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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Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mk 4:35-41
June 20, 2021

“You don’t even care about me…DO YOU?”

How many times has an angry teenager thrown that accusation at a parent who has laid down the law precisely because they do care?

Think about the person who is excited about a new relationship they are exploring. Whether or not they come right out and ask the question, they walk around mulling it over and over in their mind.

Does he care about me?

Does she even care…or am I wasting my time?

A far more serious situation is when that question infects a wife or husband. Whether out of immaturity or uncertainty, or justified insecurities…the test is the same:

ANSWER YES OR NO: DO YOU CARE?

That simple little question is the ultimate test of any important relationship. I would suggest that it is most frequently asked, sometimes out loud, even shouted in a rage of frustration…or quietly within the privacy of a troubled heart…as a test of the most important relationship any human being can have. When our lives get stormy, we often test our relationship with our Creator, challenging God with the BIG TEST QUESTION:

Do You even care?

Once and for all, and in the most loving and convincing way possible, our Creator responded: OF COURSE I CARE!

Through the incredible act of reassurance…taking human flesh and living among us…God has responded…

OF COURSE I CARE!

Jesus “jumped into the boat” with us to prove that God does care and is in control. In today’s Gospel, The Lord demonstrates His complete trust in God’s loving care by sleeping through a life-threatening storm. The other passengers most likely weathered the experience in different ways. When they put the “test question” to Jesus, some may have displayed the immature attitude of a teenager challenging a protective parent. Others might have simply felt the uncertainty so common in the early stages of a developing relationship.

The boat, in imminent danger of sinking, certainly justified feelings of terror. There most likely were passengers aboard, questioning whether they had misjudged their relationship with Jesus of Nazareth. Had they put too much confidence and trust in Him? Doesn’t He care about us? Or, doesn’t He have the power we thought He did? Whatever the emotions running through their minds, as the waves crashed over the side of the vessel, they asked the BIG TEST QUESTION:

Do You even care?

Jesus responded immediately, dramatically and most convincingly. But, with time and further storms, even Peter need reassurance. Although the terrified disciples asked the BIG TEST QUESTION, it might just be that it was their relationship with the Lord that was being tested. It was their faith and trust that was not yet mature, still uncertain, insecure. In the midst of a storm, it was them who were tested…and they failed. They doubted.

It certainly makes one wonder how we would have reacted had we been on that boat trip. When dark and menacing clouds threaten our sunny days…when waves start to wash over our lives…do we ask God the BIG TEST QUESTION? Or are we secure enough in our relationship with our Creator to follow Jesus’s example and simply close our eyes and calmly ride out the storm?

Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mk 4:26-34
June 13, 2021

I attended the graduation ceremony for the Nouvel Catholic Central High School Class of 2021. I made a point of being there because I had taught one semester of theology to these young women and men during their freshman year. I hadn’t seen most of them since our final day in the classroom. I was hoping that my presence, should they even notice me, would signal my ongoing concern for them…especially for their continued spiritual growth and development. I was also curious about what changes each has undergone during the “in between times.”

I was shocked that many of my former students were unrecognizable to me. Only three years ago, I was able to identify their voices as they came ambling down the hall towards the classroom. I could tell whose paper I was reading by the handwriting without even looking at the name. And, although it took a week or so, I definitely recognized every face. Eventually, I could even make a pretty good guess at what kind of mood they were in on any given day…and how that would affect our scant 55 minutes of “God Talk.”

Like most teachers, I came to know these kids better and better as the semester unfolded. And now, just three short years later, if I passed most of them on the sidewalk, I wouldn’t be certain who they were. The time “in between” the last day of 9th grade and graduation had changed them from adolescents to adults. The most disconcerting thing was the realization that there was absolutely no way of telling whether or not my very short time with them would make any difference whatsoever in their faith life.

As I watched the members of the NCCHS Class of 2021 march off the football field and into the rest of their lives, I couldn’t help but wonder how they would use the years “in between” graduation and their last day on earth. Had the thoughts and ideas about the Reign of God that I tried to plant into their minds and hearts taken hold?

Parents…good, loving, concerned, attentive, and involved parents must appreciate what I am talking about. As children become more and more independent, aren’t those responsible for their development haunted with questions? Have I done enough? What more could I have done? What else can I do?

This weekend’s Scripture passages work together to counsel patience in these circumstances. For example, once parents, grand and God parents, teachers, catechists, and youth ministers have done all that can reasonably be done to pass on our faith, we simply have to wait patiently. But even as we wait, we must also trust.

We trust in the ultimate power of our good, loving, concerned, and totally attentive God. We trust that God knows more than our names, faces, voices, and handwriting. We trust that our Creator knows every breath we take and every thought we have. We trust that God will never fail to recognize and somehow respond, gently and lovingly, to our every need. We trust that God will call into life, at the proper time, the seeds of faith that have been planted within our hearts during the time “in between” our first and last breath. For some, that might well be immediately before graduating from time into eternity. But we trust that Divine Mercy and power is such that every single seed has the opportunity to spring into life and blossom.

In the meantime, during the “in between times” of our own lives, we must continue to patiently care for and nourish those seeds that are already growing within us. And we must trust that, through the Holy Spirit, Christ is always present to us, signaling God’s ongoing concern for our continued spiritual growth and development.

Take a moment this coming week to truly notice!

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
Mk 14:12-16, 22-26
June 6, 2021

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has responded to a notice sent to the Vatican by the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Rome urges caution concerning a statement under consideration by certain of the American Bishops, which would impact the access to Holy Communion by U.S. politicians whose public stand on issues relating to the sanctity of human life appear in conflict with Church teaching. This has made the headline news…and will likely continue to be newsworthy…on all networks…regardless of the final outcome.

Thankfully, no one will ask me to weigh in on the matter.

However, should Pope Francis give me a call and say: So, Kelly…what do you think about all this?

I would reply: Your Holiness, at the moment, I am much more concerned about the countless numbers of people who have already been “denied” Holy Communion…by the pandemic.

For months now, access to all the Sacraments has been severely restricted, or completely barred because of Covid-19. Particularly tragic is the fact that the elderly, the chronically ill, and even the actively dying have been deprived of these spiritual comforts. At the moment, things appear to have “normalized” in this country, but in other parts of the world, concerns over health and safety continue to affect the Sacramental life of the Church.

I suspect that Pope Francis would reply by reminding me that it would be wrong to consider those in greatest need of spiritual comfort as having been completely abandoned. Quite possibly, he would refer me to last Sunday’s Gospel (Matt. 28:16-20). When sending the disciples out to baptize “In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” The Risen Christ assured them: I am with you always until the end of the age.

Christ has kept that promise. While the hunger for Eucharist persists, and the company and companionship of the Christian community is definitely missed when circumstances make “in-person Holy Communion” impossible, those in greatest need are never left uncared for. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, the healing and forgiving and nourishing Christ is with them. How can I be so certain?

First of all, God has proven over and over again to be a most faithful Promise keeper. The Lord promised to be with us ALWAYS…why would we doubt Him?

But, Christ’s continued presence among the faithful is also made known by the persistence in faith within the minds and hearts of those Christians who, for whatever reason, have been denied Holy Communion. For example, Eucharist, as well as the other Sacraments, is barred by atheist regimes around the world.

Likewise, Catholics in countries where governments are run by anti-Christian religious leaders find it necessary to revert to the practice of the early Church, celebrating the Sacraments underground at great risk…and then only occasionally. There are remote areas on every continent where sacramental ministry by ordained clergy is infrequent because of geography and demographics. Such under served and threatened Christian communities persist in our faith because Christ remains present to them…forgiving, healing, and nourishing them.

While it is a very serious situation when Catholics who hunger for Eucharist are denied The Bread of Life and The Cup of our Salvation…for whatever reason…the real tragedy is when people deny themselves this “healing remedy.” Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith. And yet, many make a conscious choice to decline the invitation to The Communion Table.

Ignoring the Lord’s command: Do this in memory of Me, they foolishly seek nourishment in worldly comforts. But they are never fully satisfied. Hunger persists because the Risen Christ remains present to them, whispering His encouragement so that they might undergo a change of heart.

Regardless of what prevents the faithful from enjoying the Real Presence of Jesus Christ through Holy Communion, Christians are not denied communion with The Lord. He promised: I am with you always until the end of the age…and He keeps that promise through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

We conclude the last of the three special Sundays that cap the Easter Season by focusing on The Most Holy Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. Certainly, The Real Presence comes to us in the most excellent way, through The Eucharist. But, on this great Feast, we should also remember and celebrate the truth that The Risen Christ is “omnipresent” to all creation. People, circumstances, and even poor choices might serve to deny others Holy Communion…but Christ will not be denied communion with us.

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity
Mt 28:16-20
May 30, 2021

We are Baptized

In the Name of The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit.

That is our Tradition…inspired by today’s Gospel. And it is beyond discussion or debate. But, how many of us have stopped to think about just exactly what that means? Candidly, it’s not an “easy think.” Still, this Trinity Sunday is the perfect time to make the effort.

Although the “Three-ness” of God is woven tightly into our Tradition, expressed in prayer, liturgy, and art, it remains shrouded in mystery. We struggle to pierce the cloud of unknowing by reducing the Three Divine Persons into one symbol or image, but our efforts always fall short. Things such as triangles and shamrocks are used to catechize our children. That can be helpful.

Artists have painted masterpieces depicting a powerful, white-bearded ancient standing over a figure recognizable as the historic Jesus, a dove hovering nearby. Art is often a window that offers a view…although limited…of what exists on the other side.

In recent years, an author wrote a best-seller that became a popular movie. Like other attempts to capture the reality of “The Threeness” of God, “The Shack” was inspiring.

But all efforts, no matter how brilliant or inspiring, are totally inadequate. Much like we hear in The Book of Exodus…no one sees “The Three Faces of God and lives.” However, there is a “scenic lookout” that often provides a breathtaking view when there are no spiritual clouds (doubts) or fog (sin) obstructing it.

If we meditate on the mystery of the Trinity and look out over the Divine landscape with the “eyes of our heart,” we just might catch a glimpse of what symbols and paintings and books merely suggest. Prayerful reflection and meditation just might enable us to travel through the stained-glass window or into the painting.

From the perspective of prayerful reflection and meditation, what we might just enjoy is a brief encounter with the infinite and all-powerful relationship we call The Trinity. What our eyes cannot see our hearts could well feel…and what we “feel” might be something totally surprising and overwhelming…

pure, unconditional, unselfish love.

The communication between the Three Divine Persons is perfect. Single-minded in Their love of one another as well as for Creation, there is discussion but no debate or disagreement…only perfect and unending harmony.

Each assumes a role or function that promotes a cosmic plan that blossomed from the pool of Wisdom, Goodness, Mercy, and Peace, which they share together. The concept of personal ambition is totally absent. There is no competitive spirit, only HOLY SPIRIT.

We live in times when a prayerful reflection on The Trinity is particularly critical. Consider how little harmony there is in our country…in our world…in our Church…even within many of our families.

Think about how greed, pride, and ambition have threatened world peace and devalued our sense of solidarity with and sense of responsibility for the people with whom we co-exist on this planet Earth. Civil conversations and fruitful discussions easily give way to heated debate and disagreement that all too frequently end in violence.

Plans are ego-driven and give little, if any, consideration for the common good.

The very foundation of the Christian Tradition into which we were baptized has been rocked by the cultural earthquake that seems is becoming more and more intense with each news cycle.

But all is not lost.

Our hope rests in our all-powerful Creator, God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit…In Whose Name we have been Baptized…and Whose harmonious and loving relationship we are called to imitate…as best we can.
On this Trinity Sunday, we celebrate the truth that the Triune God is alive within each of us. Reflective prayer and meditation is a way to do that. But where to begin.

St. Francis de Sales offers a prayer that is a fine starting point:

“I vow and consecrate to God all that is in me:
my memory and my actions to God the Father;
my understanding and my words to God the Son;
my will and my thoughts to God the Holy Spirit.”

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