Sunday, January 29, 2017

Looking Ahead

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

Quote of the Week: “The measure of love is love without measure.” — St. Bernard of Clairvaux.

Food gives life. Without it, we die. Who appreciates and is more grateful for food: the rich man or the poor man?

Water gives life. Without it, we die. Who appreciates and is more grateful for water: the rich woman or the poor woman?

One might say both are equally so, given the right circumstances. But on a daily basis, under the ordinary daily circumstances of wealth and poverty, who would appreciate more a piece of dry bread and one slice of bologna: the rich person or the poor one?

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

After eating three times what you usually eat at a fine Thanksgiving Day feast, could you also consume a 28-ounce piece of the finest cut of steak prepared perfectly to your specifications? Or would you finally admit: “I am full. No more! One more bite and I will burst!”

What do we fill ourselves with? What constitutes our riches? What would be considered, in Gospel terms, our treasure?

In what do we place our hope? What usually is the source of power on which we depend? Where do we go when in need?

Is the answer to any of these different for the rich and the poor?

The Gospel and the rich treasure of wisdom that flows from all of God’s word says quite so. The rich tend to put their trust in money and power, for it usually works for them. They can buy friends (at least superficial ones), service (usually quicker and the best available), and the best quality goods.

Money often puts one first in line. Money, power, prestige and fame often give a person the edge over others. How easy it is to begin to believe that I am in control when my money, power, prestige and fame are getting me what I want.

Have you ever heard the statement: “You’re so full of yourself!”? Is this different for the rich and the poor?

The word of God seems to believe so. The poor run on empty most of the time. The poor are almost always in need. The poor have little quality control over their lives. The poor have few resources to depend on, and those are usually not very dependable.

So what is left? God! That’s it! That’s who! There is nothing else.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

There is hope for the rich, however. The beatitude speaks so clearly: “Blessed are the poor in spirit” — even the rich can attain this. But it is difficult.

Life presents many illusions. We love magic; we love illusions, and humans are easily fooled. Money is among the most tantalizing of illusions and can be quite cold and empty.

How rich are those who know that. Usually, the rich are the ones who have the least amount of difficulty giving it away. But then, these are only words of wisdom.

Father Perry D. Leiker is pastor of St. Bernard Church. Reach him at (323) 255-6142, Ext. 112; email perry.leiker@gmail.com. Follow Father Perry on Twitter: @MrDeano76.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Looking Ahead

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

Quote of the Week: “Love seeks no cause beyond itself and no fruit; it is its own fruit, its own enjoyment. I love because I love; I love in order that I may love.” — St. Bernard of Clairvaux.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus moves from one local to another: “He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali.”

As the Gospel continues, we understand this not to be a real estate move but a sensitive and prophetic fulfillment – God’s plan being realized.

Jesus moved to the land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles. Jesus was the one who had been called to fulfill what the prophet Isaiah had said: “the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen.”

This “light” was meant to reach all as Jesus began his public ministry. His message was simple: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

To all who would hear this, the light would begin to enter; the connection with God, deep within the spirit, would begin to be realized. It is in this context that he calls his disciples. They immediately left their nets, their work, and their families and followed.

A people sat in darkness for years. Years of occupation, seizure of their crops, robbing them of wealth, taking their children into battles, leaving them out of all decisions about their lives and futures — this was the reality for the people of Zebulun and Naphtali.

Darkness!

But God would not leave them abandoned. He would not allow the darkness to be permanent. God sent Jesus the light; things began to happen. “He went around all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness among the people.”

This was to be the pattern of his whole continuous ministry. He stayed nowhere. He went everywhere. His life was not about being comfortable. He came, as has been said, to “comfort the afflicted” and to “afflict the comfortable.”

He came to bring light to shine in the darkness and to give new life. He taught in the synagogues; he proclaimed the good news. He healed the sick and made them whole.

His ministry still lives on. His light today is the same. The kingdom of God is at hand. His teaching continues to guide our lives to justice and love.

His healing power still makes us whole. We find ultimate wholeness not in the condition of our bodies, but our souls.

Father Perry D. Leiker is pastor of St. Bernard Church. Reach him at (323) 255-6142, Ext. 112; email perry.leiker@gmail.com. Follow Father Perry on Twitter: @MrDeano76.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Looking Ahead

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

Quote of the Week: “What we love we shall grow to resemble.” — St. Bernard of Clairvaux.

The power of God abounds in the readings of today.

First, Isaiah speaks of the servant through whom the glory of God is shown. God forms his servant from the womb; God’s strength is revealed through him. Through him, the relationship of Israel and Jacob is restored with God. You will be a light to the nations.

Then Paul speaks of being called to be apostle, called to holiness, and one who now calls upon the name of the Lord.

The Gospel highlights John the Baptist, who recognizes and proclaims that: “Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”

Jesus is the one who pre-existed. Jesus is the one to be proclaimed to Israel. Jesus is the one on who the Spirit rests. Jesus is the Son of God.

Through these scriptures, God’s power bursts forth as he calls, sanctifies, sends, strengthens, forms, and gives light and redeems.

Who are the recipients of this power of God? They are Jesus, Isaiah, Paul, and you and I — indeed, all of the baptized.

As we come back to Ordinary Time in the church year, we are called to see that the extraordinary power of God becomes ordinary every day in our lives. God wishes to love and empower us and to bring his love into the world through us.

We are true apostles, servants, and sons and daughters of God. God does not hold back. He gives to us the greatest dignity in our call and baptismal faith. His will is that peace, justice and love will reign in his kingdom; he invites us to be the instruments to bring it about.

Our greatest and simplest response might be the refrain of the responsorial psalm today: “Here am I, Lord, I come to do your will.”

Father Perry D. Leiker is pastor of St. Bernard Church. Reach him at (323) 255-6142, Ext. 112; email perry.leiker@gmail.com. Follow Father Perry on Twitter: @MrDeano76.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Looking Ahead

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

Quote of the Week: “There are people who go clad in tunics and have nothing to do with furs who, nevertheless, are lacking in humility. Surely, humility in furs is better than pride in tunics.” — St. Bernard of Clairvaux.

Epiphany comes from the Greek word epiphaneia (ἐπιφάνεια), which signifies a manifestation or appearance of a god, or of divine intervention or the appearance of kings.

The magi went out to find out about this new god or king and began a difficult journey.

This Gospel manifestation recalls the appearance of Jesus the Christ; it also highlights a comparison between the characters of the magi and Herod.

The magi were pilgrims — seekers. They were searching our a truth they had discovered in the stars. They went on this pilgrimage, and when they entered the home of the Holy Family, found their gift and reward, their souls’ longing.

They offered their gifts quietly, slipped away, went home by a new route, and through it all, discovered a new way within their hearts and souls. These events brought them new life and new understandings.

Herod, on the other hand, was a man of power. Through his power and his armies and his money and his political position, he had established a home (his kingdom) and did everything to protect and preserve it.

He didn't want to share it; he didn't want it usurped. He didn't want to risk losing any of it and, therefore, his only option was to stamp out, eradicate, get rid of, and destroy the child Jesus.

There could be no other king, no other threat to his life.

What a difference between the two: seekers of truth; a liar promising to go and do him homage, but really intending to kill him. Offering gifts of homage and recognition; using any means to protect my kingdom and my wealth and my power.

The Gospel presents a manifestation, and in the light of its truth, reveals the hearts of very different kinds of people: the magi and Herod.

What does the star, the light, reveal to us? Do we discover any new truths about us, about God, about others? Do we bring our gifts, and in the giving, discover that we have been far more gifted?

Father Perry D. Leiker is pastor of St. Bernard Church. Reach him at (323) 255-6142, Ext. 112; email perry.leiker@gmail.com. Follow Father Perry on Twitter: @MrDeano76.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Looking Ahead

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

Quote of the Week: “The three most important virtues are humility, humility, and humility.” — St. Bernard of Clairvaux.

Four celebrations are wrapped into one today.

Formerly, today’s feast was called “The Octave of Christmas.” It was also known as the Feast of the Circumcision, since on the eighth day after Jesus’ birth he was circumcised according to Jewish custom and law.

Since 1967, this has been designated the World Day for Peace. What day could be better than the first day of the new year to pray and yearn for peace throughout the world, just after celebrating the birth of the Prince of Peace?

But, finally, the church focuses most keenly on Mary, with this being one of the most important of her feast days, since it so clearly gives her the title that was bestowed upon her by God.

Mary was called by God to be the mother of God by her invitation to birth the Christ.

Every time we pray the Hail Mary, we say the words: “Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death.”

We esteem and honor Mary for the singular privilege given to her by the call to bring God in the person of Jesus into the world in the Feast of Incarnation — Christmas.

This feast is the reason she has such a place of honor in our lives as Christians. Honored so divinely by God, she is super humanly honored by us.

Father Perry D. Leiker is pastor of St. Bernard Church. Reach him at (323) 255-6142, Ext. 112; email perry.leiker@gmail.com. Follow Father Perry on Twitter: @MrDeano76.