August 21st – Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
SURPRISE IN HEAVEN
I dreamt death came the other night,
And Heaven’s gate swung wide.
An angel with a halo bright ushered me inside.
And there! To my astonishment, stood folks I’d judged and labeled:
As “quite unfit,” “of little worth,” and “spiritually disabled.”
Indignant words rose to my lips, but never were set free.
For every face showed stunned surprise—
Not one expected ME!
(found on an old Holy Card given to me in grade school)
As I mentioned in my homily last weekend, I have been thinking about heaven and hell a lot lately. When I perceive hellish things happening amongst humans, like they did in Charlottesville and the many other places on earth where violence, disrespect, killing takes place, heaven seems so far away. And my heart sinks because it seems like humans are destined to fail.
But then I read the Gospel today, and hear Jesus assure us that not even the gates of the netherworld will prevail against the church and that what we hold bound on earth will be bound in heaven, and I feel hope.
But I also feel a challenge given to us by Jesus. He wants us to truly live in our own lives the values and virtues of heaven, a place of peace, justice, goodness. He wants us to follow his example, to be his presence, and to proclaim the triumph of his Kingdom over the powers of death and evil.
So we have work to do! See you in heaven—I won’t be surprised at seeing you if you won’t be surprised at seeing me! (smile)
Sincerely, with love,
August 20th – Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
O God, let all the nations praise you! (Psalm 67:4)
Psalm 67 was a psalm of thanksgiving for the harvest which expressed the ever-widening reach of God’s blessings from the house of Israel to all the nations, and finally to the ends of the earth. Our Scriptures for today teach us a lesson that God nudges us to go outside of our comfort zone. The tent of God’s love is pretty wide. For some reason I am reminded of a book that came out in the 1960’s by J.B. Phillips: “Your God is Too Small.” While I never read the book, I read a summary that indicates that we need a much broader concept of God. Many times we operate out of outmoded concepts of God that constantly need to be expanded. How do we relate to God in a postmodern, technological world that is moving at such a fast pace?
Each Sunday in the Nicene Creed we profess that the Church we belong to is “one, holy, catholic and apostolic.” What does the word Catholic mean? If you check the Catechism of the Catholic Church #830 and on, we see that the Church is “catholic,” meaning universal or as it states: “according to the totality” or “keeping with the whole.” The Church is catholic because Christ is present in her with the means of salvation. The Church is also catholic because she has been sent on a mission by Christ to the whole of the human race.
So what can we learn from today’s gospel where the Canaanite woman asks Jesus to cure her daughter. Despite the insistence of the disciples to send her away and Jesus’ comment about being sent only to the lost sheep of Israel, the woman persists in her plea for mercy. Because of the power of a mother’s love, there was a monumental shift in Jesus’ self-understanding and the scope of his mission. Now, all the nations were invited to share in the blessings of God’s love. Even St. Paul could see that Israel’s rejection of Christ served as the “reconciliation of the world.”
We are invited this month to especially pray for respect for all peoples, cultures and religions. The recent violence in Charlottesville, Virginia unmasks the growing cancer of violence and hatred in our country. We are still recovering from the violence that occurred last summer in Sherman Park but many people are working together to build a new future. While remaining true to our Catholic roots, we pray for renewed vision to see Christ in all we meet today.
Love and blessings, Fr. Mike Michalski
August 13th – Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God, that we made be made worthy of the promises of Christ!
This Tuesday is the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, a holy day of obligation. As we honor our Lady’s entrance into heaven, please plan on coming to Mass at one of the various Masses we have available.
I love Holy Days! I remember as a little boy, the pastor would come into the classroom and we waited expectantly for him to give us the day off! Since this is a feast day that we already were off for because it landed in the summer, I remember feeling like he owed us an extra one once school reconvened.
So, as one of your pastors, I now give you the day off! And if you can’t take off, I owe you one! But if I could, I would give you the day off from undue anxiety, restlessness and fear. I would give you the day off from any emptiness or loneliness you are feeling. I would give you the day off from regrets about your life, and the sometimes rather harsh light we all see ourselves in (and thus transfer over to others!) I would give you the day off from disappointments you have in people and any tendency you have to disappoint others. I give you the day off from frustrations of any kind, and the tendency to be impatient.
I would give you this all off not because I have any sort of special power or authority, but because I believe Jesus does, and he does so even when we don’t deserve it. It’s called grace.
As Mary, full of grace, points out to us, every day with her Son Jesus is a holiday worth taking off! Be full of grace!
Happy Feast Day!
Sincerely, with love,
August 6th – The Transfiguration of the Lord
“Oh the gift that God could give us,
to see ourselves as others see us.”
(Quote from poet Robert Burns.)
Today we celebrate a special Feast in honor of the Transfiguration of the Lord. We hear the gospel from Matthew 17: 1-9 twice this year in different contexts. On Sunday March 12th we read this gospel on the Second Sunday of Lent, as a reminder of our Lenten journey from darkness into light, from death to the transfiguring light of the resurrection. It gave a glimpse of the Easter Vigil to the elect, preparing them to wear their white robes during the Easter octave.
Today we read this gospel halfway through the period of Ordinary Time to strengthen us on our disciple-journey with Jesus. While we sometimes live in the valley of darkness in this world of war, violence, suffering and pain, we are reminded that our goal is the Kingdom of heaven. Even now we “see” glimpses of what the Kingdom is about in the many lives of those who work for peace and justice. Last Thursday, many of us attended a beautiful and moving liturgy at Gesu parish where we commemorated the 50th Anniversary of the 1967 Civil Rights Demonstrations in Milwaukee. Fr. Bryan Massingale preached a powerful message, calling us to practice conviction, courage and hope. While Milwaukee is one of the most segregated cities in the country and has a high incarceration rate for African-American males, it is still our home where we want to practice the works of mercy and spread the light of Christ.
I would like to piggy back on Fr. Tim’s comments in last weeks’ bulletin about seeing others as people and not as problems or difficulties. On this Feast of the Transfiguration, I invite you to climb the mountain with Jesus and listen to Him as the “beloved Son.” Then, as you come down, renewed in the Spirit, join your brothers and sisters in building the city of God. Pray for peace this weekend as we commemorate the bombing of Hiroshama on Aug. 6th and Nagasaki on Aug. 9th. To echo the words of Blessed Pope Paul VI: “No more war; no more war.”
Fr. Mike Michalski