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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Second Sunday of Lent
LK 9:28B-36
March 17, 2019

Last week, it was the Spirit Who led Jesus into the desert. This week, Jesus is in the lead. He takes three of His most trusted and intimate friends with Him as He climbs to the top of a mountain. We know what happened there. The Lord was transfigured before them. What better way to prove to them that The Word…God’s Word made flesh…was near them?

On this Second Sunday of Lent, we are called to be “armchair mountain climbers.” The same Spirit that led Jesus into the desert guides us to a comfortable chair, good lighting, carrying only our Bible. The same Lord, Who picked three special friends to share a spectacular prayer experience with, invites us along as well.

Freeing ourselves from things that might distract or disturb us, we join Peter, James, and John as privileged witnesses to a preview of Easter glory. If we take full advantage of the opportunity, and truly enter the story, like Peter, we can enjoy a glimpse of the Glorified Lord. However, unlike Peter, what we see does not frighten us. We understand what Transfiguration means. We know what it means to be raised from the dead.

Watching Jesus communicate with Moses and Elijah, we come to understand that all that was promised by God in the Old Testament is fulfilled in Christ. This dramatic event was an extraordinary way for the Creator to describe what awaits those who believe. Implicit in this mountaintop encounter is God’s assurance of forgiveness.

The Transfiguration is reminiscent of another mountaintop encounter. At Exodus 34, we hear about The Almighty communicating with Moses. What was spoken there is again communicated in today’s Gospel. The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

This passage reveals much to us about God as we consider the reaction of the three to what they observed. Through their fear and confusion, we are reminded about the fragile human condition. It isn’t always easy for us to understand, or to believe, or to follow. But The Word …God’s Word made flesh…is near usour strength and our hope.

And now it’s time to get up from our armchairs and make our way down from the mountaintop and back to our busy lives…eager to share what we have seen and heard.

First Sunday of Lent
Luke 4:1-13
March 10, 2019

I have a good friend who is faced with a serious, life-changing decision. The choice is between two very fine and worthy activities. For many months now, my friend has been struggling to accomplish both and has been doing an excellent job of it. However, both require a good deal of time and effort, and it has come to the point where my friend must let one of the tasks go. The matter has been taken to discernment.

For Christians, “discernment” is much more than making a choice based on what promises to be the most profitable or gratifying. Christian discernment involves a process of prayer and reflection. When disciples are faced with serious, life-changing decisions, they invoke the guidance and counsel of The Holy Spirit. Trying to set aside earthly concerns and self-interests, a faithful disciple leans in to hear what God is asking.

The Gospel for this First Sunday in Lent is usually referred to as “The temptation of the Lord in the desert.” Certainly, that is the story. But, when we consider that it was, in fact, The Holy Spirit Who led Jesus into the desert, we can better appreciate how the desert experience is the perfect model for Christian discernment.

For the majority of His earthly life, Jesus was involved in two very fine and worthy activities. The Lord went about the task of living as a fully human person, while, at the same time, being fully Divine. He did an excellent job of balancing His two natures. However, as Jesus emerged from His Baptism in the waters of the Jordan River, He heard “A Voice” from heaven. The words: This is my Son in Whom I am well pleased, were far more than an introduction. The Father was telling The Son that it is time to make a choice. And so, The Holy Spirit led Jesus off by Himself into the quiet of the desert, so that He could lean in and better hear what God was asking of Him.

God was asking Him to offer His human Self as the perfect sacrifice in reparation for the sins of the world.

During His time in the desert, Jesus was definitely tempted…and the temptation was to choose the easy way out. In making this life-changing decision, The Lord rejected what held the promise of being the most profitable or gratifying. Jesus’s choice was the most Selfless decision ever made. He chose to die so that we might live forever. He released His human nature so that we might hope to share in His Divine nature.

Lent is a time of discernment. During these 40 days, we are challenged by The Voice from heaven encouraging us to lean in and listen to what God is asking of us. If we follow where the Holy Spirit leads us, we will emerge from these 40 days just a little less human, and a lot more Divine.

Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
LK 6:39-45
March 3, 2019

After several follow-up visits to the optometrist, complaining that her new glasses had not improved her vision whatsoever, my mother was finally referred to a specialist. The diagnosis was swift and devastating. Mom was suffering from age-related macular degeneration.

From there, another referral to a firm that helps sufferers understand, manage, and live with this “sight-stealing” disease. I was invited into the examination room with her so that I would be able to better appreciate the growing limitations that she would be experiencing. I was also cautioned that this disease is hereditary, so by learning to help my mother cope, I could, at the same time, learn ways to help myself in the future.

The sessions opened with the therapist showing us a number of slides simulating how vision is distorted for sufferers. For some, the peripheral vision becomes blurred. In other cases, the very center of what a person is focused on is blacked out. In addition to these types of limitations, my mother is extremely light sensitive. She is basically imprisoned in a dimly lighted room. It is a very devastating disease.

Through today’s Gospel, we learn about a spiritual breakdown that not only distorts our vision and limits our ability to see reality, but in extreme cases, can actually be life-threatening…ETERNAL LIFE THREATENING…that is.

Degeneration of TRUTH is a hereditary condition that is traced back to the original sin. This condition distorts the way we see others, blocking out what is good, and bringing into focus those things that we are critical of. This obstructed vision of others causes us to be judgmental and impatient or dismissive of what we see…or at least what we think we see.

Even more devastating, however, the degeneration of TRUTH impacts our self-perception. When we look into a mirror, our own faults and flaws and shortcomings are clouded over and obscured. When truth breaks down, we are left with a self-image that is prideful and hypocritical at best. In extreme cases, degeneration of TRUTH deceives us into believing that we are safe…moving in the right direction…in control.

Just as there is no cure for age-related macular degeneration, there is no cure for degeneration of TRUTH. However, when we understand this predisposition to judge others and to misjudge ourselves, we are better able to manage and live with this “spirit-stealing” disease.

While in these earthly bodies, our vision will never be perfect. Sin has complicated our lives and confused our ability to know what is real…and good…and life-giving and everlasting. It is impossible for us to see the ultimate reality that God has ready for those who search for truth and try their best to live truth. However, truth is something we should never stop searching for because…Truth is Christ…and Christ is Truth.

And though we will never have perfect vision with earthly eyes, we can definitely improve our sight by moving out of the darkness of sin into the Light of Christ. The Gospel is like a lens that enables us to fill in those blank spots that block out the goodness in others, while, at the same time, preventing us from seeing our own flaws.

Lent is the perfect time to test our vision. It is an opportunity for enlightenment and purification. During these 40 days of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, we can develop skills that enable us to compensate for the ravages to our sight caused by the degeneration of Truth. If we are serious about using the therapies of the penitential season, then on Easter Morning, we will find that we can see things in a new Light…The Light of Christ!

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
LK 6:27-38
February 24, 2019

I had a visit from the now adult child of one of my oldest friends. I hadn’t seen him since he was in middle school. When I opened the door to greet him, as illogical as it sounds, I was expecting to see a kid in his early teens rather than the fully grown man who stood there smiling at me. I honestly would not have known who he was had we bumped into each other on the street.

But when he came in and sat down and began to talk, I started to laugh. His voice, mannerisms, and gestures were identical to his father’s. If I had closed my eyes, I would have sworn that I was talking to my buddy. There were many other striking physical similarities as well. He is truly a “chip off the old block.”

At the same time, however, I recognized undeniable features of the young man’s mother. The image of both of his parents, so completely mingled, but clearly present in this now mature person made me feel as if I had two people sitting across from me. That experience helped me to appreciate the linkage of this Sunday’s Epistle with the Gospel.

St. Paul writes: Just as we bear the image of the earthly one, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly one.

Like Adam and Eve, we come from the dust. Formed by our Creator’s design into flesh and blood men and women, we bear a striking resemblance to the first parents. We eat, we sleep, we feel joy and also experience pain, fear, and loneliness. We have appetites that demand to be satisfied, but we always seem to want something more. We fall in love and chose partners and bear children. We try to be good, but often disobey…and then we feel regret. We sin…we die.

At the same time, however, encased within these frail, flesh and blood earthly bodies is a “chip of the Divine.” Completely mingled with our human characteristics, but clearly present, are markings of our Divine origins. Although more easily identified in some people than in others, our ability to think good thoughts and our emotions that enable us to feel compassion, empathy, and sympathy are all characteristics of our good and loving God. The Eternal peeks through and shows itself even in our finite and short-lived flesh and blood bodies.

Moreover, it is God’s plan that the dominant characteristic that stands out in each of our voices, mannerisms, gestures…in the way we live…be less “earthy” and more “heavenly.” And so, God sent Jesus into this world. At the same time, fully human and fully Divine in every way, Jesus was unmistakably The Son of God. The Church offers us an explanation for this sacred mystery in one of the Prefaces prayed at Mass before the Consecration:

For You so loved the world, that in Your mercy you sent us The Redeemer, to live like us in all things but sin, so that you might love in us what you loved in Your Son, by Whose obedience we have been restored to those gifts of Yours that, by sinning, we had lost in disobedience.

Simply put, God sent His Son into this world so that those who believe in Him would look less like Adam and Eve and more like Jesus. And, the Divine becomes our most prominent feature, when our voices, mannerisms, gestures…the way we live…is loving, forgiving, and filled with peace. When we live as The Lord teaches, we truly are “chips off the Eternal Block.”

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