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Celebrate Sunday Mass With Bishop Strickland - 6.21.20
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Bishop Strickland celebrating Sunday Mass.
Dear Catholic Online Community and Catholic Online School students...
I AM TRULY HAPPY TO OFFER EACH OF YOU AN INVITATION TO SUNDAY MASS WITH BISHOP JOSEPH STRICKLAND ON THE TWELFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME.
I have other Mass assignments on this Lords Day, but one of my brother Deacons will assist our Bishop at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Tyler, Texas. I know you look forward to hearing Bishop Strickland preach and, like me, are drawn closer to the Lord when he offers the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
The readings, as always, offer so much for us to reflect on. It is helpful to pray through them, and reflect upon them, before going to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
In our first reading, the Hebrew prophet Jeremiah, a powerfully anointed and courageous man of God, has come under a terrible persecution at the hands of a priest named Pashhur because of his prophecies calling Israel to repentance. The priest beats the Prophet severely and then places him in jail. The portion of the twentieth chapter we hear this twelfth Sunday in Ordinary time, is a part of Jeremiahs' honest but deeply disappointed conversation with the Lord over what has befallen him for proclaiming Gods word. He even acknowledges his own fear.
It is important to see this humanity revealed in this account of the Prophet Jeremiah. It can teach us something about our own relationship with the Lord and how we can pray. This kind of gut-wrenching honesty is not somehow "inappropriate" in prayer. God knows our hearts. He knows our fears. Speak to Him honestly, from the heart. Do not be afraid!
A little earlier on, Jeremiah even says to the Lord "You duped me and I let myself be duped" (Jer. 20:7) But he continues on with these words spoken to the Lord "You are stronger than I and you have prevailed". The Psalmist David, in our Responsorial Psalm for this Sunday Mass, reveals the same kind of honesty in his prayer life. He just tells it all to the Lord! How honest are we in our prayer?
In the Second Reading, the Apostle Paul reminds the Christians in Rome that sin no longer reigns over them because of the redemption offered through Jesus Christ. In Jesus and by His Cross, the penalty for all the sins of the world has been paid. And, the "wages" of that sin has been paid. The separation which sin brought, that is death itself, is defeated through the gift of God's grace which is given to us in Jesus Christ. Do we believe this? Do we live as though we believe it? We can.
In the Gospel for Sundays' Holy Mass Jesus tells us what NOT to fear. But He also tells us what TO fear. Fear is a common human emotion. But most human fear is rooted in a lack of trust in God's love for us. We fear that we will lose our health. We fear that we will not have enough money. We fear that we will fail at a job or career or on an exam. We fear that we will not be accepted in a social setting. Then, as some of us have grown older and had children, and grandchildren, we fear the same things for each one of them.
Perhaps we are no longer as crippled by our fears as we were when we were younger, but they still lurk in the background, robbing our freedom and preventing our human flourishing. They harm our relationships and can impede our growth.
All our human fears find a common root in the fear of death which can lead to the slavery spoken of in the Letter to the Hebrews in the New Testament. "Now since the children share in blood and flesh, he likewise shared in them, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who through fear of death had been subject to slavery all their life" - Heb 2:14-15
The Good News (and that is what the word Gospel means in its literal translation from Greek) is that this kind of fear is useless! Listen to these words from Jesus Christ from another place in the Gospel "Fear is useless; what is needed is trust." (Luke 8:50, Mark 5:36)
Fear need no longer have any power over us if we choose to trust in the Lord, and learn to allow His Divine Life, we call it grace, to permeate our daily lives. All useless human fears can be overcome in prayer. They can be dispelled in the light of a vibrant and growing faith.
But there is something we should fear. In the words of the Lord from the Gospel of Sundays Holy Mass, Jesus tells us to fear the one "who can destroy both body and soul in hell". That is the devil. Hell is real. It is the state of eternal separation from God. The Devil is real. And, he hates us and wants our damnation. The Catholic Catechism explains:
"The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, "eternal fire." The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs." (CCC #1035)
Let us grow in our prayer by honestly speaking to the Lord and sharing with Him our human fears. He will give us the grace to overcome them. But let us also cultivate the holy fear of hell, separation from God. That is the result of turning away from God, through sin. Let us choose on this Lords Day to follow the Lord Jesus Christ - and reject sin and the devil.
May the Lord bless you, your families, the Church, and the Nations of the world on this Lord's Day.
Deacon Keith Fournier
Dean of Catholic Online School
Chaplain of Your Catholic Voice Foundation
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