Thinking of passing judgment? Look in the mirror: Gospel reflection by Father Steven LaBaire

father-steven-labaireI am pleased to present this guest post from
Father Steven LaBaire, pastor of Holy Family Parish in Worcester, MA.

This Sunday we will hear a story that centers on the need to change our own hearts before we demand the conversion of others.

Jesus is confronted by some religious leaders who bring before him a woman caught in the act of adultery (John 8:1-11).

They start quizzing Jesus. “What should we do with her?”

Ted Women caught in adultery, Flickr Creative Commons
Ted Women caught in adultery, Flickr Creative Commons

But the quiz has a “catch” to it.

They are testing Jesus “so as to bring a charge against him.” They want to be rid of him.

If Jesus answers that the woman ought to be stoned to death, which was the penalty for adultery under Mosaic law, he would be challenging the Roman authorities. The Romans had banned executions without their authority or approval.

If Jesus answers that she not be punished under the penalties imposed by Mosaic law, then Jesus sets himself up in opposition to what Moses prescribed.

So it’s a trap.

But Jesus uses the trap to unmask the hypocrisy of these pious frauds.

These guys are using this woman as a pawn in their scheme to discredit Jesus.

They don’t care about her, or about justice or the even well-being of whatever marriage has been violated.

The leaders are using the woman as a chess-piece.

If they had even a modicum of interest in justice wouldn’t her male accomplice be under scrutiny too? (It did say, she was caught in the act of adultery, didn’t it? The law required the same penalty be meted out to both. But this guy is nowhere to be found. How convenient!)

So Jesus says, “Hey, put down your stones!”  Start scrutinizing your own heart before you throw stones of condemnation at others. This whole situation you’re presenting is corrupt and rotten to the core.

Jesus must have really hit a chord.

John 9:25 Easier To Codemn Sins Than Mortify Them (Romans 2:1), Fickr Creative Commons
John 9:25 Easier To Codemn Sins Than Mortify Them (Romans 2:1), Fickr Creative Commons

The gospel tells us that the religious leaders went way, beginning with eldest.

(Maybe the older ones realized that with the accumulation of years, they had more “scrutinizing” and soul-searching to do.)

The woman is left alone with Jesus. He tells her to stop sinning. “Don’t do this again.”

Just as importantly he tells her: “Neither do I condemn you.”  In doing so, he saves her life. And, he gives this woman a new lease on life.

Let’s pray that Jesus’ provocative and courageous actions would inspire us:  and accept the simple truth that God, and only God, will be the ultimate judge of every life and of every heart.

In the meantime we can put down the stones of condemnation and redouble our efforts at healing and reconciling whatever is broken in our lives and the lives that cross our path each day.

Marufish Stone, Flickr Creative Commons
Marufish Stone, Flickr Creative Commons

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Living each moment of 2016–a reflection by Father Steven LaBaire

father steven labaireI am pleased to present this guest post from Father Steven LaBaire, pastor of Holy Family Parish in Worcester, MA.

January is named for the ancient Roman god “Janus,” a two headed deity looking forward and backward.

New Year’s is a moment when people tend to look back over the past year and reflect over the events and people that shaped the last 365 days.

And we look ahead. We predict, plan and make resolutions for the new year before us.

mary and jesus facesOn January 1st the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God, the gospel states that Mary, “kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” (Luke 2:16-21)

The turning of the calendar year is an opportunity to ask:

  • Where have I come?
  • To where am I going?

But, we can’t really act meaningfully unless we fully live and embrace the present.

BK Pablo, Flickr Creative Commons
BK Pablo, Flickr Creative Commons

There’s an old saying: “Every NOW is a new beginning. Make it count.”

Let’s pray that as we begin to count the days of a new year, that we’d live more fully in the present; focusing more on the here and NOW.

–Mindful that we cannot do a thing to change the past; and the future will never be exactly what we planned.

Therein lies the gift of Christ’s timeless peace…

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The King of Truth: Reflections on the Sunday Gospel (John 18:33b-37) by Father Steven LaBaire –

father steven labaireI am pleased to present this guest post from Father Steven LaBaire, pastor of Holy Family Parish in Worcester, MA.

In preparation for mass this Sunday:

This weekend’s gospel reading presents us with two men: Pontius Pilate and Jesus.

Sheona Beaumont Station 5, Flickr Creative Commons
Sheona Beaumont Station 5, Flickr Creative Commons

Pilate has heard a lot about Jesus. He’s trying to figure out who Jesus is: Where does he get his power? What’s his appeal?

Jesus doesn’t have the dress or swagger of a king. He’s not accompanied by servants or protected by armies.

He brings no weapons.

And yet, this Jesus, dares to speak about his “kingdom.”

Pilate is confused. If this “Kingdom” belonging to Jesus is somewhere, it doesn’t seem to be much help right now.

Then Jesus says:

“Everyone who cares for the truth,
who has any feeling for the truth, recognizes my voice.”

Now Pilate is really confused…

But hopefully we are not:

The Kingdom of Jesus exists wherever the truth is told.

Wherever and whenever truth and honesty triumph over lies, deception, falsehood, and cover-ups, Jesus reigns supreme.

Christ is the “King” of every human heart, committed to the truth.

So, who are the truth tellers of our generation? (In our families? In business? In the Church? In our culture?)

darylcheng Follow what is truth?, Flickr Creative Commons
darylcheng what is truth?, Flickr Creative Commons

Are we able to accept the “truth” about ourselves? (Are we honest enough to face-up to both the good and the bad within?)

Do we avoid the truth, when it sheds light on people or things we want to protect?

Are we willing to follow Christ our King, trusting that the “ truth,” sets us free to face both life and death without fear.

Pray that we will always be counted as citizens of this Kingdom.

Amen.

copyright 2015 by Steven Michael LaBaire

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A new look at leprosy … and numbness … Reflections on the Sunday Gospel from Mark 1:40-45 by Father Steven LaBaire

father steven labaireI am pleased to present this guest post from Father Steven LaBaire, pastor of Holy Family Parish in Worcester, MA.

In preparation for mass this Sunday:

“A leper came to Jesus and kneeling down begged him and said, ‘If you wish, you can make me clean.” (Mark 1:40)  That’s in this Sunday’s gospel.

from Community Eye Health
from Community Eye Health

Leprosy is a disease that affects nerves. Most people think about leprosy as a horrible skin disorder. But that’s only part of the story. Leprosy tragically affects the nerves of the body, especially in the hands and feet. Leprosy stops people from “feeling.” So for example, someone with leprosy might not “feel” the red hot pot on a stove. Their bare hands would be terribly burned. Because there’s no feeling. Leprosy creates numbness.

Leprosy can also be a “spiritual” affliction, something under the skin. Some call it “leprosy of the heart.”

It’s an overall, generalized “numbness” that deadens our feelings and reactions to life.

Because we’re so busy and distracted we can become “numb” to what’s really going on with our kids or spouse.

Because we “overdose” on  headline news and stories of terrible things happening all over the world, we can be “numb” to the pain of the co-worker sitting a few feet away.

Because we’re surrounded so much noise and distraction, we can be “numb” to our own feelings and emotions. (One day, someone tells us how angry we get over the smallest thing. Or, that we’re no longer fun to be around. Or, that we’re so “negative.” Then we wonder, “How long have I been like this? How long have I been “numb” to what I’ve become?)

Numb by Tony Alter
Numb by Tony Alter

Part of healing involves assessing our own personal leprosy or numbness. It might mean asking some hard questions of ourselves. It might mean making some daily  lifestyle changes. It might mean changing our circle of friends if they are people who seem content with their “numbness.”

(Let’s remember that lots of folks actually pursue “numbness” through alcohol, workaholism and drugs, so… we may need to make some new friends!)

Above all, the path to healing requires asking God  for the grace needed to live a fuller, more abundant life: Day by day, hour by hour, situation by situation. Healing is rarely self-induced. It requires openness to a power that is bigger and higher than ourselves.

If you can at least allow yourself to “feel” the need within yourself, you’ve taken the first step toward healing. Pray for the “nerve” to go further.

copyright 2015 Steven Michael LaBaire

Artwork: photo of Father LeBaire by Susan Bailey; “Leprosy” by Community Eye Health. Community Eye Health–Elderly multiple disabled multibacillary (MB) leprosy patients with a long history of disease are most at risk of developing severe eye complications and blindness.
© Swapan Samantha, IS Roy. Flickr Creative Commons; “Numb” by Tony Alter (Pink Floyd Comfortably Numb Lyrics; Songwriters: WATERS, ROGER / GILMOUR, DAVID JON) Flickr Creative Commons

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Are we ready for a change in our lives? Reflections on the Sunday gospel, Mark 1:14-20

father steven labaireI am pleased to present this guest post from Father Steven LaBaire, pastor of Holy Family Parish in Worcester, MA.

In preparation for mass this Sunday:

This coming Sunday’s gospel is a story of fisherman making a career change. We hear that they “left behind their nets” to follow Jesus.

Some people think that being a fisherman in the time of Jesus meant being poor. Nothing could be further from the truth. Fishing was an extremely lucrative and well paying profession. Fishermen could enjoy a fairly good standard of living. Fishermen in the part of the world where Jesus lived had a job security and steady income that many others would envy.

from beechwoodcross.blogspot.com
from beechwoodcross.blogspot.com

Obviously, for these men, their well-paying jobs, and career security weren’t satisfying enough. We’re told that they were willing to leave it all behind and become “students” or “apprentices” of Jesus. (The word “disciple” means: student or apprentice.) These men were looking for something more in life. Apparently they found it in Jesus, because later on they were willing endure all kinds of suffering for the sake of what they discovered.

What about us? What about you?

  • Is what you’re doing in life right now satisfying to your soul?
  • Have you found what you need to live each day with serenity?
  • What would you be willing to “give up” and” let go of” in order to experience yourself more at peace with yourself?
  • Would the people you call “friends” support you in your decision? If not, do you need different “friends?”
  • Do you find something inside you, yearning and craving to make some changes in life?

Let’s pray this week for the strength to “leave behind the nets” that are preventing us from going where we need to go in life. How will we make 2015 different in a terrific way? Or, will it be more of same…same…same?

Copyright 2015 Steven M. LaBaire

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Prayer for persecuted Christians

My thanks to Father Steven Labaire from Holy Family Parish in Worcester, MA  for passing along this prayer for our brothers and sisters around the world facing persecution. Please join us in praying for them daily.

mary and jesus facesFather in Heaven, you make your sun shine on the good and bad alike. Your Son Jesus Christ died for us all and in his glorious resurrection he still retains the five wounds of his Passion. With his divine power he now sustains all those facing persecution and martydom for the sake of their fidelity to the faith of the Church. Merciful and mighty Father, do not allow Cain to return again to murder helpless Abel, innocent Abel. May persecuted Christians around the world remain, like Mary, their Mother, together at the foot of Christ the Martyr. Comfort those menaced by violence and those oppressed by uncertainty. May your Holy Spirit of love make fruitful the witness and blood of those who die forgiving.

Amen.

persecuted christian watch list

 

Living with deliberate intent: lessons from a loss and a blessing

donna marie downing anderson mdYesterday reminded me of how suddenly life can end. Rich and I attended the funeral of his cousin Donna who was killed suddenly in a car crash. Gone, just like that. She had just returned to Minnesota from Connecticut, having spent the weekend with her parents. Her mother was brought home from rehab after several weeks away; Donna and her sisters helped to settle their mother back into her routine.

Donna was a doctor, having first served in a pediatric practice for fifteen years, followed by time spent in an army hospital and then in clinics on Indian reservations. She was well aware of all that was going on with her parents and was able to contribute her expertise. She also contributed her special brand of humor and consolation to her mother, father and sisters. Donna was a healer who was very passionate about life. Her spirit was adventurous and free, her life lived with deliberate intent.

It therefore seemed exceedingly unfair that this woman in her prime should suddenly be taken from this life while traveling home from the airport after having called her mother to tell her she was “alright.” Unfair to her mother who is still quite frail. Unfair to her father, devastated at the loss of his little girl, the youngest of the sisters. Unfair to her sisters who depended upon Donna’s gift of life.

Like all of us who attended yesterday’s funeral, I was in need of consolation. Whenever I feel that need, I attend mass at Holy Family Parish in Worcester, MA. While I love my own parish of St. Luke the Evangelist in Westboro, there is something special about Holy Family; being there consoles me. It was where I received my healing of my singing voice. St. Luke’s former pastoral associate, Fr. Steven LaBaire, is pastor of this magnificent cathedral:

 

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This morning at mass, I saw something else that reminded me of the need to live with deliberate intent. I remembered clearly the first time I witnessed it; I wept openly because I was so moved. I now want to share it with you:

Father Steve is breaking the bread which Catholics believe is the body of Christ. He then takes a piece and drops it in the chalice containing the wine which is the blood of Christ.

This is what I mean by deliberate intent.

Notice how the ritual and each little motion is done slowly, reverently, with love. By the deliberate intent of his motions, Father Steve allows us time to contemplate the mystery of the bread and wine. The breaking of that bread reminds us of Christ’s broken body on the cross and the mingling of the body with the blood which Catholics then receive as the eucharist during communion.

Christ shares himself with us through such humble means as bread and wine and in the most intimate way possible: by entering our bodies as food. This is what Catholics believe; it is what I believe.

Father Steve demonstrates living with deliberate intent by the way he celebrates this ritual which he has done endless times but never without thought.

Donna lived with deliberate intent, chasing her passions for medicine, helping others and wildlife photography while never forgetting her family. I’m told by my mother-in-law that Donna called her mother three days each day to check in.

Now she is gone but she leaves behind a legacy, not just of her love or her good works or her beautiful pictures. She leaves behind a legacy of living life with deliberate intent.

Father Steve reminded me of that today in his celebration of the mass, the most sacred of rituals.

Do we think about what we are doing? Do we pour every bit of ourselves into the present moment or do we waste time living in the past or anticipating the future?

What is our intention as we life each day?

Obituary for Donna Marie  Downing Anderson, M. D.

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