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.