Monday, April 28, 2014

Las Vegas: A view from behind the Altar.

This past weekend, I was honored to preside at a wedding for a friend of mine who was married at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church in Las Vegas. Even though we live (including the bride and groom) 4 hours away from Vegas, they had the wedding there; mostly because of centrality of other family and the fact that they like to go to Vegas.

The wedding was beautiful and went off without a hitch (well, except that I had to remind the first reader it was time for her to go and proclaim the first reading), and we all had a most wonderful. Time and for me personally, a wonderful experience. This was my second wedding since my ordination, but my first one out of my Diocese (which I needed a letter from the Diocese to St. Joan of Arc letting them know that I am indeed a validly ordained deacon and have full faculties) and it was my first bilingual wedding, although most of it was in Spanish (the wedding rite itself and the Communion Service).

Martha and I drove around the town before and after the wedding, to see the sights. I took her to the Stratosphere, which has the thrill rides on top of the building 1000 feet above the Strip, and actually go OVER the side of the building! You can even "jump" from the observation deck at 855 feet above (they have a harness and you "free fall" while attached to a cable). All of which were not operating when we were there because the wind was blowing between 45-50 mph. We ate gelato at The Venetian on Saturday afternoon and strolled through the casino there ( we won about 150 on a one armed bandit, which we promptly cashed out, not willing to give the house a chance to take it back). And we ended our weekend by going to the 9:30 am Mass at the Guardian Angel Cathedral.

Now, I tell this story to bring about an observation we made: Las Vegas is a city of contrast. There is obvious wealth on the Strip, yet there is abject poverty on the same Strip (not to mention in other parts of the city). Perhaps Vegas is not so much different than other cities in the world, but only that the disparity is so obvious to one who will see it. Martha pondered if the casinos would give the food they don't use to food banks perhaps the homeless would have enough to eat (I don't know that the casino DON'T do this, but Martha was just thinking out loud). It is quite a sight to see such open debauchery on the streets of a city. Apparently it is not a crime to walk the Strip while carrying and consuming your favorite adult beverage. It is not uncommon to see vomit in the streets either, we drove by a parked limo whose driver was emptying out his stomach from the party the night before. (I declined to ask him for directions) There are also the "rolling billboards" driving up and down the Strip, advertising everything from Jason Alexander's hair to Gentlemen's Escort Services.

In the middle of the Strip, right behind Wynn's Resort and Casino is Guardian Angel Cathedral. A light in the middle of so much darkness. There is a presence of God on the Strip. They have 9 masses on the weekends, and 2 masses a day during the week and they have so many who work the casinos come in to get close to God, receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation; Confession is held 1/2 hour before each weekday mass and before the Saturday morning Mass. They are welcoming to all who come. Their mission work is tough, tougher than most parishes, so I would ask for your prayers for the people of Guardian Angel Cathedral and the other parishes of Las Vegas: St. Joan of Arc, St., Christ the King,Holy Family, Holy Spirit,Our Lady of LaVang, Our Lady of Las Vegas, Prince of Peace, St. Anne, St. Anthony of Padua, St. Bridget, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. Francis de Sales, St. James the Apostle, St. Joseph husband of Mary, St. Paul Jung Ha-Sang, St. Viator, Shrine of the Most Holy Redeemer, and St. Thomas Aquinas at the UNLV Campus. they are the city set on a hill and need our help to keep the light shining. 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter Vigil

Last night was the Easter Vigil, where we welcomed 25 new Catholics into our parish and into the Roman Catholic Church. 19 were Baptized and all 25 received the Sacraments of Confirmation and First Eucharist.  There is something wonderful about the Easter Vigil. From the singing, to the entrance into the church in darkness, to the lighting of the candles that give light to the church, to the singing of the Exsultet (which I did this year!), to the readings in darkness, the lights of the church coming on at the Gloria! The incense, the people, the blessed water ready for baptism and the oil for anointing. I also was a sponsor to one of the 6 that came into full communion from another Christian Tradition. Amy was full of joy when she finally partook of the Eucharist, and I was near to tears when I presented the cup to her and pronounced, "The Blood of Christ". Welcome home Amy, and welcome home to all the others who were received last night.

I love the smell of the incense that we use in Mass, I wish we would use it more often. I also love to participate in baptisms, because of the oil of Chrism that is used, the perfumed oil blessed by the Bishop during Holy Week. It is the oil that is also used at the ordination of Deacons, Priests and Bishops, but when it is used at baptisms, it is anointing those being baptized as Prophet, Priest and King into the family of God. It is giving us a position to live up to, but also the promise of God's Spirit to guide us and to help us keep those promises and maintain that position.

I love the Oil of Chrism because it is an odor that stays with the person for quite some time, and when I anoint those at baptism (the infant baptisms that I have done), the sweet smell stays on my hands the whole day, reminding me of my own ordination to the diaconate and also serves as a reminder of my responsibility to my God, and His people. It reminds me that I am called to a life of service, a life of charity, and a life of chastity, which is really what we are all called to, a life of holiness. May all of you have a blessed Easter Season, filled with the love of the Risen Lord and the promise of the resurrected life. We are a resurrection people and Alleluia is our song!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Homily for Good Friday 2014.

Homily for Good Friday 2014
          My wife and I have been privileged to travel to the Holy Land. When we were there, the guide takes you to all of the main sites that one would imagine. We saw the Sea of Galilee, we went to Nazareth, had Mass at the Mount of the Beatitudes, Mass at Cana, Mass at just about at every site. But one of the most Sacred sites where we celebrated Mass was at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Looking back, I remember the comments that Martha had made about the Via Dolorosa, the Way of Suffering, the streets that Jesus had to walk through in order to get to Golgotha.
          She mentioned how narrow the streets were, obviously not built for cars, and in the first century you could maybe drive a chariot through them Martha. commented that she thought the Via Dolorosa would be different, more like the way we see them in the movies I guess. These were streets were lined with shops and homes and were full of people living their lives, going about their business, not paying attention to the number of pilgrims walking the road to get to Calvary. They had seen it every day of their lives, it was commonplace. So it was in Jesus’ day, crucifixions had become commonplace, they happened every day. Crucifixion was the preferred method of execution for those found guilty of a crime against Rome. The two thieves crucified on either side of Jesus may have stolen from a Roman citizen, perhaps from the Roman Armory in order to get weapons for the rebellion that was brewing. Perhaps they were even accomplices of Barabbas, who was released in place of Jesus.


Barabbas…..the revolutionary, the insurrectionist, the one who wanted to be free of Roman rule in his life. The name Barabbas is very telling to us. In Hebrew, the prefix Bar, means “Son of” as in when Jesus said to Peter, Blessed are you Simon Bar Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father. Peter was the “son of” Jonah. James and John were Bar Zebedee, or “son of” Zebedee. So who was Barabbas, this was not his proper name, but his title, or of whom he belonged to. Bar, “son of” Abbas, who was Abbas? We look at the word and we see Abba, or Father, as Jesus would say. We could say that the Jews were asking for the “son of” God to be released in order that Jesus THE SON OF GOD would be crucified in his place. So they asked that Bar Abbas, be released….we are Barabbas, we are the children of God, are we not? And yet, we cannot do what Barabbas tried to do. We cannot throw off the bondage that we find ourselves under the rule of. We are the convicted criminal, the convicted sinner that is released from that sentence of death because Jesus took our place, and thus freed us to live as we were made to live, as true sons and daughters of God.

The cross for us is not a symbol of defeat, not a symbol of death, but it is a symbol of Victory and Life. When we look upon the cross, let us be reminded of the price that was paid for our salvation, our freedom. I am reminded of the old hymn: When I survey the Wondrous Cross:

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did ever such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

Come let us venerate and reverence the Cross of Christ.