Greetings my good friends in Christ,
Next weekend we kick off the 2020 Together in Mission appeal here in the parish which financially helps poorer parishes and schools throughout the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
All of you who pledged in the 2019 campaign are to be applauded because we reached our goal for the first time in many years. Thank you so much in supporting the Together in Mission appeal. This year is no exception we have a goal of $61,672 dollars and I have every confidence we will meet our goal again this year.
Next Sunday at the masses I have invited Donnie Green who is Principal of St. Sebastian School in West Los Angeles who will share the blessings of receiving funds from Together in Mission to keep his school vibrant and welcoming. Please pray for the success of our mission appeal and please pledge.
If you have already received your pledge in the mail, like I have, please pledge and make sure to mention Our Lady of Refuge. Thank you all so much.
This weekend, we are once again challenged to take heed of the Gospel message to love one another, whomever they are, and to have the courage to lighten up people’s lives by our witness to those who are suffering, poor or abandoned by society. To be authentic followers of Jesus Christ, we have to be willing to put into action the challenge of the Gospel to be a light to others who often are forgotten, despised and rejected by people who call themselves Christians, but are not from the heart.
Throughout the papacy of Pope Francis, we have witnessed this light of Christ in action. Practically on a daily basis, we hear of new stories of simple acts of kindness, which are changing the world’s view. People from all faith traditions are being inspired by our Pope Francis and his message to the world, which is an outreach to the lowliest in society, the abandoned, the forgotten, the poor, the immigrants, and in particular, to those lost in our society. Pope Francis is definitely showing us what the light of Christ is all about, and the scriptures this weekend confirm this to all of us.
What is this light which we hear about so often in the scriptures? In the Gospel today, Jesus says to His disciples,
''You are the light of the world.'' (Matthew 5:14)
In other words, we are the light of the world when we do the things which Isaiah mentions in the first reading today. Just attending Mass, saying all your prayers or following all the rules is not enough to truly be a follower of the Lord. Jesus is looking for action. He wants us to be passionate about the other, particularly the outcast - the very ones we reject ourselves. Just think for a moment of all those people you do not like, those you despise, reject, judge, or hate. These are the ones which Jesus wants us to love, to forgive, to lift up and to be at peace with. Then your light will shine like those beautiful sunrises we see here in Long Beach; warm, bright, and life giving.
St. Paul, in the second reading, is telling his followers that it was through the power of God that he went on his mission to proclaim Jesus Christ. He says that the words he spoke were not of human wisdom, but rather of the wisdom of God. How often we think we are God! Look how many have abandoned God’s ways, rejected His message of love and forgiveness, and sought destructive routes against humanity, always ending in ruin and bloodshed. When we act out of genuine love for the other, it is the Holy Spirit working through us to do good. Throughout the history of humanity, goodness always flows from genuine love.
Why did Jesus tell his disciples, ''you are the salt of the earth''? (Matthew 5:13) As I type this, I am eating salted nuts (yum) and I want more and more, you know that taste. I know it’s not good for me but still I like them. Jesus is challenging His disciples that their words and actions must be tasty and addictive to the people present. Once their message is good and pleasing, then others will want to do the same. Do you want to be the light of the world? Do you want others to do good deeds because they saw you doing a good deed to another?
Jesus says to you and me,
"Your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” (Matthew 5:16)
This week, why not let your light shine before those you might despise? Maybe it’s here in our parish community, or in your workplace, or maybe your spouse or even your child, let that light shine brightly by your kind words and gentle touch of the Holy upon our brothers and sisters.
Why not trust in God and just do it?
Just a reminder that the Together In Mission campaign is about to kick off once again. If you receive your pledge in the mail, please do not forget to contribute to this very worthy cause. At a time when so many schools are in jeopardy of closing, this is our chance to keep them open. They are often in the poorest areas of our great Archdiocese.
Welcome to any visitors here this weekend, God bless you. To all those of other faith traditions, you are special! Prayers to all our home bound and the sick of our parish community.
Enrollment in Faith Direct has continued to grow at Our Lady of Refuge. There are now more families participating in electronic giving through Faith Direct’s convenient tool. When combined with "bill pay" donations, total electronic giving at OLR represents about 27% of the offertory collections.
Giving through Faith Direct lowers the costs associated with our weekly collections by eliminating envelope fees and by requiring less effort to count and deposit money. Electronic giving is a secure way to transmit money while being environmentally conscious. Our parish receives your contribution when you are traveling, sick, or in a rush. Your contribution amount is flexible; as you can give by the week or month and designate donations for specific purposes. It also improves our cash flow and the ability to project our income to match our expenses.
Faith Direct enables parishioners to make contributions through either direct debit from a checking/savings account or through a credit card. Now you can apply the convenience of direct debit to your parish offerings in much the same way as you may now use it to make your mortgage, car or tuition payments. This allows you to budget with a ‘set and forget' plan, as the donations recur on a defined schedule.
Electronic giving means you do not have to stop at the bank, carry cash or checks, or remember to write a check before coming to Mass. Faith Direct also offers you personalized offertory cards (if desired) to replace your envelopes for the collection basket. You can easily track your giving and know that your donations go directly to the bank. Any time during the year, you have access to records of your donations from both the bank and Faith Direct for tax reporting purposes.
For those of you who have yet to consider online giving, enrollment will be a continuing effort. Please visit the OLR website at https://www.ourladyofrefuge.
As your shepherd, I encourage you to consider Faith Direct. Please help us make our parish financially strong again. Thanks to all of you for your continued support of our parish.
In peace, Fr. Gerard
February 2, 2020 - The Presentation of the Lord
Greetings my good friends in Christ,
Today, we celebrate a special feast in the church called the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple. It was a Jewish law for all parents to present their male child to the Lord on the 40th day after his birth. Joseph and Mary went to the temple with the baby to offer up the traditional sacrifice of two pigeons or a pair of turtle doves according to the law of the Lord. The scriptures are so beautiful because the first reading from the Prophet Malachi speaks of the One who will enter the world, the King of Glory, the One whose way was prepared by John the Baptist. The Gospel speaks about the present feast day, the little baby Jesus and His encounter with the holy man Simeon, and old prophetess Anna, who recognized Him as the chosen by God.
I want to share with you the prayers for the Feast Day: ''Dear brothers and sisters, forty days have passed since we celebrated the joyful feast of the Nativity of the Lord. Today is the blessed day when Jesus was presented in the Temple by Mary and Joseph. Outwardly He was fulfilling the Law, but in reality He was coming to meet His believing people. Prompted by the Holy Spirit, Simeon and Anna came to the Temple. Enlightened by the same Spirit, they recognized the Lord and confessed Him with exultation. So let us also, gathered together by the Holy Spirit, proceed to the house of God to encounter Christ. There we shall find Him and recognize Him in the breaking of the bread, until He comes again, revealed in glory.”
Then all the candles are blessed: ''O God source and origin of all light, who on this day showed to the just man Simeon the Light for revelation to the Gentiles, we humbly ask that, in answer to your people’s prayers, you may be pleased to sanctify with your blessing these candles, which we are eager to carry in praise of your name, so that, treading the path of virtue, we may reach the light which never fails.''
The light of Christ lightens up all our hearts. The candles represent this beautiful presence of the light in the darkness. Jesus shares His light with everyone, and those who follow the light will receive the Light of Life.
In the Gospel today, it states that ''the Holy Spirit was upon'' Simeon. He was a very holy man, and the same Spirit informed him that he would not see death until he witnessed the Christ Child in the temple. With the power of the Holy Spirit upon him, he sought out the child Jesus when Mary and Joseph entered the temple. Remember, the temple was a very large building and I reckon there were many other parents presenting their sons to God as well. Where did Simeon get this wisdom to move through the crowds and seek out the Lord, which he did, and praise Jesus? Of course, through the Spirit of God.
''Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in the sight of all the peoples: a light for revelation to the Gentiles and glory for your people Israel.” (Luke 2:29-32)
With these words, Simeon was ready to go to the Lord, his life was fulfilled. He had seen the Lord, the Holy One of Israel. The Gospel tells us that Mary and Joseph ''were amazed at what was said about Him.'' I wonder why they were amazed? We know from the scriptures that Mary had already experienced something truly amazing: giving birth to a child without a man through the power of the Holy Spirit. She knew her child was the Holy One, the Son of God. Even Joseph experienced the powerful presence of God in his life when he was prompted by the same Holy Spirit to take Mary and child as his own. So what were they amazed about? Maybe, it was confirmation from a total stranger that indeed their child was the Holy One of God. Furthermore, the old prophetess Anna, who spent night and day in the temple praying for this one encounter with the Lord, she too experienced it, for nothing is impossible for God!
Today, through the same Holy Spirit, we enter this holy place to commune and connect with the Son of God through the Holy Eucharist. We believe through faith, like Mary and Joseph, and Simeon and Anna, that Jesus is truly present to us. We gain this wisdom through the power of the Holy Spirit from our Baptism into Christ and our Confirmation with the Holy Spirit. Our daily prayers help us to gain this deeper wisdom of the Lord, it silences us into an understanding of the Holy in our lives. Today’s Feast Day is also our feast day, every time we come to church, we present ourselves to God. We offer up sacrifice as we ask for forgiveness of our sins. We encounter the Holy One of God in the Holy Scriptures, and we recognize Him in the breaking of the bread as we receive Him with passion and love.
Jesus is truly present to us in the here and now. As Catholics, we are obliged to come here every Sunday to remember and to participate in that encounter of the Holy through the celebration of the Holy Mass. This is our opportunity to recognize Him as He enters our lives and transforms us for the good in ourselves and others.
Don't let this powerful opportunity pass! Please make an extra effort to come forward like Simeon and Anna, seeking out the Lord of Hosts in an innocent baby, who is holy and righteous, for all to celebrate. Come to Mass on Sunday. Make it the most regular thing you do on a weekly basis. Open your heart and soul to the faith you profess, live it wholeheartedly, and praise God with the same loving desire.
Thanks to all who helped in any way with Catholic Schools Week last week and Open House last Sunday. Thanks to all our teachers, administrators, and staff for a job well done. Special thanks to our Principal, Mrs. Holmquist. Let us pray for our Catholic school, and all Catholic schools throughout our great Archdiocese, particularly the schools with very low enrollments. We give thanks to God that our school is strong and vibrant, but all of us have to be vigilant to the signs of the times.
Monday is the feast of St. Blaise. St. Blaise was a Bishop in Armenia in 316. Imprisoned for his faith, he was tortured and killed for his refusal to sacrifice to pagan idols. While he was in prison, a mother came with her young son who was choking on a fish bone. St. Blaise prayed over him and the boy was able to cough up the bone. He is the Patron Saint of throat ailments. Following the Masses I celebrate today and Monday morning, I will bless the throats of parishioners, with two cross shaped candles, in honor of the healing presence of St. Blaise.
Please join me for Eucharistic Adoration this Wednesday, February 5, from 7:00 PM to 8:00 PM in the church, come spend this special time in prayer. Thank you to all who have come to worship with us today, especially those of other faith traditions. Your presence enriches us.
Love, Fr. Gerard