Faith

Father Kevin Reflection – December 10, 2017

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Respect Life

I want to get the date (and thoughts) into your schedules and prayers for Advent. As last week, we celebrated the Immaculate Conception of Mary on December 8th, let’s not experience this event in theory. In an answer to these prayers, please plan to join us next month (again) at the State Capitol in Pierre as we witness Respect of Life in Prayer, Singing and Fellowship.
The South Dakota Right to Life will be planning the event for Sunday, January 21st. (As usual, a bus will be scheduled to pick up those who would like to have this convenience to travel down to Pierre.) Members of surrounding parishes will be invited in joining us as well.

During this Advent Season, come and visit the church in a Holy Hour with Our Lord held before the Blessed Sacrament. Pray a Rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplet for the success of this coming year in witnessing the Gospel of Life. (And, storm heaven and earth to end our nation’s culture of death.)

This event bridges the Feasts we celebrate – the Immaculate Conception (December 8) and the Apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe to Juan Diego (December 9), the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe (December 12), Christmas (December 25), Holy Innocents (December 28), Holy Family (December 31), Mother of God (January 1) as well as the Epiphany (January 7) and the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan (January 8)…ALL THESE FEASTS GIVING CELEBERATION AND WITNESS TO NEW LIFE TO HUMANITY!

Let us pray to Mary, the Mother of God (under her title Our Lady of Guadalupe) to intercede for us through her Divine Son for a return to respect for ALL life in our country.

This Advent, may we make reparation for all the lives lost in this nation to abortion and pray that parents may be conscious of their calling as they share in God’s creative power. We also pray that those who have acted against human life experience forgiveness.

A possible theme for prayer this year: “Let us bow down in UNISON across the nation before the Blessed Sacrament in Adoration and Reparation for the sins against the lives of our innocent unborn and helpless ones.”

Father Kevin’s Reflection – November 12, 2017

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You have to really like St. Paul this week as he speaks not only to those 2000 years ago, but to our 21st Century world, too. All too often you will hear someone out there say: “I am spiritual but not religious…or into an organized religion”. It is tempting to be attracted to such ideas because the reality of the Original Sin is so much part of our spiritual DNA. “Do you not want to be as gods…knowing for yourself good and evil.”  (cf. Genesis 3:1-5)

The philosophies of worship go off in different directions. One theory is that only philosophers…only minds qualified for higher thought…are capable of the knowledge that constitutes the “way”. Only they are capable of the ascent, of the full divinization that is redemption and liberation from finitude. For the others…for the simpler souls not yet capable of the full upward vision…there are the different liturgies that offer them a certain redemption without being able to take them to the height of the Godhead. The doctrine of the transmigration of souls (or reincarnation) often compensates for these inequalities. It offers the hope that at some time in the wanderings of existence…the point will be reached when at last we can find an escape from finitude and its torments.

For others, knowledge (in Greek: gnosis) is the real power of redemption here and therefore the highest form of our elevation…union with God. That is why conceptual and religious systems of this kind (though, individually, they are all very different) are called “Gnosticism”. In early Christianity the clash with Gnosticism was the decisive struggle for its own identity. The fascination of such views is very great; they seem so easily identifiable with the Christian message.

For example, Original Sin (so hard otherwise to understand) is identified with the fall into finitude (Armageddon), which explains why it clings to everything stuck in the vortex of finitude (death…mortality). The idea of redemption as deliverance from the burden of finitude is readily comprehensible, and so on.

In our own times, too, in a variety of forms, the fascination of Gnosticism is at work. The religions of the Far East have the same basic pattern. That is why the various kinds of teaching on redemption that they offer seem highly plausible. Exercises for relaxing the body and emptying the mind are seen as the path to redemption. They aim at liberation from finitude, indeed, they momentarily anticipate that liberation and so have salvific power.

As I have written in previous reflections, as we prepare for the end times of this liturgical year, Christian thought has taken up the idea of:  departure and a return, but, in doing so, it distinguishes the two movements from one another. Departure is not a fall from the infinite…the rupture of being; and thus, the cause of all the sorrow in the world. No, departure is first and foremost something thoroughly positive. (If you don’t believe me…look at Michelangelo’s painting of creation…it says it all.) It is the Creator’s free act of creation. It is His positive Will that the created order should exist as something good in relation to Himself, from which a response of freedom and love can be given back to Him.

Non-divine being is not, therefore, something negative in itself but, on the contrary, the wholly positive fruit of the Divine Will. It depends, not on a disaster, but on a divine decree that is good and does good.

So, as our liturgical year comes closer and closer to the end times, let’s be sure to be the wise virgins…with ample oil ready to greet Christ the King. Don’t let those who think that that can be spiritual (and not believe in organized religion), take your oil from you. This organized party…planned by the Creator for the end times…requires us to be ready to greet Him…without letting the “party poopers” and their foolishness spoil the fun.

Father Kevin’s Reflection – November 12, 2017

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You have to really like St. Paul this week as he speaks not only to those 2000 years ago, but to our 21st Century world too. All too often you will hear someone out there say: “I am spiritual but not religious…or into an organized religion”. It is tempting to be attracted to such ideas because the reality of the Original Sin is so much part of our spiritual DNA. “Do you not want to be as gods…knowing for yourself good and evil.”  (cf. Genesis 3:1-5)

The philosophies of worship go off in different directions. One theory is that only philosophers…only minds qualified for higher thought…are capable of the knowledge that constitutes the “way”.  Only they are capable of the ascent, of the full divinization that is redemption and liberation from finitude. For the others…for the simpler souls not yet capable of the full upward vision…there are the different liturgies that offer them a certain redemption without being able to take them to the height of the Godhead. The doctrine of the transmigration of souls (or reincarnation) often compensates for these inequalities. It offers the hope that at some time in the wanderings of existence…the point will be reached when at last we can find an escape from finitude and its torments.

For others, knowledge (in Greek: gnosis) is the real power of redemption here and therefore the highest form of our elevation…union with God. That is why conceptual and religious systems of this kind (though, individually, they are all very different) are called “Gnosticism”. In early Christianity the clash with Gnosticism was the decisive struggle for its own identity. The fascination of such views is very great; they seem so easily identifiable with the Christian message.

For example, original sin (so hard otherwise to understand) is identified with the fall into finitude (Armageddon), which explains why it clings to everything stuck in the vortex of finitude (death…mortality). The idea of redemption as deliverance from the burden of finitude is readily comprehensible, and so on.

In our own times, too, in a variety of forms, the fascination of Gnosticism is at work. The religions of the Far East have the same basic pattern. That is why the various kinds of teaching on redemption that they offer seem highly plausible. Exercises for relaxing the body and emptying the mind are seen as the path to redemption. They aim at liberation from finitude, indeed, they momentarily anticipate that liberation and so have salvific power.

As I have written in previous reflections, as we prepare for the end times of this liturgical year, Christian thought has taken up the idea of:  departure and a return, but, in doing so, it distinguishes the two movements from one another. Departure is not a fall from the infinite…the rupture of being; and thus, the cause of all the sorrow in the world.   No, departure is first and foremost something thoroughly positive. (If you don’t believe me, look at Michelangelo’s painting of creation…it says it all.)  It is the Creator’s free act of creation. It is His positive Will that the created order should exist as something good in relation to Himself, from which a response of freedom and love can be given back to Him. Non-divine being is not, therefore, something negative in itself but, on the contrary, the wholly positive fruit of the Divine Will. It depends, not on a disaster, but on a divine decree that is good and does good.

So, as our liturgical year comes closer and closer to the end times, let’s be sure to be the wise virgins with ample oil ready to greet Christ the King. Don’t let those who think that that can be spiritual (and not believe in organized religion) take your oil from you. This organized party, planned by the Creator for the end times, requires us to be ready to greet Him without letting the “party poopers” and their foolishness spoil the fun.

Father Kevin’s Reflection – October 22, 2017

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The Church, in its liturgy now begins to wind down now (or maybe wind up)…depending on your perspective. You will begin to notice a movement to the end of the year of grace of 2017 as we look forward to the celebration of Christ the King! Jesus reminds us in our readings and prayers…He is the “all in all”…the Beginning and End…the A to Z…the Alpha and Omega.

For me the best way to reflect on this week’s readings: they remind me of fishing on the river. In the boat, everyone sees the surface of the water. Thanks to physics and buoyancy, we have the ability to travel on that liquid surface with little consideration of what is really around us (or, better, under us). It takes the scuba drivers and their cameras to bring to our reality what is really there: on, in and around the river.

Such is the case in the first reading from the prophet Isaiah this week as Isaiah (the scuba diver) has to give Cyrus the king a reality check. Cyrus is the kind of man who travels on the surface without even caring or taking into account the physics (or, if you like, the metaphysics) that keeps him afloat. The same goes with the Herodians who question Jesus about the trivial matter which actually goes to a deeper reality as to what is due to God. (A real Force that Star Wars movies attempts to bring into conceptual reality.)

A French scientist and philosopher, Teilhard de Chardin (and friends) in the early 20th century proposed a concept called: “Noosphere”. (He is kind of like the character Obi-Wan Kenobi [in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd movies]…the scuba diver). The idea behind “Noosphere” was that creation (or, if you like, evolution) can be explained by a metaphysical higher force (spirit and its understanding) embrace the physical whole and are blended into a kind of living organism. (Invoking the epistles to the Ephesians and Colossians, Teilhard looks on Christ as the energy that strives toward the Noosphere and finally incorporates everything in its “fullness’.) I know it is kind of deep water here…but…from here Teilhard went on to give a new meaning to Christian worship: the transubstantiated Host is the anticipation of the transformation and divinization of matter in the Christological “fullness”. In his view, the Eucharist provides the movement of the cosmos with its direction…it anticipates its goal and at the same time urges it on.

Yes, even the modern scientist (and movie makers) attempt to grasp what is owed rightfully to this world…but at the same time…give honor and worship to God for His reality in our fundamental lives. They themselves move towards the ultimate evolutionary reality of Christ the King too.

Father Kevin’s Reflection – October 15, 2017

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This week I want to continue a reflection on the short lived passion of gratitude. (It goes so well with this week’s readings.)

Once again we face the question: What is worship?  What happens when we worship? In all religions…sacrifice is at the heart of worship. But this is a concept that has been buried under the debris of endless misunderstandings. The common view is that sacrifice has something to do with destruction. It means handing over to God a reality that is in some way precious to man. Now this…handing over…presupposes that it is withdrawn from use by man, and that can only happen through its destruction…its definitive removal from the hands of man. But this immediately raises the question: What pleasure is God supposed to take in destruction? Is anything really surrendered to God through destruction?

One answer is that the destruction always conceals within itself the act of acknowledging God’s sovereignty over all things. But can such a mechanical act really serve God’s glory? Obviously not. True surrender to God looks very different. It consists – according to the early Church Fathers (in fidelity to biblical thought) – in the union of man and creation with God. Belonging to God has nothing to do with destruction or non-being: it is rather a way of being.

It means emerging from the state of separation, of apparent autonomy, of existing only for oneself and in oneself. It means losing oneself as the only possible way of finding oneself (cf. Mk 8:35; Mt 10:39). That is why St. Augustine could say that the true “sacrifice” is the civitas Dei (the City of God)…that is…a love-transformed mankind (the divinization of creation and the surrender of all things to God): God all in all (cf. 1 Cor 15:28). That is the purpose of the world. That is the essence of sacrifice and worship.

And so we can now say that the goal of worship and the goal of creation as a whole are one and the same—divinization, a world of freedom and love. But this means that the historical makes its appearance in the cosmic. The cosmos is not a kind of closed building, a stationary container in which history may…by chance…take place. It is itself movement, from its one beginning to its one end. In a sense…creation is history.

Father Kevin’s Reflection – October 8, 2017

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In a previous reflection, I wrote about gratitude.   Of all the passions man has … the passion of gratitude lasts only about two hours … then is diminishes almost out of existence.   (Now … contrast gratitude’s passion with the passion of anger … anger can last a lifetime … and rarely goes out of existence.)   We get an idea of what God’s sees from man far too often when it comes to showing Him gratitude … and because gratitude is so short lived … it kind of explains why we do what we do during weekend Sunday Mass.

What does worship really mean? How is it different from the circle of giving and receiving that characterized the pre-Christian world of worship?   Before turning to this question, I should like to refer to the text that concludes the giving of the ceremonial law in the book of Exodus.   It is constructed in close parallel to the account of creation.   Seven times it says, “Moses did as the Lord had commanded him” (words that suggest that the seven-day work on the tabernacle replicates the seven-day work on creation).   The account of the construction of the tabernacle ends with a kind of vision of the Sabbath.   “So Moses finished the work.   Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the Glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle” (cf. Ex 40:33).   The completion of the tent anticipates the completion of creation.   God makes His dwelling in the world.   Heaven and earth are united.

(In this connection (speaking of “creation”) allow me a side note to add: that in the Old Testament, the verb “bara” has two, and only two, meanings.   First, it denotes the process of the world’s creation, the separation of the elements, through which the cosmos emerges out of chaos.   Secondly, it denotes the fundamental process of salvation history … the election and separation of pure from impure, and therefore the inauguration of the history of God’s dealings with men. (How we are to worship Him … pure and perfect.)   Thus begins the spiritual creation, the creation of the covenant, without which the created cosmos would be an empty shell.)

Creation and history, creation, history and worship are in a relationship of reciprocity.  (All three interlinked and mutually working together for a mutual benefit.)   Creation looks toward the covenant, but the covenant completes creation and does not simply exist along with it.   Now if worship (rightly understood) is the soul of the covenant, then it not only saves mankind but is also meant to draw the whole of reality (all of creation) into communion with God.   Unlike the tenants of the vineyard in this week’s Gospel … we cannot separate creation, history and worship without harming the others.)

Father Kevin’s Reflection – October 1, 2017

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I enjoy this week’s reading from Ezekiel. How often do I, in my heart of hearts say to myself, “God, Your way is not fair! Look at all the things I have to do as a Catholic and how I am expected to live in my daily life. Look at how everyone is living…why do I get stuck being the token Christian?” And God’s response: “Listen, My goal for you is heaven and eternal happiness with Me. Get over what you think is unfair. I made fair. And believe it or not, I know what I am doing.”

But that is the issue for us…“believe it or not”…do it the hard way…do it the easy way… just do it God’s way and we will make it. And as Blue Eyes sang so well…that’s life. You may be a puppet, a pauper, a pirate,  poet, a pawn and a king…been up and down and over and out…God is the great equalizer…pick yourself up and get back in the race.

This is what the concept of the Old Testament Sabbath is all about. Sabbath is a vision of freedom. On this day slave and master are equals. The “hallowing” of the Sabbath means precisely this: a rest from all relationships of subordination and a temporary relief from all burden of work. (A reminder of what heaven is all about.)

Now some people conclude from this that the Old Testament makes no connection between creation and worship, that it leads to a pure vision of a liberated society as the goal of human history, that from the very beginning its orientation is anthropological and social…indeed revolutionary. But this is a complete misunderstanding of the Sabbath.

God is a fair God. The account of creation and the Sinai regulations about the Sabbath come from the same source. To understand the account of creation properly, one has to read the Sabbath ordinances of the Torah (the first five Books of our Bible). Then everything becomes clear. The Sabbath is the sign of the covenant between God and man; it sums up the inward essence of the covenant. If this is so, then we can now define the intention of the account of creation as follows: creation exists to be a place for the covenant that God wants to make with man. The goal of creation is the covenant, the love story of God and man. The freedom and equality of men, which the Sabbath is meant to bring about, is not a merely anthropological or sociological vision; it can only be understood…theologically. Only when man is in covenant with God does he become free. Only then are the equality and dignity of all men made manifest.

If, then, everything is directed to the covenant, it is important to see that the covenant is a relationship: God’s gift of Himself to man, but also man’s response to God. Man’s response to the God Who is good to him is love, and loving God means worshiping Him. If creation is meant to be a space for the covenant (the place where God and man meet one another) then it must be thought of as a space for worship.