Pastor's Messages

March 29, 2020 - Fifth Sunday of Lent

My good friends in Christ,

Let us all unite in prayer for all those who are sick, worried or alone. Our faith and trust in Jesus are our strength even in the most difficult situation.

I recall a story of a deceased Bishop who was in solitary confinement in a Vietnamese prison for many years. When he was released, he shared that every day during those years of confinement he celebrated Mass with just a little crumb of bread on the palm of his hand. He said that all day he would adore the Holy Eucharist to give him strength to survive. This is a powerful example of true faith; he had no vestments, no books, no Bible, no wine, no chalice, nothing. His altar was the palm of his hand.

Let us totally trust in the God of Jesus who has the power to pull us out of any crisis in our lives.

When I was a child I was fascinated with graves and tombs. As you know, my father died when I was three years old and for many years my mother brought me to my father’s grave as she grieved his passing. I have memories of walking through the cemetery, wondering about all the people buried in the graves. My mother often commented on people she knew as we passed by and told me about them and where they lived. But for all the graves, the tombs were the most interesting for a boy like me. Some of them were very old and had cracks and holes in them, some had crumbled, and I often peeked inside looking for the old caskets. 

Since coming to California, I have noticed a similar fascination around Halloween with gravestones and tombs in people’s gardens as kids celebrate the Night of the Dead. Spooky yes, but part and parcel of us living. Death is imminent for all of us, and there is this mystery about the other world, the spirit world, and the unknown of what happens when we die. This is part of humanity, from the early peoples to the present, our loved ones lying in the ground, or in mausoleums; we believe their spirits are with God in heaven. 

This weekend, both the first reading and the Gospel speak about the dead and the power of God upon them. When I was a child, my mother told me that my dad was in heaven with the angels, but as a small boy I could not understand why my dad was also lying under the dirt in a grave. Innocence helps us to understand the presence of our God in our lives. We all know that too many questions and looking for answers often leads us into a world of doubt. To truly believe in the way of the Lord is to trust, to have faith. Do not be afraid; know that the Lord will never abandon us. This is our belief and hope for the next world.

The first reading today confirms this fact, that all those who are in the graves, all our family members from the past to the present, will one day rise from the dead and be at peace with the Lord. The Spirit of the Lord will be upon us and we will all be saved. As you all know, when one of our loved ones passes on, we all mourn for that person; we grieve, we wonder, and we pray to them. But the beauty of death for Christians is that it is not the end, but the beginning of something more glorious than we have ever witnessed on this earth. We must totally trust in Him who gave His life for us on the cross and rose from the dead. 

The Gospel this Sunday is the raising of Lazarus from the tomb, the place of darkness and confinement. Jesus unseals this place of darkness by calling Lazarus to the light of day. Jesus also calls all of us out of our places of darkness and sin, even in this present world. Jesus has the power to turn the darkness of our lives into the light. His call is powerful, He raised Lazarus from the dead, He gifted him with life again, and He returned him to this world. This miracle is a wake-up call for us all when we doubt the presence of God in our lives. God is the All Powerful One who has dominion over death and life. Trust in Him and you will be at peace.

Martha and Mary totally trusted in Jesus, and look what happened! Their brother was dead and in the tomb for three days, then he was raised from the dead by Jesus simply calling out his name. If Jesus could do that for His friends, imagine what He will do for us if we totally put our trust in Him. 

Jesus wants to untie all of us from the bonds of our sins and temptations. He wants to set us free from all those things that imprison us, that entomb us, and that bind us -- our selfishness, our anger, our jealousies, our self-centeredness, and our many sins. Jesus wants to give life to all of us so that we can freely serve Him and wholeheartedly live and act in His presence of love. 

TRUST HIM

Extraordinary Times – Extraordinary Efforts

No doubt, this is one of the toughest times we have ever experienced.  Despite the issues we all face, I want to express my deepest thanks to the parishioners who have been calling the seniors and elders of our church and those with special needs to make sure they are OK.   What a tremendous example of kindness and respect. Many of the over 200 people called have expressed their appreciation. A handful of people have also been very helpful getting our messages out via Realm, the OLR website, Facebook, e-mail, and the bulletin.  Others have helped with filming Mass in our empty church, getting new technology set-up, and helping parishioners sign-up for Faith Direct (e-giving) and reminding all that their offertory contributions are super important and should continue via Faith Direct or be mailed to the church office weekly. While I hope I don’t miss anyone, I want to thank Rob Eagan, Renee Salvador, Holly Cavallaro, Lois McKeon, Janis Krantz, Lucia Kos, Katie Johns, Johanna Raab, Robert Bourguet, Danny Domingo, Phat To, Jerry Mendoza, Betty Guevara, Ray Martinez, Janet Meyer, Meg Morrow, Joe Garrow, Marilyn James, Cathy Hoover, Tony McKeon, Patti Strait.

 

Please remember in your prayers all those afflicted with Covid-19 and the sick in our parish, especially Marty Sherlock.

 

Just a reminder to please complete the federal census http://my2020census.gov

 

Love, Fr. Gerard

Thank you for keeping our church alive. Please sign-up for e-giving through Faith Direct or please mail/drop off your weekly offertory contribution to the parish office. Your help makes a difference.

OLR Church Office (562) 498-6641 -- voice messages only

5195 Stearns Street, Long Beach, CA 90815

Betty Guevara, Parish Secretary --- betty@start.olrs.org

Team Refuge -- Tony McKeon, Coordinator (949) 874-6097

Faith Direct -- Enroll through the parish website https://membership.faithdirect.net/enroll/CA966 or contact Patti Strait for assistance pattistrait00@gmail.com

 

PRAYER

During this time, Archbishop Jose H. Gomez is encouraging Catholics to pray at home and participate in the Holy Mass via the internet. The Archdiocese will livestream daily and Sunday Masses from the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels via Facebook, @lacatholics, and at www.lacatholics.org/emergency/. Daily Mass is live-streamed in English at 8 A.M and in Spanish at 7 A.M., and Sunday Mass in English at 10 a.m. and Spanish at 7 a.m.

 

Relevant Radio 930AM

Relevant Radio app

www.RelevantRadio.com

10 AM daily – Mass from the Chapel of the Nativity

 

EWTN (Global Catholic television) www.ewtn.com

Sunday Mass 5 A.M. (live), 9 A.M., 4 P.M., 5 P.M., 9 P.M.

Daily Mass 5 A.M. (live), 9 A.M., 4 P.M., 9 P.M.

 

 

 

Greetings my good friends in Christ, 

What an unusual time we are experiencing, a first in all our lives. Words are difficult to express the feeling. But scripture always has an answer. All this past week I have been thinking of one line of scripture which states, “We walk by Faith and not by sight“

All of us are walking into the unknown but our strong faith leads us forward with hope. The light of Christ brightens the path ahead, we embrace that light and stand firm knowing that the Good Lord is by our side.

How many times have we heard in the Old and New Testament the reassuring words from God, “Do not be afraid“

Time and time again we hear it from the God of Jesus Christ, put your total trust in God.

Fr. Bill and I are praying for you all on a daily basis and let us all continue to pray for a vaccine. If you know of elderly neighbors nearby please reach out to them, drop in a note and share your cell phone number, share neighborly love. Thank you all.

Our Lady of Refuge is looking out for all of you. During the week we formed a new outreach ministry which we are calling Team Refuge. The focus of Team Refuge is to connect with all our senior parishioners. Tony McKeon is the Team Refuge Coordinator. I want to personally thank Tony for his leadership in this caring endeavor and to the group of volunteers who said yes to help.

If you need help or just need to talk to someone we are here for you just call the hotline number!

I remember, a few years ago, when my nephew was in college, he got his ear pierced. When my sister saw it, she went crazy and demanded that he remove it. Being the good son he was, he duly obeyed his mother. At the time, I was very surprised with my mother, his grandmother, who thought my sister was overly demanding. My mother’s reasoning was based on her knowledge of her grandson. In reality, he was a very good son and grandson. Why make a big fuss over something so small as an ear piercing!!!

I often receive comments and letters about ministers on the altar wearing ''irreverent fashions.'' People are judged from the pews, by parishioners who have a very strict fashion code who demand that all must adhere to it, or they are deemed “irreverent” in the eyes of God. Though we all know it’s not in the eyes of God, but the people themselves, I honestly believe God does not have a dress code, but some of his children have a very strict one, and people are judged positively and negatively as a result. Look at the first scripture reading today, it might open your minds to the Heart of God and how God sees beauty in everyone.

''But the Lord said to Samuel: ‘Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature...Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the HEART." 1 Samuel 16:7

Jesse presents seven of his eight sons to Samuel who is sent by God to anoint the chosen king. But of course, none of the seven are favored by God, though all seven are favored by their father, Jesse. Samuel questioned Jesse.

''Are these all the sons you have? Jesse replied, ‘There is still the youngest, who is tending the sheep.’'' 1 Samuel 16:11

For some unknown reason, Jesse did not favor his youngest son, that is why he was not present with the other seven. But lo and behold, God’s ways are not our ways; this son is the chosen one, whom God wants to anoint king. 

''The Lord said, ‘There-anoint him, for this is the one!’” 1 Samuel 16:12

How many times have you judged others by their appearance; their tattoos, their hairstyles, their fashions, or their lifestyle. We all fall into the trap of being ''holier than thou,'' when in actual fact, we are a total contradiction to the heart of God. We judge, we condemn, we reject, we gossip, we embarrass, and we look down upon others. Whereas, our great God of Love looks straight into our hearts and sees who we truly are. 

Do you want to be pleasing to God? If you are constantly finding fault in others over their appearance or dress code, then maybe you ought to take the big plank out of your own eyes first before you condemn another.

God is love. We are His children; we are called to share the same love of the heart with others. It is so easy to condemn, to blame, and to call another irreverent by your own rules and regulations. Is this the mind and heart of God? The scripture reading from Samuel today tells the opposite. God is looking for truth, and finds it always in the heart of love. When you see others, God wants you to look into their hearts. Don't condemn others by their appearance, first discover their heart. How do you discover the heart? We discover it by getting to know them, by entering their lives, and by befriending them. We live in a society where people constantly judge without ever finding the true facts of the person who is judged, we condemn often on untruths!

The miracle of the blind man in the Gospel today is all about seeing with FAITH. When you look at another with faith, that faith should help you to look into the heart of the person rather than the appearance. For example, my nephew’s ear piercing or fashions do not tell us who he is. We all know, even if we possess the ''faith,'' we can still fall into the trap of judging others.

How can we see with faith? Why do we attach so many conditions to the faith we profess? Why do we reject so many that we see as different? It’s our small minded misunderstanding of our faith, we say we love God and His ways, but putting them into practice with others, that is the difficulty. 

God wants us all to look into the heart of people and discover the beauty within. It involves putting our total trust in Him, forgetting our own selfish selves, and going forward with love. This is just what Mary did when the Angel Gabriel informed her of the great news of a child in her womb without a man. This is the trust we ought to embrace, and stop our pickiness with others, who have a right to practice their faith as well. Next time you are about to condemn or judge another because of their appearance, why not bow your head and pray for your own salvation. Let God be God. God’s ways are beautiful, loving, and kind, and all His children are special in His eyes. Amen.

Love, Fr. Gerard 

-------------------

TEAM REFUGE

 

Putting our faith into practice during these difficult times, a small group of volunteers from our OLR (Team Refuge) has been calling all seniors in our parish along with folks with special needs to make sure they are OK. They are checking to see if they need help with anything, like picking up some groceries or prescriptions. Father G reminds our seniors and others at OLR that they are loved and a little help is just a phone call away. Anyone can call the Team Refuge hotline. Church Office 562-498-6641 or Coordinator 949-874-6097

Fr. Gerard
 
 
Parishioners--
 
For the remainder of Lent we have cancelled Adoration on Wednesdays and Stations of the Cross on Fridays. The youth event scheduled for Saturday night is cancelled as is the Lenten Speaker series for next Wednesday night. St. Patrick’s Mass and celebration is cancelled for Tuesday next. The school has cancelled their talent show next Thursday.
 
Mass is still being celebrated until further notice. Please be extra careful when sick; stay at home and isolate yourself, be hygienic, and wash your hands thoroughly.
 
Let us pray for an end to this virus and especially all those throughout the world who are infected, for their healing and strength.
 
Know that I am here for all of you. I pray for you and love you.
 
Let us plead with the Lord to protect us. May Our Lady of Refuge protect us in His Name.
 
Fr. Gerard
 
 
 

 

Greetings my brothers and sisters in Christ,

 

“Abram went as the Lord directed him.”

 

In the first reading today, God asks Abram to leave his homeland. Those of us who have emigrated, know that leaving one’s family, culture and tradition may be difficult, but often our need to go is for the good.

 

I left Ireland on the 15th of August 1995, the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as a newly ordained priest. Little did I know that approximately nine years from that date I would be assigned to the parish with the same name. The founding pastor of Assumption Parish was Msgr. Tim Crean who was born in the same town as myself and buried in the same grounds of my parish church of St. John the Baptist in Tralee, the very church that he and I were both baptized in. Can you see how the Lord’s ways are so powerful? How often we take them for granted. The Lord led me from the familiar to the unfamiliar as like Abram and many others, but it was through the Lord’s presence in my life that I encountered so much good in everything that I connected with. Abram trusted in God. I trusted in God when I said “Yes” to Los Angeles. Do you trust God with everything?

 

Our Lenten Journey speaks to all of us about repenting from our sinful ways, turning around and doing good. What is God asking of you and I this Lent? By any chance is God calling us to follow Him from our familiar ways of living? Maybe our sinful ways are so familiar to us that we just accept them as the norm. God wants us to shake off our sinful ways and put on a new cloak of goodness in everything we do and say. Can we do it? Yes, of course, but it depends on that inner conviction of belief that God’s Way is what matters in life. God is Priority Number ONE! 

When Peter, James and John experienced the Transfiguration of Jesus on Mt. Taber, a voice from the clouds said to them, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased: Listen to Him.”

 

Jesus then touched them and said, “Rise and do not be afraid.” Is this more confirmation to us that in all those moments of fear and doubt in our lives Jesus has the power to touch us, heal us, and help us to rise again? YES! We, like these early disciples, are called by God to listen to Jesus. 

•If our ears are open to the Call, free from all those other voices that distract us from the Truth, then it is possible to listen to Jesus. 

 

•If our hearts are full of love and compassion, free from all these attitudes which harden our hearts and prevent us from true communion, then it’s easy to ask for forgiveness. 

•If our minds are full of the wisdom of God, free from all those other beliefs and often untruths, then we can be truly open to God’s Ways and enjoy its fruits.

 

During this Lenten journey have the courage to move from your familiar ways to the unfamiliar knowing that God is by your side leading you to a new experience of Peace, Love, Joy, and Truth.

 

I have noticed an increased attendance at daily Mass during Lent. Thanks for making that faith-filled commitment. Join us on Wednesdays for Adoration from 7PM-8PM in the Church and join us for Stations of the Cross on Fridays at 6:30 PM in the Church.

 

A big welcome to all visitors here this weekend. Blessing upon all our parishioners.

 

          In Christ’s Love,

                          Fr. Gerard

 

 

 
Greetings my good friends,
 
Do you feel different after Ash Wednesday? Are you fasting more? Is there any chance that you are reflecting about your interior spiritual life? Are there parts of you needing change and conversion? Do you need to stop gossiping and sharing untruths? Do you complain a lot about others? Are you constantly unhappy and irritable?
 
We are now participating in the Lenten journey. This is a journey which challenges us to look at our lives and see if we can change them for the good. You may ask, ''the good of what?'' Well, all of us, both young and old, from time to time, fall into the trap of temptation. Temptation is part and parcel of our lives; we are tempted on a daily basis.
 
Sometimes we are strong and resist it, but other times we are weak and fall to temptation, always feeling guilty afterwards. If our sins become habitual, then we constantly justify them and carry on our lives as if we were God!!! Of course that is not true, but it’s amazing how people convince themselves they know all truth by their actions, judgments, and comments about others.
 
This first Sunday of Lent has one message, though it gives us two examples; one is falling to temptations and the consequences of that act, and the other is resisting temptation. We have all heard the story of the Garden of Eden, and this Sunday in the first reading, Genesis describes the fall in temptation by Adam and Eve from the Tree of Knowledge. The serpent tempts them to eat of that tree and, of course, in their weakness they eat, hoping that they will become a god of all wisdom and knowledge. Immediately upon eating of the tree, the first thing they notice is their nakedness. They are shocked and embarrassed by the beauty of their bodies. In this story, we are told that this garden has many different varieties of fruit trees, which both Adam and Eve can enjoy, but like us, they want more and more. We are never satisfied with the one thing, we want it all. In our seeking of the all, which in many cases are material things, we are never happy. There is always something else out there we want to possess. Maybe that is why this one tree in the garden was sacred and untouchable, it was like a treasure in the midst of all the other treasures, but one only could gaze at it rather than acquire it.
 
When a child is told by a parent they can’t have something, maybe as simple as a cookie, often the temptation is so strong that the child will eat one, hoping that it won’t be missed. It’s the exact same for us adults. In our lives, we know the things we should avoid in life. We are very much aware of our own temptations, actually we know them in our hearts, sometimes we think about them constantly. Why do we fall so many times? Why do we feel guilty when we do things of which, deep down, we are not proud? Why do we keep justifying our actions, knowing in our hearts they are wrong? Is it a lack of Faith in God? Maybe we are like the child; we want to get away with it unnoticed.We all know God knows everything about us - all those aspects of ourselves that we keep hidden away in the recesses of our heart. God knows our temptations and failures, and this great God is willing to forgive us time and time again, if we only have the courage to turn around to Him and open our hearts and minds to Him in love. It’s as easy as that! But, it also requires action on our part. We need to change our attitudes toward others. We need to be more loving and kind in our relationships with people we don't like, or even despise. This is what makes us a true Christian follower of Jesus Christ.
 
In the Gospel, we see Jesus resisting the temptation from the devil. He tempts Jesus many times, but Jesus knows in His heart who is tempting Him. Why is it when we are tempted, we are so weak? We fall, and the devil rejoices in our failures. To resist temptation requires a strong faith in God, who is love.
 
Do you have a strong faith in the God of Jesus Christ? As a Catholic, do you go to Mass every Sunday? It’s your obligation as a member of the Catholic Church. If you are a member of a basketball team, or maybe your child plays, I am convinced you will be there on time and participate with passion! Do you have the same passion for your faith in Christ? Do you participate in the Holy Mass as a way of life for you and your family? If we constantly take everything for granted, then the passion, the love, the gift of the Holy, is lost in the midst of our own weaknesses.
 
A strong faith in Jesus Christ and His message of love has the power to change anybody. Are we up to the challenge? Do we have the passion to change our lives for the good of ourselves and others? Jesus offers this gift to us on a daily basis. Are we too busy within ourselves to accept the gift? Remember, faith is a free gift, you don't need your credit card, it’s free! Maybe our problem is that we don't realize how precious it is because it’s free.
 
Please make every effort to participate in your faith journey here at OLR. Come to Mass. Receive the Sacraments. Go to Confession. Be a witness to others and your children. Make Sunday the Holy Day of the week. Pray. Ask for forgiveness, and be willing to forgive. Build up your faith practice, and stop abandoning God and His ways because, you know and I know, it is God who saves us all. For Lent this year, I decided to become a vegetarian, a little sacrifice, no meat products during the entire duration of Lent. As a child I always ''gave up something for Lent.'' I think it is good for all of us to do something for Lent. We live in a society drowned in materialism. Why not, as a family or an individual, sacrifice something for the Lenten journey? It is a good discipline for all us living in the midst of so much. Even if you have little, there is always something to sacrifice. Lent is that time of the year to wake up and open our eyes to the reality around us and within us. We must wake up and change our lives, and mirror the life of Jesus. Please attend the Stations of the Cross every Friday evening, and enjoy a light supper afterwards as a community of faith.
 
Welcome to all visitors here this weekend, especially to those of other faith traditions, we are enriched by your presence.
 
            Love,
                 Fr. Gerard

 

 

 

Each month, your parish pays to print and mail Offertory envelope packets to over 1,300 families. The September invoice for this service was $577.00. After evaluation, it seems that only 23% of the printed envelopes are being returned. Approximately 1,000 envelope packets that are printed and mailed to parishioners each month are not used. Creating about $444.00 of wasted expense per month. When accounting for the cost of monthly and holiday packets that go unused, the annual waste totals $6,975. Therefore, in our effort to reduce operating cost and eliminate paper waste, we kindly request that you notify the parish if you no longer desire the envelopes. A simple note left at the Rectory office stating your request, your name, address and phone number or an email using the Contact Page on the OLR Parish Website, would aid us in reducing waste. At the end of September, inactive envelope numbers may be suspended from future mailings. If you are not currently registered at OLR Parish and would like to receive Offertory Envelopes, please visit the Rectory office to register your family or use the registration form on the church website.  Another solution is to enroll in Faith Direct for on-line giving. Not only does it provide the parish with your current contact  information, it also cancels Offertory envelopes and reduces cost. Your support on this matter would be greatly appreciated.
 
Faith Direct
 

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.org/ or visit the Faith Direct website at https://membership.faithdirect.net/CA966. There is a short video and you can read more information about this great way to simplify your giving.

 

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