Dear Friends,

Not long ago I visited the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration down in Mishawaka.  Their adoration chapel is open to the public and if you haven’t visited them I highly recommend that you do.  While I was there I spent some time talking with one of the older sisters, Sr. Dorothy, and she was telling me about their foundress Blessed Maria Theresia Bonzel.  Mother Maria was born in Germany back in 1830 and by the time she died in 1905 her order was 1500 strong.  There were 1500 sisters spread across Europe, the United States, and South America.

Mother Maria had a strong devotion to St. Joseph and she credited St. Joseph for many miracles in her life.  And if you visit the sisters’ chapel in Mishawaka you’ll notice that all the windows depict some aspect of St. Joseph’s life.  At one time Mother Maria was paying a visit to all of her sisters spread out across the United States.  At the first convent she visited, however, things weren’t going so well, there was very little food to eat.  So she asked the sisters, “Where is your shrine to St. Joseph?”  “Oh he’s in the closet” they answered.  Mother Maria didn’t like that answer.  So she said, “Let’s fix that.”  So they quickly made a shrine to St. Joseph and dragged him out of the closet and began to pray to God through his intercession.  They soon heard a knock on the door and when they opened the door there was a man loaded down with groceries.  He gave them the food and after bringing the bags into the house they went to the door to thank him but he was gone.  There was no sign of him.  There wasn’t even anyone walking down the street.  They never went hungry again.

Our Lord satisfies our hunger.  He will sometimes satisfy a physical hunger, sometimes in a miraculous way.  But how much more; does our Lord always want to feed us spiritually, to satisfy, and fill us with contentment.

When was the last time you walked out of Mass feeling really well fed, satisfied and content?  Is it an every week occurrence (or every day for those of us who go everyday)?  If not something is wrong.

This is not about the homily or the music.  Homilies and worship and music are crucial parts of the Mass.  We should do the best we can with the homily and the music, they should help us to enter into the courts of Heaven, so that we can join in the worship of the angels and saints around God’s throne.  But we don’t go to Mass, or at least we shouldn’t go to Mass, for the homily or the music.

The Gospel this Sunday tells us that the crowds were pressing in around Jesus.  They were men and women just like you and me here at Mass.  They had cares and fears and anxieties.  They

had jobs that they were concerned about and family members who were sick; they were dealing with the loss of loved ones they missed greatly and some had a sense of meaninglessness in their lives; they were men and women, like you and me, who could get stuck in a rut and they wanted more out of life.

And so they pressed in around Jesus, eager to hear Him, to see Him, and to meet Him.  They came to Him expectant and hungry, not just for food but for meaning in their lives, for a sense of purpose.  And Jesus breaks open the bread, feeds them, and they are stuffed, they are well fed.  And there’s lots left over.

That scene in the Gospel is supposed to be happening at Mass.  The miracles that we hear about all through the Gospels continue to happen in our midst today through the sacraments.  The sacraments aren’t empty rituals; they’re powerful encounters with our Lord, the One who created us and wants us to find happiness.

But if we come to Mass primarily for what God wants to give us, and what He wants to and does give to us is Himself, so then if we are not leaving full, the burden must be on me and you to change that.  Our Lord does His part, we have to do ours.

For the next few weeks at Mass we’re going to be hearing from the Gospel of John.  In these weeks ahead we’re only going to hear from John chapter 6.  John chapter 6 is a key part of the Gospel.  It’s the chapter often referred to as the “Bread of Life discourse.”  It’s where Jesus speaks to the crowds and to us now, about the extraordinary gift of the Eucharist.

The Eucharist is the center of our life.  Objectively speaking, there is nothing that we can ever do in this life that can compare with what happens when we receive Communion.  That’s because, by the power of the Holy Spirit, ordinary bread and wine are changed into the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus, so when we receive the Eucharist, we feed on God, we feed on His divine life, we feed on His power, and we feed on His love.  That’s why we don’t chew gum when we come to communion, that’s why we wear nice cloths when we come to Mass, because nothing can compare with this.  And yet often times for many of us we don’t leave full and feeling well fed, amazed and transformed.  How can we change that?

Since we are going to be reading from John chapter 6 for five weeks, hearing over and over again about the Eucharist let me suggest we try an experiment.  Let me suggest we all make an effort to do three things and see if Mass changes for us.  First, let’s try to get here a few minutes early.  And when we get here, let’s take time to pray, to ask God to help us understand the Mass; let’s ask Him to help us to encounter Him; let’s ask Him to reveal Himself to us with all of our cares and our concerns.  Second, don’t leave Mass before I do.  What could possibly be more important than saying “Thank You” to the One who made you, loves you, and has just given Himself to you to eat?  Take a minute or two to say thanks, and to reflect on what has happened and Who has just entered into you.  And third, make an effort to read the Gospel before you come to Mass.  Come prepared, come both hungry and expecting to be fed. Our Lord heard the prayer for food of those Franciscan sisters.  How much more does He want to satisfy our spiritual hunger?  Ask for it.  Our Lord is saying to you right now, “Draw from my Body and Blood given to you all the graces of which you stand in need.  So many receive little from their daily communion at My altars because they expect so little.  Ask and you shall receive.  Consult the saints.  Learn from them what it is to ask great things of Me, to ask boldly, confidently, and joyfully.  And thank Me for the effect of my and Body and Blood in your body and blood, in your soul, in your mind, in your heart of hearts.  The Eucharist is transforming for all who receive Me with faith and with confident devotion.”

God has so much more for us than what many of us are settling for.  He always does His part.  Let’s try in the weeks ahead to work more on our part.

Peace and all good,

Fr. Christopher J. Ankley

 

MONTH FOUR – Developing Baby

“I Had a Dream!”

The baby’s brain has begun maturing – a process that will continue until she is about 14 years old. Her eyelids are now sealed shut and will re-open at 7 months. Her taste buds are now working. Nutrients consumed by her mother are passed on to her within an hour or two. Three hundred quarts of fluid a day are sent to the baby via the umbilical cord. Fine hair begins to grow on head, eyebrows and eyelashes. Facial expressions similar to the baby’s parents can be seen at this time. This month REMs (rapid eye movements) have been recorded – a sign of dreaming.

 

Dear Friends,

Our Lord’s voice has power, his voice has healing and so the people were drawn to his voice and they listened.  As we read in the Gospel, “They hastened there on foot from all the towns and arrived at that place.”  And when our Lord saw them his heart was moved with pity for them for they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he began to teach them, and they listened.

Cardinal Dolan of New York once related a story from a time when he was part of a study group on tour in the Holy Land.  One day while hiking, the group encountered two shepherds enjoying conversation and a smoke.  And while these two shepherds had been talking their two grazing flocks had become completely mixed together.  Through their guide, the group asked how the hundreds of sheep would sort themselves out and follow the correct shepherd.  Eager to impress these tourists and probably hoping for a big tip, the two shepherds stood at a distance from one another, yelled something incomprehensible, and began walking in opposite directions.  Immediately, the sheep fell in line behind the proper shepherd.  And then the two shepherds began to show off, they exchanged clothing and once again stood apart and shouted.  So familiar were the shepherds’ voices to the sheep that these cute (but not so bright) animals ignoring the disguised outward appearance again followed their own shepherd.  They knew the voice even in disguise, and they listened and they followed.

Do we know our Shepherd’s voice?  He’s still speaking to us.  How do we hear Him?  Can we hear Him in the noise of the world?  Or are there conversations, books, shows, movies, songs, images, blogs, or videos that drown out the voice of our Divine Shepherd.  Our Shepherd can speak to us anytime or anywhere but to hear him best we need silence.  The prophet Elijah never heard our Lord in all the noises of the world.  He didn’t hear Him in the wind, or the earthquake, or in the fire, it was only in the silence that Elijah was able to hear our Lord’s still small voice.  So we need silence; and in that silence we need contemplation.  I believe that all Catholics are called to be contemplatives, this is not something just for the nun in the convent or the monk in the monastery, contemplation is for everyone.

So, what is contemplative prayer?  The Catechism tells us that, “Contemplation is a gaze of faith, fixed on Jesus” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2715).  Contemplation is the prayer of the heart.  Contemplative prayer may focus on a word or a saying or one may simply be in the presence of God.   It is the prayer of the listening heart.  The goal of contemplative prayer is to enter into the presence of God where there are no words, concepts or images.  It is the prayer of being in love.

How then do we actually do contemplative prayer? , here are some suggestions that may help you.

In Church before the Blessed Sacrament – sit or kneel.  Gaze into the Tabernacle or look into the Monstrance.  Be still.   Ask Mary to help you to pray.  Pray to the Holy Spirit.  Then peacefully repeat a word or a phrase:  saying Jesus; or Jesus I love you; or Jesus I trust in you; or Father; or Father, into your hands I commend my spirit, etc.  Don’t continue to repeat the word or the words over and over again.  Only use the word or the phrase when your mind begins to wander.  Focus your gaze on the Eucharist.  Be open to whatever Jesus is asking of you.  Listen.

At home – sit or kneel.  Close your eyes.  Again, be still. Ask Mary to help you to pray.  Pray to the Holy Spirit.  As before, repeat a word or a phrase, rooted in the scripture, the creed, a prayer or an aspect of our Christian faith.  Do not repeat the word or words over and over again.  Remember to use the word only when your mind begins to wander.  Focus your gaze on the loving presence of God.   If you begin to feel embraced by God, be still and be silent.  Just allow the Holy Spirit to pray within you.  Listen.  Do this for 10, 15, or 20 minutes a day.

A Contemplative Catholic is not made in a day; it takes practice; to be a truly deep contemplative Catholic is the work of a lifetime.  It requires solitude, silence, sacrifice, and study.  It requires the obedience of faith.  But it’s something we can all do. St. Teresa of Avila once said that contemplation is nothing else than a close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with Him who we know loves us.

I end with a story.  It’s about St. Peter Julian Eymard.  His feast day is August 2nd, and his life is one that revolved around the Blessed Sacrament.  He would often say, “Without the Blessed Sacrament I should have been lost.”  St. Peter Julian was born in France in 1811.  When he was 5 years old he wandered away from home.  His family searched for hours.  They looked everywhere.  Finally, after many hours, they found him in the church.  Somehow he had dragged a stepladder to the front of the tabernacle.  And there he sat on the top with his ear pressed to the door of the tabernacle.  When they saw this, they asked, “What are you doing?”  And he simply answered, “I’m listening to our Lord.”

May we be as intent on listening to our Lord. His voice has power His voice has healing, may we be that good sheep who knows the voice of his shepherd.

Let us be great Saints,

Fr. Christopher J. Ankley

 

From a sermon by Saint Leo the Great, pope

 

A royal virgin of the house of David is chosen.  She is to bear a holy child, one who is both God and man.  She is to conceive him in her soul before she conceives him in her body.  In the face of so unheard of an event she is to know no fear through ignorance of the divine plan; the angel tells her what is to be accomplished in her by the Holy Spirit.  She believes that there will be no loss of virginity, she who is soon to be the mother of God.  Why should she lose heart at this new form of conceiving when she has been promised that it will be affected through the power of the Most High?  She believes, and her faith is confirmed by the witness of a previous wonder: against all expectation Elizabeth is made fruitful.  God has enabled a barren woman to be with child; he must be believed when he makes the same promise to a virgin.

The son of God who was in the beginning with God, through whom all things were made, without whom nothing was made, became man to free him from eternal death.  He stooped down to take up our lowliness without loss to his own glory.  He remained what he was; he took up what he was not.  He wanted to join the very nature of a servant to that nature in which he is equal to God the Father.  He wanted to unite both natures in an alliance so wonderful that the glory of the greater would not annihilate the lesser, nor the taking up of the lower diminish the greatness of the higher.

What belongs to each nature is preserved intact and meets the other in one person: lowliness is taken up by greatness, weakness by power, mortality by eternity.  To pay the debt of our human condition, a nature incapable of suffering is united to a nature capable of suffering, and true God and true man are forged into the unity that is the Lord.  This was done to make possible the kind of remedy that fitted our human need: one and the same mediator between God and men able to die because of one nature, able to rise again because of the other. It was fitting, therefore, that the birth which brings salvation brought no corruption to virginal integrity; the bringing forth of Truth was at the same time the safeguarding of virginity.

Dearly beloved, this kind of birth was fitting for Christ, the power and the wisdom of God: a birth in which he was one with us in our human nature but far above us in his divinity.  If he were not true God, he would not be able to bring us healing; if he were not true man, he would not be able to give us an example.

And so at the birth of our Lord, the angels sing in joy: Glory to God in the highest, and they proclaim peace to his people on earth as they see the heavenly Jerusalem being built from all the nations of the world.  If the angels on high are so exultant at this marvelous work of God’s goodness, what joy should it not bring to the lowly hearts of men?

Dear Friends,

I want to begin by saying that, “Someone is watching you, and someone is listening to you.”  Someone out there is watching you and listening to you.  I will come back to this.  July 14th is the feast day of St. Kateri Tekakwitha.  She was canonized nine years ago and she is the first Native American Saint.  She lived in the mid-17th century in what is now upstate New York and Canada.  Her mother was an Algonquin Christian who had been captured by the Mohawks.   Kateri’s father was a Mohawk chief.  Right from the beginning her mother taught Kateri and her brother the Catholic faith, teaching them about Jesus and teaching them some of the prayers she had learned when living among the Algonquin people.

When Kateri was very young a small pox epidemic swept through her village.  A lot of people died including all of Kateri’s family.  Even Kateri herself almost died, but she recovered after a very long illness.  But even after she recovered small pox had left its mark.  Her face was terribly scarred by pock marks and her eyesight was also affected to the point that she was almost blind.   With her family gone Kateri went to live with her aunt and uncle.  They had very little patience for Christianity.

When she was a teenager a group of Jesuit priests made their way to her remote village.   They were surprised to find a young woman who already knew about Jesus, even more surprised when she recited some of the prayers she had learned as a little girl.  With the Jesuits there Kateri fell more and more in love with Jesus.  She devoured the faith and began to more and more live out her Catholic faith.  And this is something the village noticed.  You could say she was a prophet among her people.

First, as a prophet Kateri rested on Sunday.  She didn’t go out to work in the fields with the other women.  And because she didn’t work her family wouldn’t let her eat on Sundays.  People noticed her Sunday rest, they wondered, “What’s so special about this day?”  Second, as a prophet Kateri prayed throughout the day, sometimes going out into the woods to pray before a cross she had made out of twigs.  People noticed her prayer, and they wondered, “What’s so special about this cross?”  And Third, as a prophet Kateri was joyfully chaste.  She didn’t take part in the pre-marital and extra-marital unchaste behavior that was common in her community.  People noticed and they wondered, “What’s so special about the body?”

Eventually it became very hard for Kateri to live out her Christian faith.  She was ridiculed, she was hit with sticks, and sometimes young children would throw stones at her, but she didn’t let the culture around her change her habits of faith.   When she was 19 Kateri made her way to a Native American Christian village in Canada.   In this community Kateri took care of the sick and the children.  And it was here that her faith flourished even more.  She was the first one in the chapel when the doors opened at 4:00 a.m.  And she was there every afternoon for Eucharistic Adoration.  And again this was something people noticed.  When she prayed before the Blessed Sacrament her whole face changed.  Her face just seemed to glow, she was so enraptured.  Her smile as she prayed changed everything.  Her face became a divine work of beauty, no one noticed her terribly pock marked face.  News of this beautiful girl praying spread to the outlying countryside.  And when Kateri went to pray other people joined her, but they weren’t there necessarily to worship our Lord present in the Eucharist, in the beginning at least,  they were there to look at the beautiful change that came over her face as she prayed.  People noticed her and they wondered, “Who is this God that Kateri worships in that piece of bread?”  By her witness many were moved to seek the faith.

Kateri was a Catholic who did simple regular things, but she did them with love and people noticed.  In our first reading we heard of Ezekiel, a prophet from the 6th century BC.  God called him and chose him to speak to the Jewish people, to call them to reform, to speak a challenging word to them, to call them back to God.  He was not always popular and that was ok.

We are like Ezekiel and Kateri, prophets, people called to witness to Divine truth.  Because of your baptism you have been called to be a prophet, a proclaimer of God’s truth.  And as we know this witness to truth is not always well received, but we still do it, because someone, you may not know who, but someone is watching you.  And he or she may be moved towards Christ by your witness and example.  So imitate St. Kateri, make Sunday a special day, and maybe even invite someone to Mass who hasn’t been here in a while.  Follow St. Kateri and pray out in the open, ask to pray with and for others, asking others for prayer intentions.  Don’t hide the Sign of the Cross.  Follow St. Kateri and speak out against the unchastity in our culture and its effects on our minds, hearts, and bodies.  Swim against the tide, don’t accept it; reasoning that it’s just the way things are.

We are meant to be salt and light to the world around us, not to be swallowed up by the world.  A saint once put it this way:  we are each born as a one of a kind original but many of us die as a photocopy, a copy of the world around us.  Each of us has been born as one of a kind original but many of us die as a photocopy, a copy of the world around us.   Let us be that salt and light original; because someone is watching you, someone is listening to you.  May you who have been chosen, and that’s all of you, go and bear fruit for the Kingdom.

Let us be great Saints,

Fr. Christopher J. Ankley

 

Jesus said to his disciples: “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood,
you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day”
(Jn 6:53-54).

 

June 27, 2021
Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Summer is finally here. Arriving just as the year-and-a-half of disruptions to our normal social and faith lives, caused by the pandemic, come to an end, summertime and new beginnings could not be more welcome!  I am profoundly grateful for all the heroic efforts of those on the front lines of protecting us during the pandemic: healthcare workers, educators, all essential workers, public safety personnel, as well as all our clergy and all of you. Individually and collectively, we sacrificed greatly during these last many months, and adopted many new practices and skills, as we protected the physical, and spiritual, well-being of ourselves and others.

In that spirit of joy, I extend a heartfelt welcome to all of you, and encourage you to resume, or begin anew, the full practice of your Faith, starting with participating in the Sunday Eucharist.  Our Family of Faith has missed you; I, your pastors and fellow parishioners are eager to share with you the Joy that only comes from our Lord Jesus Christ, Who gives us the Gift of His Body and Blood as our Spiritual Food in this great Sacrament of Love – the source and summit of our lives as Catholics.

The Eucharist is the amazing Gift Jesus gives to us of Himself to be our Spiritual Food that will nourish our lives both to renew us as the Body of Christ, and to reignite the “Flame of Faith” within us to bring the Love of Jesus Christ to all. Following this unprecedented time of being separated from one another at every level of our lives, we need to come together as a Family of Faith to sing God’s praises and to give thanks for all God’s blessings now more than ever.

There are, however, growing concerns about the understanding our own Catholic people have of what the Eucharist truly is, and how essential it is to us on our journey of Faith. You may be aware of findings by a recent survey*, that revealed that close to 70 percent of Catholics do not believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist and instead believe the bread and wine remain only symbols of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. Just 30 percent of Catholics in the U.S. believe the central mystery of our Catholic Faith – that the bread and wine really become the Body and Blood of Jesus during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. This is truly a cause for great concern.

As Bishop of our beloved Diocese of Kalamazoo, it is my privilege and responsibility to make every effort to ensure that the teachings of the Church are made known to our Catholic community; this is most especially true regarding the teaching on the Eucharist. It is this sacred responsibility, shared by all Bishops, that is the impetus for a proposed pastoral document on the Eucharist to be issued by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).  At the recent Spring Assembly virtual meeting last week, the Bishops’ Committee on Doctrine provided a tentative title, “The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Life of the Church: Why it matters”, with a skeletal proposed outline: Part I, “The Eucharist, A Mystery to be Believed”; Part II, “The Eucharist, a Mystery to be Celebrated”; Part III, “The Eucharist: A Mystery to be Lived”. The primary focus is to address the alarmingly increased amount of the Faithful who do not understand, or choose not to believe, the Real Presence of Jesus alive in the Eucharist. The pastoral document is also to include positive ways to encourage all Catholics to return to the Sunday Eucharist. The purpose of the proposed document is to teach about living the Mission of the Eucharist.  Contrary to what some of the media reported, the document is not intended to target any individual or focus on only a single issue. [For additional clarification on the Bishops’ Meeting I encourage you to view my video message released last week and you may read my full statement on our website.]

I am convinced that we all need to do what the Bishops’ Conference proposed document states in the three-part outline:  we must help our fellow sisters and brothers to believe in the Mystery of the Eucharist; we must celebrate this central Mystery of our Faith with devotion, respect and absolute belief; and we must live this Mystery by being Eucharistic for one another—by giving of ourselves in loving service to all.  And we must begin to do this immediately.

My dear sisters and brothers, we need to realize that whether as a Bishop, priests, deacons, or lay faithful we are all called to first see Who the Eucharist is.  We must come to the Eucharist and realize Jesus has made Himself present…Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity… on our altars in in every tabernacle. We must realize that with each reception of the Eucharist, we are entering into the most intimate relationship possible with God, as we consume Him, and He, in turn, makes us more intensely part of His divine life.  It should amaze us every time we come before the Eucharist, how God desires so much to be intimate with us, He becomes our Bread to eat.  When we realize that profound belief, we must allow the reception of the Eucharist to change us to act more like Jesus Christ.  As we consume Jesus and are in communion with Him, as we become one with Him, we can then live out our mission as the Body of Christ.  Our hands become His Hands on Earth; our Feet, His Feet.  We then are able to be transformed, as members of His Body, to be the Eucharist we have consumed.  We must take seriously this charge: “to take and eat,” and we are all called to allow this intimacy to change us to live out the mission of the Eucharist.

One of the most powerful moments in the life of our Diocese in recent years was the Eucharistic Congress held in October 2019, just months before the pandemic began. At that wonderful event, attended by more than 1,000 witnesses to our Eucharistic Faith, and moved by the Holy Spirit, I declared the “Year of the Eucharist”, and we concluded that grace-filled event with a Eucharistic procession through the streets of Kalamazoo. We now need to recapture this life-transforming energy about our Faith and pass it along to others. As we approach our 50th Jubilee Anniversary (July 21, 2021) as the Body of Christ in the Diocese of Kalamazoo it is my hope that we become driven to share the Good News of Jesus, Present in the Eucharist.

In this regard I warmly invite everyone to do the following: come back to Sunday Mass; embrace the teachings on the Eucharist; be inspired by the Love of the Eucharist to live out the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy [for additional ideas and resources, visit www.diokzoo.org/eucharist]

May the Eucharist be the Gift that brings us together, strengthens our faith, deepens our hope, and inspires us to love Jesus and one another as we move into our next 50 years.

Faithfully yours in Christ,

 

Most Reverend Paul J. Bradley

Bishop of Kalamazoo

 

 

*The Pew Research Center, “What  Americans Know about Religion”,  Pew Research Study,  July  2019

Dear Friends,

In our Gospel today we heard two examples, two stories of great faith.  Each story though separate parallels the other.  Both the woman and the girl are dead, one physically and the other spiritually.  First the woman, at that time according to Mosaic Law a hemorrhaging woman was considered ritually impure.  And if you go to the book of Leviticus in the Old Testament you’ll find all the prescriptions, and laws, and directives that guided the life of the faithful Jew.  Leviticus lists what they could touch or not touch, what they could eat and not eat.  Now for this woman considered unclean anything she touched or sat upon also became unclean.  Any person she touched would become unclean.  She would’ve been shunned by her husband and all the people of her community.  She wasn’t even allowed to enter the Temple to worship.  So for twelve years she had been kept at a distance, kept at a distance from her family and her friends and from God.  She was a pariah who couldn’t participate in all the ordinary things of life.  I’m sure that on top of the physical suffering there was a tremendous amount of psychological and spiritual suffering.

Now this woman has been to many doctors and it’s only gotten worse.  But she’s heard of this healer named Jesus, the messiah maybe, and in her deep faith she reasons, “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be healed.”   And so she touches Jesus, and in doing so, according to Mosaic Law she’s made him unclean.   And the crowd was very uncomfortable with this woman touching Jesus and when found out she approaches Jesus in fear and trembling.  She has done something very terrible; she’s broken the Law of Moses.  But a miracle has happened, Jesus isn’t made unclean the exact opposite has happened the woman is cured and made clean.  She is restored to life in her family and in the community.  She can worship again in the temple.

Now in the other story we hear of Jairus the synagogue official.  And he too exhibits a deep faith in Jesus’ ability to heal.  He would have been a prominent layman whose duties would have included oversight of synagogue activities and finances.  This man’s humble posture before Jesus, he fell at his feet, is remarkable in view of the fact that Jesus’ last visit to the synagogue ended with a plot to kill him.  Now Jesus, when he gets to the house of Jairus, does something forbidden by Mosaic Law he touches the dead girl’s hand.  This would have made him impure.  Only the immediate family could touch the dead body.  But his healing touch raises her to life.

Through these two miracles Jesus puts an end to the ritual code found in Leviticus.  He was not made unclean.  Contact with Jesus made the unclean clean.  The New Israel, the Church, is brought about through contact with him.  His touch brings life.  As we heard in the first reading, “God did not make death.”  It’s the exact opposite he created us to have life. And to have life to the fullest with him.  When we kneel before the priest in the confessional and open our hearts to God’s mercy, we are like Jairus kneeling before Christ in Galilee.  When we touch the body and blood of Jesus in the Eucharist, we are like the woman with hemorrhages.  In both instances Christ’s divine life flows into our wounded lives.  The same Jesus of the Gospels is still at work through the sacraments, still present and active today, still healing, giving life, and strengthening those with faith.  And so we approach the sacraments with humble faith.

Let me end with a couple of questions. When we approach our Lord in the sacraments, do we approach him like one in the crowd we heard about in the Gospel who half-consciously jostles up against him preoccupied by many other thoughts?  Or, do we approach Him in the way of the afflicted woman or Jairus?   Because they are models for us in the way to approach Jesus.  While crowds of people were bumping into him as he walked along, the woman with hemorrhages and Jairus purposefully set out to meet him and to touch him.  They trusted his power.  They trusted his touch.  Their deep faith brought them into contact with Jesus and as a result they experienced dramatic healing.

God did not make death so with every sacrament we receive we get a dose of his divine life.  Let us ask always for healing let us ask always for life.  As you approach the sacraments ask yourself; where do I need healing?  Where do I need life?  How do I need healing?  How do I need life?  And then in faith ask for it.  May we be like the kneeling Jairus and the afflicted woman approaching Jesus with faith trusting in his power and in his touch.

Peace and all good,

Fr. Christopher Ankley

 

From a work by Saint Bonaventure, bishop

With you is the source of life

Take thought now, redeemed man, and consider how great and worthy is he who hangs on the cross for you. His death brings the dead to life, but at his passing heaven and earth are plunged into mourning and hard rocks are split asunder.

It was a divine decree that permitted one of the soldiers to open his sacred side with a lance. This was done so that the Church might be formed from the side of Christ as he slept the sleep of death on the cross, and so that the Scripture might be fulfilled: ‘They shall look on him whom they pierced’. The blood and water which poured out at that moment were the price of our salvation. Flowing from the secret abyss of our Lord’s heart as from a fountain, this stream gave the sacraments of the Church the power to confer the life of grace, while for those already living in Christ it became a spring of living water welling up to life everlasting.

Arise, then, beloved of Christ! Imitate the dove ‘that nests in a hole in the cliff’, keeping watch at the entrance ‘like the sparrow that finds a home’. There like the turtledove hide your little ones, the fruit of your chaste love. Press your lips to the fountain, ‘draw water from the wells of your Savior; for this is the spring flowing out of the middle of paradise, dividing into four rivers’, inundating devout hearts, watering the whole earth and making it fertile.

Run with eager desire to this source of life and light, all you who are vowed to God’s service. Come, whoever you may be, and cry out to him with all the strength of your heart. “O indescribable beauty of the most high God and purest radiance of eternal light! Life that gives all life, light that is the source of every other light, preserving in everlasting splendor the myriad flames that have shone before the throne of your divinity from the dawn of time! Eternal and inaccessible fountain, clear and sweet stream flowing from a hidden spring, unseen by mortal eye! None can fathom your depths nor survey your boundaries, none can measure your breadth, nothing can sully your purity. From you flows ‘the river which gladdens the city of God’ and makes us cry out with joy and thanksgiving in hymns of praise to you, for we know by our own experience that ‘with you is the source of life, and in your light we see light’.

 

Dear Diocese of Kalamazoo,

As you may have heard over the last few months, Starr Commonwealth in Albion (Calhoun County) has opened its residential facility to provide housing for hundreds of unaccompanied migrant children in response to an urgent request from the U.S. government.  In coordination with the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), Starr Commonwealth will provide temporary shelter for these children until they can be reunited with family or placed with sponsors.

Catholic Charities Diocese of Kalamazoo’s mission is “We are God’s hands providing housing, health, and hope to His children.”  As the service arm of the Church, we are diligently working to understand how we can serve the influx of refugee children that have recently arrived at Starr Commonwealth.  Catholic Charities is in communication with the leadership at Starr Commonwealth, and recently toured the facility, to better understand the needs of the children and how we as a Diocese can be of assistance.  Thank you to the many in our community that have already reached out to find out how we can care for these children.

Starr Commonwealth is housing up to 240 children (ages 5-17 years) and the average stay is 38 days before a child is reunited with family or placed with a sponsor in Michigan.  Currently, the Federal Government is providing bilingual caregivers with child development backgrounds, as well as food, clothing, education, and medical screening/care for all the children.  The facilities will be needed for a minimum of one year, but no end date has been given.  The Diocese of Kalamazoo is identifying a group of bilingual Priests, Deacons, and Sisters that will support at Starr Commonwealth for the children’s spiritual and sacramental needs.  Parish support by collecting rosaries, children’s Spanish language Bibles and Spanish language prayer cards has been identified as wanted and appreciated by the children.

How you can help:

Donate children’s Spanish language Bibles, Spanish language prayer cards and Rosaries by:

  • Donating at www.ccdok.org, select the DONATE button, then select the drop-down arrow and click on Unaccompanied Children – Spiritual Materials.
  • Purchase items at Newman’s bookstore at 340 E. Michigan Avenue, Kalamazoo https://newmansbookshoppe.com and deliver to Catholic Charities, 1819 Gull Road, Kalamazoo, MI 49048
  • Handmade Rosaries and welcome cards are also appreciated and can be mailed or delivered to Catholic Charities.

 

Pray!  Please continue to keep these children and all those assisting them in your prayers.

 

Please join us in praying for these children and all children at the border and in other relocation centers across the U.S.  “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.”  Mark 9:37

 

God Bless,

Deacon Don Bouchard, DO, MBA

Executive Director, Catholic Charities Diocese of Kalamazo0

Dear Friends,

With this parable of the mustard seed Jesus is helping his audience grasp the mystery and grandeur of God’s Kingdom.  And because the kingdom is a divine reality it can’t be fully defined or contained in human explanations.  It can, however, be understood by using analogies, word pictures for our minds that help us to think and ponder and meditate at a deeper level.

For Jesus the thing of earth that is most suitable as an analogy to the kingdom is a tiny seed and Jesus emphasizes its smallness.  For the Jewish audience hearing this for the very first time, this would have come as a surprise.  For them a more predictable comparison would be a mighty army.  They expected their messiah to be a great earthly ruler commanding a large battalion of soldiers.

But no, the kingdom is like a mustard seed, “The smallest of all seeds on earth” the most insignificant of seeds.  But Jesus adds once sown, “It springs up and becomes the largest of plants.”  And in mentioning the large branches that shelter many birds Jesus is reminding us of the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel who writes of a lofty tree that symbolized an empire that gives protection to all people of different races and languages.

Early Christians saw in this parable of the mustard seed Jesus Christ himself.  Jesus was the mustard seed.  Christ crucified, a young man on a cross dying alone and mocked was the mustard seed.  But from this despicable low beginning, through the power of the resurrection and the sending of the Holy Spirit a great Church was born that now reaches every continent with over a billion souls.  This growth is not due to human methods but to God’s hidden power.  Jesus speaks with utter assurance of the future success of the Kingdom urging his disciples, urging every one of us, to persevere with hope and patience.

Now this parable of the mustard seed is repeated over and over and over again in the history of the Church.  We see it in the saints and their works and we see it in ourselves. We see the mustard seed in St. Francis, one lone man considered crazy and deranged at first who, as we know, went on to found and form a world-wide order of both men and women.  We see the mustard seed again in Mother Theresa one lone sister going into the slums of Calcutta but emerging to form another world-wide order helping the poor in every major city of the world.  And in a last example we see the mustard seed in St. Charles Lwanga a Ugandan whose feast we celebrated on June 3rd.

On June 3rd of this month just ten days ago 500,000 African Catholics came to the site of his martyrdom in Namugongo to celebrate his feast day.  St. Charles was a page to King Mwanga back in the 1880s.  King Mwanga was a violent ruler who demanded certain favors from the court pages and attendants.  As the oldest page Charles tried to protect the younger ones from the king’s advances.  This enraged the king he wanted nothing to do with Christianity.  He expelled the missionaries and at one point locked his royal household staff within the gates of the palace saying, “Those who do not pray stand by me, those who do pray stand over there.”  Those who prayed were martyred; Charles Lwanga was among this group.  The Christians were taken on a 37 mile trek to the place of execution at Namugongo.  Wrapped in reed mats the Christians were burned to death.  Charles endured the flames without complaint and the very last words to come out of his mouth were a long drawn out sigh of “Oh God.”  A century ago there were hardly any Catholics in Africa; today it is the fastest growing religion with over 400 million.  The mustard seed grows.

Now we can see this mustard seed in us as well, both physically and spiritually.  Back in 1991 John Cardinal O’Connor of New York founded the Sisters of Life.  They are a religious community of nuns founded with the apostolate of protecting and enhancing the sacredness of all human life.  Part of their religious habit is a medal of our Lady and on the back of the medal is the inscription, “Nothing again would be casual or small.”  It is meant to be a reminder that all human life, no matter however seemingly small or insignificant in the eyes of others, is important.  The great beauty of the human person, created in the image of God, begins with the joining of just two microscopic cells, smaller even than the mustard seed.  And yet those two cells grow to be the people we see all around us.  Through the love of God the seed grows.

We see this in our spiritual life as well.  Holiness is a process.  Sanctity doesn’t usually happen all at once.  There is growth, usually imperceptible to us.  But we persist in the sacrament of reconciliation, the Eucharist every Sunday, and prayer and good works every day.  God is always at work within us bringing his plan to completion.  Never give up on God he is nurturing that seed within our soul.

Let us be great Saints,

Fr. Christopher J. Ankley