Weekend: Sat. 5 pm; Sun. 9 am & 11 am
Weekday: Fri. through Wed. 9 am
Holy day: 9 am & 7 pm
Confessions: Sat. 4:15 to 4:45 pm
Eucharistic Adoration: (1st Fri.) 9 am to 12 Noon
Fourth Sunday of Lent
March 30, 2014
Rev. Anthony Medairos, pastor
1 Samuel 16:1b, 6-7, 10-13a
James Thurber, the American cartoonist, author and humorist lost his eyesight later in life. As a certain married couple left a party Thurber was attending, he remarked to his host, “They’re going to break up.” Exclaimed his friend, “That’s impossible! I’ve never see such friendliness and smiling.” “Yes,” said Thurber, “you saw them. I heard them.” Six months later, the couple separated. 
There is more to “seeing” than eyesight. We do thank God for the gift of sight. And we have concern for those who are not sighted. But do not confuse eyesight with insight. Do not confuse seeing with perceiving.
Today we have biblical stories that are about more than eyesight. They are about perception. The first story is about the prophet Samuel’s search for a new king for Israel. Though Samuel understood his search for a new king was treason against the current king, Saul, Samuel nonetheless apprehended that King Saul had failed God’s will in leading the people.
God had directed Samuel to Jesse’s sons in Bethlehem. We did not hear the entire story that might have been read by our lector, the parade after Eliab of his nine brothers who were presented to the prophet by their father Jesse. The prophet, aware that “Not as man sees does God see…,” realized that none of these handsome men was God’s choice. He asked Jesse in frustration, “Are these all the sons you have?” There was still young David, assigned to the hillsides to tend the flocks.
When David finally arrived, Samuel perceived him to be the chosen one and anointed him with oil. Just as oil penetrates and restores the body, so does the Spirit of God penetrate and empower those whom God chooses for a particular mission. And scripture says, “The spirit of the Lord rushed upon David.” Poignantly and sadly, in the very next verse it says, “The spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul….” 
The next story is even clearer. Jesus encountered a man blind from birth. Sightlessness is affliction enough for any person. But blind people do manage and even thrive. However, in Jesus’ time a blind man would have been unable to support a wife. So, what lay before him was not just the challenge of sightlessness, but a life without a woman, without children. And since one expected immortality through one’s children, this man born blind was condemned to a life of hardship and loneliness, ending ultimately in eternal death and oblivion.
Jesus made a paste with dirt and saliva and anointed the blind man’s eyes, giving him the gift of eyesight. In this act of compassion, the man gained not just the ability to see, but a whole new perception of himself and his world. Now he could find and support a wife and they could rear their children. No longer a lost, lonely soul, the man born blind awakened to new possibilities, finally able to join in the blessings of human society.
But more than this, the man born blind was opened up spiritually. He now had a sense of clarity in which he was able to perceive who Jesus really was. And he confessed of Jesus’ divinity, “‘I do believe, Lord,’ and he worshipped him.” The Pharisees, however, who had always had eyesight, did not see Jesus for who he was. Nor did they believe.
You and I will never be a king or queen, except maybe a few at the high school prom. And I pray that none of us will lose our eyesight. We have no need for mud to anoint our eyes, but we have been anointed in other ways to see the Lord. We encountered Christ and were grafted into the Body of Christ in the waters of Baptism and ultimately we received the Holy Spirit in the oil of chrism at our Confirmation. We have encountered Jesus sacramentally and scripturally. So we know what is right from what is wrong. And we have received grace that gives us power to choose right over wrong.
More than a gift for our personal virtue, the grace of God is a royal gift in which each of us has been commissioned to be a leader. Just as oil penetrates and restores the body, so does the Spirit of God penetrate and empower those whom God chooses for a particular mission. In our anointing you and I perceive that we have a royal mission given us by God.
First, we must ourselves choose to do what is right and good and just. Here is where insight is so much more important and powerful than eyesight. For, so much around us that seems “normal” and all right as humans see, may not be right as God sees. The abuse of political power, distractions from worship, fascination with material possessions, isolation within families and between neighbors replaced by on-line intimacies, a sexually saturated society, to name a few things, may not be what God has planned for our happiness and wholeness. Our Heavenly Father’s goal for each of us is holiness, which will bring us happiness and wholeness in this world and eternal life in the next. It takes great care to develop this perception of what is godly, as opposed to what is simply “modern;” and to choose to do the good rather than to do that which is easy or expedient.
Second, as God’s anointed, we are leaders. We must expose that which is ungodly. Who else will do this? Saint Paul wrote not only, “Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness” but he also added, “rather, expose them.” This means we must be willing to share our faith-filled perceptions and insight with others. We do not just respond to the call to holiness for ourselves. We are made bold to acquaint others with our decisions and beliefs. We evangelize. That is, we share the good news of Jesus to a disoriented world. Just because “everyone else is doing it” does not make something right. This means we Christians understand that our mission is to be counter-cultural leaders.
Finally, our anointing does not mean we claim to be perfect. It simply means we know we are graced. We are not better than other people. We sometimes make poor choices ourselves. But we see that each of us is a graced sinner, empowered by God to seek holiness and to invite others to come along. This is what we have grown to understand and to see.
 Clifton Fadiman (General Editor), The Little, Brown Book of Anecdotes (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1984), p. 545.
Third Sunday of Lent
March 23, 2014
Rev. Anthony Medairos, pastor
Psalm 95:1-2, 6-9
Romans 5:1-2, 5-9
How easy it is to push God aside. The plummeting numbers of those who worship weekly is evidence that people’s focus is elsewhere. Sometimes we’re busy about truly good things. Youth sports or a family vacation or home maintenance or working a second job to provide financial security are good things. But frankly sometimes people are busy about frivolous things, or even evil things. Good, bad or indifferent, we’re all so busy. And when push comes to shove, often it is God who gets shoved.
That is, until some worry or tragedy or scare calls people back to God. Then we pray and seek the consolation of community and religion and faith. But when the crisis is past, we sometimes revert to spiritual amnesia about God’s grace that had seen us through the tough times.
Consider the Hebrew people in the desert. Their water supply had run low and they were thirsty. They grew angry with God and his servant Moses at a place later named for their bitterness: Massah and Meribah, in English “Testing” and “Quarrelling.” The people seemed unmindful that when they were slaves in Egypt, God set them free; when they were attacked by Pharaoh’s army, God opened for their escape the Red Sea; when they hungered, God sent bread from heaven on which to feed.
But now they were thirsty, and they still did not trust that God would provide. “Why did you ever make us leave Egypt? Was it just to have us die here of thirst…?” The Book of Numbers makes them sound even more like petulant children: “Why did you lead us out of Egypt, only to bring us to this wretched place which has neither grain nor figs nor vines nor pomegranates? Here there is not even water to drink!”  They had forgotten that God had always been with them. As Thomas Merton expressed this, God “would never leave me to face my perils alone.” 
Now we come to the Woman of Samaria whom Jesus encountered at Jacob’s Well. Some would say she exhibited some serious moral failings: multiple marriages and now cohabitating with her boyfriend. It is likely that she was branded by neighbors a “public sinner.” In her social isolation or public embarrassment she may have felt rejected even by God. It seems she pushed God further away from herself, lest she feel the abandonment by her God more completely.
In her inner poverty, she desperately needed to be uplifted.  This was her thirst. She did not need water as much as she thirsted for love. Her failed relationships alone were evidence of her search for that love. But God never leaves us to face our perils alone. And in this unique circumstance she actually encountered the Son of God.
Jesus was the one man who could know her through and through and still love her. “Go call your husband and come back,” Jesus said to her. Jesus did not condemn her for her life choices. He did, however, honestly state the case of her situation: “the one you have now is not your husband.” “The woman at the well was so captivated by Jesus that she not only gave him water to drink, she stayed for quite some time to converse with him.” 
We have recounted some unique biblical events. But what have they to do with you and me? The scriptures provide for us paradigms or examples of how we are related to God, how God is related to us. From time to time we find ourselves doubtful, either because of some tragedy or worry; sometimes we have made choices of questionable moral value; sometimes we’re just focused on the lavish bounty and opportunities that are set before us. Out of doubt or even out of carelessness we wonder, as did the Israelites in the desert, “Is the LORD in our midst or not?”
Throughout salvation history we are reminded that God is with his people always. It is too bad that the people who most need to hear this message are not here. They may feel abandoned by God in their troubles. Or they may have discarded God while distracted by their leisure and material wealth or even by their sin. God never leaves his people to face their perils alone. God is also present in the goodness and joy that take his people’s focus away from their Lord.
Even if you or I don’t find ourself in either of these groups (the ones who don’t trust that God is with them in trial or the ones who are too busy for God), then the scriptures reveal another important message. We find it in the conversation of Jesus with the Woman. He invited her to reflect on the direction of her life, opening her to introspection. “Put aside the drudgery of getting water and fruitless talk about religion and take a good look at yourself and your God,” Jesus said. And she was awakened to the truth in Jesus’ words, “I am he, the one who is speaking with you.”
Christ Jesus is always with us. It is he, the one who is speaking with us in scripture and preaching and in the Eucharist. During Lent you and I are called to put aside our daily drudgery and fruitless talk about religion to take a look at our self and our Lord. Many of us must renounce the sin in which we are living and be reconciled to God. Lent is a time to focus on how our life is going, and whether our life shows our trust that God is with us.
Then, about the people who are not here to hear this message: What did the Woman of Samaria do? She “left her water jar,” the very purpose for going to Jacob’s Well in the first place, the instrument of her busy-ness, and went to the village to tell everyone about Jesus. While the apostles brought Jesus food they thought he wanted, the Woman brought back people, the ones Jesus really hungered for. When you and I are in a righteous relationship with God, this commissions us to bring others to God as well. Take this Lenten opportunity to reflect on our own relationships with God. “Is the Lord in our midst or not?” If God seems to be absent in our lives, it is because we have shoved him to one side. But know that God never leaves us to face the perils of life alone, nor the pleasant distractions of life. Jesus confesses to each one of us, as he did to the Woman at the well, “I am he, the one who is speaking with you.” Be ready to tell others the Good News, and invite them to encounter Jesus themselves.
 Numbers 20:5.
 Thomas Merton, “Prayer of Abandonment.”
 Adrian van Kaam, The Woman at the Well (Denville, NJ: Dimension Books, 1976), pp. 91-92.
 Melannie Svoboda, Traits of a Healthy Spirituality (Mystic, CT: Twenty-third Publications, 1996), pp. 16-17.
Second Sunday of Lent
March 16, 2014
Rev. Anthony Medairos, pastor
Psalm 33:4-5, 18-20, 22
2 Timothy 1:8b-10
Those tents Peter wanted to put up interest me. It wasn’t always so. Way back, those tents escaped my attention. But after a while I began to wonder about them. At first, it seemed to me a very human response on the part of Peter, James and John to a surprising, even unsettling, event; this was an equivalent of a nervous laugh. The apostles were astonished by a vision on that mountaintop. So, when Jesus was transformed before them, and when the long-deceased Moses and Elijah also mysteriously appeared with Jesus, the apostles were overwhelmed.
Their reaction reminded me of the GEICO Insurance TV commercial where an architect of ancient Egypt compares his plans for three monstrous cubes to be erected in Giza only to discover that the slave laborers had mistakenly built three huge pyramids instead. And to his right rear is an underling scribe pretending to fish his way through a collection of scrolls, avoiding the awkwardness of the situation. Like that, perhaps the apostles were dealing with their surprise and discomfort by distracting themselves with the tentage situation.
But later, this interpretation seemed less convincing, so I began to think the apostles had actually been so awed by the transfiguration of Jesus that the did not want it to end. They thought that things don’t get any better than this. Let’s stay here and savor these miraculous visitors. We’ll erect some tents. If we do this, we won’t have to face the attacks of the religious leaders who oppose Jesus’ message. On this mountain we are safe and, besides, it’s holy. Here, we have some control.
Perhaps the apostles acted like an entourage that surrounds a celebrity, providing all the material comforts the celebrity might need. Of course, this also makes the entourage members “special.” Actually, entourages are really about control. The entourage serves the celebrity by shielding him or her from outsiders. Of course this isolation leaves the celebrity with a distorted view of reality, a fantasy. The case in point is a rock star or sports hero who tragically ends up circling the drain of self indulgence, drugs and crime. But Jesus was clear about his mission for the Father. So they must not isolate themselves on this mountain.
But consider another possibility. Not that the apostles were avoiding their discomfort by busying themselves with tents, nor that they were trying selfishly to freeze in time this great moment and keep it only for themselves. An alternative interpretation is that this mountaintop miracle resonated with something that happened centuries before when God had revealed himself to Moses on Mount Sinai. At that time the Hebrews were dwelling in tents during a forty-year sojourn in the desert. So tents are not a distraction, nor a hiding place; tents are for Jews signs of a journey.
By offering to erect these tents perhaps Peter was saying, “Jesus, we know now that you are truly divine. This is the day we and our ancestors have been expecting: God has come to his people to lead them. We’d best put up tents, because a new exodus has begun. We’re ready to travel with you on a new journey to the Promised Land, just as God accompanied our ancestors through the Sinai Desert.”
This interpretation is validated by the Church’s selection of an Old Testament scripture that serves as a foil for this gospel passage. The obvious connection with this Jesus-event and the one recorded in Exodus was that God speaks. The first human to whom God revealed himself was Abram. And now the apostles hear a voice: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”
But a more significant reason for mating the Genesis reading to Matthew’s gospel is the powerful phrase “Go forth….” Abram was called by God to leave his ancestral home in Ur to go to a land that God would show him. God did not even hint at the destination. Abram had no idea where this “land” was. Yet, Abram trusted God and “went as the Lord directed him.”
Tents, rather than signifying staying somewhere actually represent traveling. Abram left his kinsmen and his father’s house and dwelt in tents. Centuries later, when Abram’s descendents escaped from slavery in Egypt, they lived in tents in the desert. And when God gave them the Commandments, the stone tablets of God’s Law were placed in an ark which was kept in a tent. The people traveled with God to a land unknown to them, the Promised Land. And, once there, for hundreds of years the Ark of the Covenant was still kept in a tent, even though the people had built houses for themselves. It was not until Israel’s third king (Solomon) that a temple was built as God’s dwelling place. And that’s when the people’s relationship with God began to break down.
Keep that image of tents in mind during this Lent. A tent is about accepting the invitation to “Go forth.” Even in our modern experience, getting a tent ready implies going on a camping trip, even if that only camping in the back yard or in the living room with the kids on a rainy day. A tent is a great image for Lent and for all Christian discipleship.
“Go forth” is what God says to all of us. We are to do God’s will. We don’t know where that will lead us. We don’t know whether our following will be easy or arduous. We suspect there will be some struggle, no matter what. God’s ways are not always easy. But we also hear from Jesus the words spoken to his first disciples: “Rise, and do not be afraid.” That was the constant theme of Blessed Pope John-Paul II: Be not afraid. You and I are invited to journey through life with Jesus as our companion. We tent together with him.
Disciples of Christ cannot fumble around in the background, pretending that God’s call “doesn’t really mean me.” Disciples of Christ do not hide in church or in the isolation of their personal prayer as if God doesn’t really expect me to put my faith into action, to share the Good News. Disciples of Christ, get your tents ready for an adventurous journey with the Lord. This Lent, make ready to “go forth.” “Rise, and do not be afraid.” Allow God’s grace to transform the ways we live. Be a disciple.
First Sunday of Lent
March 9, 2014
Rev. Anthony Medairos, pastor
Genesis 2:7-9, 3:1-7
Psalm 51:3-6, 12-13,17
Romans 5:12, 17-19
Each year we begin our Lenten journey by recounting the temptations Jesus faced in the desert. He had just been baptized by John the Baptist, solemnizing the start of his public ministry. Before preaching in earnest, Jesus prepared himself by making a forty day retreat, during which he fasted. At its end, physically weakened but spiritually powerful, Jesus faced three, fundamental temptations.
All of us face temptation from time to time. And face them we must. For, to avoid a temptation is only to delay temptation. Humorously someone said, “Those who flee temptation generally leave a forwarding address.”  Put another way, “Temptations, unlike opportunities, will always give you second chances.”  Jesus faced his temptations decisively. You and I must do the same.
Ultimately, in whatever form or shape or circumstance a temptation arises, each temptation is really about a single thing. That thing is found in the first sin of Adam and Eve. And it has been so ever since. Eve was tempted to do the one thing that was forbidden her: to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The sin was not simply disobedience. For, the knowledge gained from that tree was not the knowing of right from wrong. What was to be gained from the tree was the power to decide what is good and what is evil. In essence, as scripture teaches, what Eve, and then Adam, sought was not a deeper understanding of God or of goodness; they were seeking instead to “be like gods.”
And every sin committed since that moment has been the same sin, over and over and over again: we creatures of a loving God deciding that we know better than God what is good for us. This is so much more subtle and serious than defining sin as disobedience to some commandment or rule. In sinning we ourselves are deciding what is good and what is evil. And we do this without regard to God. We make ourselves our own gods.
Though this ever was what sin is about, in our own days this temptation has become comprehensive and total. It is in the air we breathe that decisions about right and wrong should be completely up to each individual. We call this moral relativism. Every person gets to decide what is good and what is evil. “I’m okay; you’re okay.” This idea is so pervasive that we may not even notice it, any more than a fish notices the water in which it swims.
Besides the implication that each of us is a god – which is an affront to Almighty God – this means that none of us can be held responsible for the disasters that happen all around our god-like decision-making and actions. Have you noticed how no one is responsible for anything these days? Certainly no politician or government bureaucrat. Apologies for an offense are couched in words that belie responsibility: “If you were offended, I am sorry.” The blame for the offense is placed on the person offended, not on the offender. Rather than, “I am sorry that I offended you.”
Christians must own their sin. Christians admit responsibility. In the opening words of the liturgy we usually state this before God and one another: “I have greatly sinned … through my fault.” The Latin for this phrase is sometimes even used in English: “mea culpa.” By this we admit that I have no one else to blame for my sin but myself.
In fact, we say this three times. This follows a biblical practice that three represents something as an absolute. “Through my fault; through my fault; through my most grievous fault.” (“Mea culpa; mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.”) This three-fold expression admits that my own selfishness is absolute. The devil didn’t make me do it. The circumstances didn’t lead me to it. I chose to act against God’s will for me. It is my fault, and now I seek God’s mercy. And, as Pope Francis wrote, “God never tires of forgiving us; we are the ones who tire of seeking his mercy.” 
Jesus faced the same temptations as we, though obviously with greater dramatic flair. These he faced three times. And his response was a three-fold absolute. Though each of these temptations seems different (one is to feed Jesus’ physical needs – stones into bread – a second is to feed his ego – angels heaven-sent to protect God’s VIP – and a third is to feed his desire for fame and fortune – all the kingdoms of the world), these are actually the same, simple temptation: Will Jesus be loyal to the Heavenly Father, or not? Will Jesus trust his Father, or not? And Jesus met these temptations with absolute trust in his Father’s will.
You and I will face the same temptations. We have physical needs. But do we eat to excess? Do we abuse this body of ours by inactivity? Do we use alcohol to the point of inebriation? Do we seek sexual stimulation outside the sanctity of marriage? God has given us bodies with wondrous faculties to give God the glory, not to displace God. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit,  prompting us to worship God in all that we do. God promises to raise this body of ours from our tombs in the resurrection.
We each have egos that need reassurance and nurture. But have we deluded ourselves that our ego is so grand that we are the center of the universe? Has this led to selfishness; to inconsideration for the dignity of other people? Jesus called us to love our neighbor as our own self. 
We each seek some level of fame or approval. And we certainly desire some level of security. But has our hunger for fame or approval made us focus on being powerful rather than being a disciple of Christ? But Jesus taught that whoever seeks to be greatest in God’s kingdom must become a servant.  Might money or property blind us to the needs of others? Jesus warned of the danger of storing up treasures while neglecting to be rich in what matters to God. 
So your temptations and mine are not that different from those Jesus answered. And his answer was absolute. Jesus trusted in the Father’s will for him. Jesus trusted the Father because he had a relationship with God. And I’m not speaking of his Trinitarian existence with God, for he emptied himself  of this when he became human. Jesus listened for the approach of God through his prayer. And he prepared space for an encounter with the Father through self-denial and fasting.
Jesus is our companion in our Lenten experience of prayer, self-denial and charity toward others. To paraphrase the words of Pope Francis, our Lenten discipline can restore our personal “encounter with Jesus Christ or at least an openness to letting him encounter [us].”  Jesus faced his temptations decisively. With Jesus, you and I can do the same.
 Lane Olinghouse, quoted in Reader’s Digest.
 O. A. Battista, as quoted in Reader’s Digest, March, 1996.
 Pope Francis, The Joy of the Gospel.
 Pope Francis, The Joy of the Gospel.
OUR MISSION STATEMENT
This Roman Catholic, God-centered community of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish seeks to be compassionate and faith-filled, empowered by the Holy Spirit through the grace of the Eucharist and the sacraments to proclaim and live the gospel as believers in the risen Christ. Therefore, we commit to share joyfully our time, talents and treasure in works of mercy and justice both within and beyond our parish.
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