Reflections by Father Dennis Rausch of the Archdiocese of Miami, Florida
Reflections on faith and spiritual growth for today
Reflections on faith and spiritual growth for today
Blessings to all,
The video that you are watching was made at St. Bernard Catholic Church on Divine Mercy Sunday. May God’s mercy and unconditional love surround you always. Father Dennis
God reveals himself to those who seek him.
I always wondered why Jesus used parables to speak with the people but did not fully explain to them rather, he explained everything to his disciples, what was that all about?
To prepare my homily I always study the scriptures by looking up commentaries to see what the professional theologians and bible scholars are saying. Two different commentators referenced Sr. Barbara Reid, OP., for today’s gospel. She used the analogy of insiders and outsiders. Jesus used parables to put before the common people who had no education, so he used images of the day that they could relate to. However, if you were on the inside as his apostles were, Jesus was training them to carry on after him; they needed to know the fullest meaning of his message. Those who followed more out of curiosity than conviction were the outsiders.
Jesus could have chosen to miraculously give his full message to them at one time, but that is not how it words. Coming to know and follow Jesus is a road less traveled, many start but few are determined and stay. Coming to know the Lord is a slow, growing, grinding process that must be desired, longed for, and see the need to give meaning to my life. It’s a journey that not all are willing to put the work into as must a true disciple. Jesus wants us to participate in our spiritual longing, it’s something that we must truly desire and be willing to put our heart and soul into if we are to go the full distance. We should be asking ourselves, am I an insider or an outsider, who is here only out of obligation and fear of God or am I an insider who longs to know Jesus and give my life and my will over to him?
During my third year in the college seminary, I was given the opportunity to go to novitiate, (year away from normal college routine to study the scriptures, come to know the charism of the Divine Word Missionaries that I was interested in joining and to try our hand in getting involved in a real ministry for three months.) I chose to work in the alcohol treatment unity at the VA hospital in Biloxi, Mississippi. It was an important time in the process of becoming an insider, to dedicate my life in service of the Lord.
We spent many days listening to lectures on the scriptures and how they guided our founding father of the SVD family of priests, brothers and two orders of religious women. It was a time of slow growth and maturity in coming to know more deeply was I being called to be a missionary, a priest or not? I was in Mississippi that year away from the norms of college life. You might say, like Jesus taking his disciples away and fully explaining to them the parables that he needed them to understand and to prepare them for the mission he was going to hand on to them.
That year we were to go on a 30-day retreat of intense prayer and fasting. The 30-day exercises are known to this day as the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. It is during this time that God slowing reveals himself to you in prayer, meditation, and spiritual direction that I have come to appreciate and put into practice all my life. In this way you come to know if God is calling you to be a Divine Word Missionary or not.
A little aside…it was to be 30 days of strict silence only speaking daily with your spiritual director. When we started most of the guys were giving me a hard time because they didn’t think I could keep the silence for 30 days. Well, fooled them all including my spiritual director, I kept the silence and by the time the 30 days ended I would have been happy to go a few more days but eventually you must leave the mountain top and return to the valley of everyday life.
This is the message we are to learn from today’s scriptures, God reveals himself to us slowly as to not over load us, we have to grow into the silence where God can speak to us, reveal to us his unconditional love; and his need for us, because without us, as it was with the disciples, Jesus needs us to say yes and to freely and willingly carry his message of love, mercy, compassion, forgiveness, and yes even joy out into the world. We are his missionaries commissioned by our baptism to go into all the world and tell the Good News of Jesus Christ.
I like to leave you with a thought or a question to carry with you throughout the week, I call it homework. I ask you to ponder, meditate this week on the question: am I an outsider here only to put in time out of fear or obligation or am I an insider when it comes to following Jesus with my whole mind, my whole body, and my whole soul? Seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you…
If you are honest with yourself, you might be surprised by the answer that comes to you.
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
I’ve been doing a lot of reading these days from Pope Francis’ book, Let Us Dream, many articles in AMERICA magazine, reflections from Fr. Richard Rohr, Bishop Robert Barron, and others on the signs of the times we are living through. look around and see what’s happening in our country with the lies and conspiracy
theories, assault on the Capital on January 6th, recounting of ballots over and over looking for something that just isn’t there when each state has certified its ballots; Covid cases are coming down while many refuse to get vaccinated including Catholics in spite of our Bishops encouraging us all to get vaccinated, and the list of woes goes on and on.
The Entrance Antiphon of today’s liturgy, “O Lord, hear my voice, for I have called to you; be my help. Do not abandon or forsake me, O God, my Savior.” With the litany of woes I have listed, we could become disheartened, over-whelmed by all the problems we are facing both inside the church, in our country and around the world. However, we are a people of HOPE, as we read in St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians 5:6, “we walk by faith, not by sight.” That is quite a challenge and certainly isn’t easy. It calls for a belief in Jesus who died and rose for us to give us New Life, to be with God face to face for all eternity. That was Jesus’ promise to the apostles and down through the generations to us.
Pope Francis begins his book addressing the crises we have been living in not only since Covid-19 but long before. He calls “this time as a reckoning.” He poses to us the question, how are we going to come through this crisis? He says to enter a crisis is to be “sifted.” All the ways that we have been living and found everything to be in a certain order that we have all become use to and settled into. A crisis of this proportion that we have been living through throws our categories and ways of thinking into chaos, what were our priorities and lifestyles are challenged. It’s a time of reckoning that calls for a choice that you can’t avoid. “The basic rule of a crisis is that you don’t come out of it the same.” Pope Francis
Personally, I’m tired of hearing, when are we going to get back to normal? What was “normal” about systemic racism, bigotry, poverty, hate of our brother and sister, mistrust of others who are different than oneself in the color of their skin, the language they speak, the way they dress, the music they listen to; as the old saying goes, the rich get richer while the poor grow poorer by the day, perhaps even by the hour. Francis goes on to say, in a crisis of this proportion “You have to choose. And in making your choice you reveal your heart.” (Let Us Dream) The basic rule of a crisis is that you don’t come out of it the same. If you get through it, you either come out of it better or worse, but never the same. In times of crisis people reveal themselves good and bad, they reveal themselves as they are. Some spend themselves in service of others as we have witnessed in our health care professionals who literally laid down their lives to save others. And some get rich off other peoples need. During the worst of Covid the rich and super rich grew even more wealthy with over a trillion dollars in new money. This is disgraceful and makes a sham of Jesus’ command to care for the least of our sisters and brothers.
While CEOs raked in millions in bonuses, we witnessed lines as far as the eye could see waiting for hours in the hope that something will be left for them when they reached the front of the line, and sometimes many who waited in hope for hours were sent away with nothing to feed their children. Child poverty rose to over 20% during Covid bringing it to an all-time high. How can this be, we are the riches country in the world (granted that doesn’t consider that 80% of the majority are middle class and many more live below the poverty line.) I know what it means to be poor and to have to live off food stamps, government cheese and butter, having to put back a candy bar because the money was needed to pay for the loaf of bread. What is to happen to those children and the families that have been out of work for months who cannot afford to pay the rent or the mortgage?
While the former Administration kept telling us, it’s like the flu, its going to disappear, to date over 600,000 Americans have died of Covid. When the Trump administration kept telling us it’s not going to be so bad, waisted valuable time telling the lie while daily thousands were dying many without the presents of a loved one. Nurses were holding phones up to the ear of the dying to hear the voice of a loved one telling them they loved them and would miss them. I had a favorite aunt, who was like a mother to me, the last of my mother’s siblings died during covid while family members could only look on from a distance. My aunt had asked me to say her funeral and I promised I would. That promise went unanswered as I was not able to travel do to restrictions of Covid.
Think about the Good Samaritan, walking along came upon a man who had been robbed and beaten. Not unlike so many stories we heard during the worst of this crisis. First a priest came upon the man and crossed over to the other side of the road, then a Jewish rabbi also crossed over. Finally, a Samaritan came upon the man and took him to a nearby inn to be attended to. He gave some money and told the inn keeper that upon his return if something was still to be paid, he would. Jesus poses the question, who was the person who did the right thing; we all know Jesus’ answer. To truly be a good Samaritan we must enter the world of the wounded man, the Samaritan throws himself into the situation, into the other’s suffering, and so creates a new future for both. The sick man was restored to health and the Samaritan was truly his brother’s keeper giving new life to himself and the other.
This story that Jesus tells is a challenge to us, what are we willing to do to help someone who is not our neighbor, the stranger who needs our help? Are we going to pretend that we don’t see Lazarus laying at the gate of the rich man, as he did? Ask yourself, how often have I turned a blind eye to another who was in grave need, that I had an opportunity to do something to help and enter into that person’s world of being left behind, neglected, whom we have come to call the “throw a ways” of our society?
We must pose to ourselves the question, “What would Jesus do?” I know personally I have asked that question of myself and to be honest I too have failed. However, each time I fail I look ahead with eyes wide open to whatever comes to me on any given day that I do not fail the opportunity to be the Good Samaritan. If only we would open our eyes and see that God presents to us many opportunities daily to “see” someone who needs our help. We can not expect come judgement day to say as the rich man did, “…but I didn’t see him.” I don’t believe that to be an excuse that God is going to accept, remember what happen to the rich man when he died?
We are a church of broken people, that is no excuse for not doing our share to help our fellows who are in great need. Jesus died to show his love for all humanity. We are created in his image and likeness. We are his own. God doesn’t have favorites, he loves all equally, yes sinners too for we are all sinners. In the words of Pope Francis when asked by a reporter, “how would you describe yourself? Francis said, “I am a redeemed sinner.” We can rejoice in our brokenness because we have been saved by the blood of our savior, Jesus the Christ.
There is a lesson to be learned in this crisis of Covid-19 that has affected and infected all of humanity as far as we know no one is exempted from the ravages that this virus has inflicted upon humanity. Especially the poorest of the poor right here in this country, but even more so in those countries around the world that don’t have the means that we have to get the care that we need, the medicines and the vaccine that will give us a solid chance at not getting sick unto death.
The United States has always come to the aid of those who have so much less than us, our common Christianity calls us to do so. Just this week President Biden took to the G7 meeting in London the promise to provide 500 million doses of lifesaving vaccine. With that he was able to leverage 500 million more from the other G6 nations bring the commitment to One Trillion. It is still not enough but it’s a start. This is who we are, we care for our brothers and sisters around the world. To those who have been given much, much will be expected.
We are living in a time of great challenges and opportunities to go beyond our selfishness and our “individualism” as Pope Francis calls it. Acting individually, I put myself before all others, that adage that I heard already when I was a kid by a former President, “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps.” What happens when you have been left behind and have no bootstraps, perhaps you don’t even have shoes. Our individualism smacks Jesus in the face. Our me first attitude has been a noose around our neck that is destroying our society, our church, and our ability to see the needs of others as great or greater than my own. God created us with a heart big enough to care for all whom we come in contact with, but we have turned our backs on our sisters and brothers; we have crossed over to the other side of the road.
“This is our moment to dream big, to rethink our priorities - what we value, what we want, what we seek – and to commit to act in our daily life on what we have dreamed of. What I hear at this moment is similar to what [the Prophet] Isaiah hears God saying through him: Come, let us talk over. Let us dare to dream.” Pope Francis