Topic: Preaching

Br. Bradley Thomas Elliott, O.P.'s picture

A Cheerful Giver

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Brothers and sisters: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each must do as already determined, without sadness or compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. Moreover, God is able to make every grace abundant for you, so that in all things, always having all you need, you may have an abundance for every good work. As it is written: He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor; his righteousness endures forever. The one who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You are being enriched in every way for all generosity, which through us produces thanksgiving to God. (2 Cor. 9:6-11)

Imagine this scenario: A father of four small children loses his job in an economic down-turn. In that same down-turn, an elderly widow on a fixed income loses her savings when the stock market plummets – savings that those she trusted promised would remain safe. A single mother is told that her only daughter is terminally ill, and the treatment is beyond what she could ever afford. These three individuals meet at Mass on Sunday morning only to hear St. Paul tell them how much “God loves a cheerful giver” and exhorts them to give generously of their recourses.

Our modern world is riddled with uncertainty. Simply no one, no matter how rich or resourceful, is immune from it. Even devout Christians, those who claim that “God is in control,” may find themselves haunted by doubt in their future security. This doubt leads to distrust; distrust leads to fear; fear leads us to spiritual isolation; and spiritual isolation tempts - even Christians - to a posture of protective competition with others, the world, and even with God. In such a world, is it truly possible for a Christian to be generous with joy? Yet this is exactly what St. Paul tells us to be. 

In the Gospels, we find one shining example of a giver whose generosity is praised by our Lord, yet it is a generosity that remained invisible to many. The story of the Woman in the Temple presents a poor woman among the rich elite. She is uncertain and afraid yet, out of her poverty, she still gives all that she has, a mere two coins. Jesus, knowing her gift and her intentions pronounces that she has given more than all the rest.

How can this be?

Jesus is illustrating that Christian generosity is not a matter of quantity, but quality. God in himself is pure gift. He gives out of the overabundance of His being, goodness, and mercy. Although He understands our human condition intimately and intensely, He labors under no economic problem of scarcity and lack. Thus the giving that is most akin to the heart of God is that giving and generosity which emerges from the human heart, not human physical abundance. Although the woman gave until it hurt, she could still be called a “joyful giver” since her giving was likened to the generosity of Christ, who also gave all that He had.

Let us recall what St. Paul teaches us: “God is able to make every grace abundant for you, so that in all things, always having all you need, you may have an abundance for every good work.” The giving that most pleases God is not one of great quantity, as if He somehow benefits from the gift, but rather one of great quality, where our hearts are conformed to His heart, and it is us, not Him, that change through the giving.

Thus, the remedy for worldly fear and uncertainty is also the very mark of Christian giving. This is a quality of loving self-surrender to God that characterizes the “cheerfulness” of joyful generosity. Let us remember that “the one who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will multiply your seed and increase the harvest of your righteousness.

In spite of the unavoidable uncertainties of life, we can always find joy in generosity. We can do this with full confidence that God can supply all of our physical needs.

This is not a call to imprudence, but rather a call to plant our lives in the seedbed of a supernatural hope in God. This hope is the true source of cheerful joy.

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Br. Bradley Thomas Elliott, O.P.'s picture

Seek the Lord While He May Be Found

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The prophet Isaiah tells us to "seek the Lord while He may br found; call upon Him while He is near." It is through a life of repentance and turning from sin that the Lord is sought. St. John Chrysostom teaches us that "it is our lack of penance, not our sins, that offends God the most." The saint understood that the fingerprint of true Christian spirituality is not perfection, but repentance. 

Br. Christopher Wetzel, O.P.'s picture

Reflections on the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross

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We proclaim Christ crucified,
a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,
but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks,
Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
     -1 Cor. 1:23-24

Adoration of the Cross

Modern cinematic technology is pretty amazing. The sense of being present in the midst of the story is so powerful that the viewing public pays billions of dollars each year for the experience. Why are superhero movies like Iron Man or Batman so popular? Because, in experiencing the events in the lives of powerful and clever characters like Tony Stark or Bruce Wayne, we feel powerful and clever, too.  

But not all movies do this. Consider Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. It is a hard film to watch. We see the suffering of Christ in graphic detail. It is one thing to read in the Gospel of John, “Then Pilate took Jesus and had him scourged.” It is something else to watch a solder brutally and mercilessly beat Jesus with a scourge, to see the gashes being cut into his back, his side, his legs and his face. We see the blood flying and pouring off his body, we see the skin being ripped off, we see and hear Jesus twisting and screaming in pain. This is a whole different kind of cinematic experience. You don’t feel powerful or clever while you watch; you feel nauseated and betrayed. And so, many people hated The Passion of the Christ because it’s realistic depiction of crucifixion was too violent, too unpleasant, too ugly. Whatever its merits as a film, it certainly depicts the suffering entailed in the crucifixion.

St. Paul, then, is right to say that Christ crucified is “a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.” How could this suffering man be the God of the Jews or the Wisdom of the Greeks? Today the situation is almost worse. To the modern man, Christ crucified is repulsive and offensive: I want to look away, I don’t want to deal with this. That Christ suffered 2000 years ago is fine, but today in the 21st century, such suffering offends our aesthetic sense; and the notion that we should imitate Christ crucified is positively an assault on our liberty and our right to the pursuit of happiness. How dare Jesus mar my tidy, orderly life with the messiness of crucifixion! The health and wealth gospel looks like a better way to go. So what are we doing today exalting the cross? Are we masochists? Who wants to uphold the Mel Gibson image of Jesus? Well, St. Paul, for one.

In this section of 1st Corinthians, St. Paul is worried that the Corinthians are aligning themselves with particular human preachers in different factions, according to the attractiveness of their message or who it was that baptized them. But for Paul, these are not important. He says, “Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with the wisdom of human eloquence, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its meaning.” Whenever we turn away from the cross and instead seek signs, or wisdom, or power, or smooth words, we empty the cross --and thus our faith-- of its meaning, because without the cross there is no resurrection. When we feel powerful or wise, we know that we have fallen short of our target, for “the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.” In other words, we exalt the cross because it is only through the cross that we can participate in the divine power and wisdom that is necessary for our happiness and salvation. 

Without the cross we are doomed to grasp impotently and foolishly at the things of this world, things that will only bring us misery. Our consumerist culture besieges us on every side, tempting and beguiling us with the idea that we can fill our emptiness with goods and services. It lies to us, telling us that, there’s just one more thing; that if we buy just one more product, then we will be content and satisfied. If only the food were better, if only my health were better, if only I had a few dollars more, if only this injustice in my life were corrected, then happiness would be mine!

In Philippians, Paul tells us that, “though he was in the form of God, Jesus did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.” Mammon can never fill our emptiness, but, paradoxically, detachment can. We can only truly be filled when we let go of everything else. Yes, absolutely everything else, except God himself. The wisdom of the cross, the power of the cross, is that God’s love is always present to us, will always triumph over evil, and is the only way to be happy. Do you believe this? 

Today we exalt the cross, we raise it up, as the sign that we can conquer the Evil one, by the grace of God. Today, we freely chose to begin the monastic fast. Not as some archaic masochistic ritual, but as a free response in love to the love of Christ crucified. As for an athlete that has won the race, we exalt, we lift up the cross of Christ on our shoulders as a celebration of his victory over sin. “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” O Christ crucified, may we empty ourselves in imitation of you, who are, for those who are the called, the power of God and the wisdom of God. Amen.

Four Men

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On May 31st of this year, four Western Dominican Province brothers were ordained to sacred orders by his Excellency, Bishop Michael Barber, S.J.Prostration Two, Fathers Peter Junípero Hannah and Justin Gable, were raised to the order of the priesthood; two more, Brs. Corwin Low and Gabriel Thomas Mosher, to the order of the diaconate. These men have spent seven years plus in formation as Western Dominicans, receiving rigorous training in philosophy and theology, along with the essential formation that goes into Dominican life—training as preachers, adapting to the disciplines of common observance, developing lives of prayer. And now they will be sent into the wider ministries of the Western Province and Church.

Please pray that they will be faithful and gentle servants of the Lord and His Church—that they will be zealous for the salvation of souls, devoted to the reverent celebration of the Eucharist, and ministers of God's mercy to the whole people of God!

L-R, Br. Corwin Low, Fr. Justin Gable, Bishop Barber, Fr. Peter Hannah, Br. Gabriel Mosher

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Br. Peter Junipero Hannah, O.P.'s picture

Resting for God

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We live in a workaholic culture. Production. Efficiency. Success. Go. And Keep Going. These are the watchwords of our busy society. Jewish and Christian tradition, however, places a high value--as in, it's a commandment--on the centrality of rest, leisure, and worship, for human life. For an observant Jew, to work on the Sabbath Day is equivalent to choosing to go back to slavery in Egypt! The Lord calls Christians too (indeed, he calls all) to rest in Him every Lord's Day. It is a commandment, yes, but one essential for offering worship to God and renewing the vital energies of our soul, mind, and body.  I've given this talk on many occasions--this one was recorded at a Theology on Tap event in Monterey, CA, in February of this year. Enjoy. And REST!

Fr. Gabriel Mosher, O.P.'s picture

Realize What He Has Done For Us

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Br. Gabriel's Passiontide preaching...You are dust, O Man, but Behold What God has Done!

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Br. Michael James Rivera, O.P.'s picture

The Lord God is My Help

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Why did Jesus endure such agony in his passion and death? To save sinners, and to show us how to endure suffering and persecution.

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Br. Clement Lepak, OP's picture

If You Are Angry...

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A conversation ends with a sudden: “You’re selfish. I can’t stand you anymore!” 

A phone is slammed down in rage: “AHHH! I’ll never speak to you again!”


Or the icy approach, “Oh, I see. Well, have a nice day.” Then the hurried shuffle away with hunched shoulders, red hands wringing, and plotting revenge. The grudge is on.


How exhausting. How useless. Is it really worth it?


We all get angry and there doesn’t seem to be an easy antidote. We seek calm to alleviate anger, but how can it be achieved when we must confront people at work, at home or at school who get on our nerves?


You may have tried everything with your opponent: reasoning, pleading, threatening. Nothing seems to change your encounters and you feel you just have to avoid them from now on. But have you tried prayer? Seriously, have you prayed for that person, the thorn in your side? Spiritual advisors sometimes ask us to place our enemies under the protection of Our Lord by devoting a period of time to praying for them.


How can this be done? By simply asking God to grant them all the graces He wants them to have so that our enemy or opponent will more deeply know the call to holiness and their hearts will be converted. You might start with a simple short prayer for them, once a day for two weeks. 

We find this promise in Scripture for those who pray for others: “Confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, and this will cure you: the heartfelt prayer of a good man works very powerfully. My brothers, if one of you strays away from the truth, and another brings him back to it, he may be sure that anyone who can bring back a sinner from the wrong way that he has taken will be saving a soul from death and covering up a great number of sins" (James 5:16, 19-20).


Notice that to be in the best disposition to pray for others we must have first confessed our own sins to one another. When we regularly attend the Sacrament of Reconciliation our lives begin to receive the tranquility that comes from order. Our hearts are freed to love God and to pray for our enemies; free to ask God to bless those who persecute us, or at least bother us. We are then able to give others the same consolation we have received from the sacraments.


It is, however, important to point out that anger itself is not a sin. In fact anger can be a good thing if it is directed at removing an evil. That’s why we have anger: to remove an obstacle that is perceived as threatening our own good. Every week during compline, the night office of the Church, we hear: “If you are angry, let it be without sin. The sun must not go down on your wrath; do not give the devil a chance to work on you” (Ephesians 4:26).

So if you’re angry at your cluttered desktop, use some of that anger to remove the obstacles. Clean it! But if you are angry at a person, then “let it be without sin,” pray for their holiness, for the gifts of the Holy Spirit to come upon them, for forgiveness of sins and for life eternal. May the Most Holy Name of Our Lord Jesus Christ bring us holiness and peace.

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Br. Cody Jorgensen, O.P.'s picture

The Jealousy of Numbers

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"He told his disciples to have a boat ready for him. He had cured many of them and, as a result, those who had diseases were pressing upon him to touch him" (Mk 3:9-10).

Word about Jesus spreads so quickly. How fast does the Word of God move in our lives and in our hearts! If today you knew of a man who, by merely touching him, would cure you of your most afflicted disease, would you not travel far and wide? Yet this man isn't of folklore or some newspaper headline; he is real, it is the Lord!

The crowds, the huge throng of people seeking Jesus for healing is reminiscent of the first reading. When King Saul and David walk through the cities of Israel after their victory, the people acclaim them for the thousands they have slain. Numbers. How interesting that numbers can incite jealousy within our hearts. "That other person did more than I. Is he better than me?" Were not both King Saul and David doing the will of God? I can easily count in my own experience the number of times I've been tempted to take an unholy pride in mere numbers: "Look! We had ten Baptisms at Easter Vigil this year!" Rejoicing in the work of the Lord is a beautiful thing, and yet how easily can the heart be tempted to quantify His work; tempted to think not of God's power, but of "our" work and rejoice in "our" accomplishment. It is good to rejoice, and yet how easily can we be led to jealousy!

In His mission, Jesus isn't preoccupied by a human jealousy of numbers. His mission is to do the will of the Father, a mission that because He is the Word, compels Him to preach the Gospel. Just as with King Saul, the leaders in Jerusalem will become wildly jealous because of the massive crowds that follow Jesus. Ultimately the ugliness of human jealousy will rear its head and again cry for death. Jesus however, as the Son and Word of God has the power to redeem us, to bring about the powerful manifestation of God's love in the Triumph of the Cross.

We must always seek to confirm one another in faith, and encourage each other in the work that God has given us to do in His Name. It is through the saving power of the cross that all our jealousies can be transformed. Let us be like the townspeople that heard of Jesus, Let us repent and flee to Him who has the power to save us.

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Br. Christopher Wetzel, O.P.'s picture

"Go up onto a high mountain, Zion, herald of glad tidings"

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A Reflection on Isaiah 40:1-11

 

In Yosemite National Park, there are many natural wonders to see. Perhaps the most famous of these are the beautiful and delicate waterfalls that pour into Yosemite Valley, which was carved out by a glacier during an ice age, about 1.3 million years ago. These waterfalls spill over the walls of the valley, which are themselves lined with granite rock formations soaring high above the valley floor. The top of one of these formations, called Glacier Point, offers a stunning view of the valley and, for those brave enough to stick their head over the railing, a three thousand foot vertical drop. The sense of height is dizzying, but the view is absolutely spectacular. It is the kind of experience that reminds you of how very small you are in the big scheme of things. Here is a huge and amazingly beautiful place, that was formed millions of years before you arrived and will be there millions of years after you are gone. In the waterfalls and granite cliffs of Yosemite, there is a power and strength that surpasses that of any human being, a glory that no one could ever match. Another one of these massive granite walls is called El Capitan, because, well, it is the Captain -- it is so mind bogglingly enormous. If you stand near the base and look at it long enough using binoculars, you can barely make out tiny ant-appearing objects, which are actually brave rock climbers who take days to scale its sheer face. This thing is huge.

El CapitanWhen Isaiah says: “Go up onto a high mountain, Zion, herald of glad tidings, Cry out at the top of your voice,” this is what I imagine: climbing El Capitan and then crying out at the top of my lungs. But what shall I cry out? According to Isaiah, the message is: “All mankind is grass, and all their glory like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower wilts, when the breath of the LORD blows upon it.” Now this is a strange message. In the rest of this passage we hear of comfort, freedom from labor, the need to prepare the way for the Lord, and of the power of the Lord. Why is the herald of good news to cry out, “All mankind is grass”? What kind of Good News is that? Well, God has created us for glory, or more precisely, to share in his Glory. But when we cling to our own glory, then we cannot share in his. 

Like a child who is brought to see the wonders of Yosemite, but who is too glued to the screen of the their electronic doodad to notice them, we cannot see and share in the glory of God if we do not lift our eyes from our own problems, plans, and preoccupations. This is evident in a more dramatic way for those climbing El Capitan. There is a saying among rock climbers: respect the mountain. If you don’t respect the mountain, you die. Isaiah is telling us to respect the mountain, to respect God, who comes with his strong arm. And we can’t do this if we are proud, if we don’t see how absurdly silly it is to cling to our own tiny and fleeting accomplishments when God wants to share a glory more massive and permanent than El Capitan with us. 

Glacier PointCertainly, there is risk involved in this kind of reflection. Like the vertigo you get from looking down from Glacier Point, looking at the power of God and thinking about him laying low all the protective mountains and hills in our lives can cause spiritual vertigo: we don’t want to look, we want to step back from the edge and stay in our own small comfortable world, where we are the center. But if we only knew, if we only knew that true comfort comes from God, we would turn to him. And so Isaiah tells us that we need to remember that we are like the grass. The grass withers and the flower wilts, and only the Word of the Lord stands forever; the glorious Word that we are preparing to welcome into our lives in this advent season of humble purification.

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