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.