Friday, December 23, 2011

A GOD-MAN IS BORN

Christmas is time for simple recognitions:  family, friends, giving and receiving cards, meals, renewing friendships and enjoying chidren enjoying themselves.  Amidst the simple experiences is a deeper and sacred reality:  Humanity and Divinity are joined and we can never be the same again!

I think that if pushed, most Christians would ultimately say that Jesus was really more God than man.  However, the person of Jesus is truly as much man as he is God and vice versa.  This co-equality leads us to a place of mystery and reverance for our own nature and the nature of all humankind around us.

Let us not hesitate to rejoice, accept and celebrate the sacred humanity and the secular divinity that we are.  We touch the divine through the human and become more human through the celebration of the divine.  This is the ultimate Christmas gift.....and as we open this gift in our own space and time may we become more and more aware of who we truly are, today and through the New Year.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Dare to hope!!

Hope can be a misunderstood virtue.  A common understanding of  "hope" is a wish for future resolution or a positive conclusion.  We 'hope' to win the lottery, to pass a test, to be employed, to meet the right person, to have a long and satisfying relationship.  So many hopes and expectations are part of our lives each day.  All of these look to a future conclusion or resolution.

SPIRITUAL HOPE is a grace, a gift, that calls us to inner peace WITHOUT the desired resolution.  While we feel the hunger for resolution and experience the resulting emotional discomfort, we are able to live peacefully in the present and look to the future with confidence.   This hope is not a gamble, crossing our fingers and "hoping" for the best outcome.  Rather it is the willingness to rejoice and be glad (Isaiah and Paul) in spite of current disappointments and frustrations. 

Tension within our families and our relationships, disappointment with the economy both nationally and personally, children and grandchildren facing physical and emotional challenges, present us with two options:  bemoan the circumstance and sink into despair OR accept the unresolved present for what it is and continue our journey in true HOPE, accepting the deep inner peace promised to us through Christ Jesus.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A Priest and a Rabbi walk into a ......................................

Wedding venue.  Yes, a priest and a rabbi walk into a wedding venue.....not to compete, nor to compare, but to celebrate the love and unity of a bride and groom.

I had the honor of celebrating the marriage of an interfaith couple.  The bride was Jewish and the groom was Catholic.  The setting was at the St. Regis in Dana Point overlooking a beautiful golf course and the Pacific Ocean.

As a priest with Good Shepherd Church, we are allowed by our Bishop to celebrate a wedding ceremony not only at the venue of the couple's choosing, but we can also co-officiate with clergy of other denominations.

This unique celebration places the focus on the commonality between Judaism and Catholocism; and the various symbolic rituals of each faith add a wonderful richness to the experience of everyone present.  Symbols of fire (Unity Candle), wine sharing, and even the Benediction all have elements found in both religious expressions. 

Many people are unaware of the common elements of these two faiths.  As Catholics, we KNOW that our roots are founded in Judaism, as Jesus was a Jew desiring reform in order to focus on love over the law.  While we know this and accept it, many times we do not have the opportunity to EXPERIENCE it. 

As a priest, I was able to have that experience myself and watch not only the bride and groom find unity in their love and faith expression, but also to sense their wedding guests find a common ground of love brought to them by a very special couple.  The witness or sign of marital love can truly unite two people, two families and beyond that unite a group of over one hundred guests. 

If this can happen in Dana Point, California, it can happen world wide.  Religion was never meant to disconnect and discriminate but we have seen wars fought throughout the centuries fueled by relgious differences.  All present at this wedding celebration were fueled by the love present.....and we left that experience connected and called to reach out to our brothers and sisters of all walks of life, and of all expressions of faith. 

Thank you ,Tom and Lauren, for your loving example and for sharing your day with Rabbi Stan and myself.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

It's not WHAT but HOW......

Fr. Jack preached a very involving and challenging homily this morning.  The scriptural message encourages us to CONFRONT those who do wrong.  How many times have we been approached by a friend, a spouse, a coworker and felt devalued because of the tone or the way a criticism was given to us?

To follow the challenge of today's message is to dig deep into our soul for the courage to speak out, confront and challenge people and situations that are in contradiction to the ethic and belief of Christianity.  And, to dig even deeper into our souls to find the way to say it so that we can act from love.

We know WHAT to say because we know right from wrong.  Discerning HOW to say it takes a truly selfless and loving stance.

I recommend that you move onto our Facebook site and hear Fr Jack "up close and personal" with this message.

Have a wonderful Labor Day!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

We will, we will ROCK YOU ! ! !

You don't have to be a sports fan to have your world ROCKED.  In the spiritual arena, Chrisitianity will hopefully rock our inner world.  Today's gospel recounts Jesus saying to Peter that he is the rock but Peter's world was rocked in so many ways.  Imagine Peter trying walk on water!  Imagine Peter denying Christ the day before His death on the cross!  And then imagine Peter, himself crucified, asking to be turned upside down because of his unworthiness to die in the exact same manner as his Lord!

Through his life journey from a simple fisherman to the leader of a new church, his faith took many turns and weathered many trials.

Today, at Good Shepherd Church, an Independent Catholic community, some would say that we rock the world with an alternative Catholic expression.  Still rooted in the same theology and scripture, we reach out to those who consider themselves on the fringe of Catholicism:  those who have their spiritual roots in Catholicism and have left that spiritual family for one reason or another; or, have found themselves on the outside looking in and not being accepted by the formal, traditional Church.

The Church's ROCK is Jesus Christ and, as church,  has moved through history under the leadership of His apostles and disciples to this day.  Apostolic succession continues through the centuries, even to Bishop Brian Delvaux, Ordinary of the American Catholic Diocese in Lakewood, California.  Good Shepherd Church rocks the world of traditional Roman Catholicism....but we share the same foundation, the same faith and same calling to offer challenge and nourishment to live the fullest of life that we are all invited to live.

 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Celebrating a wedding WHERE??

Good Shepherd Church is unique in several ways but the one ministry that reaches out to Catholics at an important time in their life is our WEDDING MINISTRY.   Many Catholics who have their spiritual roots in the Roman Catholic Church find themselves in a difficult position if they choose to celebrate their wedding at a venue outside of their local parish church and the reasons vary with each couple.  Perhaps they are marrying a non-Catholic; perhaps they wish their ceremony and reception dinner at one location; perhaps they find the beauty of a certain location to reflect their experience of love and of God.  They are looking for an alternative to a wedding ceremony in a church building.

While the theology of the Sacrament of Matrimony echoes Roman Catholicism, some of the disciplines that surround that celebration are different in the American Catholic Church.  One of the rules is WHERE this sacrament can be celebrated.  At Good Shepherd Church, a more Old Testament flavor is evident:  it is the faith of the people that make the ground sacred!  With this in mind and in spirit, our Bishop permits the priests of Good Shepherd to celebrate weddings at a location of their choice.  And, we are honored to be part of their special and sacred day.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Announcing FACEBOOK and TWITTER

You may have already noticed that Good Shepherd Church is now available on FACEBOOK and TWITTER.  You can access these sites from the menu on the right side of this Blog page.

A regular feature on Facebook will be the Daily Meditations presented by Fr. Richard Rohr.  I have found his meditations to be most stimulating and challenging and I hope that you will find them worthwhile also.



Sunday, August 7, 2011

Can you hear the "range".....

The Old Testament and Gospel readings today answer the age old question:  WHERE IS GOD?

The Book of Kings:  "...a tiny whispering sound."  How subtle, gentle and easy to overlook.  In contrast, Matthew's gospel  recounts the experience of Jesus "walking on the sea."  How dramatic, emotional and full of impact is that experience!

Audiophiles and musicians are aware that the quality of a particular piece of equipment or a particular instrument is dependent on it's "range".  Can a speaker system deliver the high range with clarity and the low range with richness?  Can a musical instrument deliver a good sound in the upper range without the quality of that sound being too bright, too screechy, too thin?  And can it deliver the low end of it's range without losing the depth, richness and clarity of those notes? 

The presence of God has a range also:  a bably wimpering in a manger of hay AND a wedding guest turning water into wine!  A prisoner tacked to a piece of wood on a Friday afternoon AND a light-filled spirit in human form speaking to his followers after his assumed death!  A tiny whispering sound AND a dramatic presence walking on water!

In our lives, can we hear the range of His  presence:  from the silent smile or glance of recognition from a friend to a spectacular sunset;  from a simple exchange of common courtesy (please, thank you, good morning) to a grand celebration of life at a wedding, birthday or anniversary?

With the grace of faith, we have the ears to hear the entire range of His message living today within humanity and within our journey as Christians and as Church.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Dual Citizenship

Our pastor, Bishop Brian, gave us a nice "reality check" this morning as he preached on our citizenship in both the world and the church.  The theologians have a term for this:  eschatological tension.  That is a mouthful, no doubt.  But it describes a reality that we all live; a reality that combines the sacred and the secular, the sublime and the profane, the kingdom that is NOW and the kingdom that WILL BE. 

Living in space and time as people of this world, we are enticed by the values, the priorities and the principles that this world presents.  However, we are also enticed by the values, priorities and principles of the Scriptural messages.  Sometimes those two sets of values produce a "tension" within our soul. 

We must work, achieve, and succeed in this world.  It takes time and effort to do just that; at times leaving other values by the wayside.  We know that deep within our spirit the true path to peace, self-understanding, and honesty preached by the parables of Jesus, give a deeper sense of wholeness than the world can offer.

If we were to construct the ideal world, it would be one in which we could be true to ourselves, promote harmony and understanding among all people, offer and receive real love and still enjoy the good things that achievement and success offer us as human beings living in a human world. 

Is it possible to be totally human and relentlessly spiritual at the same time?  Is it possible to really enjoy living in both the material world and the spiritual world?  Can a person be both human and divine?  Ah.....sounds a lot like Jesus the Christ.  And through His grace the answer is YES!

We will still feel the tension but, through grace, it is a positive tension and a dynamic balance of the sacred and the secular. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A 21st Century Catholic Church

Picture this:  A Catholic church where divorced and remarried Catholics are welcomed with open arms to receive the Eucharist; where the priest, who is himself married, empathizes with parishoners in their child-rearing challenges as he brings the message of Scripture to life in his weekly homily;  that promotes an adult spirituality with particular respect to individual conscience; that celebrates marriages of interfaith couples and welcomes all Christians who believe in the real presence to receive Holy Communion.
Is this concept of Catholicism ahead of its time? 

Possibly not! 

Good Shepherd Church is a parish of the Diocese of American Catholic Communities under the leadership of Bishop Brian Delvaux.  We celebrate a characteristically Catholic tradition, practicing the faith of contemporary Roman Catholicism with only a few doctrinal and disiciplinary exceptions.  Details of the differences can be found on this website.

Good Shepherd Church WELCOMES YOU to our website and blog!

As we journey along the spiritual and secular path of our lives, I hope to enliven, envigorate, and, at times, calm, the mind and spirit of all who will read the words printed here. 

Fr Mike