Fr. Kelly

Our Sunday Journal is a brief reflection on the scripture readings of the day by Father Kelly, a senior priest in the Diocese of Saginaw.

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14th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lk 10:1-12, 17-20
July 3, 2022

There is an often-quoted line from the Book of Job that recent events bring to mind. “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD!”

Last week, The Supreme Court of the United States of America “gave back” a freedom to the people of the State of New York. The freedom restored to them involved the right to bear arms without concern for certain restrictions that had previously been imposed by state law.

The very next day, which happened to be the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the highest court of our land, according to one way of thinking, “took away” a freedom. Obviously, I’m talking about what many refer to as “the freedom to choose.”

A friend, reacting to these two landmark rulings, referred to them as “convoluted.” She finds the logic of the Court hard to follow.
In her mind, while the reversal of Roe-v-Wade is intended to afford protection to human life, the lifting of restrictions on firearms increases the threat to the sanctity of human life. She makes a good point. There seems to be some inconsistency here.

One thing that is abundantly clear, the two decisions have not been received in a peaceful atmosphere…certainly not the kind of authentic and lasting “peace” that is the theme in all three of our Readings. We Catholic Christians must be very careful that we are not drawn into the dark forces that are energizing the extreme division that has erupted.

As we navigate these troubled waters, it is more important than ever that we remember that: The LORD gave us FREE WILL…and the LORD will NOT take our FREE WILL away! Moreover, no authority on earth can deprive us of this precious gift from God.

But at the same time, we must keep foremost in our minds the fact that God also sent Jesus Christ into this world so that we might learn how to employ our free will in a way that reflects and promotes the Divine Will. And it is God’s will that we should live together in peace, justice, mutual respect…and yes…LOVE!

Through our Baptism, and armed with the Gospel, we, like the 72 disciples, are empowered to face off and prevail against demons, and serpents, and scorpions…and every other evil force seeking to disrupt our peace…THE PEACE OF CHRIST. Clearly, these destroyers of peace are out in full force. Christ needs each of us to be like minded and committed to this great and universal peace-keeping mission.

The Pontifical Academy of Life has offered us some sage guidance as to how we can move forward from the events of the past week. Italian Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia is quoted as saying: “The killing of an innocent human being can never be considered a right. This goes for abortion, it goes for war, it goes for the death penalty, and for the selling and use of arms. Our society as a whole, not just the west, must outlaw murder in all of its forms.”

In other words, we Catholic Christians need to alert our country…and the rest of the world…that the events that have sparked division have, in fact, offered us an opportunity make a greater commitment AGAINST EVERY FORM OF VIOLENCE.

This is an opportunity for humanity to rethink all choices…joining forces to build a more just and equitable society capable of protecting life and caring for everyone, especially mothers.

On this Independence Day weekend, all Americans would do well to consider that lasting and authentic PEACE is not a political matter that can be legislated into existence by any civil, or, for that matter, religious authority. Our Creator is the only Source of true, lasting, and authentic Peace.

In Christ, God has given us PEACE. But when we make any choice that is contrary to the Gospel…we, ourselves, take it away.

And so, in times such as this, we turn to the Gospel to begin the restoration process…the restoring of what seems to have crumbled. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are charged with the duty to restore and preserve the PEACE.

Blessed be the Name of the Lord!

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lk 9:51-62
June 26, 2022

Every now and again, after the Creed, when the Prayers of the Faithful have been completed, the Cantor will introduce a hymn to be sung during the Presentation of Gifts, that blends just perfectly with the Readings and Homily.

When that happens, the message is reinforced…driven home…maybe even expanded on. As a result, our song is not only part of our worship but it also takes on a transformative power that enables us to make a deeper commitment to the Gospel.

I, for one, will find myself “humming” that kind of “transformative song” over and over again. The tune becomes the background music for my day. I can’t get the song out of my mind…and with every “replay” The Word of the Lord sinks deeper into my heart. Who hasn’t come out of Christmas Mass singing Silent Night…over and over and over…continuing to imagine a cold, star filled night sky over the little town of Bethlehem?

When I sat down to reflect on this week’s Readings, a song came to my mind, and has continued to “replay” …over and over and over. I can’t seem to shake it.

No Roman Catholic Liturgist or Music Minister would ever consider using this song during Mass. It is secular not sacred music. Even though it hit the charts way back in 1970, it might even be familiar to young people today, because it has been sung by other artist than singer/song writer Carole King. The title is: Where You Lead, I Will Follow.

Loving you the way I do
I only wanna be with you
And I would go to the ends of the earth
Cause darling, to me that’s what you’re worth

[Chorus]
Where you lead, I will follow
Anywhere that you tell me to

If you need, you need me to be with you
I will follow where you lead.

It might be secular music, that arguably does not BELONG in Church. But these lyrics…at least for me…drive home the message in today’s Readings. These secular words have TRANSFORMATIVE POWER. The song, although not one of “Glory and Praise” reinforces, and expands on the four-pronged lesson that Jesus taught on His way to His Passion and death.

The Lord NEEDS US TO FOLLOW.

Christ’s needs us to follow Him through His Passion and death, through the Garden Tomb and finally into the Eternal Kingdom. Because, HE NEEDS US TO BE WITH HIM, The Holy Spirit awakens in our hearts a deep love for our God, which certainly inspires us to FOLLOW WHERE JESUS LEADS. In this Gospel passage The Lord tells us where and how to follow.

We are called to follow Him past those who reject, or ridicule or persecute us.

We are called to follow Him with trusting hearts; doing our best to give over control of the details to Him.

We are called to follow Him with a sense of urgency that requires us to act immediately.

We are called to follow Him without reservations…giving our relationship with Christ priority over all else.

And if we follow Him as He teaches us in this Gospel, we will be TRANSFORMED every step of the journey until we arrive in the Kingdom…where our TRANSFORMATION will be complete….and we will be like Christ for all Eternity.

Dig up your old vinyl copy of Carole King’s Tapestry album…or if you are too young for that…click onto You Tube…and listen to this powerful song. Just see if it doesn’t become the background music for your day. I bet it will help drive today’s Readings deeper into your mind and your heart.

It just might help to transform you into an even better disciple.

Where you lead, I will follow
Anywhere that you tell me to!

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
Lk 9:11b-17
June 19, 2022

Our Bishop is vigorously urging the faithful of our Diocese to become involved in the “National Eucharistic Revival.” The hope is that this call to prayer, catechesis, and reflection will invigorate the full, conscious, and active participation in The Mass. After all, the Celebration of The Eucharist is the very source and summit of our faith.

It is one of the many tragedies of our times that this effort is even necessary. Dorothy Day, a 20th century Catholic voice for social justice, once quoted a friend as saying: If I believed what you believe…nothing could keep me away from Holy Communion.

But for a number of years now, that has been increasingly the case. More and more Catholics seem to be MIA (Missing in Action).

Some suggest that a “Revival” is just a “reboot” made necessary by the pandemic. But statistics prove that there was most definitely a “Eucharistic distancing” among the faithful long before we were told of the need for “social distancing.” Why is that the case?

There is certainly no easy answer.

A number of issues make this Eucharistic distancing an extremely complicated crisis…and it really is crisis level when we are not celebrating the very “source and summit” of our faith. When so many have forgotten to do as The Lord asks: Do this in remembrance of me…a revival of that memory becomes an urgent matter.

A worthy starting point in this hoped for “reawakening” is THE REAL PRESENCE…the Presence that Dorothy Day’s friend was referring to. When we gather in His Name, Christ IS present to us. Moreover, when we gather in “remembrance” of Him at the Table of the Word and the Communion Table, Christ is with us in the most powerful of ways. Most of us believe this to be true. So then why do we stay away?

Possibly, we have lost our appreciation for the REAL PRESENCE OF CHRIST IN THE EUCHARIST because we have lost the ability to be REALLY PRESENT to one another. Conversations have been reduced to brief FaceTime calls…or Zoom meetings. Personal letter writing…even greeting cards and invitations are more and more a thing of the past, replaced by emails. Even emails have been abbreviated to tweets, and tweets to “emojis.” (Small digital pictures or symbols used in place of words in electronic messaging.) We are communicating with one another with pictures and symbols…much like the so-called cave dwellers. Is that really progress?

None of this, in and of itself, is bad. This technology has many benefits to it. But it can be harmful when it starts to replace the desire to BE TRULY PRESENT…face to face…shoulder to shoulder…spending time…sharing meals with one another. The most important and life-giving relationships we have can’t help but suffer when we try to sustain them with digital pictures and symbols.

What has made communications easier and more convenient has arguably caused us to lose the ability to communicate in the most loving and intimate of ways…by being FULLY…ACTIVELY…CONSCIOUSLY…AND PHYSICALLY PRESENT TO ONE ANOTHER.

Is it possible that better communication systems have actually caused us to lose touch with one another? Have we forgotten how to be present to one another, and, as a result, forgotten how to be present to Christ…Who is REALLY PRESENT TO US…in the Eucharist? Who can say with certainty?

What we do know with absolute certainty is that Christ is fully present to us in the Eucharist and desires more than anything that we be present to Him…and to one another in this celebration, which is the very source and summit of our faith.

Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity
Jn 16:12-15
June 12, 2022

For some reason, I’ve always liked the word “ANTITHESIS.”

Even though it’s a pretty useful expression, it is rarely heard in general conversation. It seems more like a “school word.” It is defined: A person or thing that is the direct opposite of someone or something else.

I find it a useful word to use when I am stumped in my efforts to understand or explain a person or thing whom or which is nearly impossible to describe or explain. In other words, when we can’t wrap our minds around an idea, it is sometimes helpful to think of what that idea IS NOT.

The Holy Trinity might be one of those things that Jesus wanted to explain in detail…but appreciated that His Apostles and disciples “could not bear it” as it is just too big a thing for us to wrap our minds around. The Lord deferred to the Holy Spirit to enlighten us as to how Three Divine Persons eternally exist within One God. After all these centuries, the “Threeness of God” is challenging even for a believer to conceptualize, let alone explain to an outsider.

Why shouldn’t it be? The Scriptures aren’t exactly helpful. The elements are all there, in both the Old as well as the New Testament. But nowhere in the Bible will we find the Trinitarian Doctrine (which is the very bedrock of our Christian faith) neatly defined. It was an insight that has come to us over the centuries as theologians wove together the various strands of revelation…the little hints or glimpses that God has given to help us better know and understand the Divine Self.

I wonder if this is one of those times when the word “antithesis” might come in handy.

Consider the invasion of Ukraine. As horrific as this war has been in terms of human suffering, what I have found to be absolutely heartbreaking is the spiritual devastation. The patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church has publicly supported the invasion. In short, Christians are killing other Christians with Church approval.

Christians who supposedly believe in the same God…Father, Son, and Holy Spirit…are locked in mortal combat with one another. And the truly heartbreaking thing is that the religious leader of the invading force supports this action.

Christians who believe that we are all created in the image and likeness of God are firing rockets at nothing short of the image and likeness of God. That is the antithesis of The Blessed Trinity, Who exists in eternal harmony, total unity, mutual respect, perfect peace, and infinite love. What we are witnessing in Eastern Europe is the antithesis of The Blessed Trinity.

Tragically, we do not have to look overseas (and to the Orthodox Christians) for concrete examples of the antithesis of God’s undivided unity and perfect peace, harmony, mutual respect, and love. Recently, a reliable Catholic news source published what they must believe to be reliable results from a poll conducted in mid-May.

The poll confirms what we know to be the situation. There is a clear…and growing…gap between American Catholics and Church leaders regarding a number of social issues with moral and spiritual implications. Both sides of these issues appear to be dug in and immovable. There is division, discord, and even disrespect within our Church…THE BODY OF CHRIST…and this is definitely the antithesis of what we celebrate today…THE BLESSED TRINITY!

I might not be able to conceptualize it…or offer a clear and convincing explanation of it…but I know when it is missing because I feel its absence and it hurts. We live in a period of salvation history which is the very antithesis of our God, Who created us in the Divine image and likeness. When we fail to co-exist in harmony, unity, mutual respect, peace, and love…we fall short of what we were created to be. And then WE, ourselves, become the antithesis of the Blessed Trinity.

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