God's Love for Us

02-19-2023From the Pastor's DeskMonsignor Ellsworth R. Walden

There are many choices we have in our lives. Sometimes we agonize over a decision weighing the pros and cons and at other times we readily jump in with both feet. For past weeks we have been inviting everyone in the parish to our upcoming parish retreat which will take place on next Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday in our church from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM each night. This retreat has been in the planning stage for the past four months. We have formed a committee to put it together along with those who are giving the retreat. The retreat team is coming from the Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. I have been very impressed and enthused by the people we are working with from there and look forward meeting the team they are sending to give the retreat.

In the Gospel (Mark 8:14-21) at daily Mass this past Tuesday Jesus spoke these words to His disciples: “Watch out, guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” Yeast is a leaven that makes bread rise. What makes us rise? What is the leaven of the Pharisees, what make them rise and why do we have to be careful to guard against their leaven? The Pharisees who ignored, rejected, and dismissed Jesus thought they are the “religious professionals.” Jesus rocked their boat because they felt they had their lives in order in their faith. It was almost as if God had to acknowledge and be pleased with them because they followed all the rules and looked askance at everyone who did not. We see in the Old Testament that using the Ten Commandments as a base they enacted 613 laws. Their faith was about keeping the rules and expecting God to reward them for it. We see in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) that the priest and the Levite, “religious people,” walked on by the victim suffering on the road. Only the Samaritan, a man not recognized as “one of us” put his needs aside and took care of the victim. The priest and Levite rose to walk by the victim, the Samaritan rose to help him.

What is the leaven we must be careful to avoid? That is not the question our Parish Retreat will address. The first night the theme will be “Knowing the Love of God.”. That is the leaven we all seek in our lives. We all know God loves us. That is a factual statement. But what does that mean to us? Those who love us give us life. They carry us in their hearts and we carry them in ours. There is no doubt that God loves us. But what does that mean to me personally?

In his book “The Rabbi’s Heartbeat,” Brennan Manning reflects on St. John at the Last Supper reclining on the chest of Jesus and offers these thoughts: “The recovery of passion begins with the recovery of my true self as the beloved. If I find Christ I will find myself and if I find my true self I will find Him. This is the goal and purpose of our lives. John did not believe that Jesus was the most important thing; he believed Jesus was the only thing. If John were to be asked, “What is your primary identity, your most coherent sense of yourself?” He would not reply, “I am a disciple, an apostle, an evangelist,” but “I am the one Jesus loves.” (Page 97)

I invite you to pray for our Parish Retreat Prayer every day. May it guide, encourage, and inspire all of us to come to see how each one of us is “the one God loves.” That affects how we see ourselves and how we see one another.

God of all creation, love, and goodness we seek to live and walk with you in our daily lives. As we come to another season of Lent and the blessing of a retreat to renew, inspire, and guide us, open our minds and hearts to the presence and power of your love in our daily lives.

Through our upcoming Parish Retreat may we come to see the purpose of our lives, the blessing of your presence in our lives and in the Eucharist, and be open to the guidance and wisdom of your Holy Spirit. Amen