Monday, September 25, 2017

See Our Lights

Jesus said to the crowd:
"No one who lights a lamp conceals it with a vessel
or sets it under a bed;
rather, he places it on a lampstand
so that those who enter may see the light.
For there is nothing hidden that will not become visible,
and nothing secret that will not be known and come to light.
Take care, then, how you hear.
To anyone who has, more will be given,
and from the one who has not,
even what he seems to have will be taken away." (Luke 8:16-18)

There are two points made by Luke in this Gospel reading.  First, we all have talents and abilities making us shine.   They should be allowed to glow through strong and abiding faith leading to good works. 

Shutting ourselves off from others and retreating to the solace of our lonely rooms preventing us from sharing and helping is to be like a tree falling in the woods.  No one is there to hear it, so it seems like it doesn’t make a sound.  We do no good when only we can see our own light, as if in a room of mirrors with light never leaving, just bouncing from one wall to another.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Bear Fruit

Have we planted any seeds today?   Are we seeds planted on rich soil?  Today’s Gospel asks these questions, and we should respond (Luke 8:4-15).

“When a large crowd gathered, with people from one town after another
journeying to Jesus, he spoke in a parable.
"A sower went out to sow his seed.
And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path and was trampled,
and the birds of the sky ate it up.
Some seed fell on rocky ground, and when it grew,
it withered for lack of moisture.
Some seed fell among thorns,
and the thorns grew with it and choked it.
And some seed fell on good soil, and when it grew,
it produced fruit a hundredfold."
After saying this, he called out,
"Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear."

Then his disciples asked him
what the meaning of this parable might be.
He answered,
"Knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of God
has been granted to you;
but to the rest, they are made known through parables
so that they may look but not see, and hear but not understand.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Digging Two Graves

What do these four movies have in common?  Ben Hur, The Godfather, The Count of Monte Christo, and Kill Bill?  The answer is revenge – getting even.

There are many current TV shows also focused on revenge such as Game of Thrones which has a huge following all over the world.  Revenge through violence is one theme that runs throughout the plots.  For those of us who are honest about ourselves, we tune into this and other shows like it to witness the evil ones get their just desserts – in spades.  We want to see and cheer revenge, and for the bad guys and gals to fall, and fall very hard. 

Many of us want those who have harmed us to be punished and to suffer the same way we have suffered at their hands.  Revenge is a powerful, difficult-to-resist motivation.  It’s compelling and hard to resist like iron filings to a magnet.  The expression revenge is sweet has a ring of truth to it for those of us wanting so-called justice – in other words, an eye for an eye.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

There's A Catch

On Thursday I spoke of spiritual wisdom and fish – a rather strange connection.  I said that to have spiritual wisdom, we must focus on what Jesus told us such as: “For I was hungry and you gave me food.  I was thirsty and you gave me drink.  A stranger and you welcomed me; naked and you clothed me; ill and you cared for me; in prison and you visited me.”   The wise of spirit do these things because Jesus told us so. 

But it’s not easy.  There’s always a catch – obstacles that prevent us from acting.   The “catch” can be laziness, ambivalence, fear, selfishness, and aloofness.   We’re guilty at one time or another of not be able to climb over those obstacles.   

But we can with a little effort, prayer, and self-examination helping the Holy Spirit to move us and make us wise.  We’re not fish that cannot swim without water.   There are no stairs we cannot climb, no catch we cannot overcome.

Deacon David Pierce

Friday, September 8, 2017

God Is With Us

Today’s Gospel ends with “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means ‘God is with us."  

So many of us think that God is with us and not with them, whoever they are.   How terribly wrong because God is with us all even though many don’t feel that is true especially when disaster occurs such as in Houston or when we lose someone close to us.   Where is God?

There is no easy answer, but a useful one is provided by Kevin O’Neil published in the 2007 book “All Your Waves Swept Over Me: Looking for God in Natural Disasters.” O’Neil said,

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Nets In Deep Water

This evening I will lead a Communion Service for the Diocese of Fall River candidates for the Permanent Diaconate.  This is part of their continuing formation with all deacons offering examples of styles of presiding and homilies.   I share my homily with you in hopes that some men might seriously consider discernment for the diaconate that soon will begin for the next class.      

We pray for you.  Deacons, priests, your family and friends, even those you don’t know.  We all pray you will be filled with the knowledge of God’s will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord.  That’s what Paul says in the first reading. What is the meaning of “to be worthy of the Lord?”

The answer is provided in the synagogue – in the place where the Jewish Jesus worshiped and prayed.  Before all the other Jews, Jesus unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written:  "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord."

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Gloatrage

I learned a new word last Sunday.  It’s called gloatrage.   The Boston Globe had in its “Ideas” section an article entitled “Our epidemic of gloatrage” by Mark Peters.   It means “triumphant satisfaction that a person’s behavior is as bad as expected combined with outrage at that behavior.” 

According to Peters, gloatrage is when we are secretly thrilled that someone is proving him/herself to be just as bad as we thought.   Or, Peters quoting Karla McLaren (“The Art of Empathy”) it’s when people “get a real charge out of being continually reminded that the people they hate are indeed deserving of their hatred and dehumanization.”

Calling gloatrage an “epidemic” might seem to be an exaggeration, but likely not and certainly not in the world of politics, and that is alarming.    It’s all quite contrary to our Christian need to see and understand the other perspective – to listen and mend fences: to forgive.   We all must recognize when we are “gloatraged,” when we are hating and dehumanizing the other such as those of other nationalities and faiths.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Beams In Our Eyes

I just started to read the 2015 book “The War That Forged a Nation: Why the Civil War Still Matters” by James McPherson.  I’ve never been a Civil Way buff but all the talk about removing the statute of Robert E. Lee got me thinking about who Lee was and why the furor over his image.

It also got me to focus more on slavery, and not just the slaves held by Northerners and Southerners in the 1880s, but today’s cruel slavery that boggles the imagination in terms of its magnitude and impact around the world.   Otherwise known as “human trafficking,” it’s slavery in no uncertain terms.   Google “modern slavery” for startling and horrifying stories, especially about sex slaves with children as victims. 

Lee was a Virginian who fought for the south because he was a Virginian first and would not heed President Lincoln’s request that he command the northern forces against the south starting in Virginia.  Lee had a distinguished career as a West Point graduate serving in the Mexican War.  He later decided to defend the south – not to preserve slavery, but because his beloved Virginia was to be invaded by the North.   He had to choose and so he did by serving as general-in-chief of the Confederate forces. 

Monday, September 4, 2017

Labor Day Scripture

"Jesus came to Nazareth, where he had grown up, and went according to his custom into the synagogue on the sabbath day.  He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah.  He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written:  The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.

Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him. He said to them, ‘Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing."


Today is Labor Day.  According to the U.S. Department of Labor, “Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.” 

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

ARE WE SAVED BY FAITH AND WORKS OR ONLY BY FAITH?


If you have read some of my past blogs, you know that I help lead a Bible Study at the Falmouth Hospital. I thought I would share the one I am going to lead on Thursday. Last week we started the letter of James which is a very interesting letter because it is not addressed to a particular city or people. You can get a good eight minute description of James on You Tube at " The Bible Project." It is a general letter to be read to all of the Churches. It deals with the importance of works and faith. Because of its emphasis on "works", Martin Luther wanted to eliminate this book of the Bible because it conflicted with his idea that we are save only by faith. The Catholic Church has maintained that we are saved by both faith and works and has maintained that belief since the time of Christ. It was only 1500 years later that Martin Luther wanted and did change that belief for Protestants that works were not a saving requirement to enter heaven. Chapter 2 includes the main basis for the necessity of both faith and works.

Below is the translation that we use in the Catholic Church, the New American Bible (NAB). It is always interesting to read other translations and I always include three of them for our Bible Study. They can be found on Bible Gateway and they are The New International Version (NIV), The Living Bible (TLB) and The Message (MSG). The last two are very modern translations and help one to understand scripture in today's terms. Following Chapter 2 of James I have included some questions I developed to spur conversation. I think you will enjoy answering them, looking up references, and developing your own opinions on what they mean to you. Here is Chapter 2 of James.

James Chapter 2, New American Bible (NAB)

Sin of Partiality. 1 My brothers, show no partiality as you adhere to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ. 2 For if a man with gold rings on his fingers and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and a poor person in shabby clothes also comes in, 3 and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Sit here, please,” while you say to the poor one, “Stand there,” or “Sit at my feet,” 4 have you not made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil designs?

5 Listen, my beloved brothers. Did not God choose those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that he promised to those who love him? 6 But you dishonored the poor person. Are not the rich oppressing you? And do they themselves not haul you off to court? 7 Is it not they who blaspheme the noble name that was invoked over you?8 However, if you fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. 9 But if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors.10 For whoever keeps the whole law, but falls short in one particular, has become guilty in respect to all of it. 11 For he who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not kill.”Even if you do not commit adultery but kill, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak and so act as people who will be judged by the law of freedom. 13 For the judgment is merciless to one who has not shown mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.

Faith and Works. 14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? 17 So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

18 Indeed someone may say, “You have faith and I have works.” Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works. 19 You believe that God is one. You do well. Even the demons believe that and tremble. 20 Do you want proof, you ignoramus, that faith without works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by the works. 23 Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called “the friend of God.” 24 See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out by a different route? 26 For just as a body without a spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

WHO DO YOU SAY THAT I AM?

Is 22.19-23; Ps 138. 1-3,6,8; Rom 11.33-36;
Mt 16.13-20

Who do you say that I am? A little over fifteen years ago I was ordained a deacon, so most people here at church call me deacon now. It’s an easy first name to remember. It is sort of like Msgr for Msgr Tosti or Father for Fr. Healey. In fact a lot of people call me Father too. I usually can tell who are the visitors as they leave Mass during the summer and say to me “Have a nice week father”. Even at the hospital people call me father when I say I am a Catholic chaplain. I love being able to respond “Yes, I am a father, but I also am a grandfather”.

So what is in a name? It is interesting that people call you different names depending on when you met them. It says a lot about who you are at various stages in your life. Most of my friends call me Greg. My sister calls me Gregory John John. I wanted to choose Gregory for my Confirmation name but they wouldn’t let me chose my given name at that time so being a little rebellious I chose my second name for my confirmation name. Thus Gregory John John. I’m not sure I like that but I also have a couple of names for her so we’re even.

Being in the military for 27 years I acquired several names starting with Lieutenant. Now, even though I’ve been retired for over twenty years, most of the people who worked with me still call me Colonel Beckel. One name that I was given was sort of interesting. My call sign was “The Deacon”. That was 20 years before I became a deacon but that is a story for another time.

The many names I’ve acquired say a lot about me. I've been called son, or dad, or Mr. Beckel. Some of my children’s friends who have know me all of their lives and now have children of their own and they still call me Mr. Beckel. My wife often calls me honey or dear. That’s when I’ve been good. Sometimes I feel like I don’t deserve those terms of endearment, but I keep trying to live up to them.

We all like to know what people think of us and often we can tell what people think by the names they address us with. In today’s Gospel, Jesus is sort of wondering the same thing. He asks his disciples “Who do people say the son of man is?”

Kingdom Keys

In today’s Gospel we hear Jesus say: "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah...I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven.”

We all know that Simon was renamed as Peter the rock providing the foundation on which the Church eventually was built.  He’s known as our first Pope followed by a long line of popes with Francis being the one currently sitting in the chair. We’ve had some very nasty and unholy popes, and we have had some great ones – true rocks on which the Church stood and continues to stand.

Peter must have been shaking in his sandals when he heard this responsibility placed upon his shoulders, especially because he didn’t believe he was up to the task.  For those of us who frequently lose our car keys, we would have trembled at the thought of being given the keys to the kingdom of heaven.  We’d rush out to the local hardware store to make many copies. 

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Scraps From The Table

10:30 Mass Homily:   For those of us with dogs, today’s Gospel leads to a question:  Have we hugged our dogs today?  Dogs can be loyal companions.  I have a Welsh Corgi.  Deacon Lemay has two Dachshunds – Tootsie and Oscar.  Father Wyndham had a dog named Griffin.

Consider the famous Fido born in Italy during World War II.  Yes, there really was a Fido.  He was found on the verge of death by a worker who took him home and nursed him back to health.  And for this, he’d have Fido’s unwavering loyalty for the rest of his life.

Every day, Fido waited for his master at the same bus stop, refusing to move until he stepped off the bus even though Italy was being bombed almost daily.  But one day, Fido’s master didn’t return from work.  He’d been killed in an air raid.