Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Transfiguration of Jesus

Second Sunday of Lent, February 24, 2013

Gospel Luke 9:28-36

Jesus took Peter, John, and James and went up the mountain to pray. While he was praying his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem. Peter and his companions had been overcome by sleep, but becoming fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As they were about to part from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” But he did not know what he was saying. While he was still speaking, a cloud came and cast a shadow over them, and they became frightened when they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.” After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. They fell silent and did not at that time tell anyone what they had seen.
Each year of the three-year cycle, the gospel of the second Sunday of Lent tells of the Transfiguration. This year we have Luke’s account. Luke’s presents this incident as Jesus instructs his disciples - preparing them for his journey to Jerusalem to meet his fate. The liturgical tradition echoes this outlook, inviting us to learn the lessons of this mysterious incident as we begin our journey of Lent.

In Luke’s account, in the verses immediately preceding, Jesus has warned the apostles of what lies ahead: ‘The Son of Man will be rejected and put to death’; more than that, everyone who wants to be his follower ‘must take up his cross every day and follow him’ (9:22-23). Luke’s account clearly has these warnings in mind. It is filled with reassurance for the chosen followers Jesus has brought up the mountain with him.

Moses and Elijah (representing the Law and the Prophets, the great bearers of old Israel’s hopes) are conversing with Jesus concerning ‘his passing which he was to accomplish in Jerusalem’ (the destiny of Israel was established in the original Passover and Exodus; in what lies ahead, this great destiny is to reach its final moment - as the shadows of the old order give way to the reality they prefigure, the Paschal Mystery).

From the ‘cloud’, so often a symbol of God’s presence in the first Exodus, the voice of God confirms what Jesus has told them of this new Passover: ‘This is my Son, the Chosen One. Listen to him.’ As he tells the story of Jesus, Luke often emphasizes the place of prayer in our Christian life. The Transfiguration took place in a moment of prayer; Jesus had taken the chosen apostles ‘up the mountain to pray’. There he communed with God, readying himself for the mission he was soon to accomplish for the life of the world.

As we make the journey of Lent, this example of his – making Jesus truly our brother and companion– should inspire us to make the journey with him, eager to give ourselves more fully to that personal mission to which God has called us – in our families, our parish community and the broader world.

St. Valentine Faith Community
Mass: 10AM Every Sunday
2670 Chandler Avenue
Suite 7 & 8
Las Vegas, NV 89120
702-523-8963 Rev Sue Provost, Pastor

"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. " (1 John 4:9-10)

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Temptation of Jesus

First Sunday of Lent, February 17, 2013

Gospel Luke 41-13

Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days, to be tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and when they were over he was hungry.
The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, One does not live on bread alone.” Then he took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a single instant.
The devil said to him, “I shall give to you all this power and glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I may give it to whomever I wish. All this will be yours, if you worship me.” Jesus said to him in reply, “It is written: You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve.”
Then he led him to Jerusalem, made him stand on the parapet of the temple, and said to him,
“If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written: He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you, and:
With their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.” Jesus said to him in reply, “It also says, You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.”
When the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from him for a time.


In Luke’s gospel today, we find Jesus, freshly baptized, called, named, claimed and set apart for his very unique ministry in the world. Jesus is aware that his life has a unique purpose in the heart and mind of the Almighty One. But that is where his certainty ends - as it does for many of us. There on the edge of the desert, with the waters of baptism still damp in his curly hair, Jesus continues to be fuzzy, unfocused, unsure of what his ministry - what his life - what his call is all about.

Jesus desert sojourn is a profound act of self-love for he is valuing himself - and God - enough to take the time to figure out why he is unique and what it is in his human nature that can stand in the way of God’s purpose for his life. Jesus is pausing to wrestle with the temptation to do things his way, instead of God’s way. And what he discovers, there, in that desolate wasteland of lime stone and sand, is somewhat unsettling.

Jesus knows when he goes into the desert, that for better or for worse, his job is to be the Messiah, to be God’s covenant of love and hope in the flesh. But the Jewish concept of the messiah at that time it that he will have spectacular power, a prince, the leader of a conquering army that will set Israel free from Roman occupation.

So when the devil beguiles him, Jesus must be seriously tempted to respond positively. After all, this crafty fellow is offering him all the techniques for messianic success. Turning stones into bread, so material comfort can be found. Assuming authority and power over all the kingdoms of the world, so that political power can be won. Jumping from the pinnacle of the temple to prove that God’s miraculous power is within him.

But Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, knows that the solution to life’s problems cannot be found in quick spectacles or manipulative power. Jesus discovers, by contending with the devil and sending the devil away, that his calling is not to be a superstar, but to be a servant. His ministry is not to wear a crown but to carry a cross.

Chances are that the evil one will not tempt us with such grand enticements. Nevertheless, we face temptations daily. One of the temptations I would like to focus on today is the urge many people feel to fight change, especially change in the church. Look it, none of us likes change and yet change is about the only thing we can count on. Things change, always have, always will. Yet there are many who have a closed fist desperately trying to hang on to the past, to the known, to the familiar. And as long as that fist is closed, what can God put into it?

The temptations that Christ receives help us to see where our own vulnerabilities are. He gives us an example to fortify us in our own spiritual struggles. While we may be hard-pressed to imitate his example of fortitude (forty days without eating is not recommended), his attitude towards whatever would separate him from the Father must find an echo in our own spiritual efforts.

Jesus’ answers to all the temptations revolve around his complete dedication to God. Perhaps we could look at the individual temptations as symptomatic for different areas of struggle that afflict us all.

“Turn these stones to bread.” Material concerns are in the forefront of many people’s daily lives. After all, if someone isn’t putting “bread on the table,” hunger will become a real and present danger. But Jesus’ refusal to turn stones into bread points to authentic human priorities. If we wish to live as Christ did, we must realize that we do not “live on bread alone.” While our faith provides us with no shortcuts for alleviating material needs, it does keep them from taking the first place in our lives. If we feed our souls on the word of God and, above all, the Bread of Life, we will ward off that hunger that is far more dangerous than the physical: spiritual emptiness.

The second temptation is to power. Pride is an enemy that wins many battles over us, but not Christ. His total love for the Father precludes any rebellion against his will in favor of himself. Our desire for control fans the flames of our pride and has us grasping for more and more. But Jesus teaches us that our greatest power lies in our submission to God. It is easy to feel the power of Christ as he dismisses the tempter with disdainful ease. Despite the counterintuitive sound, we are actually strongest when we are humble, and when we give God the place he deserves.

Finally, atop the temple, Jesus refuses to put on a spectacular show of his power. We thrive on celebrity; glossy magazines stoke the vanity of VIPs and exploit the curiosity of the masses. But vanity plays itself out in many other, far more subtle ways. Many of our actions, good ones included, can be contaminated with our desire to be noticed. In the Gospel for Ash Wednesday, he issued a stern warning about this, referring to the “hypocrites” who make a big show of their generosity in order to win the applause of their peers. The more we can shift the focus off ourselves and more on Christ, the more we will be able to live the spirit of Lent. God must come first!

What is the source of all this resistance to change and our resistance to God? It is because we are afraid, afraid of the unknown, afraid of that which is even only slightly different from our own experience. Where is the faith in that? Where is the trust in Jesus words at the end of Matthew’s gospel when he said that I must go to the Father but know that I am with you always, even to the end of time?

I suspect that the source of this fear for many people is because we are really not sure what is going to happen to us when we die. We fear that either we will simply cease to exist or that there will be a harsh judging God who will throw us into the pit. For many salvation is not assured, our ultimate fate is in jeopardy. But this is not the gospel. The gospel is that through Jesus we have been saved. Our salvation is assured, it’s in the bank, you know how we say that only three things are certain: life, death and taxes, well add a fourth, salvation. It’s a done deal folks, and its so simple. All we have to do is ask for it and we’ve got it. Could it be any easier?

Once we accept the truth of this, we can begin to trust and let go of what we have known. Once we let go, we can enter into that promised land where we will find that which we have always been seeking, God, and that which leads us into an eternal relationship with God.

St. Valentine Faith Community
Mass: 10AM Every Sunday
2670 Chandler Avenue
Suite 7 & 8
Las Vegas, NV 89120
702-523-8963 Rev Sue Provost, Pastor

"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. " (1 John 4:9-10)

Sunday, February 10, 2013

We, too, must become "Fishers of People".

5th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Gospel Luke 5:1-11

While the crowd was pressing in on Jesus and listening to the word of God, he was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret. He saw two boats there alongside the lake; the fishermen had disembarked and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, he asked him to put out a short distance from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.”
Simon said in reply, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.” When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come to help them. They came and filled both boats so that the boats were in danger of sinking. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him and all those with him, and likewise James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners of Simon. Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him.

All three readings today illustrate the initial hesitancy and sense of unworthiness of those being called to do God's work in the world and yet in all these encounters with divinity, there is God's affirmation and transformation, so that those being called become empowered for their missions.

In an examination of the stories of Isaiah, Paul and Simon, we can gain confidence that we too, are called to experience the presence of God and a resultant conversion for the greater glory of God's Reign. Isaiah is the recipient of a terrifying vision in which he comes face to face with YHWH. We recall that Elijah hid his face when he perceived that God passed by the cave where he had taken shelter (2 Kgs 19:13) and that Moses hid his face from the presence of God in the burning bush (Ex 3:6).

For a people who did not even feel themselves worthy to pronounce the name YHWH, to dare to look at God would have meant death and so we can imagine why Isaiah's response was 'Woe is me." Yet, his terror turns to self-assurance once his sin is forgiven and somehow, in realizing he's in the holy Temple, surrounded by angels, he knows he is worthy....worthy to live in God's presence.. worthy to proclaim God's word .he has seen God and lived ! And suddenly the willingness to be sent, springs from his lips! "Here I am, O God, send me!" With those words Isaiah signs a blank check, so to speak. He had no idea what the tasks would be or what the future would hold for him. But he believed in the power of God, which had filled him with the knowledge that no matter what was asked of him, he could accomplish it.

Paul, also (we recall) was the recipient of a dramatic, terrifying encounter with God, having been knocked off his horse and accused of persecuting the Lord Jesus Himself! Before becoming a follower of Jesus, Paul zealously persecuted the newly-forming Christian church, trying to destroy it. He traveled the synagogues, urging the punishment of Jews who accepted Jesus as the Messiah. He held the coats of those who stoned Stephen, the first Christian martyr, to death. He went from house to house, dragging men and women Christian believers to prison, where he had them tortured in an attempt to get them to deny their faith in Christ. When they refused, he voted to have them condemned to death. But then, while traveling on the road from Jerusalem to Damascus on one of his missions of persecution, Jesus appeared to him in a great light. He was struck blind, and after three days was restored his sight. In the 2nd reading Paul reminds us that he did persecute the Church and that he's not even fit to be called an apostle, and that it is by God's favor, and only by God's favor, that he is what he is now-- an apostle, and indeed, as it turns out, the hardest working and biggest promoter of the Gospel amongst the Gentiles all around the Mediterranean Basin, and the most prolific writer of the New Testament. So we see from Paul's story that God can transform any of our pasts, no matter how reprehensible, into lives of good and glory.

We see, in the Gospel reading, a similar transformation in Simon Peter. After having fished all night without any luck, Jesus tells Peter to cast his net into the waters once again. Peter must have wondered, "What does this carpenter know about fishing?", and perhaps to prove his point that there were no fish, Peter lowers the nets, only to be astounded by the immensity of the catch. Peter felt then, just like Isaiah and Paul in the presence of the Almighty, for he fell at Jesus' knees, pleading, "Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinner...." (as if to say) I didn't believe in Your power to work Your works through me.

But then Jesus' merciful encouragement "Do not be afraid...from now on you will be fishers of people" inspires Peter and all those with him to leave their former lives and follow Jesus.

And what does it take for us to be fishers of people? to draw others in our nets to Jesus? What are the qualities we will need to develop? 1. We'll have to be aware of where the fish are....and then go out in search of them (realizing most often, that they are right under our noses where they've been the whole time). 2. We'll have to keep working at it, in all kinds of weather, day or night, whether we are weary or not. 3. We'll have to keep our nets clean of seaweed and debris ....the useless collections of junky thoughts and wasteful attachments. We'll have to wash our nets again and again with the truth that we are God's children and have God-given destinies. 4. We'll have to keep our nets mended-- constantly checking for the holes in our character of discouragement, apathy and self-doubt, taking the care and the time to sew up the holes of negativity with the strength of God found in the Scriptures, sacraments, prayer, and faithful friends.

Although the three readings we've prayed today seem to portray instantaneous, complete cooperation with God on the part of Isaiah, Paul and Peter, we know from the 'rest of their stories', that they struggled all their lives with remaining confident in and committed to God's presence in their lives. And so it helps us to remember, that God doesn't call the perfect, but perfects the ones who are called..... and since we are all called, I prefer to paraphrase this as...God doesn't call the perfect, but perfects the ones who answer The Call. And finally, let us remember that God doesn't call us to be successful, but only to be faithful.

Homily by Reverend Mary Wagner

St. Valentine Faith Community
Mass: 10AM Every Sunday
2670 Chandler Avenue
Suite 7 & 8
Las Vegas, NV 89120
702-523-8963 Rev Sue Provost, Pastor

"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. " (1 John 4:9-10)

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Love of Christ never fails!!!

4th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sunday, February 3, 2013

2nd Reading

1 Corinthians 12: 31 - 13: 13

Brothers and sisters:

Strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts. And now I will show you the way which surpasses all others. For even if I can speak in all the tongues of earth-- and those of the angels too--but do not have love, I am just a noisy gong, a clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy such that I can comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge, or if I have faith great enough so as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, to feed those poorerthan I, and then hand over my body to be burned, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. Love is not jealous, it does not boast, and it does not put on airs. Love is never rude or self-seeking; it does not seek its own interests, it is not prone to anger, nor does it brood over injuries. Love does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices in the truth. There is no limit to love's forbearance, to its trust, its hope and its power to endure.Love never fails.Prophecies will cease; tongues will be silent; knowledge will pass away.

For we know partially and we prophesy partially, but when the Perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, and reason as a child; but when I became an adult, I put childish ways aside. At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then we shall see face to face. Now I know partially; but then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. There are in the end, three things that last: Faith, Hope and Love, but the greatest of these is LOVE.

Paul gives an exhaustive definition of agape love here and does so with an incredible eloquence that shows that Christ's love is far more than just talk, it is action. Paul does not give us some long and dull definition of love but rather He gives us a formula for victorious living. As this comes together for Paul he seems to be asking an unstated question: How should a Christian behave?

1. Love is patient The word that Paul uses here refers to the way we deal with people. Paul says that we are to suffer a long time with other people. No matter what the evil or injury committed against us. No matter how others have neglected or ignored us.

2. Love is kind The word king means to show favor to others and move beyond hurt and injury. Paul shows that love is strength of grace that allows us to grant forgiveness.

3. Love does not envy This is not having feelings against others because of what they have - spiritual gifts, position, abilities, possessions or anything else. Love is not begrudging but rather shares in the joys of others.

4. Love does not boast Paul says that love does not brag or seek recognition. The behavior of love seeks to give, to recognize others, to honor others and applaud when others succeed.

5. Love is not proud The word here for proud means to be puffed up or conceited. The behavior of love does not look at oneself as being better than others. Love is humble and seeks the best.

6. Love is not rude Love does not act in a way that is disgraceful or brings shame to the name of Jesus. Love treats people with respect.

7. Love is not self seeking The Greek word that Paul uses here literally means to worship oneself. This is exactly the problem of modern society because we have become so full of ourselves. The simple reality seeks to serve others, not to be served by others.

8. Love is not easily angered Paul uses the word that means quick tempered or being ready to take personal offense. Love does not allow the emotions to control and it does not become angry without cause.

9. Love keeps no record of wrong This means that we cannot think evil of others and continuously focus on the wrongs that we have suffered because this will lead to resentment and bitterness. Love endures evil and keeps its focus on the truth.

10. Love does not delight in evil Paul says here that love does not take pleasure in doing what is unrighteous. In other words, if we have the love of Christ within us, the ability to do what is wrong still exists but we will make ourselves miserable doing so.

11. Love rejoices with the Truth Love rejoices when the truth is finally discovered and when it is victorious. The reality is that we can rejoice in all situations because when the truth of God is within us we always have victory.

12. Love always protects Paul is saying that love has the power to cover every area of life and to give the needed strength to support every area of life. Love gives us the supernatural strength to stand and cover the faults of others.

13. Love always trusts The word Paul uses here means to have a perfect trust. Love gives us an ability to have a divine trust that helps us to see God's work in our lives. It also gives us the ability to see the best in others.

14. Love always hopes Paul says that love literally never loses hope and has every expectation of finding triumph. Love refuses to accept failure and has bright hope for the best.

15. Love always perseveres Paul uses a military word here that means to withstand an attack. This means that the love of Christ is our strength and acts as our fortress during attack. Love endures every assault that comes against it and stands firm until the victory is won. The love of God gives us the ability to love even in the most difficult of circumstances.

16. Love never fails Paul closes his definition of love with a bold statement that love never fails. In other words, the love of Christ is always successful. The power of our lives is found in the reality that Christ's love gives us the ability to succeed. In essence, love describes the very character of Jesus Himself and if we want to become more like Him we must allow His love to penetrate the deepest corners of our hearts. We must be willing and open for the overflow to come and fill us with Christ's love.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:37-38

Notice all of those things that do not have the ability to keep the love of Christ from our lives.

 • The love of Christ is more powerful than life itself, death cannot even keep it from us.

• The love of Christ is more powerful than spiritual beings, even the most diabolic plot from Hell cannot keep it from us.

• The love of Christ is more powerful than time itself, even when time comes to an end the love of Christ will remain

• The love of Christ is more powerful than mortal strength, even the greatest power on earth cannot keep it from us.

• The love of Christ is more powerful than any distance, even the deepest of depths or the highest of heights cannot keep it from us.

• The love of Christ is more powerful than all of creation, absolutely nothing in all of the universe can keep it from us.

This list looks all inclusive and seems to have covered all of the bases. However, there is one thing that can keep you from the love of God that is found only in Christ Jesus; you. You are the only thing standing between the overflow of love that falls from Heaven and your need. You are the person that keeps you from experiencing the overflow and it's awesome power. You are the only one that can accept the filling of the overflow.

Are you living in the overflow of Christ's love? The choice is yours and you can live in the overflow of His divine love.

St. Valentine Faith Community
Mass: 10AM Every Sunday
2670 Chandler Avenue
Suite 7 & 8
Las Vegas, NV 89120
702-523-8963 Rev Sue Provost, Pastor

"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. " (1 John 4:9-10)