Discernment of Spirits

A wolf dressed in sheep's clothing

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

6th Week of Easter

Mass Readings

Reading 1 – Acts 16:22-34
Psalm – Ps 138:1-2AB, 2C DE-3, 7C-8
Gospel – John 16:5-11

Today we hear that Jesus talks about the coming of the Holy Spirit. He is preparing his apostles and his disciples for this great moment, this great Pentecost that’s about to happen. And he is trying to tell them to calm down, trying to tell them not to be afraid and that they are not alone. It is really an important message for all of us. How many of us or how many of our family and friends often go through life feeling that we’re all alone? That we have no one who could possibly relate to what we have done, to the sin in our life. We believe we cannot relate to anybody and no one can relate to the things we have done wrong. We think we are the only one who have done that particular sin. And then we beat ourselves up about it. So we do not ask for help. But Jesus says, “I am going to send the Advocate to you. I am going to send the Holy Spirit to you.” The Holy Spirit is going to do three things in particular. He is he to point out sin, righteousness and condemnation.

Now the sin the is the easiest part for us to figure out. It is that nudge we feel when we do the things we are not supposed to do. It is that push or voice that says, “you really should go to confession.” It is that sense of right and wrong that we feel. Like it says in Scripture, God wrote his Law on our hearts, so the Spirit that calls our attention to His Word, to His Law in our hearts. That is how the Spirit works.

With righteousness, the reality that Jesus is trying to explain to them then and to us now is that He is not going to physically walk with us. He will not journey with us physically. We cannot just look over and ask for his advice whether this or that is the right thing to do. But the Jesus says that the Spirit will be there for us and help us encounter Jesus. For example, in mass or a communion service, we will hopefully encounter Christ through God’s Word proclaimed, or through the homily or through the Eucharist. Outside of church, we can hopefully encounter Christ through our prayer life. The Spirit helps us understand God’s charity, mercy and justice in our own lives.

But we may also encounter Christ through our own acts of charity, mercy and justice. When we go out into the world and minister to others in the name of Jesus Christ. Whether we are ministering to people in our own family or among our friends who no longer come to church, or bringing the Eucharist to someone who cannot come to church anymore, or its reaching out someone like through the homeless ministry or to someone of another faith and saying, “you are welcome here.” There are opportunities for us to encounter Jesus Christ through these people out there, what Pope Francis describes as those on the margins. So we have to be sensitive to that. We have to be aware of the different ways the Spirit might present Christ to us.

The last is condemnation. Now condemnation is not against us. The Spirit is not coming to judge. He says condemnation because, “the ruler of the world has been condemned.” So the Spirit comes to condemn that evil spirit. Now we all have talked before that most of us will probably never encounter the physical manifestation of evil in our world, which is good. You know, the big demon we see on TV shows that we need to battle and  vanquish. That is also bad because if we actually saw that physical manifestation of evil in our world, it would be easier for us to recognize evil and to prepare ourselves for battle – to be physically and mentally ready for it. No, no, the evil we encounter is much more cunning. We have discussed in the past as we reflected upon that story from Genesis about that ancient evil voice that spoke to the first humans in the garden. That ancient evil voice who said, “Good? You are not good. If you want to be good, then you need to be like God. If you want to be God, then you need to eat the fruit of this tree.” It is that little voice.

If that is not a good image for you, then think of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, who developed the spiritual exercises. Those exercises are really about trying to recognize that little, evil voice, as well as the good voice within. St. Ignatius tells us that there is this dynamic that happens inside all of us.

How do you know if the voice you hear is the Spirit or the enemy? St. Ignatius says, if after reflecting on the thought, the vision, the dream you had, you feel uplifted, happy, or at peace, then it was probably from the Spirit. But if after your dream, vision, delusion of grandeur, you feel dry, empty, St. Ignatius uses the word desolate, then that was probably the voice of the enemy.

St. Ignatius says to us that is very important to be aware. His big thing is awareness. So if you become aware of the Spirit in your life as well as the enemy, then it is easier to ask the Spirit to condemn the enemy. The Spirit cannot condemn without you doing your part? Why? Human freedom. God is not going to directly interfere in the choices you make in life. For example, it is all too easy for us to flip over to a channel we should not watch, or surf to a web page after everyone goes to bed that we should not be on. And sometimes we think there is nothing wrong in that because no one is getting hurt.

The reality is that you are getting hurt. The enemy might say, “see, that was not so bad.” Or, “you did that again! You got to the bottom of the ice cream container. You cannot be like that friend of yours that is healthy. So why bother? It is more fun to do this or that.” Of course, you are not feeling like you are having fun. You probably feel miserable. St. Ignatius tells us to be aware of those different voices so that you can call on the Spirit to condemn the enemy.

It is really important for us to be aware of this dynamic in our lives. When we become aware of how the enemy works in our lives, then we can all upon the Spirit to condemn the enemy. When we are aware of the sin in our lives and we take that to confession, then we are fully living the Gospel that Jesus talked about today – about really engaging the Holy Spirit. That is important. If we do not do that, then we miss out a beautiful gift that God of the Holy Spirit that God has given us. Do not try to walk this path alone. Jesus tells the apostles, “you are not alone, you do not have to do it alone.” I hope that makes sense.

Home work! There are two things I ask you to do as you prepare for Pentecost.

  1. After you receive the Eucharist or a blessing, pray, let us all pray that beautiful prayer of St. Faustina, “Jesus, I trust in you.” You go back to your pew and you say to God, “look, Lord, I don’t know what is going on or where my kids are because they are not in mass, but Jesus, I trust in you.
  2. I want you to ask God in what ways are you open to the Spirit in your life. What ways have you become aware of the Spirit. Just have that little dialogue over the next couple of days as you prepare for Pentecost to see if you can pick out times where you can see the Spirit at work in your life. I think that would be a great exercise to put is in the right frame of mind to welcome the Holy Spirit on Pentecost?

Does that make sense? Got it? Get it? Good! Through the intercession of our Blessed Virgin Mary, may we come to know the mercy and the love of Jesus! In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. +Amen!

 

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I have called you friends

A Street Scene of Damascus by Gustav Bauernfeind

Friday, May 19, 2017

5th Week of Easter

Mass Readings

Reading 1 – Acts 15:22-31
Psalm – Ps 57:8-9, 10 and 12
Gospel – John 15:12-17

In our first reading, we heard that the early Church was sending messengers to Antioch. You see, other preachers, these judaizers, had gone there and tried to impose Jewish requirements before conversion, such as circumcision. Why was that? Remember at this early stage in the life of the Church, Christians were still part of Judaism, hence the insistence upon compliance with the Law. I suspect the reason they wrote to Antioch is not just because of this contrary message to the Good News, but also because some people were complying with that message of the judaizers. It must have divided the community of believers: those who embraced the requirements for Jewish conversion and those who did not.

Think about those who went along with the elements of Jewish conversion for a minute. Why do think there were people complying with the requests of the judaizers? What must they have thought? Perhaps they didn’t think they were good enough. Maybe they felt they needed the elements of Jewish conversion to be saved. Maybe they thought the Good News was too easy. You see, going through the process of conversion was action. It was doing something – something concrete. Maybe they needed to do something to help themselves feel worthy.

I wonder how many times in our own lives or the lives of our family and friends we’ve believed we weren’t worthy-that we’re not good enough-that we have to do something before Jesus will smile upon us. Have you ever felt like that? Do you know people who feel like that?

I think it’s all too easy, I think, to give in and listen to that ancient evil voice, the same voice that tempted the first humans in the Garden. It was that voice that said to them, “Good? How can you be good? You’re so human. Look at yourselves! You’re filthy! If you want to be good, then you need to be like God. And if you eat the fruit of this tree and you will be God!

That same evil voice must have convinced some of the people in Antioch that they couldn’t be good enough unless they did something tangible – unless the followed the prescriptions of the Law – unless they loaded up their holy roller dance card. Now that doesn’t mean that evil was interested in their salvation. No. But evil wanted them to get bogged down. Evil wanted them to get so busy doing stuff because in the busyness of their they become distracted. Boy, doesn’t that sound familiar?

In the Gospel today, Jesus tells his disciples, “I have called you friends…It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you…” He doesn’t say I chose you after you jumped through all these hoops. He chose them, he chose you and me just as we are. Isn’t that amazing! Wouldn’t it be something if we could see ourselves through Jesus’ eyes as good enough just the way we are? I suspect there would instantly be an end to anxiety and depression in the world. Neither we nor those around us would ever see ourselves with self-doubt or with a negative body image. We wouldn’t be so eager to engage seemingly magical internet cures or late night TV schemes or engage in superstitious religious practices. I think the entire world would change if we could see ourselves through Jesus’ eyes!

Why do you think the leaders of the Church decided to send Judas and Silas to Antioch? They sent them to preach the Good News. What is the Good News? That salvation is offered to all through Christ Jesus, who was born man, who died and rose from the dead, by the grace and the love of God. The Good News is that salvation is offered to all through Jesus by the grace and love of God. You see, faith in God is not about loading up your holy roller dance card. It’s not about doing anything. There is nothing you and I can do to merit salvation. Salvation is offered to us through Jesus solely by the grace and the love of God – not by anything we do!

Maybe if we saw ourselves the way Jesus sees us, we would accept the Good News-we would accept the message that my belief in Jesus Christ, my acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, I can be saved and so can those around me.

Home work!

  1. After you receive the Eucharist or a blessing, pray, “Jesus I love you. Give me the grace to see myself as you see me.”
  2. Share that news with other people: that they need to see themselves through the eyes of Jesus. After all, that’s what missionary discipleship is all about – going outside our comfort zone to tell others that they are loved and they are special no matter what!

Does that make sense? Got it? Get it? Good! Through the intercession of our Blessed Mother, Mary, may we come to know the mercy and the love of Jesus! In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. +Amen!

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Mom: the Heart of Service

The Madonna of the Streets by Roberto Ferruzzi

The Madonna of the Streets by Roberto Ferruzzi

I had the wonderful honor of preaching at my mother-in-law’s church, Mother of God parish, in Oswego, Kansas this past weekend. It was such a privilege to preach with my wife and mother-in-law and other family members among the congregation over the masses last weekend. Below is the homily I preached. Happy Mother’s Day!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Mass Readings

Cycle A Easter Week 5

Reading 1 – Acts 6:1-7
Psalm – Psalm 33:1-19
Reading 2 – 1 Peter 2:4-9
Gospel – John 14:1-12

I want to ask you a question. How many of you have a mom? Everybody should be raising their hands right now. Everybody has a mom. What a beautiful set of readings today to reflect upon as we celebrate Mother’s Day. We heard in the Gospel today, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” We heard in that second reading that Jesus is the cornerstone – the foundation. And we heard in the psalm an echo of that beautiful prayer of St. Faustina, Jesus, I trust in you. Really, it’s a prayer we should always be praying. Jesus, I trust in you.

And then we have that first reading in Acts. Do you know what’s going on in Acts? So the Church was getting so big and so busy that the apostles couldn’t keep up with everything that needed to be done. So they called forward the first deacons of the church. That scripture we heard in Acts is the scriptural basis for deacons. They are called to a life of service.

Deacons are not mini priests. We’re not substitute priests. We’re not replacement priests. We’re not priests at all. We’re deacons. We help our bishops and our priests carry out their work in serving the people of God. That can be very challenging because in most of the country and in most of the world, deacons are not employed by the Church. We are ordained clergy, but we work for free. So we have to work outside of the Church. It can be very challenging to balance our work, our ministry and our family life. Quite a challenge indeed!

So what deacons do and really priests also is that we look to our blessed mother, Mary, for inspiration in our lives. If you recall that story when the angel appeared to Mary, she was probably very young – probably a teenager. The angel came to her and asked her to be the mother of Jesus. Now I don’t know about you, but when I was a teenager, if the angel of the Lord came to me and asked for my help I would have freaked out! But that didn’t bother her. Also knowing that if she presented herself to Joseph pregnant before the wedding, in her culture she could have been killed. Her very life was on the line. But that didn’t stop her from saying yes because of her faith and love of God.

She’s a great model for deacons and priests because in her yes, we see our yes. If she could do it, we can do it. She’s our spiritual mother. But we also have a real role model around us in real life. I can look to my own wife who works outside of the home and has a ministry of her own and serves the family. I can look to my mother and to my mother-in-law and all of the moms around me. I see people who act out of loving service.

It amazes me that moms, whether single moms or moms in a two-parent family, how busy family life can be. We’re constantly running and running and running. And suddenly as if by magic, children are enrolled in school. Children are enrolled in sacramental classes. There’s dinner on the table. Often as a dad I feel like I’m running just to catch up to where ever mom is. It’s beautiful that mom can accomplish so much.

Now that doesn’t mean that moms are always happy about the work in front of them. Sometimes I’m sure they’re not happy at all that someone threw up or someone is sick and they might complain a little bit, but it still gets done because of the love that moms have – a loving service that we see in the Acts of the Apostles in the calling of the first deacons because they love their families and hopefully because of their faith and love of God.

But we also know that there are lots of people who’ve fallen away from the church. You may know them. You may have some in your own families or among your friends. It’s important for because of our love for Jesus Christ for all of us to act in loving service too and go out to them. That’s what Pope Francis is constantly calling us to do – to reach out to others.

Now it’s not very helpful to call that family member and say, “I see you weren’t in church today. What’s the problem?” That’s not very helpful, but we can still reach out of our own love and say, “do you need something? Can I come over and drop off dinner sometime this week? Or help you with the laundry or the lawn?” And maybe living our faith in Christ Jesus, we might draw people back to His church, because they see the love in our lives and our hearts and they want some of that too.

How beautiful the ministry of moms. It’s an inspiration to all of us: men, priests, deacons. We too can live a life of love and service just like mom can.

Homework. First, I want you to turn to mom around you and say, “thank you.” So go ahead, turn and say thank you to mom. Alright! Now, when you come to the Eucharist, whether to receive or to receive a blessing, go back to your pew and include in your prayers a thank you to God for the moms in your life. Next, ask how does your service in the world compare to mom? Can  you live up to the example of mom in your life? If not, ask God for the grace to do better. Does everyone understand the homework? Thank God for the moms in your life. Compare yourself to mom’s service in the world and pray for the grace to do better.

Do you got it? Do you get it? Are you going to do it?

Well good!

Through the intercession of Mary our Mother, may we all come to know the mercy and the love of Jesus. In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. +Amen!

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I’m back

Updated. It’s been quite some time since I last posted something here. Perhaps a bit of an explanation is due. About six years ago, I formally began the process of discerning my call to become an ordained deacon in the Catholic Church. It was a long process, but by the grace of God I was ordained a deacon in November, 2016. I hope to share more about my formation experience up through ordination, but suffice it to say, I was consumed by the process.

At some point along the way, one of our formation directors suggested that we refrain from spending too much time online. Our focus when not on our families or our jobs should be on our formation. This was not framed as a requirement for us, but rather as a strong recommendation. So I stepped back from most online pursuits including this site with one exception.

It’s been several months since ordination, so it’s time to get moving again! I’m in the process of dusting things off as it were. In fact, it’s been so long I’ve wondered whether to start over and archive all my old articles off. So much has changed. I’ve changed.

Over the next several days I’ll be making a few updates and changes to this site along the way. Even the name of this site is updated. Time to tuck “rudy’s notes” away and to introduce “deacon rudy’s notes!”

I will hopefully figure out how to share recordings of my homilies and other talks here as well or at minimum I will post transcripts here. I will also try to utilize other social media platforms to help me evangelize. Popes from as far back as Pius XII in the 1950s have been encouraging all of us to use technology to evangelize. Pope Francis, probably the most tech savvy pope yet, is a great role model to all of us.

The timing of my return is of course due to another reason. There is a rising tide of anger which seems to have splashed us all. No one and no corner of the world appears to be left untouched. Many good people are caught up in it and seem totally unaware of the growing darkness. All disciples have got to take a stand.

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of stress. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, inhuman, implacable, slanderers, profligates, fierce, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding the form of religion but denying the power of it. Avoid such people, (2 Timothy 3:17 rsv-ce).

Talk about the signs of the times? What to do? Well, we can do nothing, but somehow that doesn’t seem right. It seems reckless or perhaps self-absorbed or indulgent to leave the world to its own devices. As an Eagle Scout, I was taught that we leave no trace. In other words, we should strive to leave the place we visited in better condition than we found out it. Of course this applies more broadly than camping or some other activity. More is expected of disciples. I agree with my daughter. I believe we all should strive to make the world a better place.

So, after a bit of a respite, here we go!

Any weekend homilies I might give at my parish will be posted here: https://sjvroundrock.org/homilies. You are welcomed to check out not just my homilies, but all of our clergy’s homilies.

picture of deacon rudy smiling as he processes out after mass

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