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Doers of the Word

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How often as children were we told: “Wash your hands before coming to the table!” We hear in the gospel, that the Pharisees questioned Jesus' apostles:  “Why do your disciples not wash their hands before eating?” There were many observances in Jewish laws which seem to be primarily hygienic in origin; distinctions between foods that were “clean” and “unclean” as well as certain foods that could be dangerous to eat, and eating with dirty hands that could be a source of disease or sickness. Attaching a religious sanction to the recommended behavior helped to insure adherence to the law. 

By the standards of the day, the disciples were indeed breaking the Jewish law, but Jesus speaks of where real uncleanness comes from. The source of uncleanness is not with any food or drink that comes from outside. Real uncleanness comes from what’s found in our hearts, from within us. Washing hands does nothing to change that! 

Jesus is challenging the Pharisees, and all of us, to be people who demonstrate our faith not by external observances, but by the depth and breadth of the love found in our hearts. In many ways, Jesus is reminding us that our religious practices, our faith, have to be better than mere externals. It’s really about an inner conversion, a transformation that calls us to a change of heart and a deepening of our personal relationship with God, Jesus, and love for one another. 

St. James tells us that we are to “be doers of the word and not hearers only.” He teaches the importance of faith in action which comes from the heart. Each week, we will have many encounters and opportunities with other people. Will I be a more loving, caring and compassionate person.…will I “become Christ, each for the sake of all”?

Our Patron, St. Dominic

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In 2021, we celebrate the 800th year in commemoration of the death of St. Dominic de Guzman, our parish patron. 

St. Dominic lived during the same time as St. Francis of Assisi. They actually met each other in Rome. Where the followers of St. Francis emphasize charity and works of mercy, St. Dominic lamented the poor preparation priests had in defending the faith. He felt that through good preaching of Catholic principles, a strong faith could be established. This strong faith would help combat Catholic heresies which had surfaced in the church in the Middle Ages.  Both St. Francis and St. Dominic began church reform from the bottom up. The Dominican order claims great teachers such as St. Thomas Aquinas, great mystics such as St Catherine of Sienna, St. Rose of Lima, patron saint of Latin America and the Philippines, and Bartolomé de Las Casas, who worked against oppression of the indigenous people being exploited by the Spanish in Central America. Even St. Ignatius, founder of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), first turned towards God when, during his recuperation from injury, he became devoted to St. Dominic after reading a book by a Dominican friar.

Dominican spirituality consisted of four pillars: prayer - to allow ourselves the milieu to be open to God’s word, study - which includes searching for understanding of truth, all to help our neighbor, preaching- taking the Word of God and incorporating its message into our everyday life, and community- to both embrace the diversity of gifts God gives, but also to muster strength and avoid discouragement. Our parish honors a great saint who in turn honors us with his legacy.

 

Even God Made the Clouds

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The recent cloudy days remind me of an encounter I had with a homeless man four years ago. I had just completed three years of college seminary and was helping at the Milwaukee Cathedral's Outdoor Café. The Café serves lunch to the city's homeless. Having returned from college seminary, I was feeling pretty proud of myself and contracted the contagious graduate "know-it-all" disease. I was ready to go out to the world and evangelize with the vast knowledge I had acquired.

After serving the food at the Café, I sat with one of the men. I made small talk with him while seeking for an opening when I could impart the theology I learned. The opening never came and I began to get frustrated and lose interest. As the man continued to eat, I absently said, "I wish it was a sunnier day." The man paused in between eating and replied simply, "Even God made the clouds."

Even God made the clouds. In one short sentence I learned more lessons from this homeless man than a theology class could have taught me and I was humbled. One of the lessons I learned was what it meant to be grateful. Here was a man who found what true gratitude looks like. That no matter the circumstances, there was always something to be grateful for, especially when things do not go out way. Whether it be a sandwich on a hungry day, an opening for theology not appearing, or clouds in the sky, there is always something to be grateful to God for. Sometimes that means even being grateful for the things we wish were different.

I think about that homeless man every time the sky is dark with clouds. Yes, even God makes the clouds.

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