Sunday, March 22, 2020

Is this Hell?


As I was laying in bed this morning, pondering what has been going on, what continues to play out before us, especially being cut off from Mass and the Eucharist, it occurred to me, this is a bit like Hell.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines Hell as “The state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed, reserved for those who refuse by their own free choice to believe and be converted from sin, even to the end of their lives.”  Granted, our exclusion is not by our free choice.  However, through the suspension of public Mass, we are excluded from communion with God in a real way.  We are not able to be in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. 

As painful as this exclusion is, it is still only partial exclusion.  We can watch a Mass being broadcast in some fashion which allows us to hear the word of God being proclaimed and broken open to us in the minster’s homily.  We can use that hour to praise God, to worship Him and his son Jesus our Christ.  Every day we can, and should - pandemic or not - pause and pray privately.  But we are still excluded from the Eucharist, from full communion with God.

The pain from this exclusion is real for me, and judging by the reaction of Catholics on Facebook, the pain is real for others too.  So, if a partial exclusion from communion with God is painful just two weeks into the suspension of Mass, I can’t fathom what full exclusion from God… for eternity… would be like!  I pray that I don’t do something that would self-exclude me from God.  And without a doubt, I pray for everyone, especially during this global medical crisis.  While I don’t believe God did this to punish us, our loving father certainly will use this pandemic to bring about something good. 

In the peace of Christ,

Deacon Mike

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Goodbye to a Friend

Back in August 2006 my wife and I took into our home a Chocolate Lab puppy.  For a year we were to be his foster puppy raisers for Paws With a Cause to, hopefully, one day go on to be a service dog.  I had been sensing a calling to the diaconate, but I also put up hurdles to responding to the calling.  I was aware that the diaconate was a service ministry.  With that in mind, when we were given the opportunity to name our Paws puppy, I suggested the name Deacon. 

Our primary responsibility as foster puppy raisers was to provide the basic training and socialization.  This meant, of course, housebreaking, but included taking Deacon with us virtually everywhere we went.  After all, service dogs go everywhere with their "client" as the recipient of a service dog is often called.  Deacon accompanied us to Petoskey, Michigan for a Thanksgiving weekend.  He went with us to work.  He was with us to frequent training trips to malls and stores.  Deacon even joined us for Sunday Mass at the former St. Colman Catholic Church in Farmington Hills.

As our year with Deacon was nearing its end, not knowing how much more time we had before returning him to Paws, we made one more trip to Petoskey.  I snapped this picture while Juanita sat with him on the breakwater.  I thought the sunset was apropos as our time with Deacon was coming to an end.  

Sure enough, upon our return home, in the mail was an envelope from Paws with the paperwork for returning Deacon.  I don't recall how long after submitting the paperwork that we received a call from a woman at Paws headquarters.  They were "career changing" Deacon because his medical records showed he had signs of allergies.   As his puppy raisers, we were given first opportunity to adopt Deacon.  Without hesitation, we said yes!

This evening, after more than 13 years of being part of our home, our lives, and in our hearts, we returned Deacon to God.  Deacon had slowed down considerably.  Walking was visibly painful for him in spite of ours and his vet's efforts to ease the pain.  Any attempt to run was brief, involving a stride or two at most.  Even though we know his time had come, parting was heartbreaking.  Our home is noticeably empty tonight without Deacon's presence, without his spirit being among us.  We felt it almost immediately as our vet listened for and confirmed Deacon's heart had stopped.  

Our God is a loving God, the creator of all that is good.  Tears aside, I take comfort knowing that an all loving God never abandons what he creates.  While what that might mean exactly for Deacon remains a mystery, my faith in God assures me it is far better than even the most loving care we could provide him.  

So, this evening we thank God for entrusting us with caring for one of his creatures, and with heavy hearts, we return Deacon to his care.

In the peace of Christ,

Deacon Mike

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Do You Not Have Faith?

"Do you not have faith?" A powerful, punch to the gut, question from Jesus in the Gospel reading today (Mk 4:35-41). Even though his disciples had already seen Jesus perform numerous miracles, they were still fearful they may drown during a storm.
Are our responses to the issues in the world, in the country, in the Church, ones that would prompt Jesus to ask us, "Do you not have faith?"

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Lampstand

Jesus asks in our Gospel reading today (Mk 4:21-25) the rhetorical question about one putting a lamp under a bushel basket or under a bed rather than on a lampstand. Of course you put a lamp on a lampstand so it casts its light further. And what comes about in the light, things that are hidden in the dark are revealed.

We believe Jesus is the light of the world. In that case, was Jesus referring to himself, that his mission wasn't to be hidden, but to be set up high to shine light in our darkness. And if so, does that make his cross a lampstand?

Sunday, January 12, 2020

The Baptism of the Lord


Deacons are frequently asked what are some of the things we can do.  Liturgically speaking, the big three are baptisms, and outside of Mass, weddings and funerals.  My first baptism as a deacon is coming up in about a month, and it is starting to weigh on my thoughts.  Mind you, I have assisted priests and deacons at many baptisms over the years as an acolyte during formation, fetching towels, handing them the correct oils, lighting candles, and so forth.  I have even had some hands-on experience during a class at the Seminary.  But being the presider, rather than assisting the presider, or pouring water over an infant, rather than a doll, is, I suspect, going to be very different on so many levels.  Rest assured, I’ll prepare as much as possible, rehearsing at home repeatedly the night before.  Even so, I will turn to the Holy Spirit to steady the nerves come the big day.

As nerve-wracking as this first baptism might seem to me, I can only imagine what John the Baptist was thinking when Jesus came to him to be baptized!  Don’t forget, John knew who Jesus was.  The Baptist had been telling anyone who would listen to him that one greater than he was to come, so great that he, John, was unworthy to loosen his sandal straps.  After all, that was John’s mission from conception, to announce the coming of the Messiah!  That, in and of itself, is an awesome responsibility.  But now Jesus presents himself to be baptized.  To put that in perspective, think how you might feel if the Pope personally asked you to pray for him?

If knowledge of Jesus wasn’t enough to leave John the Baptist in awe, certainly what happened afterwards would.  No sooner does Jesus rise from the water than the heavens open, a dove settles on him, and God, yes GOD, is heard saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

My first baptism will be nothing like this, with one exception.  While not visible in the form of a dove, the same Holy Spirit that descended upon Jesus will leave an indelible mark on the infant being baptized, just as he has on all the baptized.  This child will become an adopted son of God with the stain of original sin washed away.  And as I imagine John the Baptist standing in awe of what he witnessed, humbled that the Lord worked through him in that way, so too will I, his humble servant, stand in awe at the power of the Holy Spirit and the waters of baptism.

In the Peace of Christ,

Deacon Mike