Sunday, August 30, 2015

Looking Ahead

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

We have many expressions like: "It’s what’s inside that really counts" and "Don’t judge a book by its cover."

Essentially, they are saying the same thing. What comes from the deepest inner part of a person or thing is what is most true and most important.

In the Jewish scriptures, the law was sacred. It was the expression of and way to being in deepest relationship with God. It was considered wise. Following it meant that a person was in tune with God and "walking with God." Living the Law meant that lives would have order, meaning, be integrated, and that all would unite for the best purpose and in the best way possible.

So, says God in the word, "You shall not add to what I command you or subtract from it."

But over time, many things were written to interpret and/or apply the law. The trouble was that for many, these things became as important as the law itself. Living these interpretations became a way to appear important before others.

Jesus brings the whole discussion back to those Jewish scriptures. It’s what’s in the heart that really matters. Nothing that comes from "without" makes a person unclean. No. It is what comes from the deep recesses of the heart: evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance and folly.

St. Augustine once said: "Love. Then do what you will."

For him, that was enough.

If we truly love God, self and other — truly — it is hard to imagine that we will go wrong.

The little list mentioned only a few lines ago are the things that block love, distract love and center upon self in its least noble form. But the distortion of sin and corruption are at least checked by the great gift we have been given: baptism. Baptism invites us into waters of rebirth, and we put on a new self and we become disciples of the Lord.

In this we have new life. In this, we have an alternative to sin. In this, we follow and proclaim an other — the Lord.

The outer life which the law is meant to direct comes into harmony and resonates with the inner spirit of love which gives life — which is 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, August 23, 2015

Looking Ahead

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

We all have choices. We can choose to do the good, or to do the bad. We can even choose the attitudes we will have.

In today’s reading, Joshua tell the people: “If it does not please you to serve the Lord, decide whom you will serve.”

In the Gospel, Jesus’ words were too much, and many “returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.”


Jesus finally asked his twelve: “Do you also want to leave?”

We all have choices. But our choice is not simply to believe in Jesus or be baptized as his disciples — a kind of once and for all choice.

We have choices every day and all throughout the day. We choose to follow with more commitment. We choose to listen more deeply. We choose to reflect Christ in our words and actions as real witnesses. We choose to imitate Christ and to live as he lived.

We choose to not simply come to church but to make our lives a pilgrimage of ongoing and continual conversion. We choose this year to be more of a disciple than we were last year, always choosing deeper, more and greater.

If we understand and actually discover our faith growing, we will find that in this moment, or quite spontaneously, we can speak the words of Peter: “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

We will also discover that the words of Jesus, his actions, teachings and example of living — his everything, including Eucharistic presence — give real, deep, inner life that is more than mortal and material; it is an inner spiritual reality that extends beyond and permeates everything.

To find and to have this life is our choice, too.

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, August 20, 2015

St. Bernard of Clairvaux

St. Bernard of Clairvaux
Man of the century! Woman of the century! You see such terms applied to so many today—“golfer of the century,” “composer of the century,” “right tackle of the century”—that the line no longer has any punch. 

But Western Europe's “man of the 12th century,” without doubt or controversy, has to be Bernard of Clairvaux. 

Adviser of popes, preacher of the Second Crusade, defender of the faith, healer of a schism, reformer of a monastic order, scripture scholar, theologian and eloquent preacher: any one of these titles would distinguish an ordinary man. 

Yet Bernard was all of these — and he still retained a burning desire to return to the hidden monastic life of his younger days.



In the year 1111, at the age of 20, Bernard left his home to join the monastic community of Citeaux. His five brothers, two uncles and some 30 young friends followed him into the monastery. Within four years a dying community had recovered enough vitality to establish a new house in the nearby valley of Wormwoods, with Bernard as abbot. 

The zealous young man was quite demanding, though more on himself than others. A slight breakdown of health taught him to be more patient and understanding. The valley was soon renamed Clairvaux, the valley of light.

His ability as arbitrator and counselor became widely known. More and more he was lured away from the monastery to settle long-standing disputes. On several of these occasions he apparently stepped on some sensitive toes in Rome. 

Bernard was completely dedicated to the primacy of the Roman See. But to a letter of warning from Rome, he replied that the good fathers in Rome had enough to do to keep the church in one piece. If any matters arose that warranted their interest, he would be the first to let them know.

Shortly thereafter it was Bernard who intervened in a full-blown schism and settled it in favor of the Roman pontiff against the antipope.

The Holy See prevailed on Bernard to preach the Second Crusade throughout Europe. His eloquence was so overwhelming that a great army was assembled and the success of the crusade seemed assured. The ideals of the men and their leaders, however, were not those of abbot Bernard, and the project ended as a complete military and moral disaster.

Bernard felt responsible in some way for the degenerative effects of the crusade. This heavy burden possibly hastened his death, which came on Aug. 20, 1153.

Comment: 

Bernard’s life in the church was more active than we can imagine possible today. His efforts produced far-reaching results. But he knew that they would have availed little without the many hours of prayer and contemplation that brought him strength and heavenly direction. 

His life was characterized by a deep devotion to the Blessed Mother. His sermons and books about Mary are still the standard of Marian theology.

Quote: 

“In dangers, in doubts, in difficulties, think of Mary, call upon Mary. Let not her name depart from your lips, never suffer it to leave your heart. And that you may more surely obtain the assistance of her prayer, neglect not to walk in her footsteps. With her for guide, you shall never go astray; while invoking her, you shall never lose heart; so long as she is in your mind, you are safe from deception; while she holds your hand, you cannot fall; under her protection you have nothing to fear; if she walks before you, you shall not grow weary; if she shows you favor, you shall reach the goal." — St. Bernard of Clairvaux.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Looking Ahead

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

Once again our liturgy invites us to pray Psalm 34: “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.”

Within the context of this repeated refrain, the psalmist says even more specifically: “I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.”

In a beautiful liturgical song by Marty Haughen this truth is expressed thus: “Shepherd me O God beyond by wants, beyond my fears, from death into life.”

Put this way, we profess a faith in our God who leads and guides us all through life and even through death. Every fear, every want, every need, every doubt – in these he wishes to be present, leading and loving us.

Some, however, lament that they cried out to God and he obviously didn’t hear their prayers. The healing they sought never came. The job they needed never materialized. The solving of their problem went unresolved.

Why? How come? What did I do to deserve or not to deserve this?

In the short run, things don’t always work out as we want them to. But aren’t we in this for the long haul? Our race isn’t 100 meters; it is the marathon!

We seek what we seek and often find something else. Often, we find something more. We begin with one dream and often discover several others along the way that are so much more than we could have ever hoped for.

If we don’t let go of Plan A, we can’t be ready for or even notice Plan B. The point is, God does indeed stay with us, shepherding and guiding us along the way. He never leaves our side. He sees us through to the end; “beyond my wants, beyond my fears, from death into 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, August 9, 2015

Looking Ahead

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

One of our very beautiful psalm responses with unusually beautiful musical renderings is today’s response which reads: “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.”

It is either an unusual mix of metaphors or an admission that the goodness of the Lord is so great that neither tasting nor seeing is enough – only both will do. It also calls forth a very Eucharistic image, since we do indeed eat (taste) and see (the host) when we receive.

In fact, the minister holds the host before our eyes saying, "Body of Christ" to which we respond, "Amen" – then we eat!
Elijah, on his long and tiring journey, was at the point of starvation and was ready to "give up his spirit" – that is, ready to die. God, however, in his goodness, gave the food he needed for his journey and Elijah clearly experienced the goodness of the Lord – "taste and see"!

Jesus, in the gospel, offers himself as food for the journey of life: "I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world."

The people knew Jesus as neighbor but did not know him as Lord. His words were a scandal to them rather than an invitation to faith.

We eat the host and drink from the cup believing that we have received the Lord. He is our bread of life and cup of salvation.

When we truly receive Christ and experience his presence within, it is no wonder we are able to sing out with faith and confidence and gratitude: "Taste and see the goodness 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, August 2, 2015

Looking Ahead


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

Imagine being so hungry you would prefer to return to living in slavery where you could expect to eat at least once a day.

That seems better than starving. But imagine crying out to God, complaining to him; and he listens, responds and sends food daily.

At night, quail fill the camp. In the morning, bread rains down from heaven. All he asks is that they “follow my instructions.”

Now in Jesus’ time, the people come to him because they are hungry for food – for spiritual food. They want healing. They want hope. They want understanding and signs – yes, signs like their ancestors had.

But do they want to grow into a people who really know God and listen to the Word of God? Do they want to become God’s people in a way that God’s goodness, justice, peace and compassion live in their words and actions?

Hungering and thirsting for the living God means opening heart and soul and discovering the living word that transforms our way of living. Knowing God means beginning to live and look like God.

So they said to him, "Sir, give us this bread always."

Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst."

The bread we seek is more than the host. It is in and through the host that we meet Christ, experience Christ and find our deepest hungers and thirsts satisfied.

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