Sunday, April 11, 2021

The ABCs of Mercy


Homily for the Octave of Easter, Divine Mercy Sunday, Aril 11, 2021. Gospel of St. John 20:19-31. Theme: The ABCs of Mercy 

In our Catholic Faith, many prayers and devotions have come to us through the spiritual experiences of the saints. But few, very few, ever reach the highest level of actually entering into our liturgy and being promoted by a pope. However, on May 5, 2000, Pope St. John Paul II declared that the Second Sunday of Easter was to be forever celebrated as “Divine Mercy Sunday”, which was requested by Jesus through the spiritual experiences of St. Faustina Kowalska, a Polish nun and mystic of the 20th century. 

Our Lord had chosen her to help reawaken in his Church a new awareness of and appreciation for his mercy, because so many had forgotten about the tenderness of God’s love. Jesus told her that he was saddened over the fact that so many people found it difficult to draw near to him because of the way in which he was being presented by the ministers of his Church. You see, much of the preaching and teaching of the time made people think that because of human weaknesses and sinfulness they were unworthy of an intimate relationship with Christ. 

But Jesus told St. Faustina that the opposite is actually true. He said that the greater a sinner a person is, the greater is that person’s right to claim his mercy. He said that he is drawn to wounded and struggling hearts the way iron shavings are attracted to a magnet. He said that he longs to have a deep and meaningful relationship with every person who desires it. How very different and hopeful that all sounded when compared to what people were usually hearing at church! 

To help us remember and celebrate his love for us, Jesus asked that Mercy Sunday be observed as the closing day of the great Easter feast. He also requested that a special image of himself be painted and blessed, with copies of it hung in churches and homes so that we could remember his mercy every day. In this image, Jesus gazes at us with a look of deep compassion. One hand is raised in blessing us while the other touches his chest. From the region of his heart two rays shine forth - a pale one and a red one - symbolizing the two Sacraments that establish us in an intimate relationship with him: Baptism and Eucharist. His posture is shown as if he is walking towards us, symbolizing that he wants to come to us spiritually though this image of Divine Mercy. Christ said that every artist signs his picture, and so he wanted the words, “Jesus, I trust in you” to be inscribed on every copy of this image as his personal signature. 

And along with this image, he also gave us two new short and simple forms of prayer that he hopes we will pray every day. The first is called the “Chaplet of Mercy”. When praying it, we invoke the Passion of Jesus repeatedly, asking God the Father to have mercy upon us and upon the whole world. Christ promised that through this chaplet he would grant whatever we ask so long it is according to his plan for us. And he said that this chaplet should be prayed especially for the dying because it would open their hearts to ask for his mercy as they prepare to leave this world. The second form of prayer is called the “Hour of Mercy”, which is 3PM, the time at which he died upon the cross. He asked that every day we pause, even if just for a moment, to recall how he loved us to the end and to praise his mercy in doing so. There are no specific words for this because it is meant to be a personal prayer arising from our hearts. 

Jesus gave us the devotion to Divine Mercy to help us live and act as people of mercy. He wants us to know that we can confidently call upon Him with trust, receive his mercy for ourselves, and then let it flow through us to others. This is how we make Mercy Sunday something meaningful and effective in our lives and not allow this gift from Christ to remain just something that we celebrate once a year. The message and mission of mercy to which he calls each one of us is literally as simple and easy for us to remember as A, B and C. 

A — Ask for His mercy. In his Gospel, Jesus says, "Ask and you will receive". And so, with great confidence we ask for His Mercy upon ourselves, our family and friends, upon our nation and the whole world! We can do this so easily by praying the Chaplet of Mercy and the Hour of Mercy daily. Even when prayed thoughtfully, the chaplet only take about 5 minutes. 

B — Be merciful to others. Jesus wants to remember and live the Scriptures that say, “Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy,” and, “If you forgive the sins of others, then God will forgive you yours.” So, you see, we ourselves set the bar as to how much we want God to have mercy on us and to forgive us by how much we do the same for others! Jesus said to St. Faustina: “There are three ways to show mercy: the first — by your actions, the second — by your words, and the third — by your prayers.” So, it’s within the grasp of all of us to be merciful to everyone in one way or another. And finally, 

C — Completely trust in Jesus. This is the heart of the message of Divine Mercy, just as it is the very heart of the Gospel. This is why the Image of Divine Mercy bears the words, "Jesus, I trust in You." What this means is that no matter who we are, no matter what choices we may have made, we can always turn to Christ for pardon and peace. We must never lose sight of the truth that Jesus is concerned for, interested in, and walking with each one of us, and that nothing whatsoever can lessen his love for us. This should encourage us to always trust in Jesus no matter what happens in our lives. 

As we prepare to receive Christ in Holy Communion this morning, let’s recall the experience of the Apostle Thomas whom we encountered in the today’s Gospel. Like him, let’s reach out our hands to touch the Risen Lord and praise his great mercy in coming to us. Let’s make with him an act of deep personal faith and say, “Jesus, I believe. Jesus, I trust in you!”

Monday, April 5, 2021

Case for Easter Book Study: Week One


Case for Easter Book Study: Week One

So, here we are starting off on our journey to a deeper understanding of the evidence that supports our personal faith in the Resurrection!  

The first audio is more of an an introduction to the book and the topic. I share an overview of what have come to be called "objections" to the Resurrection. During this coming week please be sure to read the Introduction and Chapter 1: The Medical Evidence: Was Jesus' Death a Sham and His Resurrection a Hoax?"

Remembering that this is a faith study, be sure to offer a prayer before reading, asking the light of the Holy Spirit to guide you and  the Risen Lord Jesus to reveal to you the power and truth of his Resurrection! 

Sunday, April 4, 2021

The Good News of Resurrection!


Homily for Easter, Gospel: John 20:1-9. Theme: The Good News of Resurrection!

Our Easter celebration places before us the central truth of Christianity: the real, historical, physical Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. It’s a strange thing, indeed, to believe that a man who was tortured, killed and buried, has risen up to more a powerful, glorious and real life. But this is precisely the unique Good News of Christianity: that Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God and Savior of all people, has risen from the dead and by doing so, has banished the fear and finality of death for those who follow and trust in Him. 

There have been many religious figures the world, but the Resurrection sharply distinguishes Jesus from all the others. No one else claimed to be what Jesus said he was. No one else claimed to be more powerful than death itself. The Buddha was cremated and interred in Kushinagar, India. The Old Testament tells us that the grave of Moses is near Mount Nebo, in Jordan. Confucius is buried in the Shandong province of China. Muhammed is buried in Medina, Saudi Arabia. But where is the body of Jesus of Nazareth? 

As we heard in the Gospel, the tomb of Jesus was found empty. According to the eye witness experience of over 500 people during the 40 days after that first Easter Sunday, he was alive…risen…glorious…immortal. They saw him, touched him, spoke to him and ate with him. If their experiences are true…then it means that Jesus was indeed who He said He was: God actually come among us in the flesh as one of us. And it means that Easter is a total game-changer in human history and for each human life. 

However, it takes more than just hearing to truly enter into what the Resurrection means. There were a lot of people in Jerusalem for the Passover on that momentous Easter morning. Many were still asleep when the Resurrection happened. Others would hear about it later on, as the day and the week wore on. And for most, it was just crazy gossip in the marketplace and never effected their lives. But for others, this news of Resurrection would change them from the inside out and they would never be the same. And you know, this variable reaction to the news of Resurrection is still happening today. 

There are those who hear the Good News yet it remains nothing more than a story to be told and retold every Easter. It never really touches their lives. And there are others who hear the news of the empty tomb, who ponder the experience of the holy women, and who receive into their hearts the words of the angel that “He is not here. He has been raised.” They experience a hope beyond hope that leaps up from deep within them and often can barely explain how it is that they came to believe and are changed! 

Why such a different response to hearing the very same message? Because faith in Jesus and in his Resurrection, is a supernatural gift. It is not something we can make happen, nor is it something we can purchase or earn. Faith is not something that we can inherit simply by having been raised in a believing family. It’s a gift that is offered by God to everyone without exception, but it can only be activated and become meaningful to us by an individual’s personal response of trust in Jesus. 

And once this happens, the Risen Lord opens our minds to the truth about who he is and he sets us free from the inside out. We begin to really see that there is a much bigger picture to the reality of our existence than only what we experience here on planet Earth. We profess faith in eternal life after death, knowing that it is not just a ‘maybe” or a “hope so”. That it’s not just fantasy nor wishful thinking. We are convinced of it because of what happened in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago and still continues to happen today! 

Through our personal relationship with the Risen Lord, we are not only freed from death’s dark domain, but also from its companion which is paralyzing fear, a fear we have sadly seen way too much of in these days of the coronavirus. We who trust in Jesus refuse to give such fear a significant place in our lives, causing us to live and act as if we were still under the powers of darkness and death. Those who live in such fear act as if death still has the last word and so they become silent in the face of it, not knowing what to say, as if they are still its victims, its captives. 

But we who are Christian are not silent in the face of fear and death. We know what to say in the face of fear! We know what to say in the face of death! We profess that Christ’s love casts out all fear! And so, we speak out and we even sing aloud: Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia! Death has been conquered once for all! Alleluia!

Friday, April 2, 2021

"I Thirst."


Homily for Good Friday, April 2, 2021. Gospel: John 18:1-19:42. Theme: I Thirst 

Jesus said, “I thirst.” This cry from Jesus on the cross can be heard and responded to in two different ways, depending upon the relationship we have with Him: as either a Casual Christian or a Committed Christian. 

For the Casual Christian, this cry can he heard simply as a line from a story about a crucified man's plea for water after being deprived of it for hours while undergoing abuse and torture. The Casual Christian might feel some pang of sorrow for a moment over the Lord's suffering, but then he or she goes on with his or her life as with any other day. 

Or, it can be heard very differently by the Committed Christian. This is someone who hears that Jesus is thirsting and cannot simply stand by idle and do nothing. Their heart is deeply touched, moved to pity, as they stand spiritually at the foot of the cross. The Committed Christian wants to do something, must do something, has to do something, to quench the Lord’s thirst. 

This interpretation is not my own, but comes from someone who spent her entire life seeking to quench the thirst of Jesus: St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta. If you go into any residences of the Missionaries of Charity which she started, you’ll notice that their chapels are very sparse and bare. But there’s always a large crucifix on a wall. And under the arms of the cross you’ll see the words, “I Thirst” in very large letters. 

Mother Teresa said that those two words, “I thirst”, mean that Jesus thirsts for our love, for the love of each one of us individually, personally. She would often tell people to make this plea of Jesus more real and meaningful by putting their first name in front of those two words, such as, “Teresa. I thirst.” In doing so, she advised, we can better experience what Jesus really means by them and that he is reaching out to each one of us. Put your own name there, she would say, and then realize that He thirsts for your love. 

Both Mother Teresa, and St. John in today’s Gospel, are trying to convey to us that you and I are not just faces lost in a crowd of a billion people to Jesus. He died for each one of us personally and would have undergone his entire Passion just for each one of us personally, even if we were the only ones in the world who stood in need of salvation. And so, he thirsts for the love of each and every one of us individually, personally, passionately. 

And so, I would think that this should make us stop and ask: How can I today quench the thirst of Jesus on the cross? Well...Mother Teresa had an explanation for this as well! She first of all reminded us that Jesus is truly risen and really present among us today in two very real ways, but they are ways that require faith to see Him because he is hidden. First, he is present in the Eucharist, the reality of the Blessed Sacrament, hidden under the appearances of bread and wine. And second, He is present in the persons of the poor and the needy, hidden under the distressful disguise of suffering human beings. She used to call these “two different ways but the One Same Jesus”. 

Mother Teresa taught that we can quench the thirst of Jesus in the Eucharist by receiving Holy Communion mindfully and worthily, with faith and devotion instead of out of robotic habit and routine. Then, once he is within us we can commune heart to heart, person to person, in a divine romance of the soul. We can tell him of our love; offer him our thanks for all he has done and still does for us; and speak with him about the deepest questions, struggles and desires of our hearts. 

And then she spoke of how we can quench the thirst of Jesus in the needy poor by ministering to them in whatever ways we can. She taught us to expand our understanding of what it means to be “poor”, of what it means to “suffer”. We do not need to go to a Third World country or to the worst parts of town to find this presence of the Thirsting Jesus. She told us to remember that loneliness, sadness, ridicule and rejection are all expressions of emotional poverty and human suffering that everyone can encounter in daily life. We can respond to Jesus thirsting right where we are, among those with whom we live, work and socialize and quench his thirst by our patience, our mercy and our compassion. 

So, we might want to ask ourselves on this Good Friday afternoon: Do I hear Jesus thirsting deeply for my love? Do I respond to the distressing voice of Jesus crying out, “I thirst” in those around me? Do I want to live as a Casual Christian or as a Committed Christian? In other words, how can I best respond to the thirst of Jesus and show him, by my life and my actions, that I thirst for him, too?

Saturday, March 27, 2021

What Kind of Savior Do I Expect?


Homily for Palm Sunday, March 28, 2021. Gospel of St. Mark 14:1-15:47. Theme: What Kind of Savior Do I Expect? 

It’s always such a mysterious thing to me when I think about the Triumphant Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem on the first Palm Sunday. The crowd went from cheering and giving Him literally a King’s welcome, to screaming out bloody murder for his execution just a few days later on Good Friday. However, it seems to me that we can’t be too quick to judge or point fingers. After all, we have the advantage of knowing who Christ really was and we know how the whole story ends! 

So, let’s try and put ourselves in the shoes of that crowd in Jerusalem for a moment. For centuries, the Jewish people had passed on prophecies about the Messiah, the Christ, God’s Anointed One. They told and retold hopeful stories of how he would be a mighty Warrior, a national Hero, a powerful King. He was supposed to be their Rescuer and Liberator who would victoriously eject the cruel Roman oppressors from the Promised Land. That crowd of people looked forward to the day when the Christ would bring to Israel all that they been praying for and imagined. It was to be the best and happiest time of their lives as a nation, as God’s people. 

When they learned that Jesus of Nazareth, whom many had thought was the Christ, had been taken prisoner, beaten and tortured by the enemy, all their hopes for this Hero-King were trashed. Turns out He wasn’t their hoped-for Promised One after all. Or to put it better, turns out he was not the kind of Messiah, not the kind of Liberating Savior, that they had wanted, that they were expecting. You see, a huge part of the problem, a big blind spot in their spiritual vision, was that their idea of liberation and expectations for happiness was limited to worldly success and political nationalism. It wasn’t as far-reaching and all-encompassing as was God’s idea. 

For centuries, their leaders had been reading and interpreting the Scriptures about the Messiah in a way that they thought best. They were searching the Scriptures for what they wanted to see in them. They were praying to God for what they wanted to happen in their nation, rather than asking that his Kingdom come, whatever that might look like. It’s so very easy for us to judge and condemn the screaming crowd of Jerusalem. And yet…before we point that finger at them…we have to stop and examine our own attitudes towards Jesus and how he acts in our lives. We have to ask ourselves quite honestly if we also read and interpret Gods Word in our favor, seeing in it only what we want to see, and ignoring the things that we prefer not to hear. Do we mean it when we pray in the Our Father for God’s will to be done in our lives? 

Let’s each ask ourselves on this Palm Sunday: have I ever shaken a fist at God, so to speak, because he wasn’t acting like the kind of Savior I expected Him to be in my life? Have I grumbled about Him because he was not carrying out the plans I intended, the hopes I set my heart on? Do I trust him enough to be at peace in every circumstance, and especially those that are out of my control, knowing that he has me safely in the palm of his hand, in the recesses of his heart? 

As we celebrate Palm Sunday and proceed further into Holy Week, let’s pray for the grace to be faithful to Christ during these most special days of the entire year and, of course, for all our lives. 

Let’s thank Jesus for the most precious Gift of his Body and Blood in the Eucharist, which he gave us on that first Holy Thursday, and through which we remain united with him and with one another. 

Let’s venerate the holy and life-giving Cross of Jesus in our hearts, as well as in our liturgy on Good Friday with devotion and confidence, remembering that our beloved Brother and Lord has loved us to the end. 

And let’s ask the gloriously Risen Lord Jesus to bless us with a special Easter gift of trust in him, so that we might remain faithful no matter how things may seem and be open enough to his grace to allow God to just be God in our lives.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Grain of Wheat: New Life, New Heart


Homily for the 5th Sunday of Lent, March 21, 2021. OT: Jeremiah 31:31-34; Responsorial Psalm 51; Gospel John 12:20-33. Theme: The Grain of Wheat - New Life, New Heart 

Turning to God for healing and transformation in order to begin living a brand new life is the message we hear in today’s readings. Through the prophet Jeremiah God promises in the first reading to give us a new life and new heart. Our responsorial Psalm has us begging for this new life when it repeatedly puts on our lips the words, “create a clean heart in me O God…”. And in today’s Gospel, Jesus uses the dynamics of a grain of wheat to explain the transformative process of dying to self in order to live a new life. 

When the grain falls into the ground and is buried in the soil, it dies. It gives up its seed-form and begins the process of becoming something new, something that gives life to others. This process is hidden and hard to see at first, but eventually it will show itself. Just as a farmer trusts the process of planting and harvesting, so must we trust the process of dying to self in order to find the new life that Jesus holds out to us. 

For me this brings to mind the true story of Mary, a beautiful young Catholic girl who lived in Egypt. By the time of her teenage years, she had become a prostitute and we are told she became very rich but also very bored. Mary began to seek out the thrill of new challenges and she got an idea that was horrible – demonic even. She decided to go on one of the very popular pilgrimages to Jerusalem for Holy Week, not out of any religious devotion, but solely for the thrill of seducing the men on pilgrimage. And stories tell us that she was quite successful. 

And then one day her very own experience of being like the grain of wheat took place and here is how it happened…When the pilgrims were going to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher to venerate the empty Resurrection-tomb of Jesus, Mary joined them solely out of curiosity. Everyone was able to pass through the church doors…except for her. Oh, not that she didn’t try…but every time she DID try an invisible force prevented her entering. After several failed attempts, her eyes caught sight of a picture of the Blessed Mother hanging above the doorway. It seemed to come to life and spoke to her saying, “Repent of your sins. Ask forgiveness from my Son and change your ways. Then you shall enter.” 

Mary repented then and there over her wayward life and begged a priest who was walking by to hear her confession. Then, going back to the entrance of the shrine, she walked right through the doors without a problem and spent the entire day there in prayer and meditation.  She spent the rest of her life dying to selfishness and growing in a new way of thinking, a new way of living that sprang forth from her new heart and new life. She has been honored for centuries now as St. Mary of Egypt. And as a matter of fact, in some parts of the Catholic world, the 5th Sunday of Lent that we are observing today is dedicated to her honor because she is such an outstanding example of complete transformation in Christ.   

In today’s Gospel Jesus gives each one of us the same message that Mary was given:  to give up your ways of thinking and living that lead to spiritual death. We are each called to turn away from any attitude or behavior that is holding us back from living as authentic Christians. The change of heart and life that Jesus promises begins with the awareness that Christ truly loves me personally and passionately. That he loved me enough to die for me. This realization changes me from the inside out. It makes me want to respond to His love by living a life that is truly pleasing to Him in return. It frees me from my past - whatever that might have looked like - and allows me to embrace a new way of thinking, a new way of looking at life, a new way of living like St. Mary. 

This all becomes a possibility for us when we choose, once for all, to stop enthroning ourselves and our desires as #1 in life and begin to trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior. We will then begin to find power and freedom by the grace of God. As Christians, we always have this hope beyond hope that our dying to sin and selfishness will result in a new and transformed life, making us and all that we do something beautiful for God and others.

Ancient icon of the Blessed Mother which spoke to St. Mary

Saturday, March 13, 2021



Homily for the 4th Sunday of Lent, March 14, 2021. Readings: Ephesians 2:4-10, Gospel of St. John 3:14-21. Theme: Laetare! 

Today, we mark the midway point of Lent. It is “Laetare Sunday”, which is a Latin word that means “to praise”. The usual Lenten penitential color of purple gives way to pink, which is the color of joy, to remind us that today is a time for praise and rejoicing because we are quickly approaching the events of Good Friday through Easter Sunday. We are drawing closer to the celebration of the Pascal Mystery by which the human race has been rescued from the kingdom of darkness and freed from the bonds of sin. And so, we are moved to praise God who wipes the slate of our lives clean when we return to him with repentant hearts and who gives us the hope of a brand-new life, of genuine rehabilitation from sin through, with and in Jesus Christ! 

Now, some people find our Christian message of a brand-new life too good to be true. Maybe it’s because they have a hard time forgiving themselves for things they have done and believe the devil’s lie that they are beyond redemption. Or maybe it’s because they have never experienced the healing power of real forgiveness from others. But the reality and awesomeness of God’s forgiving and rehabilitating love reminds me of something astounding I learned when I was a college student. 

There was a priest at our university who had been appointed the official exorcist for the diocese. And he had quite a lot of experience in that ministry. He would always take a group of Catholics with him as a prayer-team during an exorcism and he had a non-negotiable requirement for those who agreed to be on this team. They had to make a thorough honest confession of their sins. He had a very interesting explanation for the non-negotiable condition. It seems that during an exorcism, the demon tries with all his might to get true believers out of the room because their prayers become part of the all-powerful intercession of Christ. And so, the evil spirit will often try to drive people out of the room by calling out their most private embarrassing sins! 

To encourage everyone to truly make good confession, he shared with us an experience from a prior exorcism. When the time came for the demon to try and accuse and scatter the team, he remained silent. No one had sins called out. No one had their most private and darker moments revealed for all the know. When the priest demanded that the demon tell him why this was no one was being outed, he got this defeated reply: “No one here has sinned! There is nothing I can accuse them of having done!”  

Surely among these college kids there were sins that could have been named and shamed. So, what was up? I think the best way to explain it is to use the words of Blessed Jean-Joseph Lataste, who started a religious order open to rehabilitated former prisoners, which was something totally revolutionary or his times. He used to always say, “God doesn’t look what we have been or done; he only cares about what we are today.” In other words, when God forgives, he also chooses to forget. 

You see, when we honestly and humbly confess to God with repentant hearts, and we chose to live our lives trusting in Jesus as Savior, our sins are not just forgiven, but completely annihilated. Totally obliterated. It’s as if they were never even committed in the first place. God grants us a totally clean slate, with yet another chance for a fresh new start. By God’s grace we receive such a true and complete rehabilitation from sin that even the memory of them is erased from the mind of God, so to speak. 

This is precisely what St. Paul says in today’s second reading when he beautifully describes the effects of the Paschal Mystery of Good Friday through Easter Sunday: God who is rich in mercy and because of his great love for us…brought us to life with Christ and raised us up with him… For by grace you have been saved through faith…and this is the gift of God.” St. John proclaims this same beautiful truth to us in today’s Gospel when he says, “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” In biblical language, “to believe” means to trust. Those who trust in Jesus as their Savior, living with confidence in his merciful love, receive this totally awesome and free gift of a brand-new life in God’s eyes. 

It seems to me that through today’s liturgy, God’s Word is calling us to be truly free of those things that still weigh us down in conscience and hold us back from enjoying real freedom in Christ. Let’s each ask ourselves: How long has it been since I have made a really good, honest and sincere confession? What better way to prepare for and receive the hope and promise of new life at Easter than by running to the loving embrace of God and receiving from him a fresh new start through the Sacrament of Reconciliation!

The Paschal Mystery means the....




and Ascension...

of Jesus Christ for our salvation!

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Thirsting for Love and Acceptance


NOTE: For the Third Sunday of Lent the Church gives us two options for the Liturgy of the Word.  One option is the Gospel of Jesus Cleansing the Temple. The other choice is the Gospel of the Samaritan Woman at the Well.  The following homily is for those who wish to reflect on the Gospel of the Samaritan Woman at the Well.

Homily for the Third Sunday of Lent. Gospel of St. John 4:5-42. Theme: Thirsting for Love & Acceptance 

In today’s gospel St. John as he takes us to Samaria, a place despised by the Jews as morally unclean and spiritually unworthy of God’s presence. And there we meet a woman who, because of her lifestyle, is considered to be unclean and unworthy even by her own townsfolk. So, we have in this woman an Outcast who is shunned by a people who are Outcasts. You cannot get much lower than that in the mind of the 1st century Jews who first heard this gospel. And that’s a theme that St. John wants us to keep in mind as this story unfolds.  

We are told that the woman is coming to Jacob’s well at noontime. This would strike the hearers of the story as extremely odd because they all knew that the women go to wells early in the morning or late in the evening so that they can escape the intense heat of the sun. There is only one reason why the woman would go at noon: to avoid her gossiping neighbors. She did not want to encounter yet again their condemning stares nor the screaming silence of their shunning. Again, we encounter the Outcast rejected by Outcasts. 

To round out our picture of this woman, St. John tells us that she was living with a man who was 5th in a string of lovers who had replaced her original husband. He lets us in on this aspect of her life so that we can understand that she is someone who desperately needs to be in a relationship, someone who thirsts for love and acceptance. Her need for belonging is so great that she is willing to compromise herself into living a lifestyle that she knows is morally wrong. And who can’t relate to that in one way or another? Our built-in human need for love and our yearning to be accepted for who we are, run so deep within us that it can even make us blind to what we are doing to others and to ourselves. 

Throughout this story what St. John is really saying to us is: this woman is YOU. This woman is each one of us for we all outcasts in one way or another, at least in our own minds. We all try to either numb or to fill up the deep void within us, thinking and hoping that the people or places or things that we cling to will make us feel loved and accepted. But these things, are like ordinary water that we drink and still become thirsty again. These distractions quench our desire for a temporary time, but cannot truly satisfy our innermost thirst. 

As the story moves on, St. John is hoping that we will connect the dots in our own lives and see that in Jesus we are about to meet the One who can satisfy our deepest longings for genuine live-giving love. In Jesus, we will find the one who provides fresh Living Water that bubbles up and never runs dry. And we do not have to work hard to attain this water, as the woman would have to do with her jar on a rope lowering it into a well! Jesus will give us this Living Water freely if we but trust in him as the Christ, like the Samaritan woman did, and turn to him as the One sent by God to heal us of sin from the inside out. All we have to do is come to Jesus, spend time with him in prayer, trust in him with hope and this Living Water, which is a symbol of the Holy Spirit’s love and grace, will be ours! 

What St. John is saying in all this, and what the Church wants us to take to heart from today’s liturgy is that we were created, we were built, with an innate desire to know and love God and to be known and loved by Him. Yet like this woman before she encountered Jesus, we spend so much of our time seeking this love and acceptance in so many ways apart from God. We most often unfairly expect this from other people – spouses, lovers, friends – none of whom can ever satisfy us completely because they are as thirsty, as empty, and as searching as we are! 

Like the Samaritan Woman, we must ignore the false voices around us and within us that say we are outcasts, that we are unworthy of love. Like the Samaritan Woman must spent one-to-one time with Jesus. We need to spend time alone with him in honest prayer from the heart. We need to ask him questions and listen in moments of silence to his voice within us. And when we come before Jesus in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament or when we receive him really and truly present in the Eucharist, let’s ask Him for the grace to be like the Samaritan Woman. Let’s ask Him to fill our empty jars with that never-ending spring of spiritual water so that we no longer needed to satisfy our thirst in the old ways as that we had been doing.

The Three R's: Rules, Religion, Relationships


NOTE: For the Third Sunday of Lent the Catholic Liturgy gives us two options for the Liturgy of the Word.  One is the Gospel of Jesus cleansing the Temple. The other is the Gospel of the Samaritan Woman at the Well.  The following homily is for those who wish to reflect upon the Gospel of the Cleansing of the Temple.

Catholic Homily for the 3rd Sunday of Lent, March 7, 2021. Gospel of St. John 2:13-25. Theme: The 3 R’s: Rules, Religion, Relationships 

Today’s Gospel has caused me to really reflect upon what we have all been going through for the past year in regards to the meaning and purpose of our church buildings. We see Jesus stand up very vigorously for the proper respect for - and use of - the temple of God in Jerusalem. But we also hear him talking about another temple, that of his body, which brings to mind the teaching of the New Testament that all of us Christians are temples of God, living stones who make up a living Church. It seems to me that we have been experiencing both of these forms of God’s temple these many past months. 

Jesus starts out by passionately teaching us, by both word and actions, that the temple made of stone and mortar is a holy place, a house of prayer, a point of conscious contact with God. The history of the Jewish people and the experiences of us today clearly point out that a sacred building is not strictly necessary for the worship of God. But this does not mean that a physical sacred space is optional. If it was, Jesus would have had a very different attitude towards the Jerusalem temple. He could have used the occasion we witness in today’s Gospel as an opportunity to teach the people to worship God as they saw fit, in wherever way or place they might find most meaningful to them. But he doesn’t do that. Instead, he is filled with righteous anger that the House of God has become a means of robbing the people of their spiritual birthright and that the people’s devotion expressed in temple worship was being abused by those in leadership positions. 

We have seen and experienced a similar dynamic in our own lives with the coronavirus driven restrictions placed upon us by both church and civil leaders. Using highly questionable reasons and scientifically-debatable data, they chose to instill fear in us, disrupt our usual religious observances and closed our churches. At times, even people who came in good and simple faith to pray before the Presence of the Lord in the holiness of his house were often chased away or treated in an unwelcome manner. And then when we chose to gather as the living stones of a living Church to worship at the Eucharist outdoors, these same church and civic leaders enacted burdensome and at times even conflicting rules, placing before us various hoops to jump through if we wanted to participate in public worship. 

And yet, the Jewish people in their simple faith, and knowing that they were being mistreated, still came to the temple because their focus was on the Lord their God and not on his ministers and leaders. Their hearts were hearts open to worship and their outward devotion was expressed to the best of their abilities. And so today, like them, we still come to stand or kneel outdoors with our hearts focused on Christ present among us, in both the reality of the Holy Eucharist and in the assembly of his Living Stones. No one and nothing, not even bad weather, can stop us from gathering because we too, like our Jewish ancestors in faith, have hearts that burn to worship the Lord our God and our devotion, like theirs, is carried out to the best of our abilities. 

So, what might the Lord be telling us today in this Gospel of the Temple? I can think of two things that come immediately to mind. First, the rules and regulations of our church and civic leadership have been turned by God to our good, because they have served to show us how much we truly value, honor and desire to worship in the sacred space that is our parish church. Second, the words and actions of Jesus in cleansing the temple teach us that an over-emphasis on rules is a danger that tempts those in authority, even in church leadership, to abuse their power and over-exaggerate the scope of their position. But Christianity rejects these things and teaches a religion that is first of all rooted in relationships, not in focusing on rules and regulations. 

Religion as relationship opens wide the door of our hearts to God. Religion as relationship opens wide the doors of God’s heart to us. Religion as relationship does not see authority as something to be used to manipulate and control others, but sees leadership as humble service to the needs of God’s people. Religion as relationship treats the stone-and-mortar temple of God as a House of Prayer, but it venerates with profound respect the Presence of the Living God dwelling within the Living Stones that are his people, whom he cherishes with all his heart.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

If God is For Us, Who Can Be Against Us?


Catholic Homily for the Second Sunday of Lent, Feb. 28, 2021. Readings: Genesis 22:1-18; Romans 8:31-34; Gospel of St. Mark 9:2-10. Theme: If God is For Us, Who Can Be Against Us? 

In today’s second reading, St. Paul gives us a powerful message that we would do well to never memorize:” If God is for us, who can be against us?” But to make this bold statement a motto to live by requires confident trust, which I am sure you will agree, is somewhat of a challenge for most of us. We see this kind if trust dramatically acted out in the first reading about Abraham and his son, Isaac. Right up to the end, the elderly father is confident in God, that he will provide a way out of the sacrifice-situation. And we see a lesson in trust again in the gospel. Soon after Jesus foretells to his disciples his impending arrest and death, he clearly reveals his glorious divine identity to them so that when his Passion does come, they can recall just who he really is and keep trusting in him. 

So, it seems to me that God is calling us through today’s readings to trust in him as a Father who always has our best interests at heart, even if we can’t see it that way at the time. And that’s not easy for most of us to do! But you know, whenever I think of this, I can’t help but recall the many summers I spent with my kids at the swimming pool. There was always that first time - when each one was barely out of diapers - when they would be standing at the edge of the pool just dying to jump in but too scared to actually take the plunge! And there I would be in the water, my arms outstretched and saying to them, “Come on, jump! Daddy’s going to be right here and catch you. Just look at me and not the water and jump! It’s going to be fine!” 

I think this is very much what St. Paul is trying to tell us as well. He’s emphatically trying to assure us that trust in God is the best choice for us, and that it makes a lot of sense based on our past experience of his love. He’s trying to boost our confidence by reminding us that it was God, after all, who sent Christ into the world as our Savior. So, it’s foolish to think that he cares little about us. And he reminds us that it was Christ himself who not only lived for us but also died for us and who never stops praying for us before the Father in Heaven. So, why in the world would we not put our trust in him? What more can he do to show us his undying love and protection? It’s kind of like St. Paul saying, “Come on, take the plunge and trust in God your Father! Jesus is right at his side ready to catch you. Just keep your eyes fixed on them and not on the troubles in life. It’s going to be fine!” 

But as we all know, it’s a very hard thing for us to trust because so often our relationship with God, if we realize it or not, is based more on us being in control. We can’t seem to let go of our need to direct the events of our lives and just let God be God. And even when we think we are praying to God, sometimes we are actually trying to broker a deal with him. Thinking that we can sway his mind or dictate the trajectory of events we might be tempted to say something like: “if I do such-and-such a thing for you, then you do this-or-that for me.” 

However, Christianity does not see God this way at all! We who are baptized into Christ see and experience God as our Father, who knows our needs and is waiting for us to just ask and trust. Jesus devoted so much of his preaching and teaching to this truth, trying to get it into our heads! One time, to prove this point, Jesus took a child into his arms as said that unless we become like little children we cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven. He was not calling us to be childish, but childlike. He made little children our role models of trust because that’s a child’s default way of living. They are typically rather oblivious to the threats that are around them and simply enjoy life within the safety and security of their parents’ love for them. That’s precisely how God wants us to be in our relationship with him. 

We need to take the advice we heard from God the Father in today’s gospel and listen to Jesus! Listen to what he is trying so hard to convey to us by both word and example And actually, that brings me back to the memory of being with my kids at the pool. When they stopped listening to their fears and focused on listening to me, and took that first plunge into the water, they experienced that it was safe and learned to trust me. In much the same way, once we stop listening to our fears - whatever they might be - and listen to Jesus the Beloved Son, and actually start jumping with trust into the arms of God, then we’ll start to experience for ourselves the truth of those consoling words we heard from St. Paul: “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Hope Beyond all Hope


Catholic Homily for the First Sunday pf Lent, February 21, 2021. Readings: Genesis 9:8-15, 2 Peter 3:18-22, Gospel of St. Mark 1:12-15. Theme: Hope Beyond All Hope 
All three of today’s readings carry the hopeful theme of receiving a second chance, making a fresh start, turning our lives around. We heard the Old Testament story of Noah and his family escaping the Great Flood and receiving a second chance at life on planet Earth. Then in the second reading from St. Peter we are told that baptism connects us with Christ’s death and resurrection, and like the wood of Noah’s Ark, the wood of the cross gives us a second chance at living right with God. Lastly, Jesus proclaims the time of fulfilment, meaning he is going to open the gates to the Kingdom of God for all who repent and believe in the gospel. 

“Repenting” means turning our lives around and “believing in the gospel” means trusting in Christ as the one and only Savior, who can make us brand new persons from the inside out. This sounds almost do good to be true for a lot of people, especially to those who think that what they have done in the past cannot be repaired and what they have made out of their lives is beyond redemption. But in the second reading St. Peter assures us that anyone who truly turns to Christ can claim a clear conscience and live a new life. This hope-filled truth of Scripture was the inspiration behind the unbelievable story of the Dominican Sisters of Bethany. They are living proof that repenting and believing in the gospel is a sure way to a fresh start, a second chance, a turning around of one’s life. 

In 1864, a young Dominican priest named Fr. Lataste was send to give a series of religious talks in a notorious women’s prison in France. He accepted this assignment admitting that he shared in the social attitude and prejudices towards these female prisoners, and thinking it was a useless endeavor to preach a retreat to over 400 inmates who had been prostitutes, drug addicts, thieves and murderers. But something came over him soon after he stepped past the gates and began to really look at the women in their poverty and reality. The words of Christ began to ring in the ears of his heart and echo in his mind, “Now is the time…now if the fulfilment...repent…believe….I have come to heal the sick, to restore the sinners…” 

As the retreat moved on Fr. Lataste found himself deeply moved with compassion and mercy, calling the inmates his sisters. He told them that the moment they freely chose to claim a clean conscience trough confession and then embrace the grace of their baptism with a new spirit, their lives, even as prisoners, would assume a new value. He concluded his several days of retreat with these words, “Whatever may have been your past, do not any longer consider yourselves inmates. You can choose to be people consecrated to God just like the Sisters are...” He assured them that they could turn their lives over to the service and praise God even in prison, just as much as nuns do in the seclusion of their monasteries, because what God looks at is the love and sincerity of the heart, not our external surroundings. 

The retreat which Fr. Lataste had originally deemed as useless and a waste of time had an extraordinary success. The inmates, until then rejected and despised, had suddenly discovered how precious they were in the eyes of God, rehabilitated by his tender mercy. As a result, several women, who were due to be soon released from the prison, made plans to visit with him once they were paroled. Little did Fr. Lataste know that God’s finger was upon this meeting and that these former prisoners were the beginning of what would grow to become a worldwide religious community called the Dominican Sisters of Bethany. 

To give them a real chance for a totally fresh start, Fr. Lataste made a rule that the Sisters were to include in their ranks both women who had been in prison and those who were untouched by crime and came from good backgrounds. This would allow those “with a past” to truly blend in and leave the details of their former lives behind them. If you go today to a monastery of these Sisters, you’ll have no clue as to who is who. Last names are not used in Bethany nor is one’s past ever discussed. Everything about their community life is structured to assure privacy and support fresh starts, remembering that Fr. Lataste had said, “God does not ask us what we have been; he look only at what we are today.” 

In every convent of the Dominicans of Bethany there are a few Sisters who go out to local women’s prisons carrying the same message of hope that they heard and embraced. They also minister to those who are in other types of prisons besides those made of brick and mortar. These are the prisons of addiction, of attachment to a life of hedonism and greed, of a destructive existence that seems to spiral into hopelessness. By the witness of their own lives, the Bethanies assure us that anyone and everyone can have a clean conscience through Christ. In Christ, anyone and everyone can find hope beyond all hope by simply responding to the words of Jesus we heard today, “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

Two Bethany Sisters with a photo of Fr. LaTaste and Sister Henri-Dominique, the first member.

Prayer to Jesus by Blessed Jean Joseph Lataste

Oh my Jesus, I want to love you.  Give yourself to me and grant that I may give myself to you.  Make me one with you.  May my will be yours.  Unite me to you, so that I may live only in and for you.  Grant that I may spend for you, all that I received from you, keeping nothing for myself.  May I die to self for you and bring others to you.  Oh my Jesus, may i bring many others.  Amen

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Fresh Starts & Second Chances


Homily for Ash Wednesday, February 17, 2021. Book of the Prophet Joel 2:12-13. Theme: Fresh Starts & Second Chances 

Of all the seasons of the Church Year, Lent is the most striking and the most ancient. And of all the special days of the Church Year, Ash Wednesday seems to make the biggest impression upon us and, in pre-COVID times, typically draws the largest number of people. Why is that? I think it’s because Lent, and Ash Wednesday which kicks off the season, is all about second chances and making a fresh start. And who among us doesn’t want, doesn’t need, a second chance and a fresh start? 

I think the verses we hear upon receiving the blessed ashes are an inspiration for making this fresh start. The first is, “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.” This verse is from Genesis 3:19 and repeats the words which God spoke to Adan and Eve after their decision to commit the first human sin. It reminds us that death is a consequence of sin, of our choice to live life on our own terms instead of according to God’s plan. And so, this short verse summons us to never forget that life on planet Earth is just the first stage of our eternal existence. Where we are going to spend this eternity is up to each one of us and Lent allows us to reorganize our priorities with this in mind. Ash Wednesday, then, is meant to be the kick-off to a new reformed lifestyle. 

The second verse goes like this, “Repent and believe in the gospel.” It is a direct quote from Jesus Christ and formed the heart of his preaching. We will hear this verse in the gospel that will be read this coming weekend on the First Sunday of Lent. Let’s take a quick look at the three key words of this proclamation because they set the tone for our fresh start, for our second chance at living a new life: repent, believe, and gospel. 

“Repent” means to have an about face in life; to make a 180 degree turn in our attitudes and behavior. It includes sorrow over our sins and selfishness but goes beyond sorrow, resulting in a genuine commitment to make a concrete change in how we think, how we speak and how we act. 

“Believe” means to trust. Whenever you encounter the words faith or believe in the Bible you can substitute them with the word “trust”. So, where do we place this trust? Well, the last part of the verse tells us where: in the Gospel.

"Gospel", as I am sure you have heard many times. means “good news”.  And the good news is this: that Jesus, in dying for us destroyed the power of sin to control us and our destiny. And that by his rising from the grave, he has conquered the finality of death, opening up to us who trust in him the pathway to eternal life. 

 So, there we have our foundations for a fresh start, for a second chance, no matter how we have been living up to now. The prophet Joel calls this a time of returning to God with your whole heart because he is rich in mercy. The Liturgy of Ash Wednesday, with its distribution of blessed ashes calls this day to be this a time to make a change, to reset our spiritual GPS, and plug into it our eternal destination as Heaven.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Be Cleansed of the Leprosy of Fear


Homily for the 6th Sunday of Ordinary Time, February 14, 2021. Gospel of St. Mark 1:40-45. Theme: Be Cleansed of the Leprosy of Fear 

In today’s Gospel, Jesus heals a leper, enabling him to return to normal life in society. As you probably know by now, leprosy was the most feared of communicable diseases. For the leper, this meant a life cut off from community, an existence of isolation from those who were healthy, and the constant humiliation of having to publicly self-identify as a leper. For the healthy, it meant alienation from loved ones and the need to consciously and bravely reject the attitude of fear and hatred that many directed at the lepers. 

You know, when you think about it, we have some of those same dynamics today in our virus-infected and politically-charged world. People are shunned by the healthy, not because they are COVID-positive, but simply because they might be! Some are ridiculed and feared because of their political positions, cancelled from social life like the lepers of old. Obsessive fear, such as the people had of leprosy back in the day seems to be alive and present today, making its way through the population like a deadly emotional virus. It causes people to turn in on themselves, to isolate and become suspicious of others. And this fear, like that which once surrounded leprosy, if left unchecked, can even grow into hatred. 

But it doesn’t have to be this way! We have much hope for change because Jesus came to heal the inside even more than the outside. His words and touch healed the leper offering him so much more than simply physical wholeness. The man was liberated to return to community, released from social isolation and set free to no longer identify himself in terms of his illness. And I think that like this leper, we need to throw ourselves at the feet of Jesus and beg him to set us free from our own self-imposed alienation and fears. 

This is the way of humble and honest surrender to God in trust. It’s not easy but it is effective. It begins by owning up to our fear, naming it for the false threat that it really is, and then learning to intentionally hand this fear over to God, step by step, bit by bit, throughout one’s day. It’s a surrender that is made to God in faith, confident that He watches over us and loves us and wants us to be happy from the inside out. You see, the infectious virus of fear can only grow within us when we begin to think and act as if we are in control of our lives.  And so, to consciously turn ourselves over the care of God is the perfect response, the best medicine, the most effective vaccine against this emotional infection. 

And we can make this surrender of ourselves with confidence, because we see over and over again in the gospels, how Jesus is deeply moved by compassion to reach out and touch us in our need. Whether it’s a father begging for his daughter’s life, a widow who has lost her only son, a man tormented by evil spirits, the blind asking for sight or, as in today’s gospel, a leper asking to be made clean, Jesus feels what they are feeling and is moved to the depth of his heart. He’s not moved because he is the all-knowing powerful God, but because he is 100% human in all tihngs but sin. So, he knows what it’s like to be afraid. He knows what it’s like to be rejected. He knows that it means to worry about those we love. And yet he assures us that we have no need to be anxious, fearful and paralyzed emotionally. 

Through the Gospel and the Eucharist, Jesus offers each one of us personally, this inner healing of the mind and soul. Through his word and his touch today, he can banish fear and replace it with trust in him as the healing remedy to worry, anxiety, and panic. He is moved with as much love and compassion for each one of us as it had for the leper. The Heart of Christ overflows with tenderness towards all who are ruled by fear because he knows the disturbing effects it has on our peace of mind and quality of life. And he wants us to be free of such deep dark oppression so that we can leave our isolation and return to community with the same rejuvenated and joyous heart as the former-leper in today’s Gospel, who went off and told everyone about the amazing Man who had set him free!

Saturday, February 6, 2021

We're All Fixer-Uppers


Homily for the 5th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Feb. 7, 2021. Gospel of St. Mark 1:29-39. Theme: We’re All Fixer-Uppers 

I have to confess that I am an ardent Home and Garden TV viewer. I especially like the fixer-upper shows and it amazes me how someone can look beyond the mess and destruction of a run-down house and see its possibilities. I enjoy watching the various stages of renovation – demolition day, re-wiring, reinforcing weak spots in the structure to make them sound and solid again…and by the end you see what is basically the same building, but totally renewed and restored to what it was originally meant to be. 

And it seems to me that this is a good way to understand the mission of Jesus, because we’re all fixer-uppers. We may not all be in the same dilapidated condition but we all need saving and restoring. Some of us might be like rundown shacks that need to be completely rebuilt due to having been so terribly mistreated and neglected. Others might have a decent foundation and simply need some refurbishing and a good heavy polish to make them shine. But all of us, without exception, need some kind of work to be done so that we can be made new from the inside out. Jesus can look beyond the mess and even destruction we may have made in our lives and see the possibilities. He has a burning desire to restore us to what we were always meant to be: the holy and happy sons and daughters of God. That’s why he came into our world as one of us: to heal what is sick, to drive out what is evil, and to fix what is broken. That’s what our Gospel today is all about. That’s why we call it Good News! 

So, I suppose the big question would be: How can we cooperate with Jesus the Master Carpenter in this task of repairing and restoring us? It seems to me that like any fixer-upper job we need two fundamental things: a plan or blueprint to follow, and the right tools to get the job done. And the good news is that Jesus provides both of these for us. We find the blueprint of what kind of person we are supposed to be in the example of Jesus himself. His words, his attitude, his actions, his relationships…these have all been recorded for us in the Gospels to show us what it means to live as a happy and holy human being. This is why frequent and thoughtful reading of the gospels is so vital for us. We simply cannot get to know Jesus or absorb his attitude and behavior if we do not get to really know about him. We can also find this blueprint in the letters of St. Paul in the New Testament which explain and apply Christ-like living to our everyday situations. They should also be part of our regular reading and reflection. 

But head knowledge is not enough to bring about a change in us. No matter how many times a contractor looks at a blueprint, the house is going to remain in its sorry state until he gets going and starts the actual work of making the blueprint become a reality. The same is true for us. We need to allow Jesus, the Master Carpenter from Nazareth, to get on with the work of rebuilding us. We have to get out of his way by letting go of self-sufficiency and stubbornly clinging to our usual ways of thinking and acting. The saints tell us that the spiritual tools we need to use to get out of Christ’s way and allow him to transform us are Confession, the Word of God, and the Holy Eucharist. 

Each time we go to Confession it’s kind of like demolition day. We haul away the sinful junk and spiritual debris that have accumulated within us and that needs to be removed before the work of renewal can begin. But our occasional Confession has to be made real in our daily lives through a spirit of on-going repentance and conversion as we intentionally strive, with the help of God’s grace, to live in a more Christ-like manner one day at a time. 

The necessary re-wiring within us takes place gradually and carefully each time we read and reflect upon the Gospels, applying the words and example of Jesus in our daily lives. The Word of God has real supernatural power to enlighten us and bring us to this daily conversion. By our frequent and consistent encounter with Christ in the Gospels, our understanding and living of Christianity will become more genuine, and our discipleship more authentic. 

And then, these two spiritual tools, along with our receiving of the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist, will begin to repair the weak spots in our relationship with God and our neighbor, making them more sound and solid. With each Holy Communion, Christ continues the work of rebuilding us and the more we open our hearts to the power of his presence, the more surely will we begin to take on a new way of thinking, a new way of looking at life, a new way of loving that shows we are being restored and renewed. 

If we spend this Lent, which will soon be upon us, seriously putting these tools of the spiritual trade to good use, then when Easter comes around we just night be in for a pleasant surprise. We just might be able to see that, what resembles the same old fixer-upper has been refurbished, renewed and restored to what it was originally meant to be: a Temple of God beautifully reflecting his holiness and glory.