About Harvester's Wanted:

A Catholic priest's reflections along the path of Faith.

When this life is complete, I pray they say I lived for the Greater Glory of God +AMDG+

PRAYER REQUESTS through link on right side-bar.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Be Salt and Light!

Fifth Sunday in ordinary Time

Saint Patrick Parish, Louisville, Ky.


Now I’m not a chemist or geologist, but I am pretty sure that by itself salt cannot lose its taste. The only way I can think of for salt to become less salty is for it to be diluted, say for instance that I put a small amount of salt into a large amount of water – the salt would lose its taste. The same goes for light, the only way to stop light from being light is to hide it, to prevent it from being seen. Our Gospel reading for today challenges us to think of our faith in the same way that we think of salt and light, either we let it be truly what it is, or we hide and or dilute it. To either be salt and light for the world or not. 


I have a story that I’d like to share that may help to make this hiding and diluting faith more clear; it just so happens that today is Scout Sunday because my story takes place at Philmont Scout Ranch in Northeastern New Mexico. Now Philmont is an enormous place that employs more than a thousand people and hosts tens of thousands of young people every year. Over the summer of 2011, I had the opportunity to be one of the Catholic chaplains at Philmont. While I was there, I also participated in the Saint George Trek which happens every two years and brings together young Catholics, both boys, and girls, from across the nation to hike Philmont for 11 days. It is an opportunity for these young men and women to discern their vocation and possibly pray about becoming a priest or a religious sister. So, there we were, my crew and I, out in the middle of this wilderness and we had already hiked 15 miles that day, our itinerary had gotten messed up, and we unexpectedly had to hike a lot more than the previous days. It was getting late, and we decided to stop and quickly eat our dinner before continuing down the trail. It was already starting to get dark by the time we got on our way for the last several miles, and we knew, we knew what was going to happen. There is even a video out there of one of the guys going from person to person asking who they wanted to play them in the Hollywood reenactment of the very much foreseeable outcome of these unfortunate events. I insisted that I be played by Matt Damon. After critically evaluating Matt Damon’s decisions it is obvious that he should have had the crew make camp right where they were. You need to understand that hiking in the dark not only has the dangers of tripping over something in the pitch-black, but there are wild animals out there – big wild animals. 


Sure enough, just as we expected, with a couple of miles and several hours of hiking left, we began to be stalked by a mountain lion. Now I was in the back of our line, and I have never, ever, been so scared in my entire life! All I had was a little knife and a dinky pathetic flashlight for safety. We must have made quite a sight walking as closely together as possible and singing random songs, like Row Row Row Your Boat, as loudly as we could trying our best to do what we had been trained to do if this scenario ever arose. I never saw the creature, but I heard him move from one side of us, around the back, to the other side, back and forth always following us! Now, this was by far not the proudest moment of my life but one of the boys was bigger than I was and I was in a near panic after the first mile or so. I kept thinking ‘it’s going to attack my legs,’ ‘it’s going to attack my neck,’ ‘it’s going to attack my legs’ … over and over. And so, I am ashamed to say; I asked this larger boy to take my place at the back – I told him ‘if anything happens I’m going to be right there, don’t worry!’ It was at that instant that my salt lost some of its flavor – my faith was shaken, and I did something that I still regret. 


Halfway through we remembered that one of the guys, we’ll say his name was Tim, we remembered that Tim had this awesome flashlight that had a strobe feature that was bright enough, and fast enough, to disorient a human, and we hoped it would be the same with a mountain lion. So we called up to Tim, ‘hey Tim, let us have your flashlight.’ And do you know what Tim said? He said ‘only if you replace the battery when we get to the next camp.’ I said ‘Tim! Give us your flashlight!’ It was at that instant that Tim’s salt lost some of its flavor – his faith was diluted by fear, and he did something that looking back he probably would be a bit embarrassed. 

I hope these two humbling examples help to illustrate how fear, fear above all emotions, can dilute and hide faith. Fear takes away a bit of the flavor, a bit of the taste of our faith. The Church in her teachings, in her traditions, in Sacred Scripture, has made it clear how far we are to take loving our neighbor and our enemy. Our first readings from the prophet Isaiah today is quite clear:

Share your bread with the hungry,
shelter the oppressed and the homeless;
clothe the naked when you see them,
and do not turn your back on your own.
~ Isaiah 58:7

Now you might say to me ‘but Father, it says to look after our own’ to which I would remind you that it does say that, only after saying shelter the oppressed and the homeless. I truly fear that politics in our nation is diluting our Christianity. This cannot be the case; we are not called to be Catholic Christians through the eyes of our political leaning! We must view our politics through Christian eyes! Otherwise, politics will dilute, without a doubt, will dilute our faith. There are people is our world who are suffering greatly, and we have the opportunity to help them, to see them worthy of our care and love, but we will be unable to do so if we let fear dilute or hide our faith. 


We as Catholic Christians cannot sit comfortably in either political party if we are faithful and support life from the womb to the tomb, all life long, we cannot be comfortable in either political party. There is a great debate going on in our country as to what we should do with the world’s refugee crisis. If we close our eyes to their plight we would be hiding our light under a bushel basket; we would be diluting the salt of our faith. We, my brothers and sisters, are called to be a light on a lamp stand, to not live a diluted form of Christianity. To be true to what makes us God’s people we must welcome the unfortunate. We say yes, with courage, and with the help of God, to being salt and light for a world in need!


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

A Renewed Vision of Church

Feast of Saint Angela Merici 

Sacred Heart Academy, Louisville Ky.
January 27, 2017


Have you heard that a week ago, we had an Inaugurated a new President of the United States? Did you also hear that there were millions of women, and men, but mostly women who participated in the Women’s March in Washington DC, throughout the United States, and across the world? Some might say it is foolish for me to speak about the Women’s March, others may say it would be cowardly for me not to speak about it, and I have spent too many years of my life being a coward. There were many good and genuine reasons for these women to band together in solidarity; a few of those reasons were equal pay for equal work, respect for women the world over, and a call for safeguards against sexual harassment. These are issues that the Catholic Church is fully behind. There were other issues, life issues, that the Church has another take on, in fact, there is another March, the March for Life, happening today were equally large crowds will march for the sanctity of life. The Catholic Church holds that all life is sacred and everyone deserves to have the natural dignity inherent to the human person recognized from the womb to the tomb. 


Our first reading today speaks of not turning back, of holding fast to the mission we have received. When the Letter to the Hebrews instructs us that “we are not among those who draw back and perish, but among those who have faith and will possess life” I believe it is telling us to hold firm to our foundations. It is my fear that Christians and Catholics alike have forgotten where we come from, that we have forgotten how the early Church spread like wildfire amongst the slaves, the poor, women, and others who felt disenfranchised. This is where we come from – a Church for those who felt they belonged nowhere else. 


This is the vision of Church that Saint Angela Merici held when she looked upon the poverty-stricken girls of her hometown and decided that they were worth a decent education. Saint Angela may have begun the first religious community of sisters to work outside the cloister, but the heart of her mission was an ideal to serve the less fortunate that dated back to the very beginnings of the Church. Saint Angela did not see the poverty, and she did not see them as just girls, she looked upon them and saw the human dignity that they posed and loved them for it. 


We have all undoubtedly heard the parable of the mustard seed, we probably have heard about how something so small can create something so big, but we may be blind to another aspect of this parable that deserves mentioning. If we look at this parable with the eyes of a first century Jew, we will realize that the Jewish people of that time had no use whatsoever for mustard, none. It was a weed and when we take it a step further the idea of planting a weed in your field where it will grow and take up a lot of space was lunacy. A Jew who planted mustard in his field would undoubtedly face mockery from his friends and neighbors for the ridiculous nature of his actions. That is what Jesus compares the Kingdom of God to – a mustard seed (us) growing into a huge bush (the Church.) The Church must never lose sight of this fundamental fact concerning the Christian life that we are to remain open, no matter what, to all people who may feel marginalized or left out. Whether that is the poor, the immigrant, someone who is gay or lesbian, people of color, people questioning their gender identity, it doesn’t matter – they are all birds of the sky welcome under the one protective bush that is the Church. This is the way the early Christians saw the Church, and this is the way Saint Angela saw the Church, this is the way we are called to see the Church.


Monday, January 2, 2017

Mary our Mother of the Church

Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God
Saint Patrick’s Parish

December 31 / January 1, 2017

I want to begin today with a little logic syllogism – a logic equation; don’t worry it won’t be too difficult. If we believe that Christ is truly God-made-man, that will make his mother the mother of God. We also hold that Jesus Christ, God-made-man came in the flesh to set us free from sin, not to make us his slaves (in the way that we are otherwise slaves to sin) but rather, as Paul tells us in his letter to the Galatians, we are made adoptive brothers and sisters of Jesus. So, if we are brothers and sisters of Jesus, and Jesus is the son of Mary, the mother of God, that makes Mary our mother as well. Now, my mother will be the first one to tell you that she isn’t perfect, that she is just as human as you and me, but I also have no doubt that she loves all her children very much. Mary, having been conceived without sin is the perfect mother, the ideal mother; and this doesn’t lessen the love that our mothers have for us, it is simply a perfection of that love. Likewise, God the Father is the perfect father, an example for all fathers to follow. 


The importance of Mary Mother of God does not end with her example of loving motherhood; she is also a stand-in for the Church. We have heard a lot from the beginnings of the Gospels, but if we go to the end of John’s Gospel we have the scene of Christ on the cross with the beloved Apostle, John, there at the foot of the cross along with Mary. We hear in Sacred Scripture that they were the only two brave enough to be there for the crucifixion, and as they are there witnessing the horrors of the cross Jesus tells John, behold your mother, and to Mary, behold your son. One of Jesus’ final acts before he died was to make Mary the adoptive mother of John and in this way we see Mary not only as our adoptive mother but also the mother of the Church. Indeed, when thinking of the Church it is almost always possible for Mary, the mother of God, and the Catholic Church to be interchangeable. In fact, the Church is often referred to in the feminine; we speak of she and her when referencing the Church. We see this especially in the Eucharistic prayer, listen carefully, and you will hear the feminine pronouns. The Church loves her children as much as Mary, the perfect mother, loves all her children. The Church is not some cold human institution but a mother with warmth, kindness, love and mercy. The Church doesn’t want to tell her children no; instead, like any true mother, she wants to say yes to our efforts to fully live the lives we called to lead. 

Comparison of Bouguereau's
Mary with child Jesus and Mary Mother of Sorrows

I believe we hear of this love in our first reading, a reading from the Book of Numbers. Now the Book of Numbers is not known to be the most, well, lively of the books in Sacred Scripture – you might guess that from the title; but within that sometimes tedious book is the section we hear from today. This section is God’s instructions to Moses to tell Aaron, the first Jewish priest, on what they as priests are to say to the people. As a Catholic priest, I not only consider myself to be part of an unbroken line down from the Apostles, but also a continuation of the priesthood of Aaron and the Jewish priesthood that had come before. So as a continuation of that priesthood I think of these words as instruction on how I am to speak to the people of God: 
Say to them:
      The Lord bless you and keep you!
      The Lord let his face shine upon you,
      and be gracious to you!
      The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace!
            ~ Number 3:23-26
If you ask me these are the words of a mother for her children, these are words that speak of love, compassion, kindness, and grace. These are the words that God speaks to his people through their mother, the Church. The Church is sometimes referred to as the bride of Christ, and her priests, acting in the person of Christ, also take her as their bride – that is how close the connection is between priests and the Church, our vocation is to her. 

On this great Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God I think it might be a good time to make the New Year’s resolution to spend a little bit more time with your mother, the Church. Perhaps there is a teaching of the Church with which you are not sure if you agree. Perhaps you might want to look into a bit more, see why the Church teaches what she teaches; you may find that you have a preconceived notion about what the Church teaches upon investigating the deeper truths of the Catholic faith. The Church as our mother is a great gift from God, spend time with her, allow her love for you the chance to shine through.