Sunday, December 17, 2017

What really matters is our spiritual journey through Advent

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

Quote of the Week: “Jesus did not come to explain away suffering or remove it. He came to fill it with his presence.” — Paul Claudel.

“Gaudete” means “rejoice” in Latin.

Traditionally, the Third Sunday of Advent has been called “Gaudete Sunday” because our Advent journey has almost come to an end. There is always joy when one comes closer to reaching the goal or arriving at the destination.

But isn’t it much more than just “coming to the end”? What happened to us along the way? Was there any change? Is our goal or destination the point of this journey, or is the journey itself that is the important thing?

If we have been listening to God’s word these days, we have heard a lot about justice and peace; we have understood that something or someone has changed the universe forever. We have understood how deeply loved we are by God and that this divine visitation has forgiven and healed everyone and everything.

The journey of faith stands beside a bustling holiday season. One says: “Buy, buy, buy” and accumulate as much as you can — then get more, never enough!

The other says: “Let go, simplify, empty yourself, embrace silence and peace, open.”

One distracts and clutters; the other focuses and prepares us to receive love and meaning deep within the spirit.

It is a great time. It is a great season. Everyone enters in different ways and to different degrees. It’s all good. But undeniably there is something that is greatest here.

It has been the journey. It continues. It is near its end. There is more grace and love to go around.

Gaudete — rejoice!

As church, we say it together this Sunday. Together, may we discover what the journey has been about.

Together, may the journey helps us to discover who we have become.

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, December 10, 2017

Announcing the second coming is OUR job

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

Quote of the Week: “The message of Jesus is not ‘Repent,’ but ‘Repent, for the Kingdom of God is near.’” — John Shea.

“Eschatology” is a term that refers to the “end times” and the future glory that awaits those who are faithful to God’s gift of salvation.

It includes Christ’s second coming but also refers to the end of time, the final judgment, the resurrection of everyone and everything that is gathered together by the creator to share forever in divine glory.

It is not terrible but rather the most awesome of all things to come. The first coming of Christ (which we celebrate in Christmas) already ushered in these eschatological times. The kingdom of God has already begun in the birth of Christ and is already here.

But the fullness of this kingdom of God is yet to be fully realized — that will be in his second coming.

What happens “in between”? “In between” is where we are.

John the Baptist understood his critical role to announce the first coming of Christ. An equally critical role falls to us to announce the second coming of Christ.

And even though we cannot pinpoint a day or exact time, nevertheless we continue to proclaim the kingdom that is here and now and the fullness of that kingdom to come.

We do so because our lives become a testimony to our belief in the kingdom; living the Gospel gives us a beginning share in the glory of that kingdom. Sharing that glory actually makes the kingdom to grow within us, through us and around us.

We are “critical players” in announcing and living this kingdom of God. If we don’t live it and share it, we lessen it. If we live it and share it, it thrives and blesses in the “now.”

John said: “One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

We have been baptized in his Spirit. We are anointed in the Lord. We share in his kingdom and proclaim it with our lives. We even receive and are nourished by him as the bread of life and our cup of salvation.

Is this time not anointed? Is this time not one to be proclaimed? Do we not share the privilege of John?

John announced the first coming. We announce the second.

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.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Following Mary in Advent

Archbishop José H. Gómez
By Archbishop José H. Gómez

This past Sunday I had the joy to join thousands of you and your families in East Los Angeles for the 86th annual procession and Eucharistic celebration in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

It was beautiful way to begin Advent — a celebration of faith and hope, strength and solidarity.

And it caused me to reflect that our Christian faith can always be lived with joy, even in times of uncertainty and struggle.

Worshipping with us on Sunday were many young people and families living under the threat of deportation, caught in the web of a broken immigration system and waiting for Congress to decide the fate of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program.

Yet there was great joy because we know that Our Lady of Guadalupe goes with us on this journey we call life. Indeed, this procession in East L.A. was started decades ago by families who were fleeing the worst religious persecution ever witnessed in the Americas.

These refugee families became pillars in our community and in the midst of their hardship and loss, their example still shows us the way. They found hope and grace in turning to the Mother of God.

Reading the news these days, it can seem like we are living in challenging and confusing times.

Christ’s disciples are always called to live and work and carry out our mission in the midst of the anxieties of our time or place.

This is one of the quiet lessons of the Advent and Christmas season.

Read again and reflect on the beginnings of Luke’s and Matthew’s gospels. You see how the “biographies” of Jesus, Mary and Joseph are shaped by the politics and history of their nation.

A government decision, the census, causes the movements that bring them to Bethlehem on Christmas night. A king’s fears and ambitions for power change their lives — forcing them to flee the country as refugees.

Mary is at the center of the story. And she is at the heart of Advent.

As we do during each Advent, this week we will celebrate her Immaculate Conception, which marks the beginning of our salvation. Three days after that, we will remember her appearance at Guadalupe, which marks the beginnings of American history and reminds us of her continued role in the God’s plan of salvation.

Our world is not a chaos of passing events. God is always God and his love is always at work, no matter what is happening in our society or in the world.

Mary gave herself totally to God’s plan and by her “yes” to God, she gives us an example for how to find joy in these times we are living in.

What God asked of Mary, had never been asked of anyone before — to carry in her womb the One who was to be the Savior of her people and the whole human race. She was asked to do that, no matter what sacrifices it would require in her life.

Every step of her life with Christ required that Mary “put out into the deep,” as Jesus told his apostles to do.

She had to face her fears of the unknown, of where God might be leading her next. She had to let go of all her priorities and plans — she had to let go of everything she might have wished for her life.

Reflecting on Mary this week, I found myself returning to the words that St. Elizabeth spoke at her visitation: “Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

This is how we can rejoice even in times when God’s purposes seem mysterious or challenging or hard to accept.

We find God’s blessings when we believe — when we open the door to our hearts and welcome Jesus, when we trust that his Word gives us the path to follow for our lives.

Believing in God does not mean that all sadness or suffering are swept away.

But the more we trust in God’s loving will for us, the more we will find the strength and courage we need to handle whatever comes our way — knowing that we are not alone, that God is with us in the mystery of his love.

So, in this first week of Advent, pray for me and I will be praying for you.

And let us try to follow Mary more closely, because no one on earth was more closely united to Jesus, no one who knew him better than Mary.

May Our Blessed Mother always go with us to guide us to the encounter with Jesus, the one who brings us true joy.

Archbishop José H. Gómez is the fifth archbishop of Los Angeles. His weekly column is provided by and appears in Angelus, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Reach Archbishop Gomez at (213) 637-7000, or follow him daily on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Advent is a time of renewal, change of heart

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

Quote of the Week: “The kingdom of God is the already but not yet.” — R. Alan Woods.

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 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 enters this world through Mary’s conception and birth.

The other is materialistic and centered on Santa Claus, gifts, binge shopping, 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 unconscious levels.

The other purpose is equally as strong throughout the entire season of Advent.

The second coming of Jesus Christ is the long-awaited arrival at the end of time.

This one demands from us our spiritual attention and deepest personal commitment. This is the “moment” when there will be no hiding, escaping, mistaking, or Plan B. When this moment comes, we must be ready; when this moment comes, it will all be “over.”

First Sunday of
Advent.
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.”

Therefore, it should be no surprise 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 he comes — in his word, the Gospel, one another, in our sins and struggles, or 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; email perry.leiker@gmail.com. Follow Father Perry on Twitter: @MrDeano76.