Monday, September 9, 2013


Gospel Luke 14:25-33
23rd Sunday Ordinary Time  
September 8, 2013

  On one occasion when a great crowd was with Jesus, he turned to them and said, "If any of you come to me without turning your back on your mother and your father, your loved ones, your sisters and brothers, indeed your very self, you cannot be my follower. Anyone who does not take up the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. If one of you decides to build a tower, will you not first sit down and calculate the outlay to see if you have enough money to complete the project? You will do that for fear of laying the foundation and then not being able to complete the work; for all who saw it would jeer at you and say, 'You began to build what you could not finish.'  Or if a nation is about to engage another in battle, will they not sit down first and consider whether, with an army of ten thousand, they can withstand an enemy coming against them with twenty thousand? If they cannot, they will send a delegation while the enemy is still at a distance, asking for terms of peace. In the same way, none of you can be my disciple if you do not renounce all your possessions."

 The reality doesn’t match the picture. The truth often falls short of the imagination. How often has it been that we saw a brochure or an advertisement of what we intended to buy, order or where we intended stay and when we have bought the item, ordered the food, or arrived at a hotel, we were disappointed? Nothing is like the disappointment of being short-changed. 

Today, Jesus lays before us the reality of discipleship and not the imagined picture of it. Luke tells us that “great crowds accompanied Jesus and he turned and spoke to them: Anyone who does not carry his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple”. The cost of discipleship is measured in such practical terms as “unless a grain of wheat falls onto the ground and dies, it remains but a single grain”.

In short, discipleship is sacrifice. Take up your cross and follow Christ. But, the truth is that many of us are followers of Jesus from a distance. Why? The definition of discipleship is made more difficult by a certain caricature of it. In the 70s and 80s, it was customary to paint Jesus as a political revolutionary and therefore the idea of discipleship was perhaps more a reflection of Che Guevara, the ideal political revolutionary than the historical Jesus ever had been.

If discipleship were about political agitation, it marginalizes a lot of people—who will fall within the category of the “politically useless”. From a psychological point of view, it doesn’t take a lot to move from feeling useless to being useless. Useless people give up hope in themselves. The truth is that there is a cost to discipleship which we ought to reckon with. Discipleship is sacrifice, whether paid for by blood or otherwise. The reality is often we pay less with blood than with a life of constancy, consistency and commitment. In fact, faithfulness demands so much more than blood. It is easy to die in an instance—in a hail of bullets but much more difficult to die over a lifetime of faithfulness. 
Thus, Christian discipleship is not lived in the abstract or to lived somewhat in a vacuum. It also turns discipleship into something unattainable and thus keeps us at an uninvolved distance. But, discipleship is nearer than we think. All we need to do is to focus on where we are and we will find the answer to how best we can exercise our Christian discipleship. 

For example: marriage. It is one of the best forms of discipleship today. Christ loves us so much that he gave his life for us. A man and woman bound by the bonds of marriage is the best reflection of the union between Christ and the Church. We live in an era which tries to promote intimacy without complications. The reality is that there are no perfect couples just like there are no perfect disciples. There are a lot of struggling couples. It is in the struggles that discipleship is lived out and perfected.In fact, the prayer of blessing over couples celebrating their marriage anniversary acknowledges that “amid the joys and struggles of their life, God has preserved the union between them”.

The trials or tribulations we face are rich grounds upon which the seeds of discipleship can take root. In an earlier part of Luke’s Gospel Jesus said: “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow me”. Thus, discipleship does not take us out of the ordinary. Instead, discipleship is exercised in the mundane everyday existence that we lead. A teacher is called to discipleship through faithful teaching. A harassed mother tending to her brood is answering to discipleship. An aged father or mother you are landed with is discipleship. When there is disability in the family, often when the parents are gone, you shall have to bear the burden of caring for an adult but disabled sibling; that is discipleship.

In fact, nothing in the ordinary is outside the boundary of discipleship. Today, in a world which exalts the exciting, the glamorous and the sensational, there is a grave need to reclaim discipleship from the amazing, extraordinary and the unusual. Discipleship is not the preserve of a few but the arena for the many. We don’t need to hate our family because ordinary life provides enough opportunities for abnegation, renunciation and sacrifice in the exercise of discipleship. Hating mother or father is not the measure of discipleship because Jesus is not concerned by the size of our sacrifice. Instead, the depth of discipleship is measured by the size of the heart that makes the offering.

Let us ask Christ in the Eucharist to give us hearts big enough so that we may dare embrace his discipleship with heroic courage and quiet fortitude.

                              St. Valentine Faith Community
                                                              Mass: 10AM Every Sunday
2301 E Sunset Road
Suite 18
Las Vegas, NV 89119
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, August 11, 2013

Do not be afraid any longer.

Gospel Luke 12:32-48
19th Sunday Ordinary Time  
August 11, 2013
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your belongings and give alms. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach nor moth destroy. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be. “Gird your loins and light your lamps and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival. Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself, have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them. And should he come in the second or third watch and find them prepared in this way, blessed are those servants. Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour when the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”
Then Peter said, “Lord, is this parable meant for us or for everyone?” And the Lord replied, “Who, then, is the faithful and prudent steward whom the master will put in charge of his servants to distribute the food allowance at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master on arrival finds doing so. Truly, I say to you, the master will put the servant in charge of all his property. But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the menservants and the maidservants, to eat and drink and get drunk, then that servant’s master will come on an unexpected day and at an unknown hour and will punish the servant severely and assign him a place with the unfaithful. That servant who knew his master’s will but did not make preparations nor act in  accord with his will shall be beaten severely; and the servant who was ignorant of his master’s will but acted in a way deserving of a severe beating shall be beaten only lightly. Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.”

 One night a house caught fire and a young little byways forced to flee to the roof. The father stood on the ground below with outstretched arms, calling to his son, "Jump! I'll catch you." He knew the boy had to jump to save his life. All the boy could see, however, was flame, smoke, and blackness. As can be imagined, he was afraid to leave the roof. His father kept yelling: "Jump! I will catch you." But the boy protested, "Daddy, I can't see you." The father replied, "But I can see you and that's all that matters." Hearing this, the boy jumped. He jumped, because he trusted his father.  

The Christian faith enables us to face life or meet death, not because we can see, but with the certainty that we are seen; not that we know all the answers, but that we are known. Faith is not merely us holding on to God - it is God holding on to us. And He will never let us go! Today is the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time; and all the three Scripture Readings of today invite us to dwell upon the theme of our need for a lively faith and hope in the things to come. Faith is the confident assurance concerning what we hope for, and conviction about things we do not see; and also the test of our faith is its endurance for the long haul, in good times and in bad times.   

FAITH OF ABRAHAM: In the Second Reading of today, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews speaks about two faith-filled people, Abraham and Sarah. He recalls how our early faith ancestors placed their trust in God. Abraham and Sarah left their comfortable home and set out for an unknown land because God called them. When God promised them that their 'descendants would be as numerous as the stars of the sky and the sands of the sea,' they were old enough to be great-grandparents and Sarah too was sterile. Even though for so long they saw no fulfillment of the promise, they believed. They had the virtue of faith, a lasting confidence that God's word would be fulfilled someday. And when God finally granted them a son, He asked Abraham to sacrifice him and still continue to believe, to trust, and to hope that the promise would still somehow be accomplished. Abraham, faithfully listening to the word of God, 'hoped against hope' that his son would be restored to him, even as he was willing to sacrifice him. It is shocking, even disgusting, to think that somebody was willing to sacrifice his own son to God. Essentially, Abraham's readiness to sacrifice his son is an act of trust, of faith, in which he was proved right. We consider Abraham our father in faith, and he is a model for our own times – he took great risks; he had no agenda other than his faithful obedience to the God in whom he trusted completely. We might ask whether we are models of faith in light of this passage. 

FAITH OF THE ISRAELITES: The most memorable event in the early history of the Israelite people was their exodus from Egypt. Because the Israelite people believed, God saved them. God led them out of slavery and saved them from their enemies.  Today's First Reading from the Book of Wisdom recalls God's special care and protection of the Israelite people. The author sees God's people as 'the holy children of the good' who have cooperated with God's plan for salvation. Today's passage presents an account of the tenth plague during the night of the Passover, when the angel of death struck down the firstborn of the Egyptians and spared the Israelite people who had sprinkled the blood of the lamb on their door posts. God was liberating them from slavery and they put their trust in the power of their God to save them. God is always faithful to his promise. But He acts with divine wisdom and divine love, which is far above our ability to understand or see. We are challenged to put our trust in the promises of the Lord and never waver, never doubt his goodness, his power, and his love. 

FAITH OF A DISCIPLE: Today's Gospel from St. Luke begins by taking up the theme of last week, viz. setting store on our treasure in heaven rather than being bound to our material treasures here on earth. Here Jesus speaks of material possessions as capturing the heart, not allowing one to be free to follow him. So he challenges his disciples to reveal what it is they really value, following him or being caught up in material wealth. But the actual theme of today's Gospel is 'remaining faithful as we wait for the return of the Lord.' Jesus uses two parables to make the point:  First there is “the Parable of the Watchful Servants, "where Jesus encourages his disciples to be vigilant and ready for action as they wait for the coming of the Master. That he will come is certain, but when he will come no one knows. The Lord comes unexpectedly into our lives every day through events and people we meet. But the ultimate, expected coming of the Lord in our lives is the moment of death. We should be watchful to recognize the Lord and be prepared to meet him in the little unexpected opportunities of everyday life. This is the best way to prepare for the ultimate encounter with the Lord at the hour of death. 

In the second parable, “the Parable of the Faithful or Unfaithful Servant,” Jesus reiterates the lesson of the first parable under the heading of faithfulness. He portrays two different attitudes of disciples in the absence of the Master. The wise disciple remains steadfast at his duty post even in the master's absence. The foolish disciple takes to a complacent lifestyle and takes the law into his own hands. The day of reckoning comes with the master's return. The faithful servant receives a promotion, the unfaithful one is 'cut to pieces' and given a place with the unbelievers.  The Gospel completes this teaching in Jesus´ words to be ready at all times for the end, and to live each day as if it were the last; to live each day before God and to render fully to him what he expects from each one of us.  To summarize, to be a disciple of Jesus is to be fundamentally a man or woman of faith, someone who trusts completely in God throughout all the 'ups and downs' of life, someone who desires to do what God wants him to do even though he can’t precisely figure out what that is. It's the desire that’s important. Significantly, therefore, when Jesus challenged his disciples, he prefaced his teaching with a counsel against fear. “Do not live in fear,” the Lucan Jesus advised in today’s gospel. Faith, not fear, was to be the guiding force in the lives of Jesus’ disciples. Faith would enable them to set their hearts on that never-failing treasure with the Lord; faith would empower them to live in a constant attitude of preparedness, ready to recognize and welcome Jesus, who promised to return for them at a time and in a manner they would least expect. Faith would keep them aware of and attentive to their responsibilities; faith would prompt them toward the mutual love and support of their brothers and sisters which was to characterize them as Jesus’ own. 

CONCLUSION: As Christians, we have been given a great deal - a lot of it on trust. Our faith is given to us as a treasure for heaven - but we don't always cherish it as one. We know that our lives - our gifts - our families are all treasures - but, again, we don’t always give them the respect and love they deserve. One day, we will be called to account for how we have looked after what we have been given. We will also be asked how we have helped others. Another way we Christians can prove that we are a people of faith is to live every day as though we expect Jesus to return. Jesus challenges his followers to be always ready for his return, to live as if the end were near: to build a true treasure, not fleeting wealth, giving freely, being generous and living in the sight of God at all times. The world often lulls us into lethargy and comfort, and we forget that we are people on a journey and this is not our permanent home. We forget that we are living above all for the life to come and that this world, as good and beautiful as it is, is not our final destiny.  Today's gospel urges us to be awake and on the watch like servants awaiting the master's return home from a wedding banquet. Watchfulness means living in such a consistently moral and obedient way that we are always ready to give an account to God of how we have lived. Since no one knows when the final judgment will happen, the wise person will always be prepared for it. Finally, we are called to be faithful servants.

In today's Gospel, we are given the promise that when the master comes he will reward his faithful servants. Actually, being a good and faithful servant requires us to have a relationship with God based on trust that his words are life-giving, that they are true. It means to be open to his life-giving word. This is not an empty phrase. Being open to God is essentially about being a good host, waiting for him to arrive and listening to what he says. This openness and trust is one of the most fundamental elements of the Christian life. We need to realize daily that we are waiting for God. “Blessed is that servant whom his master on arrival finds him doing so.”

                              St. Valentine Faith Community
                                                              Mass: 10AM Every Sunday
2301 E Sunset Road
Suite 18
Las Vegas, NV 89119
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)

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Teach Us to Pray!

Gospel Luke 11:1-13 
17th Sunday Ordinary Time  
July 28, 2013

One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he had finished, one of the disciples asked him, "Rabbi, teach us to pray as John taught his disciples." Jesus said to them, "When you pray, say: 
Abba God, Hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins for we too forgive all who do us wrong; and subject us not to the trial.  
Jesus said to them: "Suppose one of you had a friend to whom you went in the middle of the night and said, 'Friend, lend me three loaves, for some friends of mine have come in from a journey and I have nothing to offer them,' and the friend answered, 'Leave me alone. The door is shut now and my family and I are in bed. I can't get up to look after your needs ' - I tell you, even if not out of friendship, then because of your persistence, your friend would get up and take care of you and give you as much as you needed.” "So I say to you, 'Ask and you will receive, seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened to you.'  "For whoever asks, receives; whoever seeks, finds; whoever knocks, is admitted. What parent among you will give your son a snake if he asks for a fish, or hand your daughter a scorpion if she asks for an egg? If you, with all your sins, knowhow to give your children good things, how much more will your loving God in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask?"

  Ask and You Shall Receive So I say to you "Knock and it shall be opened to you", "Ask and you shall receive. "These are promises from the mouth of Jesus that continually perplex people. Everyone, having heard these words as a youngster, has thought to themselves, "If I just pray and believe hard enough, I will get whatever I ask for."  What's more, many adults still think this way. But all stories about people who hold magic genies in their power end up in a bad way; those who can have anything they want always send up disappointed, disillusioned and most times, worse off than when they started.
So just what did Jesus mean when he said, "Everyone who asks receives, everyone who searches finds"?  I think we can most accurately understand what he meant by examining the five petitions of the Lord's Prayer, which St Thomas Aquinas has pointed out to be the most perfect of prayers, for it teaches us all the things for which we might rightly ask and it teaches us the order in which they should be desired. 

"Our Father/Mother  God Who art in heaven, hallowed be Your name" Disciples, first of all, recognize that God is the Source of All and the fullness of life.  We acknowledge that everything of all creation as well as of all human accomplishment owes itself to the Almighty's genius and Loving providence.  We acknowledge frequently, humbly and gratefully, that life and life's pursuits are all gifts, for which God's Name deserves every mortal's constant praise. Furthermore, because of Jesus' Resurrection, as St Paul tells us in the 2nd Reading, all of our sins have been forgiven, 'we are alive together with Christ", and now have  the authority and grace as daughters and sons, to address God as a loving Parent and Friend,  Who we know  is ready to give us everything that is good for us.    

"Your Kingdom come, Your  will be done". God is more gracious than a friend who reluctantly gets up in the night to help us, but God's graciousness does not guarantee that we get what we think we want. I was in 2nd grade when I first began to understand that even though a whole church community could pray for something worthwhile and good to happen, we are sometimes given what we need instead, a mystery that we see best in retrospect. At the time, my beloved classmate Catherine was suffering greatly with her leukemia, and when after months of suffering she finally went home to heaven,  our wise and gentle Sister Bonaventure helped us see how peacefully and brightly Cathy had lived up until the end, and how as young as she was, gave us all, kids and grown-ups alike, the example of how we could go through our troubles in life, counting on Jesus to be with us. Although none of us then, and none of here today have gotten most of the things we've prayed for,  we have in retrospect, discovered more than what we were looking for, and  have been graced beyond our expectations by what was behind the door on which we were knocking. 
When we make this petition, "Your Kingdom come, Your will be done",  we are asking God to change us from thinking that God is obligated to us because of our religious acts of worship or service.  ..we are asking that God make us, instead,  into instruments for the Divine Will to be accomplished on this earthly kingdom.
Give us each day  our daily bread". This petition asks us to recall the total dependence upon God that the  Israelites experienced in the desert, of having to pray and wait each morning for 40 years, for the manna  to appear like dew on the land, . Like God's people of old, wandering on their journey, we are to ask only for that which is essential and wholesome to our life--not for luxuries and extras. Mother Teresa once said, "God made the world rich enough to feed and clothe all human beings". So we pray, "Give bread to us; not to me only, but to others in common with me.", asking God to create compassion and charity in me for all those whom God needs me to feed. Finally, we remember that when Jesus was tempted to break His fast and turn stones into bread,  He told Satan, that  "one does not live on bread alone, but on every Word that comes from God." Most importantly then, we ask God to give us hearts that hunger all over again every day, for the true Bread of Life, Jesus Himself, that we might be fed daily in Word and Sacrament.   
"Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us". Which is to say that we will follow the standard set by Jesus' teaching and example. When he was asked how many times we must forgive someone He answered '70 x 70 times', Which is symbolic language for 'limit-less' times, for not even counting at all. And because His dying words from the Cross were "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do,", He charges us to have forgiving hearts when we are most hurt by the betrayal and cruelty of others, especially those who we thought loved us the most.  
"Lead us not into temptation, but Deliver us from evil". Since God would never 'lead us into temptation', it's odd that we make this petition,  but it is in fact a plea for the grace of God to so fill us that we  never succumb to the pride of thinking that we can earn our salvation by our works. It is an appeal that we will be drawn to seek God's strength in all of our future unforeseeable trials, especially in those times of fear or despair when we might forget to pray.  

Because most of us have been saying the Lord's Prayer since we've been knee-high, the power of its longing has been lost in the millions of repetitions of it in our lifetimes. But Jesus, the Incarnate Word of God among us, gave us this prayer specifically to summarize and to encourages us in the Good News of His Gospel. To believe in and to call for the coming of God's Kingdom, to daily come to God with our basic needs as individuals and as community, to pray both to be forgiven and to forgive as we know ourselves forgiven by God, and to pray to not be tested beyond our capacity to endure in faith--this is how the followers of Jesus were to live . With perseverant prayer in this manner, asking for the Holy Spirit, we shall indeed receive.  

Reverend Mary Wagner

                              St. Valentine Faith Community
                                                              Mass: 10AM Every Sunday
2301 E Sunset Road
Suite 18
Las Vegas, NV 89119
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)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Meditation on the parable of "The Good Samaritan" (Luke 10:25-37).

There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test him and said, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you read it?” He said in reply,

You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength,
and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

He replied to him, “You have answered correctly;
do this and you will live.”

But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Jesus replied, “A man fell victim to robbers as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho.
They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead.  A priest happened to be going down that road, but when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. Likewise a Levite came to the place, and when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him was moved with compassion at the sight. He approached the victim, poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them. Then he lifted him up on his own animal, took him to an inn, and cared for him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction, ‘Take care of him. If you spend more than what I have given you, I shall repay you on my way back.’ Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?” He answered, “The one who treated him with mercy.”  Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

We have all heard the parable of "The Good Samaritan".  Most of us have heard it so many times, that we no longer listen when this Gospel is read.  We have heard it so many times that we think we know what it means. The Good Samaritan is someone who takes care of someone in need, right!  However, if you really meditate on this parable, you will find that is goes much deeper than that.  So, the question we must ask ourselves, have we really understood this parable, or what Jesus is trying to tell us about our duty as his follower?  
In the following Lectio Divina, Monsignor Francesco Follo does a wonderful job of explaining its meaning.  I would suggest reading this several times and let it sink into your heart.    

Lectio Divina: 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time,Year C

By Monsignor Francesco Follo - PARIS, July 12, 2013 -

1) Four characters and a place to be identified
When we listen to the parable of the Samaritan four questions come up.
Who is the priest?
I am that priest.
Who is the Levite?
I am that Levite.
Who is the wounded man?
I am the wounded man.
Who is the Samaritan?
What does He do?
He becomes our neighbor, He takes care of me so that He becomes like me: He is wounded, naked, crucified for me and I’m healed, my dignity is given back to me and I’m brought back to life.
The priest and the Levite had finished their service in the Temple of Jerusalem and were going home. They saw the wounded man but didn’t stop. Perhaps they thought that he was already dead and didn’t want to touch him because it was an impure act to touch a dead body (Lev 21:1).
Perhaps they feared to become themselves victim of an assault. These fears were stronger than compassion. As priest and Levite they represented the wise men that had to incarnate the commandment of God’s love.
What about love for neighbor?
Unfortunately cult and compassion were two different things.
And what is the inn?
It is the Church.

2) Who is our neighbor?
(1) We are used to the expression” Good Samaritan”; it seems a common saying but is  not so obvious. It is an oxymoron (a contradiction).

(2) For the Jews, the Samaritan was heretic, separatist, more despised than the pagans. For a Samaritan it would not have been possible to consider them neighbor. Jesus doesn’t say that the wounded man must be helped because he is the neighbor but He “dares” to donate to his countrymen a Samaritan as the example of human and divine compassion for a happy and eternal life. This “gift” has been so well understood by the Church that Jesus has been forever indicated as the “Good Samaritan” and the Church becomes “neighbor” to suffering humanity.
Christ and the Church with Him bend over the weak and wounded man to save him because God’s kingdom has this “cost”: compassion. The son of God, the incarnate Mercy, carries God’s blessing in becoming neighbor to mankind that is by Him pitied, nursed and healed for the Kingdom of God. To make us understand the greatness and the intensity of this proximity,
Jesus uses various parables: the one of the good shepherd that saves the sheep condemned to death ( John10:10), the one of the son of the owner of the vineyard that arrives after the prophets that were sent in vain (Jh 10;Lk 20:9-18) and that one of the Samaritan that tells of a traveler that doesn’t avoid a wounded man but with compassion kneels next to him and removes him from the road. Let’s imagine the scene and let’s become the wounded man that is rescued by the Samaritan who arrives after the priest and the Levite that didn’t want or couldn’t help him, maybe because he was unknown to them or not belonging to their family or their tribe.
Here we can see mirrored the history of salvation in which Jesus is a despised Samaritan, reveals what other techniques of salvation have forgotten and builds where these techniques have failed. In Christ, God became near to mankind with a simple and human figure. The God that we now know is not "too high up nor too far away” from us and His law is very close to us. It is in our mouth and in our heart so that we put it in practice (first reading of theRoman Rite). Only doing what Christ has done we can truly encounter our neighbor (God) and our neighbor (men and women). Our heart matures only in welcoming the Other, and the other has only one “nice flaw”, it needs to beloved. At the end of the parable Jesus reverses the second question of the doctor of the Law (the first one had been “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”).

(3) He had asked: “Who is my neighbor?” The question seems to have been made to convince Jesus that “to love God” is without limits but that “to love the neighbor” has well defined limits. I think that the question implies that we can choose the neighbor we must love with the possibility to refuse the ones that are not worthy to be loved. Jesus revolves it:

(4)”Which of these three, had compassion  for him?” It is important not only to know on whom we must have compassion but also to know who has compassion for us. Today He wants to teach us not so much who is our neighbor as to make us understand Who comes near us lying on the road. In the foreground there is not the one who organizes his compassion and distributes it to the one he thinks deserves it, but the one who is in need and waits for a sign of compassion by a Traveler that approaching him and nursing him becomes his neighbor.

3) The price of the Kingdom of God: compassion. If on the above lines I suggested to identify oneself with the wounded man so that we can understand that our neighbor is Christ. Now I propose to identify oneself with the Samaritan to be near to the wounded humanity that desires to rise up but cannot do it alone. The priest and the Levite didn’t stop as the Samaritan did because their eyes were not those of the Lord. On the contrary the Samaritan has God’s eyes and looks at the humanity as Jesus does: “Christ, the Son of God, looks at the human pain and uses this pain to reveal his love and to incarnate his mercy.
How much “descending” must be done in me if only the pain can reveal God’s love to me! How much charity must be done by God if He had to go with us on our Calvary so that we can believe in Love!” (Father Primo Mazzolari, Time to believe, Brescia1964, page 103)

This love is moved and has compassion (to suffer with), a word that- even if less stronger than the Greek word that indicate a ”moved womb”- indicates not the giving of the wealthy person to the poor or the rescue of the healthy person of the ill one, but it means living together the passion for the life of the brother or the sister whose humanity has been wounded. The etymology of the word compassion pushes us to live it, feeling the pain of the other as if it were ours. The doctor of the Law has understood it very well. Jesus then confirms his answer and invites him to do the same.
Charity is a mission in compassion; it is to follow Christ in our daily life. To do so Jesus asks for complete availability and pushes us to work for a common cause, and to enter into a history and a stability of life. This is the way to eternal life: to go the same way that Jesus has described and done in coming to live in the place of our illness. We should ask Christ to give us a gaze and a heart like his. While reason wants to measure the gift of God based on what she can understand, Christ reveals to us His unimaginable tender Heart.
Many people in the Church have understood and welcomed this heart and his tenderness. I’d like to cite the example of a Missionary of Charity that I met in Rome. She was an Italian nun who at 60 had left the Congregation where she was General Counselor to become a nun in the Missionaries of Charity. Mother Theresa of Calcutta welcomed her and with maternal concern advised her to go to Calcutta when the weather would have been less harsh. After a month of getting accustomed to the new life, she sent the “new” sister to work (or as Mother Theresa used to say, “To do apostolate”) in the House of the dying. In this House of mercy there are many small rooms where the dying is assisted with love. On the walls of every room there is written a phrase from the Gospel. The Italian nun started to wash the wounds of an ill person while looking at the wall where it was written: “This is my body”. At the end of her “apostolate” the nun returned to the convent for dinner. Mother Theresa asked her: ”What did you do  this afternoon?” The nun answered: ”I’ve been with Jesus for three hours’”.
Like a Samaritan following the steps of the Samaritan she had bent over the man with whom Jesus identifies himself: “I was hungry, I was thirsty, I was a prisoner, I was ill, and I was naked. I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’(Mt25:35).
Let’ s live in mercy and let’s practice compassion kneeling in front of our neighbor as Jesus did washing the feet and on the Cross as many men and women do when they wash the material and spiritual wounds of their brothers and sisters. Looking at us in this communion of reciprocal mercy the others will be able to “read” the Gospel and to “see” it in action. Through our life in Christ, truth is given to those of wisdom and love to the hearts. God puts himself in our hands of mercy. We are the only ones responsible for this mercy and let’s not delegate this responsibility to others. Every one of us has the duty to carry in his/her heart the Living God who never imposes but proposes calling us to live his pilgrimage and to open the door He is knocking at: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock:” If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, [then] I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me” (Rev 3:20).
What I’ve said is valid for all Christians, religious and lay people. In what way is the vocation to be a Samaritan specific for those who consecrate themselves? They must show with their life that cult and compassion are not in contrast. To a nun who was asking to Saint Vincent de Paolis: ”If I’m in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and a poor person knocks at the door what should I do? Should I continue my adoration or go to the poor?” The Saint founder of the Daughters of Mercy answered: “You don’t abandon God if you abandon God for God”. That not only means that in the poor there is God and consequently we can stop praying to help the needy. It means also that in a virginal consecration to God, one has eyes so pure that he or she sees God in the poor and serves Him in mercy and in praise.

(4) The Inn of “ All are welcomed” In today’s parable Jesus also says that the Samaritan took the wounded man in the “All are welcomed," today translated as an inn.”
This “All are welcomed” is a fragile house suspended between Jericho and Jerusalem that is born wherever a person is willing to welcome everybody. God welcomes everybody into the profound sign of love. The Church welcomes all in a maternal way. In this “public lodging” the suffering person is nursed in the same way a mother bends over her child to take care of him.
This taking care (that in the Greek word indicates how a mother bends over her child)means that it is a concern that becomes action. The Consecrated Virgins are called in a particular way to this service of maternal care. The Rite of Consecration invites them to dedicate themselves to nurse the physical and moral sores of every brother and sister wounded in the body and in the soul because thanks to a pure heart they see in the face of a suffering person the Face of faces: that of Christ.---
(1) The neighbor, in  Greek “pleison”,in Hebrew “ re’a”,indicates “one who is near, who lives nearby and with whom we share something. For the Jew it was his countryman because he was a member of the chosen people and at maximum they could include the ones who had converted to Judaism.
(2) An oxymoron (it is a Greek word from oxus= pointed and moros=blunt) is a rhetorical figure that is made by the union of two opposite contradictory terms or anyway in strong antithesis between them. The result is that of an apparent paradox. For example lucid madness, silent tumult, deafening silence, parallel convergences, senseless sense and disgusting pleasure. If some oxymoron has been devised to capture the reader’s attention, others are born to indicate a reality that doesn’t have a name. This can happen because a word was never created or because the code of the language, for its formal limits, must contradict itself to indicate some deep concepts. This is the case of the expression “good Samaritan”.
(3) The Jewish doctors of the Law counted 613 precepts, 365 negative (one for each day of the year) and 248 positive like the numbers of the bones. It indicated that the law every day enters in a negative way inside a man to purify him, to remove the negativity of evil and to penetrate in a positive way into the bones, the structure of the body, to structure man into right.
(4) The Greek text says splancnizomai “to be moved, to be caught in the deep of the womb”, in the deep of the soul, the maternal womb, loving womb typical of God whose look toward us becomes compassion. Today we translate it with “to have compassion” weakening the original vividness of the text. Because of the lightning of mercy that strikes the soul of the Samaritan, he becomes neighbor going beyond every question and every danger. The question has changed, it is no longer a matter to establish who our neighbor is or who is not. It concerns me. I must become neighbor to the other so that he or she is important for me like “myself”.
(5) In the Greek writing, it is uses the word pandocheion that means “to welcome all” and it is a house between Jerusalem, the celestial Jerusalem, and Jericho. This house that welcomes all is the symbol of the Church that welcomes everybody.
(6) In Greek the word epemelethe means to take care, to worry, to vigil, go out of one’s way.--
St. Valentine Faith Community
2301 E Sunset Road
Suite 18
Las Vegas, NV 89120
702-523-8963 Rev. Sue Provost Cell
Mass: Every Sunday at 10am

"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)

Monday, July 8, 2013

How do we show Hospitality?

July 7, 2013
 Luke 10:1-12, 17-20
At that time the Lord appointed seventy-two others whom he sent ahead of him in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit. He said to them, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest. Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves. Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals; and greet no one along the way. Into whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this household.’ If a peaceful person lives there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you. Stay in the same house and eat and drink what is offered to you, for the laborer deserves his payment. Do not move about from one house to another. Whatever town you enter and they welcome you, eat what is set before you, cure the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God is at hand for you.’ Whatever town you enter and they do not receive you, go out into the streets and say, ‘The dust of your town that clings to our feet, even that we shake off against you.’ Yet know this: the kingdom of God is at hand. I tell you, it will be more tolerable for Sodom on that day than for that town.”
 The seventy-two returned rejoicing, and said, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us because of your name.” Jesus said, “I have observed Satan fall like lightning from the sky. Behold, I have given you the power to ‘tread upon serpents’ and scorpions and upon the full force of the enemy and nothing will harm you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”

Hospitality. We define it today as the way we treat our guests cordially and make them feel at home. It is the way we receive our guests and perhaps the way we entertain them. We go to a hotel and we see hospitality suites and we may say that we were treated hospitably. We have hospitals, which take care of and treat and cure sick people. So hospitality is still a part of our way of life and something to be treasured in our culture. In the time of Jesus, and even in the Old Testament, there is a slightly different understanding of hospitality. The meaning and concept of cordiality and comfort is still the same, but it is extended far beyond what we would feel comfortable doing today.

 We certainly don’t extend our hospitality to anyone who walks up to us and asks for it. Some of us find it hard to be hospitable to street people who beg for money or for strangers who seem to demand or expect it from us. In Biblical times the populations were smaller and everyone was related to everyone else within somewhat large areas. Leaving towns and traveling to another town left travelers at great risk of robbery or beatings. There were no motels to stay at, or hotels or hostels.  If you traveled you were entirely dependent on the kindness of strangers – which is why you attempted to know everyone who might be related to you or who might owe you a favor.

When Jesus said he was sending his Apostles out as lambs among wolves, he was referring to the fact that they would be itinerant travelers and would literally be at risk of robbery and beatings. That is why he did not want them to take much with them.  “Carry no money, no bag, no sack, no sandals; and greet no-one along the way. ”If  they had nothing that could be stolen they would be better off.  When they reached a village or town, however, they needed to depend on hospitality. And people were expected to give it. Early Bible stories are based on the concept of hospitality.  If you remember the story of Sodom, it was really a story of how the town was inhospitable. The angels of God disguised as men were not given hospitality, except by one person, who in order to be hospitable offered up his daughters to save the visitors from the inhospitable and savage townsmen.  God destroyed the cities for that crime of in hospitality.

Jesus then tells his disciples how to act when they enter a village. They are to rely on the kindness of strangers and relatives. They are to preach and heal and for this they are to be taken care of – “the laborer deserves his payment.” If the townspeople do not take care of the disciples, they are to go to a very public place in the town like the town square, and shake the dust off their feet, which means having no more to do with the people there, and leave their inhospitality to God. Jesus then tells them to remember what God did to Sodom for their crime against their fellow men. Jesus is being very consistent herein his teachings because his concept of the kingdom of heaven on earth involves treating each other with love.

 So hospitality in Jesus’ sense involves treating everyone, even strangers, with respect and giving them back their due. He also expects the strangers or visitors to earn their keep as well. It is a reciprocal arrangement.

The kingdom of God is the constant and main theme of all of Jesus’ teachings. In the Gospel today he teaches his disciples that when they go into a town, they are to state their theme immediately that “the kingdom of God is at hand for you.” And the heavenly Jerusalem is the main symbol of what Jesus taught. When Jesus explains to the disciples what gifts he is giving them, “the power to tread upon serpents and scorpions and upon the full force of the enemy” he is talking about all those things that are in opposition to the kingdom.

He isn’t meaning serpents and scorpions literally although they were in abundance when you were traveling in Judea, but he is metaphorically meaning the forces of evil. So Jesus has given the disciples the power to forgive sin, to heal both physically and spiritually and the power to cast out devils and be victorious over the works of the devil.

What can these readings mean for us this week? Can we consider what it means to be hospitable in Jesus’ terms. How can we bring peace to others? How can we practice the love that Jesus says we ought to show to each other? Can we set our sights on the heavenly Jerusalem by beginning the kingdom of heaven on earth through our relationships with others? All of these questions are things which we can ponder this week as we try to live the life of Jesus and follow his way in our own lives. 

                              St. Valentine Faith Community
                                                              Mass: 10AM Every Sunday
2301 E Sunset Road
Suite 18
Las Vegas, NV 89119
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)

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

On Being Truely Free

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time
                     June 30 2013                          
                    Gospel Luke 9:51-62
When the days for Jesus’ being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem, and he sent messengers ahead of him.
On the way they entered a Samaritan village to prepare for his reception there, but they would not welcome him because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?” Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they journeyed to another village.
As they were proceeding on their journey someone said to him,
“I will follow you wherever you go.”  Jesus answered him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.”
And to another he said, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.” But he answered him, “Let the dead bury their dead. But you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” And another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say farewell to my family at home.” To him Jesus said, “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.”

13th Sunday Ordinary Time
June 30, 2013 (Year C) on Being Truly Free        

All of today's readings consider individuals' responses to God's call in their lives.  They invite us to reflect upon the fact that answering 'yes' to God's call is the only path to freedom and joy.  Elisha was a prophet in the northern kingdom f Israel in the 9th Century BC, who as we see from the 1st reading, was chosen by God to be Elijah's successor, so that the Jewish people would be assured of the continued proclamation of God's word among them.  The twelve yoke of oxen which he slaughtered and with which he fed his people, indicates that Elisha was fairly prosperous and that  he gave up a great deal to follow Elijah. And the fact that he burned all his plowing equipment indicates that he wholeheartedly chose God as his inheritance and God's work as his future.    
It is this kind of total commitment, and even more, that Jesus is asking of would be followers, as he journeys with His disciples toward his own destiny in Jerusalem.  Jesus has 'set his face' to make this journey because He has been called to do so.  Justas his Galilean ministry began with a rejection in the Temple, so his journey to Jerusalem begins with a rejection too, this time from the Samaritans, and in both cases, Jesus simply moves on, for in the Christian way of life there is no room for violence and getting even, despite that fact that He, the most peaceable person in all of human history will suffer the most violent death.  Later along the road to Jerusalem, to the one who proposes to follow him "wherever he goes", Jesus promises nothing but hardships ahead (nowhere to even lay His head, no place to call home, nothing to count as possession), as if to say that "wherever" the journey takes us, it is a destiny that even He cannot control. 

Jesus' strange reply next, to the man who wanted first to bury his father before following Him, indicates the urgency to get on with proclaiming the reign of God and that it is not a matter of first we'll do this and take care of that, and then, we'll concentrate on our relationship with God and what it means for our life.  Jesus' very point is that it is in the very midst of ours and our neighbors grieving and tragedies and sufferings that we're called to give witness to the hope found in a loving, provident God.  Whereas Elijah allowed Elisha to say his family farewells before following him, Jesus' answer to the man in the Gospel who wanted to do the same is that "no one who puts their hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God"   

This unsettling reproof of Jesus' illustrates the point that discipleship is a commitment that supersedes family obligations and goodbyes, and that Jesus said long before this, that "my mother and brothers and sisters  are all those who hear God's word and obey it."  The exchanges between Jesus and these three would-be disciples remind us of the cost of discipleship, and of the readiness we must have to accept rejection, poverty, the sacrifice of our previous priorities and a break with our pasts.  The Gospel doesn't tell us if any of these three individuals ended up following Jesus.  Like us, they had intellect and free will and could choose for themselves what they would do.      

Freedom is commonly understood as "I am free to do anything I want, when I want to do it, and how I want to do it and nobody is going to tell me what to do.  After all, it's a free world, isn't it?"  No doubt that in the coming week, most Americans will celebrate our freedom from English rule, our 1776 Declaration of Independence, with that concept in mind. But Paul speaks in the 2nd reading, of an entirely different concept of freedom, indeed our greatest freedom--i.e., the "liberty by which Christ has made us free." [Gal. 5:1] -- it is both the gift and the goal of our lives.  The gift is that we are freed from the demands of the Old Law, the tyranny of sin, and the power of death itself; the goal, is that we are set free in order to love as Christ did. 

That's why Paul reproves the Galatians to stop "biting and tearing one another to pieces",  pointing out that freedom does not mean giving 'free rein' to our physical and emotional cravings.  Rather, to live in true freedom is to live, 'guided by the Spirit", in harmony with God's will for the Good.  In Paul's vision of humanity, we are either slaves to self (working for wealth, status, or pleasure-- none of which last beyond the brief span of our lives anyway) or else having responded to God's grace, we desire only to love as Christ did.   
The wonder of God's grace, is that as I meditate consistently on the enormity of God’s love in relation to my nothingness on my own, a miracle takes place—the Spirit makes my heart fill more and more with gratitude to God such that I more and more desire only to share God’s love with others.    The more I live my life focused on the amazing grace of God, the more the Spirit motivates and empowers me to live a lifestyle of self-giving love.  

The result is that when we act in accordance with a sense of the true and the good that God has put in our hearts, we actually grow in inner freedom.  Paul knew such liberty while waiting to be executed. Regarding himself as a 'prisoner of Christ,' he used his incarceration to help other inmates discover what it means to be an eternally forgiven, dearly loved member of God's family (Philem. 1:10).  Barred windows and doors represented his kind of confinement.  For us, it might be physical paralysis, terminal illness, inescapable poverty, or prolonged unemployment.  Whether we are on the cusp of life or in its twilight, we will all endure imprisonments on our life journeys--Will we be able to live lovingly and freely in the midst of them????  Will we remember that true freedom is not aright, but a grace?

Reverend Mary Wagner

                              St. Valentine Faith Community
                                                              Mass: 10AM Every Sunday
2301 E Sunset Road
Suite 18
Las Vegas, NV 89119
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, June 23, 2013

Jesus tells us to take up our cross and follow him.

12th Sunday in Ordinary Time
              June 13 2013                          
                    Gospel Luke 9:18-24
Once when Jesus was praying in solitude, and the disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” They said in reply, “John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, ‘One of the ancient prophets has arisen.’” Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Peter said in reply, “The Christ of God.” He rebuked them and directed them not to tell this to anyone. He said, “The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.”
Then he said to all, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” 

Jesus tells in today's Gospel that we must take up our cross daily and follow him.  We follow him because that is exactly what he did.  Fortunately for most of us, we will not be nailed to it as he was. 
There is not a person on this Earth that has not or will not experience suffering in their lives.  Just like death, we cannot escape it, hide from it, or avoid it.  Suffering may come to us when we least expect it and we must be prepared to deal with it.
So, how do we do that?  Well, as followers of Jesus, we do it with the knowledge that God will give us the strength to endure our suffering, no matter how bad, how long, or how often it occurs.  We should not turn from God when we suffer; we should turn to God for help and strength.  God does not cause our suffering; it may come from others or it could even occur because of decisions we have made. I guess the point is, we should not blame God for what we endure. 
Jesus came to teach us that God loves us.  He took upon himself our human condition and experienced all of the suffering we experience and then some.  We have a great example to follow in Jesus; a God who knows first hand about human failings and human suffering. In healing the sick and forgiving the sinners, he tried to alleviate the pain and suffering of others.
This is also what we are called to do as followers of Jesus.  We gather in community and help one another.  We must support one another in times of trial and accept the support of others when it is our time to experience our own pain and suffering.  We are the body of Jesus and as such we are called to respond to others as Jesus responded to his followers, friends, and community, with love, compassion and forgiveness. 
So as you go through this week, my prayer for each of you is that you recognize God's presence in your life when life turns sour; and that you recognize the pain and suffering of others around you and become Jesus for them.
May God bless you all.

Reverend Sue Provost
                              St. Valentine Faith Community
                                                              Mass: 10AM Every Sunday
2301 E Sunset Road
Suite 18
Las Vegas, NV 89119
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)