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.
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 --- firstname.lastname@example.org
Team Refuge -- Tony McKeon, Coordinator (949) 874-6097
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
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.
March 22, 2020 - Fourth Sunday of Lent
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
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
Message for March 8, 2020 - Second Sunday of Lent
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,
Message for March 1, 2020 - First Sunday of Lent
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