St. Dorothy Catholic Community Orlando/Winter Park, Florida
Fr. Jim's Corner will consist of pictures, homilies and thoughts from Fr. James F. Profirio-Bond, OFJ, B.S.Ed, M.Ed, C.A.G.S., Associate Pastor in Team Ministry at St. Dorothy's. He was ordained to the transitional deaconate on January 23, 2010, by Most. Rev. Lionel J. White, OSB in Ft. Lauderdale, FL and ordained to the Priesthood on January 15, 2011 in Winter Park. Fr. Jim has been involed in Church life since the age of 7 as an altar boy; in 1969 he started his ministry as Director of Music & Liturgy for several parishes in New England,. He has conducted many choirs, bands and orchestras in the liturgical setting. He has also been Principal of several Catholic and public Schools across the country and was the founding Principal of Ave Maria Catholic School in Parker, Colorado. He was professed as a Third Order Franciscan in 1969 at St. Anthony's Shrine in Boston, MA. He began his journey to Priesthood in 1972 studying at St. John Seminary.
Wisdom 2:12, 17-20
Psalm 54:3-4, 5, 6-8
James 3:16 - 4:3
25th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Sep 23, 2018
One of the many surprising things about the New Testament is its honesty. In today's Gospel passage, for example, the Twelve Apostles, Christ's closest companions, make a very poor showing. They have been traveling with the Lord along the dusty streets of Galilee. He has been explaining to them that he will soon be arrested, unjustly condemned, mocked, and crucified.
But after the explanation, the apostles start talking among themselves about his Kingdom as if he were going to lead a successful political rebellion against the occupying Roman regime. They actually argue about who's going to get which positions - who will be prime minister, who will be secretary of the treasury, who will be defense minister...
This tells us clearly that the apostles didn't understand the real nature of Christ's Kingdom. Christ's Kingdom is not a political, military reality. When we pray "Thy Kingdom Come!" we are not praying for political victories. Christ's Kingdom is a spiritual reality, the reign of God's will in the hearts of his followers. This is why Christ's sacrifice on the cross is not a terrible failure, but an eternal triumph.
When we let God's will reign in our hearts, it always involves self-denial; it always involves saying not just "Thy Kingdom Come!" but also "Thy will be done - Thy will, not my will." The clash between God's eternal wisdom, the source of his will, and the selfish preferences of our fallen human nature is what's behind the cross. Jesus endured the full pain of that clash without caving in, winning our redemption. Until the very end, in spite of the painful and humiliating opposition of this fallen world, he chose the Father's will over the natural preferences of his human mind and body. Christ's Kingdom entails the interior victory of God's love over self-love, not the exterior victory of military or political conquest.
The old saying that you can't judge a book by its cover applies to this truth of our faith. Too often we look down on people, either consciously or subconsciously, because they don't win sports championships, beauty contests, or academic decathlons. But those are just measurements of natural talent, not of spiritual maturity.
It is foolish to value a natural talent, which someone was born with through no choice of their own, more than a person's interior character, which is the result of their own choices in life. Spiritual wisdom, goodness, and the virtue that leads to true, deep, everlasting happiness exists on an entirely different level than superficial recognition and awards. It's a deeper reality, harder to see, but we can see it, if we look at life from God's perspective.
There is a story about an auctioneer who was trying to auction off a shabby old violin. A young man offered ten dollars, and the bidding stopped. The auctioneer asked if anyone wanted to try and play it. Then an old man, who also looked shabby, stepped up onto the platform, took the violin, raised it to his chin, and began to play. He drew from the old instrument such an exquisite melody and sound that the entire auction hall was moved almost to tears. As the beautiful strains died down, a few seconds of utter silence followed, and then a burst of thunderous applause erupted from the entire crowd.
The bidding began again and climbed all the way up to three thousand dollars. The master's touch brought out the value of that shabby violin, value which no one else could see.
In the same way, God's grace, when we allow it to play freely in our lives, brings out our true value, the value we have always had in God's eyes, even though no one else may be able to see it. Christ's Kingdom is spiritual, not political; it is mainly interior, not exterior. This helps us understand two phrases from the Our Father: "thy Kingdom come" and "thy will be done," which are actually two separate ways of saying the same thing. When we ask for Christ's Kingdom to come, we are asking for God to let his law of love and redemption rule over our lives and the lives of all people. This phrase also makes us think of Christ's second coming, which will happen at the very end of human history, when all opposition to God's law of love and redemption will be forever banished.
Right now, however, we still experience this opposition, from our own selfish tendencies, from the seductive, unchristian tendencies of the world around us, and from the devil.
When we pray "thy Kingdom come," we are asking God to send his grace so that we can resist and overcome that opposition. Now, when we speak of God's "law of love and redemption," we are actually speaking about what God wants. We know that he wants only what is best for each one of us - this is his fundamental desire for us. That desire, rooted in God's infinite love and wisdom, is what we mean by "God's will": his desire for our salvation and lasting happiness. This desire is the motive behind the Commandments, the teachings of the Church, and the guiding hand of divine Providence.
So, when we pray "thy will be done," we are expressing our desire to cooperate with God's plan of salvation, to let him rule our lives. "Thy will be done," therefore, means the same thing, in essence, as "thy Kingdom come." In this Mass, Jesus wants to give us the grace we need to say this prayer not only with our lips, but with our hearts, minds, and choices.
Let's give him the chance to make that happen.
Wisdom 2:12, 17-20
Psalm 54:3-4, 5, 6-8
James 3:16 - 4:3
Psalm 19:8, 10, 12-13, 14
Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48
26th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Every once in a while it is a good thing for us to take time to reflect on topics that make us uncomfortable. Today the Church is inviting us to do just that. Throughout the Readings, today's liturgy emphasizes one simple truth of our Catholic faith: sin matters.
In today's First Reading, St James graphically explains that if someone spends their earthly life exploiting and using other people, lying and cheating and hoarding wealth, they may enjoy the fruits of their crimes for a little while, but they can't escape justice for ever. He writes that they will "weep and wail over their miseries."
Jesus is just as clear.
He explains that un-repented sin has consequences; it leads to damnation, to hell, which was commonly called "Gehenna." The word originally referred to a valley on the outskirts of Jerusalem that had been used for human sacrifice during royal apostasies in Old Testament times. By the time of Christ, the valley had come to be used as a kind of outdoor public incinerator. Worthless and rotten trash and refuse, including the dead bodies of animals and criminals, were dumped into the valley and gradually consumed by a smoldering fire that was always kept burning. Thus, Gehenna became a symbol of the state of eternal separation of a soul from God, and the unending spiritual destruction and frustration that goes with such a separation. According to Jesus, that's what un-repented sin leads us to.
These comments of St James and Jesus are not meant to scare us into feeling guilty - it's not some psychological manipulation technique. Rather, they are simply informing us about the facts: sin, willfully turning away from God and his moral law, has consequences, and they are not good, and we should strive to avoid them. When we think about our own sins, we have a tendency to play down how horrible they really are. But every sin is destructive; it is a rebellion against God, our Creator and Redeemer. And we should be grateful that the Church is courageous enough to remind us of that, so that we don't ever get comfortable in our sins.
Pope John Paul II had a run-in with the Italian Mafia about this. In 1982 he visited Sicily and condemned the Mafia's activity in a highly publicized speech. This gave courage to priests and lay people in southern Italy, who renewed efforts to defend the common good.
In 1993 he again traveled to Sicily, and again explicitly denounced the Mafia in a speech delivered in the city of Agrigento. The illegal and immoral activities of organized crime were like a social disease in Sicily, and the Pope spoke out against them, much as St James speaks against social sins in today's Second Reading.
Two months later, car bombs exploded outside two churches in Rome, one of which was the pope's Cathedral, St John Lateran. Later investigations traced these bombs back the Mafia. Two months after that, an anti-Mafia priest in Sicily was murdered on his doorstep, shot in the back of the neck.
A year later in November 1994, John Paul II made another trip to Sicily. And in spite of the obvious danger, he once again spoke out against the injustices of violence and corruption. "Those who are responsible for violence and arrogance stained by human blood will have to answer before the justice of God," he said. "Today, there is a strong yearning in Sicily to be redeemed and liberated, especially from the power of the Mafia."
Sin matters; it is destructive of its victims, and it is destructive of its perpetrators, and we should be grateful that, through the teachings of the Church, the Holy Spirit continues to remind us of this, even when it's not popular.
Sin matters; that's why Jesus tells us to gouge out our eye or cut off our hand if it's causing us to sin. But, did he mean that literally? Of course not. Eyes and hands don't cause sin; they can't. Sin is always a decision of the heart to prefer one's own will against God's will. Sin is a rebellion against God, in little things or in big things, that is caused not by our body or our senses, but by something deeper. When we give in to temptation and sin, it always indicates that we are so attached to some good and valued thing, symbolized by the hand and the eye, two of the most valued parts of our bodies, that we prefer it to something much better: namely, friendship and communion with God. In the moment of sin, we allow the temporary benefit that seems to come from the sin to seduce us, to lead us away from the everlasting benefit of friendship with Jesus Christ.
So, for example, a certain relationship provides us with comfort or pleasure, even though it leads us to violate the commandments. Or we treasure our reputation or popularity so much that we compromise our Christian values in order to protect or advance it. To give up these attachments in order to protect and develop our friendship with Christ hurts - as if we were cutting off a hand or gouging out an eye.
But our Lord teaches us that that pain is nothing compared with the sorrow of cutting ourselves off forever from God's love.
Today, as Jesus renews his commitment to us in this Mass, let's ask him to show us what we need to cut off in order to follow him more closely - after all, the closer we are to Jesus Christ, the better, for us and for everyone around us.
Blessing of Animals - Readings
Psalm 128:1-2, 3, 4-5, 6
Mark 10:2-16 or Mark 10:2-12
27th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Oct 7, 2018
Two thousand years ago, before the first Christmas, most religions were designed to keep the gods at a safe distance. In those times, pagan religions conceived of the gods as powerful, unpredictable, and dangerous. Your best bet was to lay low and hope the gods didn't notice you, because if they did, they would invariably cause trouble. But when Jesus Christ came to earth, he revealed to us the truth about God.
And the truth is that God is not some kind of divine ogre; the truth is that God is on our side. He is our Parent. He created us, redeemed us, and is lovingly interested in everything we do. Today's Second Reading reminds us of the undeniable proof that this is the case: the incarnation, passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. God himself, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, chose to become man in the womb of the Virgin Mary. He chose to become our brother and to share in the sufferings that we all experience in this fallen world. He chose to walk by our sides.
Look for examples at the conversation he has with the Pharisees in today’s Gospel passage. He patiently discusses with them a point of theology. He lowers himself to their level, trying to get them to understand God’s plan for their lives, for marriage, for the family. What humility! What goodness he shows in giving those hypocrites so much attention!
Jesus doesn’t come into our world to make our lives miserable, to cause us trouble, to condemn us. He comes to save us, to offer us his friendship, a friendship that will give us hope, wisdom, mercy, joy, and the key to everlasting life. That's the kind of God we have gathered today to worship; that's the kind of Lord we follow.
This burning desire of our Lord to walk by our sides, to be involved in our lives, is something that is reflected especially well in the lives of the saints.
One especially eloquent example is found in the life of St Vicenta Lopez. St Vicenta lived in the 1800s, in Spain. As an only child of noble parents, she was given a good education.
Later in life, St Vicenta founded a religious order dedicated to caring for poor girls – providing them with a stable and safe place to live, and giving them enough education so that they would be able to find decent employment. It was an urgent apostolate for nineteenth century Spain.
At the time, the industrial revolution was wreaking havoc on the traditional farming economy, and destitute peasant girls, dirt poor, neglected, and vulnerable, were streaming into the cities looking for work. Many of them took up lodging wherever they could, and often fell in with bad company, becoming prostitutes.
But the fact that St Vicenta founded a religious order to care for them isn’t the most remarkable thing about her story. The truly remarkable aspect is when she started this kind of work. She was seven years old and her family went to visit an Aunt in Madrid. That Aunt had started a care center for these poor girls, called the Casita.
As soon as Vicenta saw the girls, most of whom were older than her, she began helping her Aunt befriend and take care of them. And by the time she was ten, she was working in the Casita almost full time. St Vicenta was a shining mirror, even as a child, of God’s burning desire to walk at our sides, to share our lives, to be our companions through life’s difficult journey.
God wants to walk at our sides, to be close to us as we journey through life, guiding, inspiring, teaching, and strengthening us. He wants to be a kind of personal trainer for each one of us, leading us towards spiritual health and maturity.
This is what God wants to be for us, but how can we allow it to happen?
It is true that we do not have Jesus with us in the same way that Mary and the Apostles did – we can't hear his footsteps beside us as we walk down the street. But in his goodness and wisdom, he has found a way to continue to abide with us: he lives in our midst, in our neighborhoods, on our streets, through the Eucharist.
At every Mass, Christ becomes truly present in the Host: body, blood, soul, and divinity. When we receive Holy Communion, we really are receiving a transfusion of God's own life into our weak and wounded souls. And then he continues to stay with us.
We reserve the consecrated hosts in the Tabernacle precisely because Jesus wants to stay with us, to stay at our sides, so that at any time we can come here and sit with him. He is here for us, to be our light and our life, as the sanctuary lamp reminds us or as I call it Jesus’ front porch light.
If we stay close to the Eucharist, through frequent communion and periodic visits to the Eucharist, we will give him the chance he needs to walk by our sides and fill us with his courage, wisdom, and peace. As he renews his commitment to us during this Mass, let's thank him for the great gift of the Eucharist, and let's promise that this week, starting today, we will use it well.
Psalm 90:12-13, 14-15, 16-17
Mark 10:17-30 or Mark 10:17-27
28th Sunday in OT - October 14, 2018
When we say that someone is "wealthy or loaded," what are we really saying? Wealth implies abundance. But there are different kinds of abundance, different kinds of wealth. This rich young man who wanted to follow Jesus had an abundance of material goods. That's what we normally think about when we use the term "wealth."
But Jesus is telling us in today's Gospel that material wealth can often be an obstacle to a more important type of wealth, a more satisfying type of abundance. The rich young man had many possessions, but he didn't have "eternal life"; he didn't have the deep sense of meaning, purpose, and interior peace that he longed for. There was something essential, something in his heart, that material wealth couldn't satisfy. And so he came to Jesus, the miracle-worker, the rabbi everyone was talking about, to find what was missing.
And Jesus tells him.
First, he reminds the young man of the importance of moral wealth by reviewing the basic commandments. To be truly fulfilled as human beings, we must fill our souls with virtue, with an abundance of repeated choices that reflect moral integrity, not moral decadence. This is the necessary foundation for the next and most important kind of wealth: spiritual wealth. Jesus points the young man towards spiritual wealth by inviting him to "Come, follow me."
Friendship with Jesus Christ is the "treasure" in heaven, the spiritual wealth that alone will satisfy our deepest yearnings for happiness, the abundance of wisdom that today's First Reading speaks so eloquently about. But that friendship requires humility and obedience, because Jesus Christ is more than a buddy; he is not just Joe the Plumber: he is God. We must be willing to trust him, obey him, follow him, even if it means giving up material wealth, popularity, and pleasure, in order to discover the true wealth that our souls desire.
A story about Phythius, an ancient King of Lydia, in what is now Turkey, illustrates the foolishness of making money and wealth our top priority in life, as this rich young man so tragically did. Phythius was very wealthy, but also very greedy, and he would spend as little as possible.
His queen was determined to cure him.
One day when he came home hungry from a long hunt, she told the slaves to place before him at dinner dishes filled with gold, fresh from the royal gold mines. He stared down at his gold-filled plates, admiring them for some time, and then he asked for some food. "Food?" his wife asked, feigning surprise, "But surely they have brought you what you love best in the world, haven't they?"
"What are you talking about?" the King replied. "Gold can't satisfy my hunger." "No?" the Queen answered, "Is it not foolish then to have such love for something that cannot be useful so long as you hang on to it? Believe me; gold is truly of service only to people who exchange it for the good and useful things of life." This is precisely the lesson that the rich young man refused to learn.
He was like the starving man described by St Bernard of Clairvaux. This man was inhaling deep breaths, filling his mouth with air in order to try and satisfy his hunger. It is no less foolish to try and fill our hearts with meaning and wisdom by acquiring and clinging to material wealth.
St Alphonsus Liguori put it well when he said: "Those who desire nothing from this world are masters of the whole world." And St Gregory the Great put it nicely too: "Be not anxious about what you have, but about what you are... Make use of temporal things, but set your heart on eternal things."
True wealth goes beyond money; it involves moral and spiritual abundance – the treasure in heaven that will last forever. But the hard facts are that while we're here on earth, money and material things remain part of our reality – an important part. In fact, the Catechism actually explains that each of us, as a follower of Jesus Christ, has a responsibility to be good stewards of material resources (#2429):
"...everyone should make legitimate use of his talents to contribute to the abundance that will benefit all and to harvest the just fruits of his labor."
In other words, as Christ's followers we are called to avoid two extremes in money matters: First, we should avoid idolizing material wealth, as the rich young man did. Second, we should avoid carelessness in managing material resources. The Bible actually mentions money matters more than 1000 times in an effort to help us find the balance.
A Catholic layman named Phil Lenahan has developed an approach to personal and family finances that makes these principles practical. He calls it "seven steps to becoming financially free." The foundation of his system, as he explains in his book (of the same title), is not a mathematical equation, but a spiritual truth: "The most important financial decision you’ll make during your lifetime will be to recognize that all you have comes from God and that he is sovereign over all things.”
His explanation of good stewardship includes specific guidance for key practices like: developing a financial plan organizing a family budget arranging a family "rainy day" fund effectively reducing debt
In today's world, very few people have found the peace and stability that comes from avoiding both idolatry and carelessness in money matters. As Christ's ambassadors, loving our neighbors involves being examples and guides in this field too. During this Mass, let's renew our commitment to do so, and ask God to continue guiding us along the path of true, everlasting wealth.
Psalm 33:4-5, 18-19, 20, 22
29th Sunday in OT - October 21, 2018
Few times does Jesus contrast the world’s standard with his own standard as clearly as in today’s Gospel. Jesus is the noble one, the Eternal King of Kings, and yet he puts all his power, all his wisdom, all his energy, all his talents at the service of those he rules. He seeks nothing for himself. Most of us who live in this fallen world do just the opposite. We tend to put all our gifts and talents at the service of ourselves, even to the point of treating others unjustly.
Thinking that we deserve comfort and honor, we demand it whenever we can: from the waiter at the restaurant, from the telephone operator, from our siblings, from those who work under our supervision. “My will be done!” is this world’s motto. But “God’s will be done!” was Christ’s motto. And because he was faithful to it, he put our salvation before his comfort and honor. This fundamental attitude is most eloquently displayed in Christ’s repeated prediction of his Passion.
In today’s passage, which echoes the prophecy of Isaiah from the First Reading, Jesus goes into more detail about his coming fate. He gives a play-by-play account of what will happen to him – the unjust condemnation, the physical torture, the mockery, the crucifixion… He knows what awaits him in Jerusalem, and yet he doesn’t turn aside. This shows that everything he will suffer will be suffered willingly, not for any benefit that will accrue to him, but for our salvation.
Jesus became incarnate, lived, and died for our sake. He had no self-centered item on his agenda; he came to serve and to give his life for others. That’s the law that ruled this King’s conquest, and the same law ought to rule the lives of all his followers.
Following this law of Christ's Kingdom is not always easy, but recognizing its goodness and rightness is.
One of the most famous shipwrecks from the nineteenth century happened to an early British steamboat called the Birkenhead. It was carrying British troops, along with their families, to South Africa. In the early hours of the morning on February 26, 1852, the ship rammed an uncharted rock. The rock sliced the hull right down the middle, drowning the soldiers who were asleep in the under decks.
The rest of the crew and passengers climbed to the deck in a panic, and the captain tried to get the women and children to safety by lowering them into the lifeboats. By the time the lifeboats were clear, only 25 minutes after the collision, the ship had sunk, and the men were swimming for their lives amidst the churning waves, sharp rocks, and swarming sharks.
A seventeen-year-old Lieutenant by the name of Russell had been put in command of one of the lifeboats. As he tried to steer it clear of the wreckage, a drowning sailor reached up and clutched the side of the boat. One of the women inside screamed and cried out, "It's my husband! Please save him!" But there was no room in the jam-packed lifeboat, not even for one more. Lieutenant Russell stood up, and jumped clear of the boat into the sea. The drowning sailor was then pulled up into his place. All the women cried out "God bless you, sir!" to Russell, while they could see him, but in a few moments he sank from view. Chances for such dramatic self-giving happen once in a lifetime, but chances to put others first in the little things of life happen every single day.
We can put others first in many ways, from feeding the hungry, to comforting the sorrowful, to forgiving those who offend us. But there is one form of service so hidden that we too often overlook it. And yet, it is perhaps the most profound type of Christian charity that exists. It consists of thinking and speaking well of others.
This was the strong suit of Brother Bernard, the first follower of St Francis of Assisi. It is said that Brother Leo, another of the first Franciscans, was once given a vision in which he saw a large group of Franciscans Friars in heaven, shining with glory. One was brighter and more glorious than all the rest, and he asked who it was. One of them answered, saying it was Brother Bernard, and offering the following explanation: God has rewarded him with greater glory, because when on earth he always thought and spoke well of others.
If he happened to meet a poor man on the street, for example, he would say to himself: “Bernard, there is a man who bears up with poverty better than you are doing.” If he met a rich man with fine clothes, he would say, “There is a man who perhaps is suffering greatly in his heart and has learned how to be poor in spirit." Putting others first in our thoughts and words, as Br. Bernard learned to do, is the most courageous way of all to obey the commandment of loving our neighbors as ourselves.
Because it's precisely when others despise us in their hearts and criticize us that we are wounded the most. Today, as Jesus puts us first by giving himself to us in this Mass, let's ask him to help us follow his example, even just a little bit better, in the coming week.