Category Archives: Deacon Ray

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The God of Plenty

We hear two stories today of multiplication of food. The first reading from 2 Kings describes the Prophet Elisha providing a meal for the people from a gift he had received as first fruits. No words of multiplication are given, yet the food is enough for the people in spite of his servant’s objections and doubts. The Gospel of John describes Jesus’ multiplication of the loaves and fishes for the crowd of five thousand men. In each of these readings there are fragments to be gathered. We see the overabundant graciousness of God in these readings.

These readings should make us pause and give thanks for the bounty God has provided us. We live by pretty high standards compared to many parts of the world. We typically have to be on a continuous diet so we don’t gain weight because we have so much food. Now that is not to say everyone here has an abundance. We must always be aware of the poor among us and do our best to assist them through charitable giving to Operation Bootstrap and other food banks or assisting them in other ways. But we must admit most of us have more than we need. Thank the Lord today for all His blessings.

Now the Gospel of John’s description of this miracle is also a typology of the Last Supper and of our Eucharist. This story points to the Last Supper using some of the same actions: Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them. Listen during the Eucharistic Prayer for these same action words. Give thanks for God’s gracious manner and contemplate this week just how blessed we are. Read the gospel passage again and imagine you are there next to Jesus as he breaks bread, because we really are there; at the Mass.

Deacon Ray

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Our Source of the Truth

In the first reading today, the Prophet Jeremiah warns those who were leading the people astray. “Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture, say the Lord.” Jeremiah lived in a tough time for Judea, the southern kingdom. Israel, the northern kingdom had been destroyed by Assyria and Judea stood alone as the country of God’s Chosen People. However, they too were worshiping false Gods and Jeremiah, one of the Old Testament major prophets, warned of what would happen. He warned the people against the false prophets who were worshiping false gods. Unfortunately for Judea the people did not listen and they too were overtaken by Babylon in 587BC.

In spite of this tragedy, God did not leave the people alone or abandon them. Jeremiah has a message of hope included in the reading today; “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up a righteous shoot to David…” We can learn from history what happens when we abandon God and place our faith in things of this world. God, a gracious and loving God, provides for us and has given us laws to live by for our own good. But all too often we rebel against these laws and we find ourselves lost, seeking inner peace but unable to find it because we are void of the truth, God.

Mark’s Gospel message today recalls the return of the Apostles from their mission. They reported to Jesus all the mighty works they had done, through the power of Jesus. Jesus, knowing they needed rest, tries to lead them to a deserted place, but once again the crowd, longing to be with the Master, finds them and they have no time for rest. The Gospel writer describes the people as being like sheep without a shepherd.

We see in Jesus someone who hold the truth within and is generous in sharing it. People seek Him because He models His Father. Jesus has an inner peace everyone longs for. I know people who possess this peace and they too are generous in sharing it. I’ll bet you know someone like this too.

We live in a world that hungers for peace, the inner peace only God can provide. However, this world seems to seek this gift in worldly things, possessions, power, fame. We, like the people of the time of Jeremiah the Prophet, have many false prophets trying to lead us astray, away from God, so beware. Some of the false prophets today work within our own Church! We received a subscription to the National Catholic Reporter as a Christmas gift. I have been shocked at the content of this “Catholic” newspaper and would not recommend anyone to support or purchase this paper. It is truly unfortunate these false shepherds have a voice in our world. The truth lies in the teachings of the Catholic Church, in those who teach the orthodox teachings, not their own version of the “truth”. So be careful how you form your conscience, using God’s message, not that of the world!

-Deacon Ray

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The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

This Sunday the Church celebrates this solemnity to honor Jesus and to remind us of what we receive in the Eucharist. The Eucharist is not a symbol of Jesus, it is truly the Body and Blood of our Lord!

The change that takes place in the bread and wine is simply a miracle. This miracle is the gift of God which changes the very essence of these two common items, bread and wine, into the extraordinary. While this miracle takes place before us we do not see the effects of it; the bread and wine, now the Precious Body and Blood of Jesus remain visible to us in their previous form. This is truly amazing, yet we may become oblivious to what happens at every Mass. This happens when we allow ourselves to fall into a routine where we “go through the motions” of attending Mass, but not really participating in the Mass through our prayer and attentiveness. We fall into a state where perhaps we zone out, our mind wanders and we drift away from the most important moment in our whole week.

While we will never fully realize and understand this great mystery here on earth, we must realize the importance of the Mass in our faith life and carry this love into the world. It takes a “leap of faith” to believe the Eucharist is really the Precious Body and Blood of Christ. It also takes a strong relationship with God; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to carry the love poured out at the Mass into the world. This is difficult because we face many unbelieving people who mock us or make fun of our beliefs. No one wants to be seen as “not fitting in.” Our Church calls us to be “in the world, but not of the world.” Meaning we need to be in the common day to day work, school, and leisure world, showing the world what it means to be Catholic; to live the law with love. To rise above the often low standards and norms of the world and live as God desires. Yet, we are not of the world; we are to recall always that Jesus is our Lord and King and this is not our home. We are meant for greater things than what we find here; we are called home to Heaven! We are closest to Heaven at the Mass, where we reach up to Heaven and God comes to dwell with us.

In essence, it all boils down to a relationship; with God and each other. If we believe we receive Jesus in the Eucharist we must put into action the love He gives us. Perhaps not easily done, but done with the grace we receive from this most precious sacrament.

God bless you,

Deacon Ray

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Love and Forgiveness

We hear a theme of love in today’s readings. Jesus gives His command to us at the Last Supper; “love one another.” We know how difficult this can be in this fallen world. We may have the best of intentions, striving to love everyone, but things get messed up. At times it is our fault. We may have said or done something hurtful that has caused pain for others. We too can be the recipients of harmful behavior, and we know how hard it is to forgive. Yet it is not impossible to heal, to forgive and seek forgiveness, we just need to ask for the assistance of God. God’s mercy and grace are always at hand!

I read the book “Left to Tell” recently. The author, Immaculee Ilabagiza is an example of living Jesus’ command to love one another. Her story is an inspiration to everyone; that with God’s help we can forgive, we can love, even those who hate us. Her story is about the extreme violence in Rwanda back in 1994. While the world watched over a million Tutsi’s were killed, simply because they were of a different tribe than the Hutu’s. This violence had been brewing for a long time, with other acts of brutality in the country’s past. The trigger to this holocaust was the killing of the Hutu president. Those who remained in power blamed the Tutsi resistance forces for this assassination and called for the extermination of all Tutsi’s.

Immaculee tells her story of survival, hiding out with six other women in a pastor’s home for three months. They faced narrow escapes from the violence all around them. It was during her time of confinement in the very tiny bathroom where they hid that she had an intense interaction with God. She would pray for up to twenty hours a day using the only thing she had from her family; her father’s rosary. It wasn’t easy for her as she faced the same temptations as we do from Satan; he tried to get into her head and lead her to hatred for those who were killing. But with God’s grace Immaculee was able to overcome these thoughts and was able to forgive, to love those who were seeking her life. Truly an amazing story!

I encourage everyone to read this book because of the powerful message she gives. A message of love and forgiveness that we can use in our lives. A message of Jesus’ command lived out; love one another.

Deacon Ray

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Jesus Cleanses the Temple

In John’s Gospel, the cleansing of the temple occurs early in the story, whereas in the synoptic gospels, all place this much later in their accounts. Perhaps John wanted to show the radical change Jesus desired in all aspects of life; our cleansing. Jesus, filled with justifiable anger makes a mess of the area of the temple where merchants sold animals for sacrifice and money changers did their business. This is a picture of Jesus we may find difficult to accept; He seems so gentle and peaceful in the gospel stories, and we may ask; where did this attitude come from? If we only had this small passage to work from how would we view Jesus? Likely much differently than how we understand Him, because we have four full views to come to know Him. We are blessed to have all four gospels, each with a different perspective, each written for a different audience, yet each describing the same God man.

We hear in the passage today that Jesus understood human nature. This is comforting and at the same time it makes us squirm. We are comforted knowing that Jesus, in His human nature, experienced the same things we do; hunger and pain, desires and passion, concern and caring. He understood human nature through living it, observing how we treat each other and the foibles each person has. This is what makes us squirm; that He knows our frail characters as well as what we are capable of. He was tempted, yet was able to endure and rise above. He was rejected but did not seek revenge. He was mocked and scorned but asked for forgiveness for them.

We have good reason to squirm. If we reflect on our lives honestly, we must admit we have fallen short in many ways. We have not lived up to our potential, the potential God knows we have. This is the time of year, especially during the holy season of Lent to lay bare our shortcomings and to seek forgiveness, to call upon the God of mercy for the strength to overcome our weaknesses and strive once again to become the daughter or son He desires. We cannot do this without His help. He is essential in our journey.

Take the time to sit quietly with the Lord this Lent and contemplate His greatness with awe and ask Him what He desires of you. This is the key to conversion and forgiveness. What kind of radical change does Jesus desire for you?


Deacon Ray

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Jesus’ Healing Ministry

We hear in the Gospel from Mark how Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law. Note that she immediately served Him after this miracle; she wanted to show thanks for what Jesus had done for her. The passage states that after sunset the whole town gathered at the door seeking Jesus. This was due to the Jewish laws regarding work on the Sabbath; no work could be done, even the act of bringing someone to be healed could be considered work, as well as Jesus’ healing actions, thus the gathering after sunset.

Jesus healed out of compassion and concern for their wellbeing. He was generous with His ministry, not holding back His power, not judging if someone was “worthy” of healing, not trying to discern the reason the person was seeking His healing powers.

I believe there are many people who seek Jesus only when they need something. A job is going poorly, their marriage is struggling, their health is poor… Yes, we can fall into this routine where the only time we pray is when we are in need. One of the commercials on Relevant Radio describes this type of prayer as a vending machine; we put in our prayer and God produces whatever we have prayed for.

The trouble with this is God is not just there for the problems in our lives, but at all times. We need to seek Him at all times; when we are living the daily routine of our lives, when we celebrate the joys of life and when we face trials. Jesus showed us the importance of prayer as we hear in the passage today; “Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.” Jesus knew the importance of a strong relationship with the Father.

We are called to this same relationship. One of love and trust. When we pray we should always remember who it is we are addressing, the God of power and might, of love and mercy. The God who desires each of us to be in union with Him. The God who grants our prayer requests with His wisdom. We don’t always get what we pray for, because God knows what is best for us. We often don’t understand God’s wisdom, which is why we struggle when our prayers seem to go unanswered. This is where our faith, trust that God knows best, plays a role in our relationship.

Keep on praying!

Deacon Ray

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The Epiphany of Jesus

The Epiphany of Jesus celebrates the fact that God made Himself present or manifested himself to humanity.  God did this in a special way so we could understand He is real and understand Him. Our readings today reflect the beauty of this event in our salvation history. We hear Isaiah prophesy about this event; “Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem!  Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you.” Jerusalem, the site of the temple was the center place of the Jewish faith; the site where sacrifice was offered to God. If you are familiar with biblical history you recall the Arc of the Covenant was placed in the temple after its construction and God dwelled in the “Holy of Holies”, a special section of the temple. God was present to Israel. Much later in the history of Israel the prophet, Ezekiel describes the “glory of the God of Israel” leaves the temple. (chapter 10) God had abandoned the temple because the Chosen People had turned away from God, worshiping false gods and were soon to be overtaken by the Babylonians. With the presentation of Jesus in the temple, God once again graced this sacred space. The statement by Isaiah; “the glory of the Lord shines upon you” has been fulfilled.

The celebration story we hear today is the “Wise Men”, mysterious figures from the east who arrive with gifts and bow down before this newborn king. They fulfill the prophecy we hear in the reading from Isaiah. God’s glory has been present to us ever since this holy event, the coming of the Messiah. We continue to be blessed with His presence even today, He is always present in the tabernacle and we receive Him in the Eucharist where we are nourished by His Precious Body and Blood.

Because we are blessed in such a special way it is important that we gather together every weekend to give Him praise. We join with our brothers and sisters in Christ to be enriched spiritually, to bring our prayers of petition to God, and to be sent forth to serve all peoples. Unfortunately, some people don’t understand the importance of gathering every week to stay in touch with God. We see these people at Christmas Mass and occasionally through the year, but they are not regular in their worship practices. I encourage you to pray for these brothers and sisters so they can awake from their spiritual sleep. Make this a daily prayer petition this year; perhaps our prayers will open their minds and soften their hearts.

May the God who has made Himself manifest to us be ever present to you this year!

God bless,

Deacon Ray

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World Mission Sunday – 2017

Sunday was World Mission Sunday, a day to reflect upon the missionary work of those sent to bring the good news to the world. We typically think of these people as priests and religious who undertake a dedicated ministry in other countries when we think of mission work. This is understandable but does not address our own call to be missionaries; right here in Central Wisconsin. As baptized Catholics each of us are called to be missionaries! Yes, in our own way we are called to spread the Gospel message of love to everyone we encounter.

You may ask; “who me?” How can I be a missionary in my life? The answer is simple, but very demanding; we need to act in a manner similar to God to everyone we encounter, our family, friends, school mates, coworkers and even our enemies. Yes, this can be very demanding!

I know a local man, Gabe Hurrish, from St. Stephen’s parish who previously did many years of missionary work in Africa. Gabe returned home to help care for his mother after his father passed away. I have been blessed to know Gabe for a few years and have always been impressed with his work; he is a true Catholic. He spreads the Gospel message here at home as well as in far away places. He is a caring individual, concerned about doing God’s will in all aspects of his life. Gabe will be returning to mission work in a foreign land in the near future, so keep him in your prayers.

Now Gabe is a special person with great gifts to share, and you may say; “I don’t have gifts like his.” The fact is that each of us does possess skills that can draw people to Christ and His Church. These are often simple abilities to carry on a conversation with someone who may be doubting God or their faith. It could be the knowledge of Church teaching that you can share with a coworker who speaks ill of our Catholic faith, or the skill of serving someone in need while making them feel special. Each one of us has been given gifts God can use to spread His message of unconditional love.

At the end of each Mass, I am blessed to pronounce the sending rite; “Go forth, the Mass is ended.” This is the time each one of us are “sent” in a special way into the world to act as Christ. As you are “sent” today think about your very special role as missionary. Tell yourself; “I am a missionary of Jesus Christ,” think about how amazing this is and call upon the Holy Spirit to enlighten you to the role God has planned for you!

Deacon Ray

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You Are Thinking Not As God Does, But As Human Beings Do

Jesus had just been proclaimed the Messiah, the Son of the living God by Peter in Matthew’s Gospel. We heard that passage last week, now Jesus explained to his disciples that He must suffer, die and then rise again. Peter, thinking in human terms tells Jesus; “God forbid, Lord! No such thing
shall ever happen to you.” Peter cannot wrap his head around Jesus’ prediction of His passion. This is  where we hear Jesus tell Peter; “Get behind me Satan!”

These sound like strong words from Jesus toward the man He had just chosen to lead His Church. We can only guess at the tone of voice Jesus used in this statement, but He likely used a corrective tone, not of anger to explain to Peter it was not his time to lead just yet. Peter had to follow Jesus until His ascension into Heaven, and then Peter would be the leader of Jesus’ new Church. Patience and understanding can be hard traits to accept and build. Peter wasn’t known for his patience; he seemed to say what was on his mind rather than reflect upon it first and he acted rashly occasionally.

It seems Peter needed to build some leadership skills so he could begin thinking as God does, rather than as human beings do. We can identify with Peter here. Each of us needs training, tutoring, and practice in order to “put on the mind of Christ.” I don’t think any of us ever totally masters this, but there are some people who come close. I’ve run across a few people who, are Christlike; people with a gentle nature, soft words of encouragement, a loving gleam in their eyes. These are people you want to seek out and spend
time with because they put you at ease and make you want to be with them and to act like them. This is what each of us are called to. We can each work on this; using the grace God sends us, the sacraments of the Church and prayer. Try working on this in the coming week. Be patient with your self as we will fail often before we improve, but keep trying!

God bless,
Deacon Ray

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“You Are Peter, and Upon This Rock I Will Build My Church”

Our Gospel reading from Mathew today (16:13-20) is a familiar one.  Peter gets it right and proclaims Jesus as; “the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus knows this proclamation is due to the Father’s revealed truth coming from the mouth of Peter. Jesus then states that Peter will be the rock upon which He will build His Church. The Church became present a1er the paschal mystery of Jesus, but Jesus had instituted it and given it a leader knowing well what was to transpire.

The fledgling Church Peter and the Apostles started was much different from the Church today. Here we are, so many years later still proclaiming Jesus as Savior. Here we are caring for souls around the world. Here we are feeding and caring for countless people here and around the world. We have much to be proud of and much more work to do!

One thing that makes us different from other faiths and Christian denominations are the structure of our Church. We continue to have one main head, our Holy Father, who serves the Church guided by the Holy Spirit. Peter had a huge task at hand; to build the followers of Jesus into a Church. Anyone who has ever led others knows how difficult it can be. Every one of us has an opinion and an idea of how things should be run. Peter faced this as well as difficulties with the ruling power of the Romans.

Our Holy Father, Pope Francis faces some of the same difficulties today. Each of us may voice our opinion of how things should be run in the Church. Pope Francis and all of us live in a world that seems more reluctant to the idea of religion, of One True God, and of religious influence in society and politics. But don’t give up hope. This is not the first time in our history we have faced difficulties! As Jesus states; “the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it,” referring to His Church. We must continue to worship, to trust that God will take care of us in difficult times, believe that things can get better and pray.

Pray for Pope Francis and all our leaders. Our prayer helps empower them to do what is holy. Pray for Fr. Joseph, that he returns refreshed and ready to lead us.

God Bless,
Deacon Ray