Teaching With Authority

This reflection is for the 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B, 1/28/2018.

My son, Mark, and I spent a beautiful and meaningful day in San Francisco today. Today was the annual Walk For Life, and we joined thousands of others to proclaim boldly and with authority that every life matters–from womb to tomb. Black lives matter, white lives matter, and brown lives matter.

We live in an era that (by God’s grace) wants to speak up on behalf of the dignity of women, of minorities, of the disenfranchised, and those with no voice in the public square. And we should! And that’s amazing! And that is no doubt God’s work, but if outright slaughter of completely innocent children continues, then everything said on behalf of the weak, innocent, and voiceless is pure hypocrisy.

We must be consistent in our ethic of life. We must follow Jesus’ example of boldness toward the evil that we see, and courageously speak out against it! Every voice is welcome in the public forum and too many good people are not making their voices heard. In the name of politeness, or of minding one’s own business we have too often failed to exercise our constitutional right to gather and make our RELIGIOUS voices heard in the most important debates facing our nation. (Yes, it’s okay to be religious in this country. It’s also constitutionally guaranteed!)

I’m afraid that we’re not even beginning to tap into the power of God’s Spirit within us to make changes in our communities and world. This is such an amazing country that allows us to make our voice heard, and the Spirit of God empowers us to do so!

Good people don’t mind their own business when harm is being done. Good people stand up for others experiencing discrimination, isolation, and extermination. Good people Walk For Life. All life. Black life, white life, Christian life, Muslim life, women’s life, men’s life, incarcerated life, elderly life, disabled life, and unborn life. From whom to tomb, without exception be like God, be PRO LIFE.



By Deacon Stephen Valgos

Nineveh for Today

This reflection is for the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B, 1/21/2018.

whaleI once heard of a young girl, 4th grade I believe, who sat in front of her teacher with the rest of her class on the floor, criss -cross apple sauce. The teacher was beginning a unit on whales, a topic dear to the little girl’s heart. No sooner did the teacher mention whales did the little girl’s hand shoot up to say, “Jonah was eaten by a whale!” The teacher promptly responded that that was impossible, that this was a science class not a Sunday school class. The young girl, undeterred raised her hand again and protested, “Jonah WAS eaten by a whale! He was thrown off a boat, eaten by a whale, and then spat up on the shores of the great city of Nineveh!” The teacher bent down low to make her point clear. She said, “Listen, young lady, Jonah was NOT eaten by a whale! Although whales are very big, their throats are very small and there is no way a grown man could be swallowed by a whale, live there for three days, and be spit back up healthy and whole!” The little girl, now with tears in her eyes, looked up with a shaky voice and said, “Well, when I get to heaven I’m going to ask him.” To which the teacher snidely remarked, “Well, maybe he’s not in heaven, maybe he’s in hell.” The little girls said, “Okay, then you can ask him.”

I really do love that joke, because of both the young girl’s faith in Scripture, and her wit. However, if we begin to read the story to discover the truth’s about whales, then we’ve entirely missed the Biblical author’s point, namely, we are Jonah.

Jonah is called by God, refuses and believes he can find happiness elsewhere. Running away from God only brings difficulty, struggle, hardship, and pain–both for himself and for everyone around him! However, even in Jonah’s rebellion, the Lord continues to pursue him, bless him, and show mercy toward him (the whale). It is only in offering himself to God that Jonah finds purpose, fulfillment, and peace in his life. Yes, finally, “Jonah made ready and went to Nineveh, according to the LORD’S bidding.”

Each of us is Jonah and each of us has a Nineveh. God beckons us to do His will, but too often the task seems overwhelming and we are afraid–locked in a downward spiral of sadness and a less-than meaningful, joyful, God-led life. There is no room in this Christian life for “doing our own thing.” We too often equate our will with ease and happiness, and God’s will with struggle, sacrifice, and sadness. The opposite is actually what is true. Our will ends with ease but not happiness, and God’s will is indeed a struggle, will indeed require sacrifice, but the end is NOT sadness, but instead joy, meaning, purpose, fulfillment, and peace.

The people  heard Jonah’s message, their hearts were turned, and they received blessings, mercy, and grace because Jonah was faithful to God. Your own Nineveh needs you. Where is God calling you to go? What is God calling you to do? Who remains yet in darkness because of your fear of pursuing the light? Who does God want you to bless? It might not be in a far away land, but instead in your own family, in your workplace, or in your community.

The Gospel today, gives us OUR message from the Lord Jesus himself. He said, “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” (Mk 1:14-20) The Kingdom of God is indeed at hand and the message is clear. REPENT and BELIEVE. Our world is doing it’s own thing and is far from God and God’s will. The Kingdom is at hand but too many are from from it. God’s desire is that we change our ways, get right with Him, and advance His Kingdom!

This blog post might in fact be your whale. And Nineveh needs you. Go, do not be afraid.

By Deacon Stephen Valgos

Who’s Your Eli?

This reflection is for the 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B, 1/14/2018.

Today’s readings cause us to recognize not only that God has been calling faithful people to himself from the beginning, and that God continues that call today, but most importantly that we often need some help to hear The Call, and that we should seek help to hear and discern God’s call.

In the Old Testament God calls to Samuel, but Samuel, who has never heard God’s voice, mistakenly thinks he is being called by his master and teacher, Eli. Our persistent God continues to call Samuel. Over and over again, Samuel wrongly understands God’s call. We are much like Samuel, I’m afraid.

I think sometimes in our life we believe that our happiness lies “over there” or “over there” or “just around the corner.” We pursue wealth, fame, fortune, or other worldly pleasures. We think our happiness will lie in that person, or that job, or this opportunity, or that food, drink, or drug. Yet even in the midst of pursuing false hope and temporary happiness, God calls us to true lasting joy, but we so often miss it. We need an Eli!

My Eli has been a good priest friend of mine who courageously calls me to see what’s true and to hear God’s call. He offers seemingly endless resources and prayer and inexhaustible encouragement. Even as I write this I know that God has called me to His service in a particular way, but it took my Eli to hear it.

Who’s your Eli? Who boldly, and courageously points you in the direction of the Lord? In today’s Gospel, John the Baptist, served as his disciples’ Eli. He points out, “Behold, the Lamb of God,” that they might recognize Jesus and follow Him. He helps them to see that in Jesus there is more than meets the eye. Do not be fooled by His humble appearance, he tells them, but rather he helps them to see beyond the ordinary to discover the extraordinary presence of God in their midst. Naturally, they leave John to follow the Christ.

The priest after the Consecration at Mass, lifts up the Body and blood of Christ, and calls also us to see more that what meets the eye. He calls us to behold the Real Presence of God in our midst under the appearance of ordinary bread and wine, and uses the words of John the Baptist to do it! The appropriate response at Mass is to give the great Amen! We say it three times to make quite clear that we believe! We believe! We believe!

God is calling us to see and hear Him in the ordinary trials and triumphs of our everyday lives. God is calling us to see him in the Eucharist, in the poor and marginalized, in the immigrant, in our coworkers, in our friends, students, employees, spouse, and children. He is calling us to hear his voice in all of the good times and in the sad times throughout our day. How important that we have an Eli, a John the Baptist.

I want to encourage you this week to return to Church, go on a retreat, go to Mass, speak to a priest, a pastor, or a spiritual director. Pick up a good book about God, about the call to Christian discipleship, spend time alone with God, and say but one thing, say the ONLY thing that needs to be said, “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.”

–God Bless

By Deacon Stephen Valgos