Reflections

Father Kevin Reflection – December 10, 2017

Posted on

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

Posted on Updated on

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

Posted on Updated on

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 29, 2017

Posted on

You may remember from last week’s reflection: the prayers and the readings are preparing us for the end times…for the arrival of Christ the King (and the end of the 2017 liturgical year). The first reading reminds us of how we are to treat one anther…looking out for each other…being an example to one another. St. Paul applauds the Thessalonians for their looking outside of themselves and creating circles of faithful individuals in other towns.

This image of expanding the faith is not of an upward flying arrow, but of a kind of circular movement, the two essential directions of which can be called: departure and return. This “paradigm” is common in the general history of religions as well as in Christian antiquity and the Middle Ages. For Christian thinkers, the circle is seen as the great movement of the cosmos. The nature religions and many non-Christian philosophies think of it as a movement of unceasing repetition (as we find in the modern Hinduism and Far Eastern religions). On closer inspection, these two points of view are not as mutually exclusive as at first sight they seem.

For in the Christian view of the world, the many small circles of the lives of individuals are inscribed within the one great circle of history as it moves from departure and return. You see this in the first reading as God reminds Israel…“I am not that far away…I have (and experience) compassion for those who call out to Me. And, I am watching and listening.”

The small circles carry within themselves the great rhythm of the whole, give it concrete forms that are ever new, and so provide it with the force of its movement. And in the one great circle there are also the many circles of the lives of the different cultures and communities of human history, in which the drama of: beginning, development, and end is played out. In these circles, the mystery of beginning is repeated again and again, but they are also the scene of the end of time, of a final collapse, which may in its own way prepare the ground for a new beginning. The totality of the small circles reflects the great circle. The two – the great circle and the small circles – are interconnected and interdependent. And so our worship is bound with all three dimensions of the circular movement: the personal, the social (love your neighbor as yourself), and the universal (above all things, loving God).

As we come closer and closer to the end of liturgical year…we also anticipate a new beginning, a new middle and a new ending. Unlike so many who have a dread of the end times. The Church and Its members actually: prepare, are preparing, and are prepared for Christ the King (all at the same time as we worship God at the Mass.)

Father Kevin’s Reflection – September 24, 2017

Posted on Updated on

It is a widely accepted opinion in modern theology that in the so-called … nature religions (as well as in the non-theistic higher religions) worship (and a liturgy) is focused on the cosmos.   While in the Old Testament and Christianity … the orientation is toward history.     Islam (like post-biblical Judaism) is familiar only with a liturgy of the Word, which is shaped and ordered by the revelation that took place in history  (though, in line with the universal tendency of that revelation) it is definitely meant to have a significance for the world as a whole.

The idea of worship being either cosmic or historical is not entirely unfounded, but it is false when it leads to an exclusive opposition.   It underestimates the sense of history to be found even in the nature religions … and it narrows the meaning of Christian worship of God … forgetting that faith in redemption cannot be separated from faith in the Creator.   In my current reflections, I hope we shall discover just how important this question of salvific history is, even for the apparent externals of liturgical celebration.

I will try to explain what I am saying in several degrees.

In the religions of the world, cult and cosmos are always closely bound up with one another.   The worship of the gods is never just a kind of act of socialization on the part of the community (as so many think going to Mass (or going to services) is … through the affirmation, through symbols, of its social organization.    The commonly held idea is: that worship involves a circular movement of giving and receiving.   The gods sustain the world … while men (by their cultic gifts) feed and sustain the gods.   The circle of being has two parts: the power of the gods supporting the world; but also, the gift of men … which provides for the gods out of the world’s resources.   This leads to the idea that man was in fact created in order to sustain the gods and to be an essential link in the circular chain of the universe.   However naive this may seem, it reveals a profound intuition into the meaning of human existence.

This lesson is (kind of) seen in today’s Gospel.   Jesus speaks of the Kingdom of God being like that of a wealthy landowner who seeks laborers to harvest the crops.   The laborers come and work hard and at the end of the day receives a day pay from the master.

Man exists for God, and thus he serves the whole.   Of course, distortion and abuse also lurk behind the door: man somehow has power over the gods; in some small way, in his relationship to them, he has the key to reality in his hand.   The gods need him, but, of course, he also needs them.   Should he abuse his power, he would do harm to the gods, but he would also destroy himself.

In the Old Testament’s account of creation (cf.  Gen 1:1-2:4) these views are certainly discernible but at the same time transformed.   Creation moves toward the Sabbath, to the day on which man and the whole created order participates in God’s rest, in His freedom.   Nothing is said directly about worship, still less about the Creator needing the gifts of men.   Yet, we are assured that God is not a forgetful God.  He is fair … “’My friend, I am not cheating you.     Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?

Take what is yours and go.    What if I wish to give this last one the same as you?

Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money?    Are you envious because I am generous?’

Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”   But … in the end we all will be given what is justly ours in building His Kingdom … on earth as it is in Heaven.

Father Kevin’s Reflection – August 27, 2017

Posted on Updated on

This week’s first reading calls out to us in the 21st century…why? Well, you know, man doesn’t change very much. St. Thomas Aquinas uses the fancy word: concupiscence (a strong desire, a tendency or attraction, usually arising from lust or sensual desires). I always like demonstrating this principal of people who move in and out of two states (oh…let us say North Dakota and Canada). Those on the Dakota side know this state very well, but, because we don’t travel much in Canada, we tend to stay away…because we don’t go where we have to study, experience the ways and rules of Canada (I still have problems converting miles into Km). This is similar to mankind. We can live in the state of Virtue or the state of Vice. We know the roadmap of the state of Vice very well. However, the state of Virtue calls us to live, learn and practice life in a different way. And, we lean (our concupiscence) to Vice over Virtue because we lazily stick to the old road and trails we know so well (even though we know the state of Virtue is far better place to exist).

We have been reflecting on why we (as Catholics) do what we do in our worship and prayer. We have been looking at the People of Israel in the Old Testament. (In particular, we have been thinking of Moses and his message of being a free people in the Promise Land.

Three things are important for the question we are considering. First of all, on Sinai the people receive not only instructions about worship, but also an all-embracing rule of law and life. Only in these recognizable observances given to them by God can it become a people unique in this world. A people without a common rule of law cannot live. It destroys itself in anarchy, which is a parody of “freedom”, this pretending “freedom” is too often exalted to the point of obliteration.

When every man lives without law, every man lives without freedom. This brings me to my second point. In the ordering of the covenant on Sinai, the three aspects of: worship, law and ethics are inseparably interwoven. This is the greatness of the Sinai covenant…but also its limitation, as is shown in the transition from Israel (Old Testament) to the Church of the Gentiles (New Testament), where the interweaving was to unravel…to make room for a diversity of legal forms and political structures. In the modern age this necessary unraveling has led finally to the total secularization of the law and the exclusion of any God-ward perspective (or any God focus) from the fashioning of the law.

But we must not forget that there is an essential connection between the three orders of: worship, law, and ethics. Law without a foundation in morality becomes injustice. When morality and law do not originate in a God-ward perspective (being God focused), such laws will degrade man, because they rob him of his highest measure and his highest capacity (deprive him of any vision of the infinite and the eternal).

This “freedom”, this seeming liberation subjects him to the dictatorship of the ruling majority, to shifting human standards…which inevitably end up doing him violence. (Have you been watching TV recently?) Now we come to a third point…which takes us back to where we started…to the question of the nature (the why) of worship and liturgy. When human affairs are so ordered that there is no recognition of God, there is a belittling of man. That is why, in the final analysis, worship and law cannot be completely separated from each other. God has a right to a response from man…a response from man  to man himself…and…where that right of God totally disappears, the order of law among men is dissolved, because there is no cornerstone to keep the whole structure together.

Father Kevin’s Reflection – August 20, 2017

Posted on Updated on

Image result for beautiful pic of vaticanThis week’s second reading from St. Paul is very telling of a man (who, if you remember from last week, is himself a Jew…of the chosen people…picked by God to be His race of people) that wants the Romans (the Gentiles…the untouchables) to know they are God’s people. Just as Moses brings the people out of Egypt to return the Israelites back to Israel, St. Paul calls the Romans (and us…2000 years later) to join in the journey.

Israel departs Egypt (the reality of slavery), not in order to be a people like all the others; Israel departs…as I wrote last week…in order to serve God. The goal of the departure is into the unknown…the still unknown mountain of God…to the service of God. Now the objection could be made that focusing on worship in the negotiations with Pharaoh was purely tactical. The real goal of the Exodus (ultimately its only goal) was not worship but land (this, after all, was the real content of the promise to Abraham).

But, like St. Paul, I do not think that “a land deal” does justice to the seriousness that underlies the readings. The land (the country of Israel) is given to the people to be a place for the worship of the True God. Mere possession of the land…mere national autonomy…would reduce Israel to the same level of all the other nations. The pursuit of such a goal would be a misunderstanding of what is distinctive about Israel being God’s chosen people. The whole history recounted in the Old Testament books of the Judges and Kings (which is taken up again and given a new interpretation in the Chronicles), is intended to show precisely this: that the land…considered just in itself…is a convenience. It only becomes a true good, a real gift, a promise fulfilled…when it is the place where God reigns. Then it will not be just some independent state or other world power…but the realm of obedience (where God’s will is done and the right kind of human existence developed). A lesson Peter learned the hard way last week when he let the world confuse him…and starts to drown in the world’s surroundings.

Looking at the biblical texts (like Isaiah this week) helps us to define more exactly the relationship of the two goals of the Exodus story. In its wanderings, Israel discovers the kind of sacrifice God wants…not after three days (as suggested in the conversation with Pharaoh)…but after three months – on the day they come “into the wilderness of Sinai” (cf. Ex 19:1). On the third day God comes down (kind of what happened at the Transfiguration) onto the top of the mountain (cf. Ex19:16, 20). He speaks to the people. He makes known His will to them in the Ten Commandments (cf. 20:1-17) and, through the mediation of (a priest) Moses…makes a covenant with them (cf. Ex 24). This covenant was (is) to be observed and practiced in a precisely regulated form of worship. In this way, the purpose of the wandering in the wilderness (as explained to Pharaoh) is fulfilled. Israel learns how to worship God in the way He Himself desires. So our liturgy (in the proper sense) is part of this worship…but…so too is our life according to the will of God. St. Paul’s point in the second reading: this life is an indispensable part of true worship. Ultimately, it is the very life of man…man himself as living righteously…that is the true worship of God. But, life only becomes real life when it receives its form from looking toward God. The liturgy (with all its “rules”) exists in order to communicate this vision and to give life in such a way that glory is given to God.