If you say that someone is stirring the pot, you usually mean that they’re making trouble or bringing up things that they know will lead to arguments and tension, and we almost always see this as a bad thing. It’s the same idea as the rule that you’re not supposed to talk about politics or religion in polite company, because it will just lead to an argument. However, stirring the pot has a literal meaning, too, in cooking, and it’s absolutely vital to preparing good food.
If you’re making a pot of beans or stew you need to occasionally stir the pot to make sure that everything’s not just sitting in one place on the bottom. If you don’t stir the pot it’ll burn and you’ll be left with ruined beans and a pot needing to be scrubbed down. The same is true in the spiritual life. You need to occasionally examine your conscience in prayer, asking the Lord to help you see where you’re sins and vices are, where you’ve failed to listen to the voice of God and how He’s calling you to conversion. We normally do this before going to confession so we can make a good and complete confession, but if you only go to confession once a year or less, that’s not really enough. We know that saints like Mother Teresa and Pope St. John Paul II went to confession at least every week or two. We don’t need confession less than they did. That’s why I encourage people to go to confession at least once or twice a month. In this way we don’t let things just sink to the bottom but keep them stirred up where we can see them and, with God’s help, grow in holiness and virtue.
Things like beans only need to be stirred every 15 minutes or so, but some things need to be stirred constantly, like a roux for gumbo or sauce. If you don’t keep stirring the roux it won’t combine and the butter and four will start to burn, then you’ll have to completely start over. I compare this to the spiritual discipline of practicing the presence of God. You can’t live your life if you’re constantly examining your conscience. There has to come a point when you stop examining and start acting. Most of life consists in putting into action in our lives what we’ve heard from God in prayer. Practicing the presence of God, however, is something that we can do all the time. It’s a very simple discipline where you just remind yourself that God is present. Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, and whoever you’re with, whether in Church, at work, or in a bar, God is present there in some way. Remembering God’s presence can motivate us to avoid sin, to practice Christian virtue, and to have to courage to live out our faith even in the most difficult times.
Stirring the pot just to cause trouble for people is bad, but we do occasionally need to stir up our own spiritual lives in order to keep things on the right track. After all, if you ruin a pot of beans you’ve lost a few hours work and some beans, but you only get one shot at life.
The annual #iGiveCatholic crowdfunding event is coming up on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. Every year Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year, follows Thanksgiving, and Cyber Monday, the biggest online shopping day, follows Black Friday. Now Tuesday, December 3, or Giving Tuesday, is one of the biggest charitable giving days of the year, but it's only for one day.
To donate to Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, click on the #iGiveCatholic logo above. All gifts this year will go to support religious education here at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church. Please let your friends and former parishioners know about #iGiveCatholic and how they can help OLL.
Fr. Bryan Howard
33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year C – 17 November 2019
There are a lot of movies and books about the apocalypse or the end of the world, like “The Walking Dead,” “Left Behind,” and “Avengers: End Game,” now the highest grossing movie of all time, not adjusted for inflation. Our culture is fascinated with the apocalypse or the end of the world, but as Catholics we don’t really talk about it all that much. We typically prefer to talk about more positive sounding things, life in Christ, prayer, faith, hope, and love, and heaven, but it’s good to think about the last things sometimes, too. In his “Rule for Monks” St. Benedict writes, “Keep death ever before your eyes.” This advice wasn’t meant to be morbid; in fact, he included it in his list of “Instruments of Good Works.” It’s meant to remind us that heaven is our goal and we get there by staying close to Christ and following Him here on earth. So, let’s talk about some common myths about the Second Coming and the Catholic answer to them.
Myth # 1: We’ll know when it’s coming. Despite the many times that people have tried to predict the end of the world, Jesus Himself said that we won’t know when it’s coming. It true that He gave us signs to look for, including war, earthquakes, famines, plagues, and “mighty signs in the sky,” but when has there been a time in human history when these things weren’t happening? There are always wars, natural disasters, solar eclipses and things like that. The whole point is that we should always be ready to go, but we never know when our last moment will be. Make sure your family know that you love them, don’t put off tomorrow what you can do today, and avoid mortal sins like the plague.
Myth # 2: Jesus will come to establish a thousand year kingdom. This is the idea that, as one person put it, “Jesus promised the Kingdom of God, but all He left us was the Church.” Some people believe that Jesus will come again to establish a Kingdom on earth for 1,000 years before the final end of the world. However, Jesus never intended to establish the kind of earthly kingdom that they’re thinking about, but rather a kingdom of service and of prayer. We come together in Mass to pray, then we go out to spread the Kingdom of God through acts of love for one another. At the end of time, when Jesus Christ comes in glory, some will be resurrected to eternal life in Christ, and others to eternal death in hell. On that day, we’ll realize that the Kingdom of God was in the palm of our hands all along, and all we had to do was reach out and accept what God has been trying to give us.
Myth # 3: We will be like the angels in heaven. This one is based off on an actual quote from the Bible. We often imagine that, when we die, we’ll be like angels with wings and harps floating on little clouds. I’m sorry to burst your bubbles if you were looking forward to that, but we won’t be angels, we’ll still be human. God made us as humans, and God wants us to be humans, even when we’re glorified in heaven. We will have glorified bodies, but they will still be our own, human glorified bodies. How will God unite all of the dead back with their bodies? I don’t have any idea, but if anyone can do it, it’s probably God. Besides, I’m still holding out hope that we’ll be able to fly anyway, even without angel wings.
Myth # 4: I’ll be judged again at the Second Coming. In Catholic theology, we speak of two judgements. Our personal judgement happens at the moment of our death, when we have to answer for our lives, as St. Paul says in 2nd Corinthians, “For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, so that each one may receive recompense, according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil.” This is where we will either go to heaven or hell or purgatory, and if you get to purgatory you will eventually make it to heaven, but you should definitely not shoot for purgatory. That’s like trying to get the lowest passing grade on a test, “If I just get a D- I’ll be fine.” If you aim for that and fall just short, that’s it, game over, but if you try to be a saint, then, even if you fall short you’ll probably still make it at least into purgatory. At the end of time there is a general judgement, where all the souls are divided into sheep and goats, as Jesus describes in Matthew 25. You won’t learn any new at the general judgement that you didn’t find out at your personal judgement.
In the psalm, we sang, “The Lord comes to rule the earth with justice,” and we often talk about the Law of God,” meaning the moral law, the Ten Commandments, and Jesus’ New Commandment of Love. We sometimes think of the Laws of Nature, like the Law of Gravity, as hard and fast rules that can’t be broken, and if you try to break them you’ll pay the price. If you think you can break the law of gravity, it may end up breaking several of your bones. Then, we think of the moral Law of God as being soft and malleable, so we feel safe in breaking it. We may not pay a price immediately, but we will pay one eventually. Broken bones are easy to heal compared with broken lives and broken relationships. Instead of trying to see how much we can get away with, let’s try to see just how saintly we can become.
This coming Friday we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the dedication of Our Lady of Lourdes Church. As you all know, our Church was flooded during hurricane Katrina. It took a few year for the parish to be reopened and then the Church to be restored, but on November 22, 2009, Archbishop Aymond celebrated the Mass re-dedicating Our Lady of Lourdes Church. For us, this is a symbol of our restored communities and of our love for our Church and parish.
For any parish, the anniversary of the dedication of their Church is an important and meaningful day. In fact, it’s a solemnity for that parish. A solemnity is the highest level of feast day in the Church. There’s a memorial of a saint, like the Memorial of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini that was celebrated this past Wednesday, then a feast day, like the Feast of Saints Simon and Jude the apostles which we celebrated on October 28, then there’s a solemnity. There are only 25 solemnities celebrated by the entire Church throughout the world. However, each individual Church celebrates their named feast day, for us the Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes on February 11, and the anniversary of the dedication of their Church as solemnities in their own parish Church.
In the preface of the Eucharistic Prayer for the dedication of a Church we pray, “For in this visible house that you have let us build and where you never cease to show favor to the family on pilgrimage to you in this place, you wonderfully manifest and accomplish the mystery of your communion with us. Here you build up for yourself the temple that we are and cause your Church, spread throughout the world, to grow ever more and more as the Lord’s own Body, till she reaches her fullness in the vision of peace, the heavenly city of Jerusalem.” This is what the dedication of a Church means and what we celebrate this Friday. We thank the Lord for allowing and helping us to build our Church. We celebrate that, in this Church we grow in communion with God and with one another in our Church family, and are nourished and strengthened by the Eucharist to live out our faith in the ordinary events of our lives. We celebrate that this Church represents for heaven and the heavenly Temple for us, reminding us that this life is not our final destination, but that we are together on this pilgrimage through life to our final destination in heaven.
I hope to see all of you this Friday as we come to celebrate the birthday of our own parish Church. We’ll begin with Mass at 6:30 pm and have a reception afterwards.
There was a time when people thought of going to war not only as a duty and responsibility that they owed to their homeland but as a point of honor. It was something that many young men looked forward to. We can’t imagine that because we live after the war that changed all of that, that changed civilization forever, the Great War or the War to End All Wars, what we normally call World War I.
The world powers in England, France, Germany, and Russia saw this war coming decades ahead of time, knowing that the system of alliances that kept the peace couldn’t last forever. They also saw the technology of war changing with the invention of machine guns, more powerful explosives and artillery, airplanes, and even poison gas. Tsar Nicholas II of Russia called the leaders of 26 nations, including all of the major world powers, to the Hague Conferences in 1899 and 1907, where these nations agreed to outlaw the use of poisons and any technology developed after the Conferences.
However, in 1914 this all went out the window when World War I began. In January 2015, the Germans were the first to use poison gas against the Russians, first against the Russians and then the French and British. They were soon emulated by the British and French. During the course of the war three types of poison gas were developed, bromide, chlorine, and mustard gas. Each one was worse than the last, and even if you survived the initial attack, you might have to deal with debilitating effects from it for the rest of your life. When you add in the first wide-scale use of machine guns, aerial bombing, modern artillery, and trench warfare, the casualties of World War I were higher than any previous war (around 10 million military and 6 million civilian lives lost), and the survivors suffered terrible physical and psychological effects from the war.
This all lead to a greater understanding of the effects that wars have on the people who fight them and are caught up in them. What previous generations thought of as cowardice or weakness, we now understand to be normal human reactions to horrible, traumatic experiences. The soldiers on both sides of that war were honored by the establishment of Armistice Day on November 11, the day that the war ended. In the United States it was raised to a national holiday in 1938. It occurs on the “11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month,” which is when the armistice was signed. In 1954, President (formerly General) Dwight D. Eisenhower changed it to Veterans Day in 1954.
On this November 11, at 11 AM, let us pause to offer a prayer for the roughly 18 million living Veterans in the US, and countless who have already passed away. Let’s also remember that we join countries around the world in honoring their own Veterans and all those, no matter what country they’re from, who fight to protect their homes and people.
St. Michael the Archangel, patron saint of soldiers, pray for them.
In one of my favorite quotes, the one that I put on the end of all of my emails, Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos said, “Time, in which we have found nothing to offer up to God, is lost for eternity.” Blessed Francis Seelos goes on to explain how we can offer things up to God, like our work, our sufferings, inconveniences, and also prayers and obedience to God, but I want to focus on time.
Today is the day when we “fall back” in daylight savings time and lose an hour on the clocks. The idea of daylight savings time is to add an extra hour of daylight to the workday, so we can get more work done. We don’t like to waste any time that we could be using to accomplish our own priorities, whether that’s business or pleasure. We want to give ourselves more time in the day to work or play, to accomplish things, and we go so far as to adjust the very clocks that we use to tell the time. Unfortunately, we don’t actually gain an hour. There are still 24 hours in a day. There’s still the same amount of sunlight and darkness in the day as there would have been anyway, we just adjust what times of the day are bright so we don’t lose an hour of sunlight before people wake up and go to work.
We may be able to control the clocks, but we don’t control time itself. There is only One who is outside of time, and He is the only One who can give us more time or take it away. We only have so much time left, and we don’t know how long it will be until our time is up. On that day we will have to answer for how we used the time that we were given. Did we use all of our time for ourselves and our own priorities, or did we spend our time on the things of God? Only God is eternal, because only God has no beginning or end. We cannot become eternal like God, but we can enter into God’s eternity. Whenever we invite God into our souls and put Him at the center of our lives we consecrate the hours and days of our lives by dedicating them to God.
So, reassess your priorities. What are the most important things in your life? What is valuable to you? What do you believe in? Would someone know that by observing the way that you live? Would they know what is important to you by seeing how you spend your time? Only God can give you more time; only God can bring you into heaven. One day we will all have to stand before the judgement seat of God. If we try to rely on our own accomplishments in life, without building up a relationship with God and with His family, the Church, then we may be disappointed in the outcome. If we ask for help from God the Father, in the Son, and through the Holy Spirit to live out the Divine Law by loving God above all things and loving our neighbor as ourselves, then we will be greeted as children returning to their Father’s house.
Fr. Bryan was pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes from July 3, 2017 to June 2022.