Be holy, for I, the LORD, your God, am holy.

Friends,

Notice the line is not, “Be holy as I am holy.” No, it’s more of a reason to be holy.

Be holy because I am holy. If you are made in MY image and likeness, then be holy.

patrickWhat is holiness?

375 The Church, interpreting the symbolism of biblical language in an authentic way, in the light of the New Testament and Tradition, teaches that our first parents, Adam and Eve, were constituted in an original “state of holiness and justice”.This grace of original holiness was “to share in. . .divine life”. Catholic Catechism

“Love is therefore the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being.” (JPII)

Holiness then is simply being fully ourselves. If we are made in the image and likeness of God, then we don’t have to try so hard to be “holy.” We don’t have to “do” anything, just simply be ourselves.

maryFor instance, think of Mary. What did she “do” to be holy? Can you name what corporeal or spiritual works of mercy she did to become holy?

There is no mention of her in the Sacred Scriptures of: feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick or imprisioned, or giving alms to the poor. The only corporeal works of mercy mentioned in scripture is bury the dead, and that was of her son Jesus.

What about the Spiritual Works of Mercy? Instruct the ignorant, counsel the doubtful, admonish sinners, forgive offenses, console the afflicted, pray for the living and dead. Again, the only one recorded was to “bear patiently those who wrong us.” This she did on the Way of the Cross.

But!, you say, she did all of them in her daily life. Yes, and they were not recorded!

I love what Matthew Kelly wrote, “the most important things we do are not scheduled in our day planner.”

Or as the author of Abandonment of Divine Providence wrote, “In the state of abandonment the only rule is the duty of the present moment.”

To be holy, it is enough to simply love in the ordinary circumstances of our lives.

Wow!  You mean I can just do the ordinary things God has presented me in the present moment lovingly, and I am holy as He is holy?

Peace.

Father Ken

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A prayer

mmmLord Jesus Christ,

you have taught us to be merciful like the heavenly Father, and have told us that whoever sees you sees Him.

Show us your face and we will be saved.

Your loving gaze freed Zacchaeus and Matthew from being enslaved by money; the adulteress and Magdalene from seeking happiness only in created things; made Peter weep after his betrayal, and assured Paradise to the repentant thief.

Let us hear, as if addressed to each one of us, the words that you spoke to the Samaritan woman: “If you knew the gift of God!”

You are the visible face of the invisible Father, of the God who manifests his power above all by forgiveness and mercy: let the Church be your visible face in the world, its Lord risen and glorified.

You willed that your ministers would also be clothed in weakness in order that they may feel compassion for those in ignorance and error: let everyone who approaches them feel sought after, loved, and forgiven by God.

jesus feetSend your Spirit and consecrate every one of us with its anointing, and with renewed enthusiasm, may bring good news to the poor,

proclaim liberty to captives and the oppressed, and restore sight to the blind.

We ask this through the intercession of Mary, Mother of Mercy,

you who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever.

Amen

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Beatitudes: belief in spite of our failures

Dear Friends,

I could tell he did not believe me. His head was cocked to one side, twisting in a way to see me eye to eye.  I told him I would be coming back.  Even gave him a snack, but I could tell he did not believe me.

img_0108Preparing for a short trip, I was packing my luggage while my faithful pup of a dog was accompanying me in the bedroom as I sorted through my clothing for the trip. “Ahh, what color black should I wear this trip,” I was thinking to myself.  “Should I wear the faded black shirt, or I guess they call it stonewashed today? Or should I wear the dark black hue shirt which was brand new?”  Before becoming a priest, I had no idea there were different “colors” of black.  Such fashion decisions wear me out, so I sat down to pet my pup….he knew something was up.  Treats and luggage means he won’t be seeing me for a while.

When one thinks of the being a steward of God’s gifts we generally think of the blessings we receive. But do we consider the tragic events of our lives as blessings also?  I doubt it.  When Jesus climbed the mountain and gathered his disciples around him and he began to teach the Beatitudes, I wonder if the disciples and crowd cocked their heads from side to side like my pup did to me.  How could tragedy be a blessing?  Why would we want to be a steward of misfortune?

Oftentimes when I preach, I use examples from fields of work or circumstances of living of which I have no experience. Jesus did the same thing.  Jesus was a carpenter, yet he spoke of fishing, farming, and shepherding.  Common examples of the life in His era, but not of His life experiences.  However, I have learned not to use child birthing in my homilies as the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 42).  When I do try, I normally get scowls from women which say, “You really don’t know what you are talking about!”

Can misfortunes and confusion be a gift from the Lord? Do we really believe it from hardship come success?  Often we believe such gifts in the secular or business world.  For example, Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor because the editor thought Walt lacked imagination and had no good ideas.  Or poor Albert Einstein who was expelled from school. Or the poor truck driver who in 1954 the manager of the Grand Ole Opry told him to go back to truck driving, because “you ain’t going nowhere son!”  That of course, was Elvis Presley.

augu i the gardenSo If we believe misfortune can lead to success in the secular world, what about the spiritual world? Are these beatitudes all they seem to be?  Saint Augustine famously said, “There is no saint without a past, and no sinner without a future.”

Thomas J. Craughwell, the author of “Saints Behaving Badly” writes of several saints who first failed in the spiritual life, only then to succeed. Saints such as Angela of Foligno who was canonized by Pope Francis.  Angela spent most of her life seeking wealth, material possessions, and pleasure.  She was married with children, but was more interested in acquiring wealth and status then caring for her family.

Then around the age of 40, she had a profound conversion experience. She realized how her desire and pursuit for worldly things left her in spiritual poverty.  Her life was completely empty of joy and life.  It was only when Angela was empty the Lord could fill her.  Pope Benedict XVI said of Angela that “God has a thousand ways, for each of us, to make Himself present in the soul, to show that He exists and knows and loves me.”    Pope Benedict credits Angela’s continued conversion to her prayer life.

Priests are in need of conversion too. Many parishioners are surprised at this.  Generally in a priest’s life, prior to becoming a seminarian, there is a moment of conversion gently pushing him to accept the Lord’s invitation to enter studies for the priesthood.  But like Angela or Teresa of Avila, conversion must continue past the initial fervor.

“Do you know Father B?” a man asked me at dinner. I always amazed people don’t realize we diocesan priests in a diocese know each other.  We are brothers, working and living together.  After acknowledging I knew my brother priest, he said, “He is REALLY holy!”  I agreed with him, which must have made him uncomfortable, so he followed it up with, “I suppose you are holy too in your own way.”

Yes, I suppose so, although, I seem to hide it from most people! In reflecting upon the holiness of my brother priest, I am also was aware of his failings. I know he would be the last person in the world who would consider himself holy.  Walking with him through some difficult times in his life, I can clearly see who he is today, is because of his struggles of the past.  He could proclaim like Saint Paul, “I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”  (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Saints are not born saints, they are made. Even Saint Joseph struggled.  Matthew records in his first chapter how Mary and Joseph were betrothed, but Mary was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit.  Joseph’s response?  He resolved to send her away quietly.  (Mt. 1:19)  He struggled with believing Mary.  So much so, God graced him with a dream in which Joseph was assured of the truth of what Mary was saying.

You might think since Joseph received a dream, all would we well, and he could trust such action as being from the Lord. Not necessary.  Another man, whose wife had a dream, ignored it.  (Mt. 27:19)  That man was Pontius Pilate.  So Joseph, like Pontius Pilate, had to make a choice, and act of the will, to believe or not to believe.

The Beatitudes are sometimes hard to believe. The Gospel sometimes seems too good to be true, and we might cock our head from side to side, wanting to get a view of Jesus eye to eye, just to make sure.  Conversion is about trust.  Not in a philosophy, but in a person.  We put our trust in Jesus who said, I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.” (John 6:51)  Of which our response is, “Lord to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.”  (John 6:68)

A priest can learn a lot by being a steward of his blessings, but also of his weaknesses and failures. “We know that in everything, God works for good with those who love Him…”  (Romans 8:28)

Peace!  Father Ken

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advent and waiting

Dear Friends,

I really hate to wait. Recently I went to the pharmacy.  I think they make you wait so you have to look around at all the stuff they have to sell and to entice you to buy.  I refused to fall for that gag!  So I plopped myself in the chair near the counter, only to have a nurse try to give me a flu shot!  I moved as far away as possible, still refusing to shop.

aaaaWaiting there I saw a middle aged man also waiting. He looked tense and worried.  He was absently looking over the wares on the shelves, but it was clear his mind was not on what he was seeing.  I wondered what type of medicine he was waiting for, and for whom.  I said a prayer for him.

Then I saw an elderly woman with a walker. She was outpacing what looked like her granddaughter.  Wondering how many wars, economic depressions, spouses, and children she experienced, I said a prayer for her too.

Suddenly my name was called and I got my package. I really hate to wait, but when you pray while you wait, the time seems to go by fast, and you feel a part of the community.  “Perhaps waiting is something the Lord designed to give us grace”, I thought, “kind of like Advent.”

ask jsAdvent is a time of waiting. Life is a time of waiting.  We can either sit there and be grumpy or we can be open to His graces.  It’s our choice!

With that consolation, I stopped and bought a candy bar. “That will teach them to make me wait,” I thought!

Father Ken VanHaverbeke

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time

Friends,

Time is a gift we all have been given.  Pope Francis reminds us that the time at hand is to be used with joy! 

“A Christian is one who is invited… to join in the feast, to the joy of being saved, to the joy of being redeemed, to the joy of sharing life with Christ. This is a joy! You are called to a party!”

The Third Sunday of Advent is about JOY!

Here is a poem I always kept in my Bible since grade school.  Its about time!

“I expect to pass through this world but once, any good therefore that I do, any kindness that I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now.

Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”

Have a joy-filled time!

Father Ken

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