Sunday, July 27, 2014

What Do You Pray For?

“The Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream at night.  God said, “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.” (1 Kings 3:5)

What do you pray for?  When you sit down or kneel down to pray, what is it that you want the most from God?  In today’s first reading, God gives Solomon the equivalent of a divine blank check when he tells the young king to ask for what whatever he wants.  Imagine if God approached us with a similar offer.  How would we respond?

Very, very early this morning, I went up to Davie for the first Mass of the season as Dolphins Training Camp is now underway.  I asked the players and coaches the same question: what do you pray for?  Many people tell me to pray for the Dolphins, and I do.  I pray for the coaches and their families, for the players’ safety and health.  The thing is people tell me to pray for the team to win because if they don’t win it’s because I am not praying hard enough.  Does this make sense to anyone?  Like if God didn’t have anything better to worry about than the outcome of a game.  So like Solomon, we have to put thought into what we ask of God.  We need discernment.  There are far bigger things that warrant our prayers:  the war in Gaza that’s tearing up the Holy Land, the persecution of Christians in Iraq, Syria, and throughout many countries in the world, the situation in Ukraine, the influx of innocent immigrant children into our country…this list could take up several pages and this one was just from this morning’s paper.

So we need to be like Solomon who realizes that as a young king he’s (a) in over his head and (b) needs outside help to govern this vast people.  So he asks for wisdom.  He asks for the ability to discern right from wrong.  This is what each of us needs to ask for.  We must kneel before our Lord and implore him to give us what HE thinks we need and not merely what we want.   This is maturity in the spiritual life.  And once we reach that maturity, we’ll be asking the Lord to discover that treasure in the field that Jesus talks about in the gospel.  That treasure is the Kingdom and all its peace and all its joy.  Once we find that treasure, we don’t ever want to let go of it.  People who have a genuine encounter with Jesus Christ don’t want to let him go kind of like Mary Magdalene who clung to him when she saw that he had risen from the dead.

Today we come before the altar of the Lord with many prayers.  May we add one more to that list and ask the Lord for us to be as wise and discerning as King Solomon.  That way we may seek the Lord’s will in our lives constantly and always walk in his ways.  But I want to leave you with a question to ponder this week:  If the Lord approached you as he did Solomon, and told you to ask for whatever you wanted, how would you respond?

Sunday, July 6, 2014

God's Gracious Will

Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.” (Matthew 11:26)

My friends I cannot begin to tell you how thrilled I am to be with you today to celebrate my first Sunday Mass as your new pastor.  I’m not just excited because I’m beginning a new ministry, I’m excited because everywhere God has led me has been a source of great joy as I share Jesus Christ with the people of God.  This is an amazing parish with a great tradition that spans 60 years, and as I wrote in the bulletin, I was humbled when they Archbishop called me to tell me that I was coming to Immaculate Conception in the great city of Hialeah.  While I wasn’t technically born here (I was born in South Miami hospital), my parents did live here when I was born which is why my father has no problem telling people that I was actually born in Hialeah.  We lived here for two years and now I get to come back to a place where I literally took my first steps.  This week I begin to take my first steps as your pastor, for such has been God’s gracious will.  The words of the gospel today are so comforting for all of us as we each go through this parochial transition.  We turn to God and trust in his will.  I remember three years ago, I had this exact same gospel on my first Sunday in a new parish that was undergoing a similar transition, and I spoke about the hidden things that God only reveals to the childlike.  As God’s children, we entrust ourselves to him this day so that he may continue to reveal his will to us and find rest from our burdens in the Lord.

Jesus himself promises us that he will give us rest.  We are in the midst of summer and I know that many are off vacationing especially during the long weekend, but the invitation to rest is a daily one from the Lord.  Where can we find this rest?  Where we can we put on the yoke of the Lord and learn from him?  We are so blessed as a parish that we have a Perpetual Adoration Chapel.  Jesus is there waiting for us, longing for us, and thirsting for our presence.  I invite you to get to know that chapel, to make it your second home.  Since I got here last Monday, I have always found people in their before work, after work, early in the morning, late at night, all of them brining their burdens before Jesus in the Eucharist.  It is an oasis of peace.  Even during the 4th of July celebration on Friday, there were people there.  There is no greater treasure on this property than the Real Presence of our Lord in that little chapel.  You will find silence in this noisy world.  You will find the peace that you can rarely found out there. 

As we begin this new chapter in the rich life of our parish, may we rededicate ourselves to prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.  I ask for your prayers as I begin my ministry as your pastor.  Always pray for your priests.  And as we join in prayer, may we pray for each other that we may strive for nothing less than holiness.  During my first nights here, I have walked around the campus admiring the beautifully lit tower that shines brightly and can be seen all around this great community.  My prayer this day is that Immaculate Conception continue to be a beacon like that tower to all who are burdened and need Jesus Christ.  Know that I am here to serve you and to walk with you as we continue to build the Kingdom of God here in Hialeah.  Entrusting ourselves to our Blessed Mother and united in prayer, we thank God for bringing us to this moment, for this has been his “gracious will.”