each of us, and his love for his church.

St. Paul said that “Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her, to sanctify her … that she might be holy.” On every altar, every day, Jesus comes once more to hand himself over for his church. To feed us and to show his love for us, and to make us holy.

What happens at the altar joins us to Jesus and to one another. The altar makes us one church — the family of God.

Sometimes we can make the mistake of only seeing outside appearances of the church, the “trappings” of the hierarchy, the organizational structures, church buildings.

But the church is a spiritual reality, one of creation’s deepest mysteries, the center of God’s beautiful plan for world.

The church is God’s plan for the world.

God’s plan is to make the world into one family — to share his love to ends of the earth and to make his church a place where everyone can live as sisters and brothers, as children of God, as one family in his Son, Jesus. To proclaim the good news that God is our Father and to invite men and women of every nation to be baptized and to live as children of God and brothers and sisters in his family, the church.

This is the mission of the church, of every child of God.

So we can never make the mistake of trying to imagine a false division between Christ and the church. They will say things like, “I believe in Jesus but not in the church.” Or, “I believe in Christ, not the pope.”

But we cannot separate Christ from his church any more than we can have a Christ without the cross. The church is the family we are born into, the home where we draw life.

It is true that the members of the church — including the pope, the bishops, priests and religious — are all human. So we have sins and weaknesses. The church is a family we are born into and there is no family that does not have human failings. But in every family we try to love one another and help one another to overcome our failings. And in the family of the church we can turn always to our Father for mercy and the grace to begin again, to love as Jesus loves.

So God made each one of us to find our true home in the church. God has a beautiful plan that he wants his children to share with the world. It is a “family plan” because God wants us to make the whole world one family of God.

So let’s pray for each other this week. And let’s ask God to increase our love for his church — so that we are more united to Christ and to one another and more dedicated to our mission of sharing God’s mercy and love with others, with inviting them to join us in the family of the church.

And let’s ask our Blessed Mother Mary, the mother of the church, to pray for the church and for the pope and all who serve the church.

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, Twitter, and Instagram.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Looking Ahead

Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor
By Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor

"She gave everything she had to live."

Does anyone really give like that, ever? And why is this held up as a model of how to live in the scriptures?

Imagine saying these words: "I was collecting a couple of sticks, to go in and prepare something for myself and my son; when we have eaten it, we shall die."

There are probably several ways to respond to this line, but the response of the prophet does not seem like one of them: "But first make me a little cake and bring it to me. Then you can prepare something for yourself and your son."

Were it not for the exhortation to "not be afraid" and "to trust," accompanied by the promise that God's work will take care of her, this response of the prophet would be at best offensive if not outright hateful.

But the woman did trust and did experience the promise. And the woman in the temple who gave "everything she had" showed a similar trust in God. What she gave was not a lot of money, but her whole self – all she had. This is an extraordinary lesson that we receive today.

Jesus once again shows us the true meaning of giving and sharing. The word of God does not just choose the example of someone quite poor, but rather chooses the destitute.

These people had nothing. After giving all they had, there was nothing else left but to wait for death. That is destitution. But imagine their last act was one of giving. Their last choice was to let go of everything. Neither seems to do it with regret – they just simply give.

How do we give? What is our definition of generous? Do we give begrudgingly? Do we give with strings attached?

Is our giving a giving of the whole self? Do we trust in the promise? Do we believe in God’s care for 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 1, 2015

Looking Ahead

Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor
By Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor 

The Solemnity of All Saints recognizes the holy ones we call saints.

The church from its beginning has formally named persons as saints and continues to do so to this day.

Since last November, Pope Francis has canonized 16 persons finally naming them as saints. Among those canonized was Junipero Serra, who lived and practiced ministry here within the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

Recognizing them as saints says that they attained a degree of holiness that places them apart and sets them up now as an example to be followed in our efforts to grow closer to Jesus Christ and to look more like Christ in our daily living.

They were ordinary human beings like each of us. They can show us the way — and the church celebrates this.

Many like to point out, however, that there are formally recognized saints with a capital S, and then there are all of those "saints" — you and I — who ARE saints because of baptism.

We enter the waters of baptism to die to the slavery of sin and to rise in holiness as followers, disciples and friends of Jesus Christ.

We are anointed with the holy oils that signify that we are indeed anointed in Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit.

In baptism we believe that God dwells in us. We believe we are sealed by the Holy Spirit and that we have become temples of the Holy Spirit.

We believe that the power of evil and sin has forced — exorcised — from us and that grace now dwells within us.

These changes are neither superficial or cosmetic. No, these go to the corner of our soul and spirit where we believe we are radically changed, that is, in our roots.

We become holy — saints. We are set apart. We belong to God. We are cared for, protected, loved, graced, strengthened and blessed.

While the Solemnity of All Saints truly honors and celebrates the countless men and women — lay, religious, and ordained — who have been formally named as saints, we are all honored today.

This is OUR feast day. This is our recognition of what God has done to and for us.

This day is a day of holiness.

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

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Proclaiming the mystery of family love

Archbishop José H. Gomez
By Archbishop José H. Gomez

I am happy to be writing you this week from Los Angeles. It’s great to be back home!

The Synod of Bishops on the family concluded this weekend. As I have been reporting, the Synod Fathers worked hard during these past three weeks. And this weekend we presented a final document that offers our Holy Father Pope Francis some good solid pastoral perspectives on the issues facing the Church and the family in modern society.

I am pleased that the final document was strong in affirming the church’s traditional teaching — that God’s plan for marriage is intended for one man and one woman to be united in love for life. Throughout the document there is beautiful language, drawn from the Scriptures, that describes God’s plan for the family.

The document also includes strong passages on the importance of families having children, on the sanctity of life and the importance of children as the future of the Church. The Synod Fathers were also strong on the challenges of global immigration and its effects on the family, a reality we see every day here in Los Angeles.

There is also urgent language on the need to defend the elderly and the disabled against the rising movement of euthanasia and assisted suicide. Sadly, this is also a reality that we now have to face in California.

In his final homily closing the Synod, Pope Francis urged us, as pastors, to continue walking with our people, “with our eyes fixed on Jesus and our brothers and sisters, in the search for the paths which the Gospel indicates for our times so that we can proclaim the mystery of family love.”

It was a great blessing for me to have this time to pray and reflect with our Holy Father Pope Francis and with my brother bishops from all over the world.

And I return with a new energy and new ideas about strengthening marriage and family life which, as we know, is one of my five pastoral priorities for the family of God here in Los Angeles.

Prior to the synod, with the help of our Family Life Office and the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council, we conducted a survey of our family life programs in the archdiocese. Now is the time for us to study those findings and look for fresh approaches and “best practices” for couples and families.

My own sense is that we need to look especially at how we prepare couples for marriage and how we support them in the critical early years of their marriage. I also think we need to look at the challenges families face from poverty, economic circumstances and immigration status.

In this regard, I am more convinced than ever that we need to try to make Catholic schools more accessible to families, especially families in need. I was pleased that the synod’s final document recognized the vital role of Catholic schools in supporting Catholic families and providing training in the virtues and instruction in the faith.

I also believe we need to support families in their spiritual lives. We need to help families feel comfortable praying together and talking about their faith.

Families are so busy and so distracted with everyday work and chores and duties. We need to find ways to bring them together for prayer and friendship and just spending time together.

We need to help them develop family traditions and habits that make their faith more a part of the natural rhythms of their daily life. Just sharing a Sunday meal after Mass would be one example, along with finding more time during the week to eat dinner together.

In our global economy, families are also more and more separated and “on the move.” Children often live and work far away from their parents and grandparents — either across the country or across the ocean or the border.

So we need to find ways to keep families united — and united in their faith. Some families are already using forms of social media — Facebook, Instagram, Google Hangouts, Skype and WhatsApp — to stay connected.

We should encourage this and also find new ways that families can share time and pray together and share their challenges. In my opinion, we have only begun to explore the possibilities of using social media to support marriages and families and to share our faith.

I also think we need to encourage every one in the Church — and every member of every family — in their call to be missionaries. Missionaries of the family.

It is a great time in our society for all of us to be going out and sharing with the people in our society — especially with our young people — the beauty of God’s plan for creation, for marriage, and for the family.

So let’s keep praying for each other this week. And let’s pray for couples who are married and about to be married. And let’s pray for the grace to find new ways to support families and to proclaim the beautiful plan of God for the family.

And may our Blessed Mother Mary, her spouse Joseph and the Child Jesus all watch over and guide our families.

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 FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Catholics in Mexico thankful Hurricane Patricia did not cause major damage

Hurricane Patricia is seen approaching Mexico.
By Catholic News Agency

During Mass on Sunday at the cathedral of Mexico City, the celebrant thanked God that Hurricane Patricia — the strongest recorded in the western hemisphere — did not in the end cause major damage to Mexico, as was anticipated.

Father Julián López Amozurrutia, a canon at the cathedral, thanked God Oct. 25 because “he had mercy on our country in the way Hurricane Patricia landed.”

Hurricane Patricia made landfall in the Mexican state of Jalisco late on Oct. 23. It had been a Category 5 storm, with sustained winds of 202 mph; massive devastation was expected.

But the storm struck a lightly populated area, and was downgraded to a Category 2 tropical storm by the morning of Oct. 24. Six people are confirmed to have died from the storm, though 400,000 people are believed to live in vulnerable areas, and subsequent landslides and flash flooding were feared.

“A prayer of gratitude and petition to the Lord who had mercy on our country by the path Hurricane Patricia took through the states that were threatened to be affected, and also for the people who suffered some tragedy. We place them all on the altar of the Lord,” Father López said at the Mass.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Looking Ahead

Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor
By Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor

This is as good as it gets in today's scriptures: "the Lord has delivered his people"; "I will bring them back"; "I will gather them"; "they departed in tears but I will console them"; "(I will) guide them ... lead them."

These are the prophetic utterances of Jeremiah who speaks of God's great love and care of this people, Israel.

God declares himself as their father. There seems to be no limits to his love, guidance, healing and restoring care. This is our great God as he relates to his people. God even delights in referring to the many who are satisfied with his love as he announces: "they shall return as an immense throng."

Not only does the word reveal a loving God who treats his people with such kindness and goodness, he shows the same love for the individual person through Jesus who listens, responds and brings healing to yet another individual.

Jesus, surrounded by a sizable crowd, hears the voice of one person — Bartimaeus — who was crying out when he heard that Jesus was passing by. This blind man had heard of his healing power. Not anyone nor anything could silence his cries.

Jesus heard him, called him over, and asked what he wanted. Jesus sent him away healed and restored and with an even stronger faith.

Whether it is God listening to his people or Jesus listening to an individual person, the same message is proclaimed loudly and clearly today.

The psalmist pulls it all together in the refrain we sing and pray today: "The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy."

But some feel quite the opposite. They feel that God does not hear their voice or their cry. They are convinced that God has abandoned them and has not responded to their needs. They have given up on prayer and seeking because it seems their prayers are never answered.

Today's word is no consolation but rather a painful reminder of their sorrowful and despairing lack of hope — their growing faithlessness.

I wonder how many years Bartimaeus may have felt the same. I wonder if he ever felt abandoned, punished and forsaken by God. I wonder if it isn’t simply a part of the human condition to sometimes feel this way.

But perhaps like Bartimaeus there comes the day when, in spite of all of the noise around us and the usual busyness of life, we can still hear that voice of Jesus or recognize the presence of God.

Perhaps God is most near and listening deeply to us when we are lost in our blindness, have surrendered to voiceless cries, get stuck in paralyzed moments, or can't hear because of our deafness or feel because of our hardened hearts.

May we have the fortitude and clarity of Bartimaeus to cry out again and again until we know we are heard, until we feel the Lord asking for what we want or need, until our spirit is connected with the Lord of 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.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Holy spouses, holy families: reflections on the final days of the synod

Archbishop José H. Gomez
By Archbishop José H. Gomez

As synod 2015 began its final week of work, Pope Francis canonized a married couple, Louis and Zélie Martin, whose nine children included the doctor of the church, St. Thérèse of Lisieux.

Louis and Zélie led a humble, hidden life. It was rooted in the rhythms of daily Mass and everyday duties — earning a living, making meals and doing the housework, teaching the children, serving in the community, and simply enjoying time together as a family. The couple knew love and joy and also suffering and sadness — four of their children died as infants.

In his homily on Sunday Pope Francis called them “holy spouses.”

St. Louis and St. Zélie are not rarities. How many holy spouses are there, hidden saints of the everyday, in every time and every place in the church? There are holy spouses and holy families in every part of the world today — ordinary men and women trying to live faithfully by the church’s teachings and the grace of her sacraments.

This is what the synod is meant to be all about — helping spouses in their vocations as husbands and wives, helping them to meet the challenges they confront in society, inspiring them to live out God’s beautiful plan for their lives.

In the media coverage of the synod, we can be tempted to think that the church’s doctrines and practices are a kind of political “policy” or a set of “positions” on issues. But the truth is that the Catholic faith is not a program or a set of rules. Catholicism is a vision of creation, a vision of the human person and the human family, a vision that is grand and transcendent.

Everything in the church — all our teachings, practices and disciplines — flows from this vision, which is given to us by God in the Scriptures and the church’s living tradition.

Pope Francis has said that in thinking about the family, we must be “led by the Word of God, on which rests the foundation of the holy edifice of the family, the domestic church and the family of God.”

This is true. And as we enter this final week of the Synod, I think it is important for us to keep this “foundation” in mind, to try to see God’s vision for the family more clearly and to understand how important the family is for the church’s future and the future of civilization.

God’s dream

St. Paul called marriage a “great mystery.”

This mystery is written into the pages of sacred Scripture from beginning to end ­— from the marriage of the first man and woman at creation to the cosmic wedding feast of Christ and his bride when the new heavens and earth come and time is no more.

Pope Francis speaks of the Creator’s design in terms of wonder and awe. At last year’s extraordinary consistory, he invoked “God’s magnificent plan for the family.” At the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia and again in his homily opening the current synod, he called marriage “God’s dream for his beloved creation.”

Jesus Christ revealed this dream by coming into the world in a human family. The Holy Family of Nazareth shows us that every family is meant to be an “icon” of God, an image of the Holy Trinity in the world.

I always remember the beautiful words of St. John Paul II at Puebla, Mexico, at the beginning of his pontificate: “Our God in his deepest mystery is not a solitude but a family, since he has in himself fatherhood, sonship and the essence of the family, which is love.”

This is God’s plan for the human family. Every family is called to be a “domestic church” reflecting the communion of love in the Trinity. Every married couple is given a vocation — to live their love forever in a mutual and complete gift of self; to renew the face of the earth with children, who are the fruits of their love and the precious love of our Creator. Married love is forever and cannot be dissolved because it is the sign of God’s own covenant with creation.

The church’s mission is to continue God’s “family plan” for creation — to call men and women from every nation and people to form a single family of God, united in his son, Jesus.

So that is why the church will always take these matters of human sexuality, marriage, family and children so seriously.

That is why the litany of the church’s great martyrs includes countless men and women who died defending the church’s doctrines and practices — Agnes and Cecilia in ancient Rome; Thomas More and Charles Lwanga; the Franciscans martyred in Georgia during the evangelization of the New World. And there were many more.

The family crisis

Some of my brother bishops have remarked on the sense of urgency — some even call it anxiety — that has been felt during this synod. The somber mood is reflected in the working document that has formed the basis for our discussions during these past three weeks.

Pope Francis has spoken often of the profound cultural crisis facing the family. And there is a sense in this synod that the family “as we know it” is in danger of disappearing — threatened by forces that are economic, cultural and ideological.

At the root of the family crisis is a crisis of confidence in God — a loss of the sense that he is our Father and Creator, and that he has a plan, a “dream” for his creation, a plan for our lives.

The family today is threatened by the same “anthropocentric” and “technocratic” mentality that Pope Francis warns about in Laudato Si’, his encyclical on creation.

This mentality rejects the “realities” of creation and human nature. Everything — nature, the human body and mind, social institutions — everything is seen as so much “raw material” to be “engineered” using technology, medicine, even law and public policy.

What the pope calls the “technocratic paradigm” underlies the existential threats that confront human life and the family today — from artificial contraception and embryonic experimentation, to the surgical manipulations of femininity and masculinity required for “transgenderism,” to the redefinition of marriage and the forced sterilization and abortion policies prevalent in some parts of the world.

The way forward

In confronting this broad cultural crisis of the family, the church needs to proclaim once more the beautiful truth about the human person and God’s loving plan for creation and the family.

“The best way to restore men and women to their rightful place … is to speak once more of the figure of a Father who creates and who alone owns the world,” Pope Francis writes in Laudato Si’.

At the center of our Father’s plan for the world, we find the married couple and the family.

That is why the church cannot allow marriage and family to be reduced to cultural constructs or arbitrary living arrangements. Because if we lose the family, we lose God’s plan for our lives and for the world.

Marriage and family are gifts from the Creator that are “written into” the order of his creation and expressed in the bodily differences of men and women and their vocation to a communion of love that is faithful for life and fruitful in creating new life.

Pope Francis affirms this in Laudato Si’ and he emphasized it again during his yearlong catechesis on the family.

The human person is God’s “masterpiece,” created body and soul in his image and likeness, the pope said.

The natural differences between men and women and their “complementarity” stand at the “summit of divine creation,” and order the couple to “communion and generation, always in the image and likeness of God.”

These basic truths of creation are the source for everything that the church believes, teaches and practices regarding marriage and family.

The church is called to proclaim these truths to the world in all their fullness and in all their beauty. We are called to do everything that we can to support those couples and families who are trying to live these truths — to be “holy spouses” and “holy families.”

The church is also called to reach out with tenderness to those who are having trouble understanding and living these truths.

But Pope Francis has also urged us in strong words not to sacrifice the truths of creation in a vain effort to “please the people” or to make the church’s teachings sound less demanding.

At the end of the extraordinary synod last year he cautioned against “a destructive tendency … that in the name of a deceptive mercy binds the wounds without first curing them and treating them; that treats the symptoms and not the causes and the roots.”

This is always a natural temptation when we are faced with human weakness and misunderstanding.

But the pope reminds us that kindness and compassion can never be separated from the truth of God’s plan. A person’s conscience is sacred. But our conscience is only reliable if it is formed according to the truth that God has written into our hearts and the loving plan he has for our lives.

The words we speak in mercy must always be the truth, or our words are not merciful at all, just sentimental feelings.

Telling people what they want to hear will never do them any good, unless what we are saying is the truth they need to know.

All of us in the church, in these difficult times, are called to accompany people, to meet them where they are at and to walk with them in charity and tenderness and compassion. But the journey of the Christian life is always a journey of conversion. Our “destination” is not where we want to go, but where God wants to lead us.

A moment for mission

So as we enter these final days of the synod, I find myself turning to our newest saints. Not only the holy spouses St. Louis and St. Zélie Martin. But also our newest American saint, St. Junípero Serra, who blazed the trails of holiness in the New World.

I believe that all of us in the church need a new missionary confidence and courage for the times we are living in.

In fact, we are living in a time of hope, a new missionary moment — a time when the church has a great opportunity for the new evangelization of our continents and the world.

Every day, as bishops from around the world gather in this Synod Hall, we are witnessing the reality that the Gospel has been enculturated in “every nation under heaven.”

This has been striking for me, this experience of the universal church: to realize that the church today is able to truly pray, teach and evangelize in one voice — as one family of God, drawn from every nation, people and language, united in our faith in the Gospel and our communion with the Holy Father in Rome.

With the unity of our doctrine and practice, and the rich diversity of our local traditions of popular piety — the church has tremendous resources to resist pressures and worldly powers and to proclaim the Gospel to a new generation.

We need to challenge the “orthodoxies” and the “anthropology” of our culture. We need to find creative, positive ways to proclaim God as Creator and to show the beauty of his plan for the human person and the family.

Counting on the intercession of the Holy Family of Nazareth, my prayer in this final week is that all of us in the church will stay united in our apostolic desire to be missionary disciples. And that we will use this new moment to carry the beauty of God’s plan for our lives and his original dream for creation — to the ends of the earth.

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, Twitter, and Instagram.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Looking Ahead

Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor
By Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor

The disciples, James and John, went to Jesus and called him "teacher."

They asked for a favor: "Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left."

Instead of granting the favor, Jesus began to teach them. Serving, giving, surrendering and letting go were the words that came from Jesus' mouth that day.

These are not passive realities. These are chosen, embraced, accepted realities that we enter into with our eyes and our hearts open. These are not for the weak and helpless. On the contrary, these are for the bold and those of strong faith who stand up to make the choice, believing it has the potential to profoundly affect not only the self but the other.

A person can make me be last by forcing me into that place in line, or by depriving me of the choice to be first, second or third. But no one can make me choose it. No one can make me surrender my heart to being last. That is a choice only I can make. That is an attitude of mind and heart that only I have the power to make in my life. That is the point.

It is not being in the last position that is important to Jesus. It is the choosing of that position that is important.

When someone begins to understand service and being last so that others may be first, they begin to experience the power of the kingdom. In Jesus' kingdom, the only place that makes sense is last place. The only position of real meaning is that of service.

The values that society so often lift up are all rooted in competition, power and authority, deciding, forcing, winning and gaining control over – these are what usually cause us to think we are superior.

Only one who truly values life could ever understand the incomparable power of letting it go for another. Only those who have truly felt loved and gifted by another are those who instinctively would understand service.

Those who have been chosen to be first are those who would love, desire and thirst to put others in that place – even if that meant they needed to be last in order for it to be so.

This is "kingdom thinking." This is "God stuff." This is where "spirit and truth unite with heart and soul" to give us the fullness of life.

None of this can be proven. This only can be experienced then known.

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

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Proclaim the beauty of God’s plan for the family

Archbishop José H. Gómez
By Archbishop José H. Gómez

I am writing to you again this week from Rome, at the start of the second week of the Synod of Bishops on the family, which will run for two more weeks, when Pope Francis will celebrate the closing Mass on Oct. 25.

There are nearly 300 bishops here from every continent, and many priests, religious and lay people assisting them and the work of the synod.

It’s a beautiful experience for me of the universal nature, the “catholicity” of the church. You really get to see that the church herself is the “family of God” — made up of people from every nation in the world.

As you can imagine, all of us bring different experiences and opinions to the Synod Hall. We can get in the habit of thinking that “the church” is whatever we experience in our own parish or our own corner of the world. But the church is bigger than our own experience, something you see very clearly at the synod, when you are able to talk to representatives from the church in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Europe and Australia.

The work of the synod is divided into small groups according to language. There are three French groups, three Italian, two Spanish and one German. I am working in one of the four English-language groups. My group alone reflects the diversity and universality of the synod — there are 21 bishops, along with auditors, experts and fraternal delegates from 20 different countries!

We are working, line-by-line, sometimes word-by-word, through the document prepared to guide our discussions, which is called the Instrumentum Laboris.

It is important to remember that “synod” means assembly. It is not like a legislature or even a city council. Our work is to provide insight and counsel. We are here because Pope Francis has asked us to advise him on some of the crucial issues confronting married couples and families today.

And it is important to keep in mind that we are not “voting” on church teaching or discussing ways to change it.

At the end of the extraordinary synod last year, Pope Francis said there will be no “putting into question the fundamental truths of the sacrament of marriage: the indissolubility, the unity, the faithfulness, the fruitfulness, the openness to life.” And he has continued to emphasize that during this synod process.

Pope Francis is attending and listening carefully in our general sessions and I have to say, it is an extraordinary feeling to be in the presence of the Vicar of Christ as we are reflecting on the church’s mission and the needs of the family of God.

In my first intervention at the synod last week, I spoke to the Holy Father and the Synod fathers about the need for the church to proclaim from a solid biblical and theological foundation.

The word of God reveals our creator’s plan for his creation and for human history. This divine word is the authentic starting point for understanding the family’s vocation and mission.

The synod’s Instrumentum Laboris recognizes that we can discern a “divine pedagogy” in the history of salvation that unfolds in the sacred Scriptures.

To strengthen marriage and the family in our time, I believe the church must recover the divine pedagogy found in the scriptures. Just a few weeks ago, when he was in the United States, Pope Francis reminded us again — that God entrusted his loving plan for creation to the family.

As I see it, the crisis of the family in our time is, to some extent, a crisis of anthropology. Our culture has lost its sense of the meaning of the human person and creation. This loss is rooted in the loss of God.

In the face of this crisis, I believe the church must present a new evangelical catechesis on creation, as an essential element of the new evangelization. We must proclaim the beauty of God’s plan of love for creation, for the human person, and for the human family. Our new evangelization must proclaim an integral human ecology that reveals the nature, vocation and teleology of the human person as created by God.

And I believe the church needs to recover and reflect on the “family” images found in the scriptures and most ancient tradition, and in the universal church’s liturgy and popular piety: the human person as the imago Dei; the church as the mother of believers and the “family of God”; the family as the “domestic church”; and the Christian life as spiritual childhood of sons and daughters of God.

In the face of the widespread crisis of the family, I believe our society needs to hear once more the beautiful truth about the human person and God’s loving plan for creation and history, a plan that is centered in the family.

So keep praying for the synod this week and let’s pray for each other.

And let’s ask the intercession of the Holy Family to help us to illuminate, by our pastoral priorities and practice, how the family is the crucial “way” for the church and for God’s plan for creation.

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 FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Looking Ahead

Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor
By Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor

What a story in today’s Gospel!

This young man was trying so hard to be good. Following all of the rules, he thought, was what would make him good and acceptable in God's eyes.

Jesus, from the first words of their shared conversation, challenges him. When addressed by the young man as "good teacher," Jesus rejects this title and declares: "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone."

He doesn’t get it. He persists, because he wanted to be acceptable to God, good in God’s eyes, and he wanted to have eternal life. Again, he thought, following all of the rules and keeping them perfectly is what was pleasing to God.

But not only did Jesus tell him something he could not understand, the young man also could not do it, and he sadly walked away from Jesus.

Jesus asked him for everything. Jesus asked him to let go of all his possessions, his security, and the illusions of life and comfort. He asked him to give it all away, to give all of it to the poor, then to come and follow him.

The young man couldn’t do it. Giving it all up would be losing all control of his life. Giving it all up would mean he would be letting go, letting God — and he could not experience what Jesus said in other places: "If you want to find yourself, you must loose yourself; if you want to live, you must die; if you want to be first, you must be last."

He didn’t get it. It didn’t make sense.

Following the rules, in comparison, was easy and, most of all, it allowed him to be in control. He could never let go of that control. The only final response was to sadly walk away.

Jesus had a response, too.

He looked at him, he loved him, and he offered him the greatest gift as he recognized the one thing, the most important thing that was lacking — "Let go!"

In effect, Jesus was saying: "Understand that God loves you because God is love — not because you follow rules."

This story is important and foundational. Following rules is good for order and usually makes good sense. But it isn’t what makes God love us. God will do that and must do that because it is of God’s nature to love.

Accept it and discover its truth.

Be grateful that God is, that God is love, that God always loves, and that to let go is to find the gift.

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, October 8, 2015

The family is God’s dream for his creation

Archbishop José H. Gomez
By Archbishop José H. Gomez

I am writing to you this week from Rome, where we have just begun the second day of the Synod of Bishops on the family, which will run Oct. 4 to 25.

This synod is an important moment in the life of the universal church. The synod gives the world’s bishops a chance to come together with the pope to pray and reflect on the beauty of the family in God’s plan for the world and on the mission that every Christian family has in spreading the Gospel.

Going into the synod, there has been a lot of conversation in the global media centered on various controversies related to divorce and the meaning of marriage.

But Pope Francis is making it clear that he does not consider marriage and the family to be “problems” that need to be fixed.

In his opening address, the pope said the synod is not about our “personal opinions” and it is not a political convention “where people make deals and compromises.”

Instead, he said, the synod is called so that the world’s bishops can listen together and be guided by the Holy Spirit — “with faith in God, fidelity to the Magisterium, for the good of the Church and the Salus animarum [the salvation of souls].”

The pope believes that we possess a beautiful truth in the Scriptures and the church’s teaching Magisterium: the truth that the family is God’s way for creation and God’s great gift to the world — “God’s dream for his beloved creation,” as he put it in his opening homily for the synod.

During his recent apostolic visit to the United States, our Holy Father stressed these same points about the beauty and dignity of the family, which he said are rooted in the scriptures.

At the Festival of Families in Philadelphia, our Holy Father said: “The most beautiful thing God made — so the Bible tells us — was the family. He created man and woman. And he gave them everything. He entrusted the world to them. ... All the love he put into that marvelous creation, he entrusted to a family.”

For the pope, the family has an essential mission in God’s redemptive plan for the world. And that is what this synod is all about — understanding the challenges facing married couples and families in our society and rediscovering the beauty of the family’s mission in light of the Gospel and the Church’s teachings.

Also on our first day, we heard a long and inspiring speech by Cardinal Péter Erdö, the archbishop of Budapest, Hungary. He is the synod’s “Rapporteur,” entrusted with guiding the synod’s deliberations.

In his address, Cardinal Erdö spoke of marriage and family as a “vocation,” a personal calling from God and part of God’s “divine pedagogy.”

He said that husbands and wives and every family member are called to be missionary disciples and should see their families as a “domestic Church.”

Cardinal Erdö also discussed the Gospel’s teaching on marriage and described these teachings as a “true gospel and a font of joy” that offer men and women a way to find real happiness and to realize their purposes in the world.

Pope Francis also spoke of Jesus’ teachings on marriage in his opening homily:

“He brings everything back to the beginning, to the beginning of creation, to teach us that God blesses human love, that it is he who joins the hearts of two people who love one another, he who joins them in unity and indissolubility. This shows us that the goal of conjugal life is not simply to live together for life, but to love one another for life! In this way Jesus reestablishes the order which was present from the beginning.”

Our discussions are ongoing, and I am encouraged by the positive and inspiring tone of these opening days.

So this week, please keep me and the bishops of the synod in your prayers. Let’s keep praying for one another in this important time for the universal Church.

And let’s ask for the intercession of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph to guide this synod — that the synod might result in a new proclamation of the beauty and joy of the family and how the family is the crucial “way” for the church and for God’s plan for society and the world.

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 FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Looking Ahead

Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor
By Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor 

The questions was asked of Jesus: "Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?"

In Jesus', answer the word of God gets most interesting. Jesus replied: "What did Moses command you?"

They answered that Moses permitted divorce. Jesus gave a commentary stating that it was because of the hardness of their hearts that Moses allowed divorce. But then he did what he always did best.

He spoke the highest ideal, the most challenging call, and the truth that he always gave, because he knew the peace and wholeness that truth would provide. In this case, he stated that God’s intention in marriage was and is that two become one.

God's desire is for love and commitment to reach an all time high in marriage. God's ideal is that two would love so deeply that it would be unspeakable and nearly impossible to divide or separate them.

What could be more compelling or more consoling than to know that God desires for a man and woman, in marriage, to experience oneness, wholeness, completeness with one another — and all without ever loosing one's own identity or uniqueness?

If this is so, then perhaps this is why it is unwise to move in with one another, or begin sharing the marital intimacies with one another, or rush the marital commitments, until two people have come to share such a love and truly believe that they desire and are capable of growing it forever.

The proof is in the love, not in the ceremony or document. Those confirm what is.

This too, perhaps, is why there is so much controversy around the issue of gay marriage. From the point of view of many people of faith, they point precisely to this passage of Genesis to proclaim that it is clearly God's intention that marriage belongs only to men and women.

The response from those in support of gay marriage would flow just as strongly out of the Gospel passage today.

If Jesus would speak so highly of the love of marriage, who wouldn’t want this? This is exactly why the fight is so intense.

Gay men and women want to share the same ideal, challenge, call and commitment. They believe in the same truth and in the same love. They believe they shouldn’t be prevented from sharing this.

Add to this question the historical reality that continues to this day and certainly was present in the time of Jesus. It existed among some Jews historically and certainly in the lives of their neighbors – polygamy.

Some men had many wives. How did or could this ideal of Jesus ever be realized between one man and a group of women?

Think.

Ponder.

Question.

Open mind and heart.

Listen.

Probe.

It is precisely such realities that will eventually show who we are.

Are we really people of the kingdom?

Listening like a little child to God’s word — to Jesus — is listening with total trust, and with openness of heart, soul and mind.

Listening to Jesus and to God’s word can lead us in many directions and to many places. Creating more laws and condemnations after the fact — that is, after a marriage has disintegrated and died — is not what is needed.

Perhaps more work and ministry like that of Marriage Encounter is what is needed.

To support, teach, love, guide, and offer healing and understanding to those called to such an ideal, is the real work of every Christian and the real work of the church.

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, September 27, 2015

Looking Ahead

Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor
By Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor

In the Book of Numbers, a part of Moses' spirit was taken from him and poured out over seventy elders and they began to prophesy.

Two elders (Eldad and Medad) were not present, but they were on the list, and they, too, began to prophesy.

Instead of rejoicing at this blessing, Joshua, son of Nun, complained: “Moses, my lord, stop them.”

Similarly in the Gospel, John complained to Jesus: “Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.”

What is the matter here? Why do Joshua and John have a problem? Is it jealousy? Are they that concerned with a lack of proper form – "two weren’t present in the tent" and this "someone doesn’t follow us"?

Is it a question of territory or power or control? Whatever is going on clearly was of no concern to God, Moses or Jesus. Moses didn’t stop them.

"Are you jealous?" he asks. Moses rather expresses the wish that God’s spirit would be bestowed on even more people.

Jesus did not stop this someone who was driving out demons. On the contrary, he confirms that simply acknowledging his name validated his ministry: "Do not prevent him. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me. For whoever is not against us is for us."

You can’t get more open or liberal than that.

Sadly, territory was and continues to be an issue to people, especially in the church. Power was and continues to be an issue to people, especially in the church. Jealousy was and continues to be an issue to people, especially in the church.

Perhaps rather than worrying so much about what someone else is doing (especially if it is good), we should not just listen to but actually hear the word of God today.

Perhaps we all ought to invoke the name of Jesus more often – do things in his name.

Perhaps we would find that our words and actions and desires were more valuable and blessed when they were rooted more deeply in Christ. That could never do us harm.

And if we were indeed more deeply rooted in Christ, perhaps we wouldn’t need to pay too much heed to the warning that Jesus speaks at the end of today’s Gospel.

Perhaps we would never cause one of these little ones to sin if our lives and actions were focused deeply on Christ.

It almost sounds like preventative medicine – stay connected, rooted, united, close to Christ.

"Amen, I say to you, (you) will surely not lose (your) reward."

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, September 20, 2015

Looking Ahead

Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor
By Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor

Jesus teaches the greatest paradox in our faith: "If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all."

This is not the teaching the world gives to us. It doesn’t make sense to most. Even people of faith have trouble grasping this truth.

Jesus teaches that in serving, relinquishing power, not holding onto control — even accepting or embracing suffering and rejection — one can discover the kingdom of God, spiritual power, greatness of life and "be first."

Many would say it is impossible to prove this paradox. It is precisely why it is a paradox — an apparent contradiction. One usually discovers its truth only as one lives it.

Christians and non-Christians alike have discovered and attempted to share this truth over the ages:

Mahatma Gandhi: "The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others."

Shirley Chisholm: "Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth."

Bernard Meltzer: "Blessed are those who give without remembering. And blessed are those who take without forgetting."

Albert Schweitzer: "The only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve."

From the earliest of years, children argue and fight over who will be first in line. Some grow up and as adults still have never lost the lust for being first and most important.

When one lets go of this need, and most finally learn it in service to others, then one discovers the joy and peace that Jesus calls the "kingdom of God."

*****

At St. Bernard, have innumerable opportunities to serve. Some include: Eucharistic ministry to the sick; all of the liturgical ministries; opportunities to give to and help the poor; donate food, donate money; donate time.

Jesus didn’t just speak it — he lived and died it.

My prayer is that all will discover this paradox by explicitly living it before this year expires.

"Find ourselves" — that is the hope of Jesus for each of 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.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Doctor-prescribed death is the wrong choice for California

Archbishop José H. Gomez
By Archbishop José H. Gomez 

Last week, the California legislature voted to allow doctors to help their patients kill themselves.

This decision is deeply disturbing — and so is the process that led to this vote.

Assembly and Senate leaders chose to push this bill (AB2X-15) through an “extraordinary” legislative session that Governor Brown had called to deal with health care financing for the poor.

This is no way for our government to make policy on a life and death issue that will affect millions of individuals and families for years to come.

The people of California — especially the poor, the elderly, minorities and the disabled — deserve much better from their leaders.

And make no mistake, it will be these most vulnerable populations who are going to suffer from this legislation.

We know already that poor families, African Americans, Latinos and immigrants do not have enough access to quality health care. We also know that the millions forced to rely on Medi-Cal have limited treatment options when they face a serious diagnosis or terminal illness.

In a health care system that is so cost-conscious and profit-driven, I am afraid that lethal prescriptions to commit suicide will fast become the only acceptable “treatment option” for our most vulnerable brothers and sisters. I am afraid that in our health care environment, suicide will be promoted as the most “efficient” and cost-saving alternative.

The sad reality is that millions of Californians do not have the luxury to think about a “death with dignity.”

They are too busy struggling with low wages and not enough job opportunities; with housing costs and troubled neighborhoods; with poor health care and discrimination.

Our government’s priority should be to help make life more dignified for people, not death.

And lawmakers need to be honest in their language so we can understand what we are really doing with this legislation. We are not legalizing “aid in dying.”

What the legislature is legalizing is the ability of a doctor to write prescriptions for the express purpose of killing another human being.

And we have to ask ourselves: Is this the legacy that we want to leave for future generations of Californians? To say that in the face of human pain and suffering, we as a society responded by making it easier to kill those who are suffering?

I believe we are a better people than that. And I believe we can find a truly compassionate way to help all Californians manage pain, treat their illnesses and prepare for death.

But there are no “quick fixes.” It will take patience, hard study and deliberate choices.

Unfortunately, Assembly and Senate leaders rushed this bill through in three weeks during this “extraordinary” session. They held only two hearings and floor debates, and barely considered some of the deeper issues of end-of-life care.

To really address these issues, we need to study complicated questions surrounding treatment costs, especially the costs of cancer medications. We need to study insurance practices that effectively limit access to hospice care and restrict physicians’ options in providing pain relief and palliative care.

We need to understand the limited health care options available for the poor, the elderly, minorities and the disabled. We need to consider the training and education we provide doctors in palliative care and geriatrics.

And we also need to understand the spiritual and psychological issues affecting those who are dying and the effects on their families and loved ones.

Our lawmakers have not even studied how doctor-assisted suicide is functioning in states and countries where it is legal.

There are well-substantiated reports of serious abuses and complications in Oregon, Washington and Belgium, among other places.

Among the allegations are that patients are being coerced by physicians and by family members to “choose” suicide over continued treatment. Elsewhere, physicians are facing legal threats if they do not provide deadly prescriptions.

Again, the question: Is this the legacy we want for the future of California?

And if we open the door and allow doctors to help terminally ill patients kill themselves, how will we prevent others from demanding the same “rights”? Are we opening the door to state-sanctioned “death on demand” for anyone who wants it? This legislation — and the process by which it was passed — is not worthy of our great state.

So this week, let us pray for the great state of California. And I urge you to join me in asking Governor Brown to veto this legislation and to insist that our lawmakers begin an open and thoughtful study of how we live and die in California.

And may our Blessed Mother Mary, Seat of Wisdom and Health of the Sick, guide us in this important hour for our state and our nation.

Editor’s note: Urge Gov. Brown to veto ABX2-15. Write to the Governor at http://ahardpill.org/you-can-help/.  

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, Twitter, and Instagram.