Bread In the Wilderness

Father Carl Diederichs

St. Lucy/ St. Luke Churches

Houma-Thibodaux Diocese

 

 

Holy Week

 

Beginning this Sunday, March 20, the Church enters the holiest of weeks. We will reflect on the last days of Jesus on earth, His passion and murder and then celebrate the great miracle of His resurrection from the dead.

 

Many of us will be in church a lot during Holy Week. We’ll start with Palm Sunday when we reenact the joyous entry of Jesus into Jerusalem with palm branches waving and “hosannas” coming from the lips of young and old. Jesus is riding on a donkey and looking into the eyes of those on the side of the road cheering Him on.

 

But He is coming into the holy city that also houses the religious and civil leaders. They were waiting for Him. Not to hail Him, but the kill Him. So, the loud songs of praise and jubilation are snuffed out by the hatred of the religious leaders. These are the folks who claimed to be gatekeepers of the faith of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And yet, they were no better than anyone who would take the life of another. They were planning murder and got their wish. In the very sanctuary of God they plotted death.

 

Because of the people, their murderous plans had to wait just a little while longer. In the mean time, Jesus and His disciples gathered in an upper room of someone’s home and celebrated a meal. And not just a meal but the Passover Meal, a time to reflect on the great Exodus from slavery and death to freedom and life. He knew this would be His last supper. So, He wanted this supper to continue until the end of time. Jesus, at the end of meal, broke bread and gave it to His disciples and said: “This is my Body, given for you.” He took a cup of wine and said: “This is my Blood shed for you. Do this in memory of me.” So, the Pascal Feast celebrating slavery to freedom, death to life would remain with us as often as we break the bread and share the cup.

 

Not long after Jesus gave us this wonderful Sacrament, he was led away to become the forgiving victim at the hands of murderers who saw Him as a “scapegoat,” one that would have to die to save the nation. Yes, “Jesus the Forgiving Victim.” This is the heart of the matter—“Jesus the Forgiving Victim!”

 

There was no retaliation, no hatred, no getting even as Jesus died a horrible death on the Cross. For us, that is the takeaway that we often forget as we revert back to before Jesus when God supposedly approved even killing.

 

As we celebrate the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, let’s not forget that as His followers we become the embodiment of Jesus here and now. And our actions ought to be the actions and thoughts of Jesus. We are in a very fundamental way the Presence of Jesus today. And our behavior must be like His. The Forgiving Victim is our Lord and Savior. It is not easy to embody the Forgiving Jesus and live that life today.

 

That is why we need to come to the Welcome Table often. That is why we need to reflect on our baptism into Christ every day. That is why we need to remember that we have been anointed at our baptism to be like Jesus—a priest, a prophet and a servant leader.

 

If Jesus lives today in this world it will only be in us His followers. We can become the “Beloved Community” that Martin Luther King spoke about when he saw the power of Jesus bringing all of us together, no matter what color, what race, what religion, what ethnic origin.

 

Easter is so much more than Easter bonnets and lilies. Easter is when Jesus, the Forgiving Victim returns to earth in the hearts and minds of His People.

Bread In The Wilderness

Father Carl Diederichs

St. Lucy/ St. Luke Catholic Churches

Houma-Thibodaux, LA

 

 

In the Catholic Church and some other churches the holy season of Lent begins on February 10, known as ASH WEDNESDAY. This day is the first of 40 days leading up to Palm Sunday on March 20. The readings assigned for Ash Wednesday are: Joel 2: 12-18, Psalm 51, 2 Corinthians 5: 20-6:2, and Matthew 6: 1-6, 16-18.

 

For those who observe Lent, it is a time of more focused and sincere prayer, a time of fasting and purification, and a time of more generosity to others, especially the poor and the powerless. And all of this is preparation for the Week we call “Holy” during which we recall the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus.

 

And all of this “activity” stems from the core belief that God loves us without reservation or qualification, we are simply loved because we are God’s creation and all that God makes is good. So we say “what can we return to the Lord for all the good God does for me?” It is only through God’s mercy that we exist and are loved.

 

For us to experience God’s Mercy we ought to take time to pray, to be in God’s presence and not attempt to overwhelm God with words. During Lent maybe we could practice “Centering Prayer” or “wordless” prayer. That means we find a quiet place, acknowledge God’s presence and simply let God’s love and mercy seep into our pores and change us ever so gently. Do this ten minutes in the morning and at night. It will not be easy. Select a mantra like “Jesus Love,” or “Come, Lord Jesus.” And as your mind races from one thought to another, simply return to the mantra and realize that part of the prayer is to deal with these distractions without getting upset. There is much written about Centering Prayer that you can find online.

 

Our next focus is Fasting. And here we can get way off track. Fasting doesn’t mean giving up something and then patting yourself on the back for your self-control. Yes, fasting does entail giving up food and drink. The Church recommends that we eat two small meals and only one main meal. But, you can see that this is pretty much a personal decision based on so many variables. The spirit of fasting calls for sacrifice and maybe some hunger pangs. And Fridays in Lent are also special: no meat. I would add that anything expensive should be off the menu. I don’t think eating a lobster would be in the spirit of Lent.

 

And finally, Sharing and Caring (giving alms) is essential for a good Lent. Maybe this is the time to start volunteering at a Meal Program for the poor or a time to truly practice the virtue of generosity and start “percentage” giving of our income to the poor. We often speak about 10% as the biblical norm. It might be good to start there, if we are giving woefully less, but it is only a starting point. But let’s be realistic. If we are giving 1% of our income now, maybe a leap to 2% is all we can handle spiritually at this time. God is good all the time, so we can return our portion to God through the poor as we deepen our understanding in the fact that we are the recipients of God’s great Mercy all the time.

 

As we receive the Sign of the Cross on our forehead with the ashes of our palms from last Palm Sunday, the minister says to us: Repent (Turn Around!) and believe the Good News. Through Prayer, Fasting and Alms-giving we show we do believe!

 

And all of this leads to our goal: to be the hands and feet and heart of Jesus to those we meet, especially the poor and powerless. As we deepen our prayer, become more aware of what we eat and how much, the more we dig into our wallet or bank account and share with others, the more we will rejoice in the celebration of Easter. Come Lord Jesus, Come.

Bread In The Wilderness

Father Carl Diederichs

Parish Priest

 

Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time

 

This week the Church gives us readings that will open our eyes to our need for love of our enemies and the realization that we are often the enemy of God.

 

The readings are: Jeremiah 1:4-5, 17-19, Psalm 71, 1 Corinthians 12: 31-13: 13, and Luke 4: 21-30.

 

Jeremiah is called to be a prophet to the nations. God promises that even though Jeremiah will say some unpleasant things, God will not abandon him. The people will fight against Jeremiah but not prevail because God will remain with him. It didn’t always seem to Jeremiah that God was with him. As he called the people back to faithfulness, they became more and more belligerent and wanted to kill him. The link here is with Jesus in the synagogue at Nazareth. He said some things that got the people riled up to the point of wanting to kill him, just like Jeremiah. The people were the enemy of God even though they thought they were God’s chosen.

 

Jesus stood up and read from the Prophet Isaiah. Jesus read “The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.”

 

For a few minutes the congregation applauded their hometown boy. But then, moments later, they turn on him when he said these words were being fulfilled “today” in their hearing. They thought they were special and had a relationship with God that no others had. Wrong. As Jesus reminds them that the great prophets Elijah and Elisha ministered to Gentiles, people they hated. The widow of Zarephath received food from Elijah and Elisha healed the leper Naaman from Syria. So, God’s mercy was not limited to the Chosen People, they were told by Jesus. He reminded them that their calling was to spread the love of God to all people and no one was excluded or an enemy in the eyes of God. And they were to do it “today!”

 

They rebelled. The thing is they have fashioned their own god. And that god does not show mercy. They don’t realize that they themselves are “enemies’ of God in so far as they violate the command to love and forgive.

 

And we too can be enemies of God in spite of the fact that we think we are not. But the great thing is God loves us anyway, as we are, steeped in our own prejudices, hatreds, and selfishness. And when we realize the mercy that we have received from our loving God, the easier it will be for us to use our gifts to love even our perceived enemies. Love never fails, as St. Paul says. And he should know since he was willing at one time to murder in the name of his god. Like Paul, let’s get over making God in our own often-selfish likeness and rather realize we are made in the image and likeness of God, God whose name is Mercy! As we have received mercy, let us be merciful to others.

 

As we continue to hate others, as we continue to separate ourselves from the poor and needy, the prisoner and the sick and dying, yes, and even our own relatives, we hinder the coming of the Year of Mercy, a year acceptable to God.

 

Pope Francis said: “Mercy is the divine attitude that embraces, it is God’s self-giving that welcomes, that leans down to forgive.” And no one is excluded from that circle of mercy.

 

 

Bread In The Wilderness

Father Carl Diederichs

St. Luke/St. Lucy Churches

Thibodaux/Houma, LA

 

December 13, 2015 is the Third Sunday of Advent, also known as Gaudete (Be Joyful) Sunday. The Entrance Antiphon is: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near. (Philippians 4: 4-5)

 

The Readings are: Zephaniah 3: 14-18a, Philippians 4: 4-7, and Luke 3: 10-18. The first two readings carry us along on a joyful note. And then the Gospel seems to withdraw it.

 

The Prophet Zephaniah was not a happy camper. In fact, the only positive paragraph of his short letter is the one we quote today. He is more inclined to speak about the “Day of Wrath.” But, we’ll take the joyful moment. Paul is very pastoral in his letter to the Philippians. In fact, the verses quoted today are among the most joyful and encouraging. Paul urges his hearers to “rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice!” And he then proclaims, “The Lord is near.”

 

Both of these readings exude joy and the nearness of the Lord. And for us, the great gift of the coming of the baby Jesus is at hand as we count down to Christmas Day.

 

Luke has us fast-forward thirty some years after the “Coming of the Lord.” At this point in the Gospel, Jesus is about to come out of obscurity and begin His public life. John is His herald. John has been preaching for sometime and has attracted quite a following. And his followers included all sorts of people; people with more than two coats, people who have more food than they can eat, tax collectors, and even soldiers.

 

John declared clearly that he was not the Christ, and he really wasn’t even worthy to tie Jesus’ sandal strap. But he was clear about how his followers were to act. It would also be the way Jesus expected His followers to act. And the way He expects us to act.

 

John stood with the poor and powerless. He admonished those with more clothes than they needed, to share. He urged those with more food than they could eat, to share. He spoke about social justice as he admonished the tax collectors not to abuse their power and steal from the people. And law enforcement officers were to be satisfied with their wages and to not accuse anyone falsely.

 

As we know, these words have a universal ring to them. They are as fresh today as when John first proclaimed them. I hope we are vulnerable enough to ask the question: “What shall we do?” and be willing to receive the answer. Jesus came to preach Good News, as did John. It is our calling to see that caring and sharing, recognizing our vocation to lift up the lowly and the poor, is our calling today. It might be trite to say that Jesus comes to us today to be born in our hearts so that we can faithfully fulfill John’s words. It might be trite, but true. If we do care for the poor and powerless and work for social justice for all and are engaged in the effort to bring mercy into our world, we will be able to proclaim from the depths of our hearts that the Lord is near.

 

Source: Wild Hope

Bread In The Wilderness

Father Carl Diederichs

St. Lucy/ St. Luke Churches

Houma-Thibodaux, LA

 

Second Sunday of Advent

 

The readings given us for this Sunday are: Baruch 5: 1-9; Philippians 1: 4-6, 8-11; Luke 3: 1-6.

 

In spite of the evidence, followers of Jesus remain full of optimism and wild hope as we see everything through the lens of Jesus’ Death and Resurrection. But that does not mean that we ignore reality and the great suffering and anguish our brothers and sisters go through everyday of their lives. We are blessed with “wild hope” as we read the signs of the times and embrace the suffering and pain of so many today.

 

Baruch wrote his letter from Babylonia where he was in exile with Jeremiah. Scholars think around the year 150 B.C. Baruch, full of optimism, speaks to the people in Jerusalem: They are to be wrapped in the cloak of “justice.” “For God is leading Israel in joy by the light of his glory, with his mercy and justice for company.” So, out of exile and defeat, the people are given a new day to worship God in “the peace of justice, the glory of God’s worship.” And they are doing this in the City of Peace, Jerusalem.

 

Luke picks up the optimism of Baruch. Hundreds of years after Baruch, John the Baptist, predicting a new day addresses his hearers with these hope-filled words from Isaiah: “A voice of one crying in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low. The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’” John preached “wild hope.”

 

Jesus is the object of John’s “wild hope.” Paul, in the passage from the Philippians for today says: “I am confident (wild hope) of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.” For us, each day is the “day of Christ Jesus.”

 

And each day ought to bring us closer to the “salvation of God.” And this is not up there somewhere or over there or next year or maybe never. No, the salvation of God is now. As baptized members of Christ, we have the honorable mission of making God’s Kingdom, God’s Culture, come to earth as it is in heaven.

 

During this Jubilee Year of Mercy, let’s make real the prayer of Pope Francis: “Let the church be your visible face in the world, its Lord risen and glorified. You willed that your ministers (all of us) would be clothed in weakness in order that they may feel compassion for those in ignorance and error; let everyone who approaches them feel sought after, loved, and forgiven by God.” Wild Hope! Wild Mercy!

Bread In The Wilderness

Fr. Carl Diederichs

November 1st is always the Feast of All Saints. The readings given us are: Rev 7: 2-4, 9-14, 1st John 3: 1-3, and Matthew 5: 1-12a.

We are told that this feast was originally celebrated to honor and remember the many martyrs who died in the first century of Christianity. The early history remembered the martyrs, but as centuries passed the feast began to include all the named and unnamed followers of Jesus who passed to the other side, to glory.

In Revelation (probably the most misunderstood book of the Bible) John sees the vision of a great multitude of people. They were “sealed” with the seal of our living God. John’s vision continued and he sees “a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue.” And who are they? “These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb.”

And John, in his letter, can be seen addressing those who have on the white robe and are now incorporated into Christ. “See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God.” “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”

And Jesus shows himself, as he is in Matthew’s Gospel. And that is where our teaching should come from; The Beatitudes, the “blessings” are ours if we are like him. We are blessed to be poor in spirit, to mourn, to be meek, to hunger and thirst for justice, to be merciful, to be clean of heart, to be peacemakers, to even be “persecuted” for the sake of righteousness, along with being “insulted.” He himself went through all of these things, for us. It is now our turn.

Today, all of the blessings are relevant, but I would like to hold up “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.” What to make of this? Our current affairs certainly give us a glaring view of the lack of righteousness.

For us, righteousness can be seen in the way we are governed; is it just and fair? for the common good? it can be seen in our own lives by the way we treat our neighbor, by the way we “become prophet, priest and servant leader,” in faithfulness to the anointing we received at our Baptism.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.” I ask blessings on all who are standing up for justice, for the cause of “Black Lives Matter,” for the cause of our environment, for health care for all, for those who challenge the status quo and are willing to become the object of insults and persecution. “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.”

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