Has anyone ever experienced a disappointment?

Gospel of Luke 3:1-6

Has anyone else ever experienced a disappointment?  I have.

Speaking for myself I have a tendency to exaggerate the potential benefits of an anticipated experience, encounter, or event.  This is something I have done since I was a child.  I have a very vivid early childhood memory around a family trip to visit my grandparents who were living in Colorado at the time.  I remember being so excited about the visit that I had convinced myself that mygrandparents were going to meet us somewhere along the journey.  There is no rational reason for my expectation, but I do remember that every time we stopped, no matter the location, I fully expected to see my grandparents there waiting for me.  In fact, I had so convinced myself of this that at one rest area I ran up to an elderly couple crying out “grandpa, grandma” only to discover they were not at all my grandpa nor my grandma.  This particular experience embedded itself into memory not only because of the embarrassment I experienced, but more sodue to the disappointment.  I rememberbeing very disappointed that my grandparents had not “come out” to meet me…atsome random rest stop…100 miles from their home.

Unfortunately, that is not the last time in my life when I created and allowed unrealistic and fantastical expectations to distort my thoughts or dictate my behavior.  I have done this many times.  I have done this with jobs, promotions, vacations, with things, and I have done this, far too many times, with my relationships.  In the anticipation of something wonderful I have many times distorted that wonder with unfounded desires.

In today’s Gospel Luke confronts expectations.  He challenges his readers to examine their expectations about the Messiah.  The Messiah who was promised to restore Israel and save the world.  The Messiah that Israel and the rest of the world were waiting with great expectation.

Luke challenges his readers expectations by building a bridge.  A bridge that brought the prophecy of the Old Testament across the chasm of anticipation and places the realization of the expected Messiah in a specific time and in a specific place.  This bridge on which our expectations traveled is called John the Baptist, the desert voice calling Israel to prepare for the Lord’s coming.

In addition, Luke also identifies the geo-political and religious leaders of that time, thereby, establishing a marker, a moment, when Jesus Christ, the Messiah, began his mission.  His mission to fulfill all the promises of God.

What are these promises?  These promises are found in the words of Isaiah which Luke cites in his Gospel.  This central section of the Book of Isaiah, from which Luke quotes, has been titled by some scholars as “The Book of the Consolation of Israel.”  These consolations were given to Israel in a time of exile, a period of time when hope and expectation where all that remained of a once and great nation. These consolations point to an entire symphony of biblical promises to be fulfilled by the Lord.

The Lord will:

  • Rescue the poor and oppressed (Is 41:17; 42:7; 49:13
  • Pour out the Spirit (44:3),
  • Restore Israel (43:5-7; 48:20; 49:5),
  • Come to Jerusalem as King (40:9-10; 52:7-10),
  • Destroy his enemies (41:11-13; 47:1-15),
  • Show mercy to his children (43:25; 44:22; 55:7).
  • Be the Messianic Servant
    • whose mission is to bless the nations (42:1-4; 49:1-6)
    • atone for sin (50:4-9; 52:13-53:12)

All of the expectations, these promises, contained in the Book of Isaiah, which Luke so beautifully brings forward to a time and space when he identifies John the Baptist as the; voice of one crying out in the desert: Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.”

Yet, what meaning can we, the modern-day followers of Christ, hope to find in this Gospel?  What can we, as believers in the witnesscarried down to us through the Apostles and Christ’s Church, hope to claim inthese promises?  I challenge you mybrothers and sisters in Christ that for us; because our faith is firmly founded in our Lord’s 1st coming, and that our hope blossoms in the belief that he is coming again, then our expectations for the future fulfillment of the promises of God are manifested in our actions.

Simply put… are you manifesting the promises of God in your life.  I ask you to examine your life in the light of the promises of God.  Are you responding to the poor and oppressed?  Defending their causes?  Does the goodness of God in you effect and impact the world around you?  Are you merciful?  Are others blessed by you and because of you?

Again, if we truly believe that Jesus Christ came once, as a man for mankind, and we rest our hope that he will soon come again, then ought we not be engaged in his work.  Our work is too continue the work to which we were assigned by the great commission of our Lord, to go and make disciples of all the world through the preaching, teaching, and most importantly living the Gospel.

As we enter into this Advent season

Gospel of Luke 21:25-28, 34-46

So… I did it.  Yes, indeed I sure did.  I went down a convoluted shadowy path this past week.  A path crowded on all sidesby misguided conjecture and fraught with misinterpreted prophecies.  A path inhabited by men and women, Protestantand Catholic alike, who boldly and unabashedly proclaim to possess the knowledge of the “truth”.  A “truth” that they claim has been revealed to them through personal revelation and is only given to those who are the “true” believers. This “truth” they claim?   The knowledge of the dates, times, and events pertaining the Second Coming of Christ.

My friends, I am confessing that this past week of homily preparation was not one of joy.  As I prepared to embark upon this liturgical season of Advent, I was overwhelmed by the negativity I encountered on full display in the internet world topic of “the second coming of Christ.”  Advent is, according to the Norms of the Liturgical Year and the General Roman Missal, “a time of preparation…, in which the First Coming of the Son of God to humanity is remembered, and likewise a time when… minds and hearts are led to look forward to Christ’s Second Coming…. “For these two reasons, Advent is a period of devout and expectant delight.” 

Delight was definitely not a term I would use to describe my internet experience. For me, the deeper I went into the world-wide web of end-times prophecy the more discouraged, depressed, and disheartened I became.   Global war, environmental disasters, wide-spread persecutions, and apostasy are not the preferred themes of traditional Christmas songs and Hallmark movies.  Yet, in today’s Gospel in Luke, this 1stSunday in Advent, Jesus is speaking to his disciples about these very same catastrophicevents.

It is easy to read this Gospeland then allow the political, natural, and religious events of our current day to darken our expectant joy and diminish our faith and hope in the Second Coming of Christ.  Even today we offer our prayers to those individuals, families, and communities whose lives and livelihoods were affected by fire and earth quake. Yet, despite the turmoil and terrors, we are instructed in today’s Gospel to “stand and raise our heads” in the wonderful anticipation of our promised redemption.

So…how do we rectify this apparent contradiction?  This contradiction evidenced by today’s Gospel and its warnings of trial, tribulation, tragedy, and discord in the light of Advent, a season of “devout and expectant delight.” 

We must first come to understand who we are as Catholics and what we believe.

Who we are?  We are the body of Christ with Jesus as our head.  We are the Church and there is no separation of Jesus and his church.  The church was born on Pentecost and has continued, and will continue, throughout the rest of history until the Second Coming of Christ.

What we believe? We believe that Christ is present in his Church.  We are not “dispensationalist”, nor do we profess “millennialism”.  Each of these fallacies deny Christ’s presence in his church and profess that the church will be “raptured” before the second coming of Christ.  The catechism clearly confronts these false doctrines, stating that “the final age of the world is with us” and “that Christ’s reign is nevertheless yet to be fulfilled… by the king’s return to earth.” (CCC 670 & 671)

My friends, we are now currently living in the end times… the last days!

This reality, the reality that Jesus Christ, through his birth, life, passion, and death has allowed us to become the children of God, co-heirs to the kingdom, is the very foundation of our faith and our hope.  Our hope that as sons and daughters of God, the Almighty, we will receive the promise of God, eternal life in perfect in love with our Creator and with his creation.

Yet, in spite of our belief in the promises of God, and the hope which is produced, I believe we, as the church, the body of Christ, have become drowsy and have succumbed to the anxieties of life.  We have allowed fear and sin to exist in our lives, and in turn have become apathetic, or at the very least dismissive, to our mission as ordained to us by Christ.

Today, in this country, the greatest threat to life is not war, pestilences, or natural disaster it is self-harm.  A recently published study by the Center for Disease control reports that the life-expectancy rate in theUnited States has decreased continuing a 3-year period of stagnation and decline.  The main reasons for this decline in life-expectancy?  Suicide and drug over-dose.

Deaths from heart disease, the number 1 killer of Americans, have leveled off. Deaths from cancer and other serious illnesses are in fact declining.  Yet, the average life-span of an American is decreasing, not for lack in advancement of medical science, but rather to loss of hope.

We, as disciples of Christ, members of his body, his church, have the cure to such an illness.  For it is hope that flows abundantly from the well-spring of grace which has been given to us without merit or measure by God, through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We are his ministers of grace and communicators of hope.

As we enter into this Advent season preparing our homes, our places of work, and our community to celebratethe 1st coming of Jesus, let us commit ourselves to preparing also for his second coming by standing alert, awake, and ready to be the agents of hope in a world so desperately lacking.

The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

Gospel of John 18:33b-37

What is a king?  Today as we celebrate The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, we are encouraged to examine our understanding of this title.  The literal definition of king is a male ruler of an independent state, especially one who inherits the position byright of birth.  This is a simple enough definition, however, there are many other understandings and uses of this title.  For example, in chess, the king is the most important chess piece. Each player has only one, which the opponent must checkmate in order to win.  In addition, there can be a King of Diamonds, a King of Clubs, or Spades, or even the Kingof Hearts, all of which have certain strengths and abilities based on the type of game played.

In popular culture you can claim to the be the “king of the world” and really not be the king of anything.  However, thanks to a movie about a sinking ship everyone understands that phrase to mean that you are in love with a young woman in a doomed relationship.  Another Pop Culture reference, one can claim to be the king of New York, or some other large American city, but that identification is most often associated with crime and corruption; a pseudonym for a crime boss or mobster.

It is possible to catch a kingfish, or find the prize in the king’s cake, but in either case, your friend’s jealousy notwithstanding, nothing of great importance occurs.  You can live like a king, or, when someone comes to visit your home, you might welcome them to your kingdom.  In the game of checkers, you can demand to be“kinged”, or, if you are rich enough or famous enough it is possible to be treated like a king.  Yet, in all of these examples, the use of the title king entitles no one to anything.

In today’s modern world, and most specifically in our modern American culture, the title of king is mostly associated with a figure-head, an ideal, or a throwback to some ancient tradition orcustom.  The modern-day king is romanticized and marginalized and has been fantasized to such a degree that the only kings we know about are those in our favorite hallmark movie.  If not that, then our modern day understanding of an actual king is typically that of an oppressive ruler in a 3rdworld country manipulating his people for personal gain and prestige.  In other words, for us sitting here this morning it is possible that we may have a skewed and biased opinion of a king, therefore, making it difficult to understand the relevance and significance of a Solemnity celebrating a king’s authority and power.

In today’s Gospel, Pilate is struggling with this issue as well.  Twice in today’s Gospel Pilate asks Jesus to confirm that he is indeed a king, and, in both instances, Jesus responds by asking Pilate what he believes to be true.  Jesus is very clear in who he is.  He states that his kingdom does indeed exist, and that his kingdom is populated, and that he has both a birth right and destiny to be king, King of the Universe.  This idea that Jesus is a king was a difficult concept to understand then and it is a difficult concept to understand now.

Pope Pius XI addressed this same issue, this same struggle with this idea of kingship, when he instituted The Feast of Christ the King in 1925.  He connected the increasing denial of Christ as king to the rise of secularism. At that time many Christians began to doubt Christ’s authority and existence, as well as the Church’s power to exercise Christ’s authority.  Pope Pius intended that the institution of the feast would have the following 3 effects; 1) that nations would see that theChurch has the right to freedom, and immunity from the state, 2) that leadersand nations would see that they are bound to give respect to Christ, and 3) that the faithful would gain strength and courage from the celebration of the feast, as we are reminded that Christ must reign in our hearts, minds, wills, and bodies.

The purpose of today’s celebration is not an attempt to convince us that Christ is indeed the King of the Universe, rather it is to assist us in understanding what kind of King Jesus Christ truly is.

Jesus is a king who esteems humble service.  He himself, as the model, commanded his followers to serve others in the same manner.  His kingdom is connected to his passion and death, and though we are currently living in age of his kingdom, it is yet to befully realized.  His kingdom is indeed a kingdom of justice and judgment, yet it is also balanced with radical love, mercy, peace, and forgiveness.  Jesus Christ, as the King of the Universe, is the judge of nations, and will establish his kingdom, in its fullness and in completeness, at the appointed time.  When we celebrate Christ as King, we are not celebrating a romanticized figure head or an oppressive ruler, but one willing to die for humanity and whose “loving-kindness endures forever.” Christ is the king that gives us true freedom, freedom in Him, the King of the Universe.

We give thanks to God for giving us the opportunity to be charitable

Thanksgiving Day
Gospel of Luke 17:11-19 

In today’s Gospel proclamation we heard about the miraculous healing of 10 persons afflicted with leprosy. We are told that Jesus, as he traveled from Samaria to Jerusalem, came upon these 10 individuals who “raised their voices” prayerfully asking for mercy. 10 individuals who were ostracized from their families and their communities. 10 individuals who had no viable option for help or a cure. 10 individuals who were in desperate need of healing.

It is reasonable to assume that the New Testament diagnosis of leprosy does not accurately reflect the modern-day medical diagnosis of this disease. However, there is little in doubt regarding the personal, spiritual, and social consequences associated with this 1st century diagnosis. At that time and in that place in human history an individual diagnosed with leprosy was assured of the following; 1) the disease could be painful and sometimes fatal, (2) Jewish Law required lepers to be separated from all of Israelite society, and (3) lepers were ritually unclean and thus unable to participate in worship. In short, a diagnosis of leprosy, unless cured, resulted in the total and complete discontinuation of participation in society. A person diagnosed with leprosy was prevented from associating with their family and their community, and their family and their community were prevented from associating with them. At worst leprosy was a diagnosis of death and at best a lifetime of isolation and torment.

Yet, in the mercy of God and in the healing power of Jesus, these 10 individuals found the physical, social, and spiritual healing they so desperately needed. The grace of God, freely given in disregard to the social and religious norms of the day, allowed life and opportunity to these 10 individuals; and, yet, only 1 responded to this grace with gratitude and praise. This recorded encounter is not so much about the miracle as it is the response to the miracle.

Today is Thanksgiving, a unique American holiday. Today we, as a nation, repose from our labors and take opportunity to ponder our wealth, our prosperity, our fortune, and give thanks. We give thanks for what we have, and we are encouraged to be generous to those who have not. Of course, we are encouraged to do this by shopping. Like I said, a truly unique American holiday.

According to recent studies 12.8% of Idahoans live in poverty, making the state of Idaho 25th in nation. The poverty threshold for a family of 4 in the state of Idaho is $24,860 in annual income. Yet, as state’s unemployment rate hovers just below 3%, a 2016 United Way study discovered that nearly 40% of Idaho households could not afford basic needs such as housing, child care, food, health care, and transportation.

1 in 8 Idahoans are food insecure, meaning “without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.” In other words, 1 in 8 Idahoans are unsure when they will next have their meal. When adults are removed from the equation the number of children in the state of Idaho who are affected by food insecurity increases to 1 in 6.

Idaho is consistently among the states with the highest suicide rates. In 2016 Idaho had the nation’s 8th highest suicide rate. A rate that is 57% higher than the national average.

It is not my intent to discourage or depress your Thanksgiving Day celebrations. I share these sobering statistics only to highlight the ongoing need for the continued outpouring of charity and support to those in our midst who continue to struggle and suffer. As Jesus stated, “the poor you will always have with you” and it is our responsibility, as his followers, to alleviate their suffering and to raise our voices with theirs in asking for mercy and justice.

As the lone Samaritan, who had been healed and returned to honor his savior, so should we give thanks and praise to the God of mercy, for his mercy is given without measure or merit. Today, we give thanks to the God of mercy and justice. We do this not by our acts of charity, rather we give thanks to God for giving us the opportunity to be charitable.

A message of hope

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel of Mark 13:24-32

A message of hope. A message of hope cast in the shadow of tribulations, darkness, and failing foundations. A message of hope found in the leaves of a fig tree. A message of hope solidified by a promise. The promise that the Son of Man will come again in great power and glory. A message of hope that, at times, appears far off and distant, like a flickering flame in an overwhelming darkness. A light so faint and barely distinguishable, especially when the forces, influences, and currents of division and strife pull us away from the moorings of truth, and love, and peace. Today’s Gospel, my brothers and sisters, in spite of its imagery, illusion, and mystery is most indeed, a message of hope.

Today’s Gospel out of the 13th chapter of Mark is a portion, an excerpt, of an apocalyptic discourse Jesus had with his 4 disciples Peter, James, John, and Andrew. Jesus, sitting on top the Mount of Olives overlooking the great Jerusalem Temple, issued warnings, predictions, described cosmic catastrophes, heavenly signs, and the future judgment of God. At the center of his discourse lies the foretelling that the Temple of Jerusalem will ultimately be destroyed. This event is specifically referred to in the Gospel as the “abomination of desolation.” A prediction that would have most certainly and most unequivocally caused worry and concern among his devoted disciples.

Ancient historical sources confirm that the utter destruction of the Jewish Temple did indeed occur. In the year 70 A.D. the Romans, in their campaign to quash the Jewish uprising and to regain control of the city of Jerusalem, destroyed the Temple and killed over 1 million Jews. An event that must have truly represented to those who had heard and remembered the words of Jesus as the “abomination of desolation” that he had prophesized.

Almost 2000 years later, we the modern-day disciples of Christ, still ponder the meaning and intent of his words and predictions. These words found in today’s Gospel, and similar apocalyptic New Testament writings, have been the source of mistreatment and the cause for manipulation by numerous false messiahs and false prophets. Throughout our history there have been countless evils and atrocities inflicted on humanity in the name of Christ and his imminent return. Yet, here we are here today, struggling to find value and meaning in these eschatological words of Jesus.

In today’s Gospel reading we are told that there will be tribulation. A forewarning of turmoil, struggle, hardship, and suffering. We are told that darkness will prevail, the sun and moon shall no longer offer their light, the stars will fail, and the foundations of heaven will be shaken.

We are also told that the Son of Man will come with great power and glory and he will gather his own “from the four winds” and from the “end of the earth to the end of the sky.”

We are told to “learn a lesson from the fig tree.” To learn and to understand that to everything there is a season and a time. We are to trust in the promise of our Lord and Savior believing that there is a time for the fulfillment and realization of the Kingdom of God. A kingdom which was inaugurated on Calvary and evidenced for all who believe by an empty tomb.

We are called to be watchful and on alert. Though that day and hour will indeed come, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven nor the Son, when God the Father will fulfill the promise and establish his new heaven and his new earth.

This is the message of hope which is found in today’s Gospel.

A message founded upon Jesus, the Son of Man.

We ask who is this Son of Man? A question that continues even to this day. As we search for an answer it is important to know that this title was not unique to Jesus. This term, the Son of Man, appears over 100 times in the Old Testament. In many instances this phrase functions as an idiom, meaning something like “human being” or “mere mortal”, and can be applied to individual men like the prophets Ezekiel and Daniel.
In the Gospels, oftentimes Jesus speaks of himself in this way, to emphasize his full solidarity with humanity. Jesus is the “Son of Man” because he possesses a true human body and has the capacity for human activities like resting, eating and drinking, suffering, and even lying in a grave.

However, the expression “Son of Man”, in certain contexts, stretches beyond human limitations. In the Gospels, when Jesus refers to himself in this way, he is claiming a divine prerogative. As the “Son of Man”, he has the authority to forgive sins, suspend the Sabbath, judge men for their deeds, and is sent down from heaven. And, most specifically in today’s Gospel, the “Son of Man” will come down from above, in power and glory, and gather all of his elect, his chosen people, to himself. It is in him, the “Son of Man” in which rests all our hope.

Today, as we prepare ourselves to receive our Lord and Savior offered to us upon this altar, we are challenged to rely upon whom we have placed our hope. Our hope, in spite of the darkness, the division, the discord, and the discouragement which can so often extinguish the light, the light of the promise of Christ, must unequivocally and without exception rest in the yet to be realized truth that Christ will return and with him so does our vindication and reward. Yes, indeed, my brothers and sisters, today’s Gospel message is a message of hope.

2018 Advent Retreat

Retreat Information

  • Retreat starts @ 7:00pm Friday December 7.
  • Meals are provided by the Monastery and all meals will be served in the dining area.
  • The bringing of snacks to share is highly encouraged.
  • Participation in Morning, Midday, and Evening Prayers, and Mass is not required.  However, it is highly encouraged and will benefit your overall retreat experience.
  • Self-care– includes anything necessary to enhance your retreat experience, i.e.; walks on the grounds, naps, reading/study, dialogue with other participants, etc.
  • Gathering– all retreat participants will come together to prepare for the Retreat Talks.
  • Retreat Talk– presented by Clergy on the topic of Advent and preparing ourselves for Christ’s coming.
  • Individual Reflection– allows participants time for reading, study, personal prayer, confession, or spiritual direction.  Please observe Rule of Silence when indicated
  • Group Activity– is designed for all participants.  They are designed to create, strengthen, and encourage relationships within the group and too assist in group dynamics and enhancing the overall retreat experience.

COST OF RETREAT

Item Cost Cost for Individual Cost for Couple
Rooms (Double Occupancy) $50 /night $50 (sharing a room) $100
Meals (breakfast, lunch dinner) $7/breakfast x2, $8/Lunch, $10/Dinner $32 $64
Facility Fee $8/day/person $16 $32
       
Total   $98 $196

Please contact Deacon Jason to make your reservation or with questions.

Email- jayakybats88@gmail.com  Phone- 208-221-5730

Check out the Monastery’s website for directions and facilities: www.idahomonks.org

All Souls Day

Historically, the custom of setting apart a special day for the intercession of the departed faithful on November 2, was first established by St. Odilo of Cluny in the late 10th century. From this monastery in France, the custom spread throughout Europe and was ultimately accepted by Rome in the fourteenth century.  Eventually, this tradition came to be known in the liturgy of the Roman Rite as “The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed”, and is the reason why we have gathered here this evening; to pray for, and to come together as one, as the Body of Christ, with each other and those who have gone before.

The significance, relevance, and beauty of the reason why we are gathered here this day, for me, personally, became tangible on the day of my grandfather’s funeral.

On that day, sitting alone in the funeral home, with my grandfather’s body lying in the casket before me, I experienced the grace and beauty of the perpetual communion we share as believers in Christ.  A communion described by the Catechism of the Catholic Church as, “All… who are of Christ and who have his Spirit form one Church and in Christ cleave together.”

Today, this most unique and significant day, we are reminded of the promises of Christ; “that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life,” and, as, “(we) remain in (him), … (he) remain(s) in (us),” and, as the Church so beautifully reminds us in her doctrine, that “Christ mystically constitutes as his body those (persons) of his who are called together from every nation.”  In these promises we find the assurance and the hope that, “Believers who respond to God’s word and become members of Christ’s Body, become intimately united with him…and with one another.” CCC 790

This unity, with Christ, and with one another, and with those who have passed on before, form the Mystical Body of Christ, which we as Catholics, celebrate in our Sacrament and most specifically in the Sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist.  This unity, which bind us together in one body with Christ as its head, allows us to find comfort, peace, and most importantly, hope.  Hope that one day we shall ALL be gathered together in perfect harmony and joy.  This unity, which allows us to triumph over all human division, produces and stimulates a perfect charity allowing us all to “suffer when one member suffers” and rejoice when “one member is honored.”  This unity, which we publicly recognize today, in “The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed”, enables our tears and sorrows associated with loss to be tempered by the joy and hope of our promised resurrection.

Today, we share our lists.  Our own personal list of names.  The names of our grandfathers, our grandmothers, our parents, and, sometimes, most regrettably, our children.  These names, the names of our family members, our friends, neighbors, and, sometimes, of people who we did not even know, are for us, precious mementos of those whom we cherished, and loved, and whose passing caused a inexpressible emptiness and void.

These names that make up our lists represent the best and worst parts of us.  They have become for us who yet live, our own personal ritual as we speak them in prayer and recall their faces in our thoughts and in our dreams.  These names, of those who have preceded us in our journey, and the hope in the promises of Jesus Christ which they represent, are for us both the cause of our anguish and the inspiration for our hope.

So, today, share your list.  Share you list with one another knowing and trusting that we are united, together in both sorrow and hope, as one in the Body of Christ.  Share your list in prayer, and together we will work, one with another, in lifting your sorrowful burden to the healer of all our wounds, Jesus Christ.  Share your list here in front of this altar as we celebrate the unity provided to us through the Body and Blood our Lord.  Share your list knowing in the confidence of the resurrection, that one day we shall ALL be gathered to him, our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.