Category Archives: 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


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My House Shall be Called a House of Prayer for all Peoples

The reading from Isaiah ends with this statement; that God’s house is open to all. The prophets of the Old Testament were sent to Israel, the northern kingdom, and Judah, the southern kingdom, to bring about conversion. The people had intermingled with those who worshiped other gods and had begun to worship them as well. The God of their forefathers sent the prophets to warn them of their sin and to call them back to the Himself, the one true God. If you are familiar with biblical history, you know that both kingdoms were invaded and conquered, the Kingdom of Israel in 722 BC, never to be re-established, and the Kingdom of Judah in 586 BC. The prophets of the Old Testament speak of other people and nations. They inform the chosen people that God is a God of all people and all nations. Since the chosen people were rejecting the true God, He would invite all nations to be His people. St. Paul, in his Letter to the

St. Paul, in his Letter to the Romans, speaks to the Gentiles; his primary audience that he was sent to preach the Gospel. Paul’s mission was largely to the Gentile people as his own Jewish people by and large rejected him and his ministry. He does not give up on the Jews, rather hopes that when the Jews see the change and conversion of the Gentiles they would become jealous and seek conversion to Jesus as their savior as well. This is an example of Isaiah’s invitation to all people in action. In our Gospel passage today (Mt 15:2128) Jesus seems to be rejecting a Canaanite woman who pleads for the healing of

In our Gospel passage today (Mt 15:2128) Jesus seems to be rejecting a Canaanite woman who pleads for the healing of her daughter possessed and tormented by a demon. This seems so out of the norm for Jesus, who heals so many people, even those outside of the “house of Israel.” Perhaps Jesus was testing this poor woman. Seeing just how much she would take before she would decide help was not coming? But this woman was determined and had great faith! She does not give up easily; she perseveres, knowing Jesus can bring the healing her daughter needs. This woman loved her daughter with her whole being and knew in her heart Jesus was the cure for her.

Perhaps Jesus tests each of us at times. Will you continue to ask for the healing you need, for the strength to conquer a sinful habit, the conversion of your loved ones, for peace in your own lives and for the world? Will you? Or will you become tired and discouraged, giving up your prayer? Like this Canaanite woman, I urge you to continue to seek Jesus in prayer; He will not abandon you! We are the Gentiles God has opened Himself up to; we have been invited into a loving relationship with the true God, so continue to seek Him and ask Him for what you need.
God bless,
Deacon Ray


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“O You of Little Faith”

We hear the story of Jesus walking on the water today. Peter, the impulsive man he was, asks Jesus to bid him to come to Him on the water. Peter does well until he became aware of just how strong the wind was blowing and became frightened and then he begins to sink into the water. This is where Peter must quickly decide who to call upon for help and he wisely asks Jesus to save him. We may look at this action of Peter and roll our eyes at his impulsive action. Once again, Peter makes a move without really thinking things through; what will be the consequences of my action? William Barclay, in his book, “The New Daily Study Bible,” states: “Peter’s whole trouble was that he was ruled by his heart; and,

We may look at this action of Peter and roll our eyes at his impulsive action. Once again, Peter makes a move without really thinking things through; what will be the consequences of my action?

William Barclay, in his book, “The New Daily Study Bible,” states: “Peter’s whole trouble was that he was ruled by his heart; and, however, he might sometimes fail, his heart was always in the right place and the instinct of his heart was always love.”

Yes, Peter failed, but he knew where to turn when he failed; to Jesus. If we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that we each fail to follow Jesus perfectly. Yet when we find ourselves in a precarious situation, separated from Him, we, like Peter, simply need to seek Jesus for help. Be it a serious sin and a trip to confession or a minor slip up, we can seek Jesus knowing He will always be there, waiting patiently, ready to accept us if we are sincerely sorrowful and determined to avoid that sin again. This is the beauty of our Church and the sacraments! This is the beauty of God’s love for us!

Barclay states; “a saint is not someone who never fails; a saint is someone who after a fall gets up and goes on again every time.” So Peter had
“little” faith as Jesus states, but at least he had faith! Faith is what has brought us to Mass; faith is what draws us closer to Jesus. Our “little” faith can grow if we place our trust in Him.

God bless,
Deacon Ray


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The Transfiguration

This familiar story of Jesus showing His glory to Peter, James, and John is truly a beautiful one. In this brief section of the Gospel Jesus gives
these three disciples a glimpse into Heaven, Jesus’ eternal dwelling place. Jesus shows these disciples that He is the fulfillment of the law
and the prophets. They are left with many questions in spite of what they have witnessed. We see the effects of what they viewed in their
lives, especially after the resurrection; they too had a transfiguration of sorts!

We all likely know of someone who has had a transfiguration in their lives. I recall a man who in his youth spoke foul language and made
disparaging remarks about women. Women seemed to avoid him because of his demeanor. At some point he must have figured out his way
of life was not attractive to others; some kind of awareness was given him, perhaps by God. He made an effort to change his ways and he became a man who gained the respect of others. He is now an older retired man, married for many years with children and grandchildren;
truly blessed! He had a transfiguration of his very self which has made him the man he is today.

All too often when we see someone act in a manner unfit for a follower of Jesus we make a judgment. These judgments are often based solely
on a single incident of poor behavior. We hear statements like; “now we see his true nature” in many of these cases. We are quick to judge
and this can taint the way we view others.

I believe the opposite can often be the truth when we witness an incident of bad judgment or poor behavior; that the person simply had a
slip up, a moment when they let their emotions or sin cloud their thinking or their speech. We should try to think that this is a good person
who made a mistake, this is not who they really are, this is not their true nature. No, this brief moment is one of the slight bumps in the
road of life, not what is at that person’s core.

We are all capable of transfiguration. Using the grace of the sacraments we can allow God to shape us into the person He desires. Perhaps this week may be a good time to reflect on the times in our lives where we have made those brief errors and think of how others may have viewed us. Then ask God to help you avoid these moments; pray that you can overcome your weakness and strive to be more like Jesus. Ask Him for help in transfiguring you to be more Christ like.

God bless,
Deacon Ray


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The Kingdom of Heaven is Like…

Jesus gives three examples of what the kingdom of Heaven is like in today’s Gospel reading. I struggle with the comparisons He uses
compared with the norms in today’s world; after all we don’t hear of people finding buried treasure today. But I realized I was missing the
point of these parables. Jesus is simply telling us we must make a choice; will we value the things of this world or of Heaven? If we
choose the way of Jesus we must live with purpose and show God we value His love.  How do we put God first? As Jesus says, we must sell all we have and purchase that field with the buried treasure! Of course this is easier said than done. It’s not easy to put our lives in order, giving our whole self to God, trusting Him and surrendering our will to Him. That is what He refers to, not our physical possessions. I recall my early days of formation where the wonderful people leading and forming us told us that we would change if we were serious in our study and prayer. I was a bit fearful, wondering what this would mean for me. This is where trust is put to the test. I certainly struggled with the demands placed upon me and with the idea of surrender. This is not something that comes easily for us. And even though the days of formation are over, surrender is a daily decision. Ordination doesn’t make the wonders and allure of our earthly world disappear. However the grace of the sacrament helps us choose wisely. Each of us received the grace of Baptism to assist us with our choice.

Each of us must decide what we will do with our lives; how we will live, which kingdom will we place our trust in? One of the best things we can do with this decision is to take it to prayer. God is always listening to us when we are sincere with our pleadings and questions. We then need to listen to God when He responds.

God’s blessings upon each of us as we make our daily decision which kingdom we will follow.