Sunday, February 21, 2016

Homily On The Feast of Transfiguration

Peter, James and John had gone with Jesus to the mountain to pray. Unlike Jesus,  the three apostles soon fell asleep. (We are not surprised because we read elsewhere of Jesus' disciples sleeping while he prayed)

They were awakened by the sound of three people talking nearby. As they rubbed their eyes open they were surprised to see Jesus talking with two men. Jesus’ face was aglow and his garments were bright white in color. Suddenly they were wide awake.

Jesus and the two men were talking about what would soon happen in Jerusalem, his death and resurrection. Peter begins babbling about putting up tents but he doesn’t make mush sense. Suddenly the mountain is covered by a cloud and all fall silent.

Then they hear:

“This is my chosen son: Listen to Him.”

James had been a disciple of John the Baptist and may have been present two years earlier when Jesus was Baptized in the Jordan by John the Baptist. On that occasion he would have had heard a voice from heaven say:

“You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” 

At the Baptism the voice from heaven addressed Jesus and addresses him as Son. Now, on the mountain, the heavenly voice addresses Jesus’ disciples and commands them to listen to Jesus.

When the cloud clears they are alone with Jesus  and they are speechless about seeing their leader talking with the two great men from the history of Israel, Moses represent the Law and Elijah the prophets.

Now that we have recovered our speech, what are we to do with this command of God to listen to Jesus?

Since Pope Francis has designated this year as “The Year of Mercy” lets see what Jesus says about Mercy. In Luke 6:35 Jesus says to a large crowd:

“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”   [Luke 6:36]

Jesus always gives his commands in the form of a cross. A vertical beam referring to our relationship with God { “|”}  and a horizontal beam referring to our relationship with each other {” –“}.

He does the same here:

“Be merciful (to each other), just as (God) is merciful to (you)”     [Paraphrase of Luke 6:36]

Jackie Francois-Angel, a popular Catholic Speaker and youth minister, says,

 “Thus, every time we go to Mass and say, “Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy,” we know that the God who is relieving us of a heart of misery is also empowering us by his Holy Spirit to go and do the same for others.”[1]

Jesus goes on to list seven examples of this horizontal (person to person) mercy. The first three of these are [2]:

  - Stop judging and you will not be judged.
  - Stop condemning and
you will not be condemned.
  - Forgive and you will be forgiven.  [Luke 6:38]

Today I want to talk about one aspect, Jesus’ fourth example, forgiveness.

Every day in our daily prayer and at every Mass we renew our commitment to this command when we pray the Our Father:

“forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us”

Forgiveness on the horizontal level (person to person) has two aspects: (1) forgiving another person and (2) being forgiven by another person.

Today I will be talking about the first of these as most of us find this the more difficult thing to do.

I want to be clear about what  FORGIVENESS  is and is not:

If you’re like me, it’s hard to forgive. It helps to keep a few things in mind:

Forgiveness is not an emotion, it’s an act of the will; an act of love.
                                               You don’t have to feel forgiving to forgive.

Forgiving does not mean forgetting. That would be denial.

Forgiving doesn’t mean excusing the wrong or saying it doesn’t matter.
           Things that don’t matter don’t need to be forgiven.
            Forgiveness says, “I know what you did. It hurt. But I won’t hold it against you.”

Forgiveness is letting go of your “right” to be right. It means offering up your anger,
                                 Letting go of your “right” to revenge – and leaving justice to God.

Finally, don’t confuse forgiveness with reconciliation.
          Reconciliation requires repentance – but forgiveness does not.
          From the cross, Jesus forgave people who had not repented and maybe never would.
          We must do the same.

Practical Steps to be Forgiving

From my experience, I offer three practical steps to help you forgive:

Take your mind off of the person you can’t forgive. Do not allow yourself to grumble, or justify your situation, or feel sorry for yourself, or dream about ways to get even. Kill those thoughts as soon as you see them coming.

Remember that you are a sinner too. Recall specific ways you’ve needed forgiveness. Ask God to help you, if you can, go to Confession, The grace of that Sacrament will help. Meditate on the Psalms, many of which deal with forgiveness. Practice being grateful for the mercy God has shown you.

 Every time that person comes to mind, say the words “I forgive you” whether you feel it or not. Make it an act of the will and ask the Holy Spirit to pour God’s love into your heart. Over time, start asking God to bless the person. Romans 12:14 says “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.” Force yourself to do it. Make it a habit. And watch how that sets your heart free.

Turning to The Vertical Beam
 (Our Relationship with God)

Our relationship with God also involves forgiveness. Since our God is outside of time and space he already knows our sins and has already forgiven us.   Why then does Jesus and the Church teach that we must come to him for healing in the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession, as us older folks called it)?

This Sacrament is called a Sacrament of Healing. Healing from the hurt and guilt  of  division (sin) requires the following:

Reparation – repairing the damage
        Apology – regretting the harm / confession
Repentance – Revise your Conscience
Penance – making repentance visible
Forgiveness – seeking it, receiving it

I began this topic by talking about forgiving. We are now talking about BEING FORGIVEN.

On the human relationship or horizontal level all five of these actions are required to bring about reconciliation even among those who do not believe in God. Jesus knew this fact about our humanity and requires these same actions to bring about reconciliation with God on the vertical axis.

Truly the Sacrament of Reconciliation is the Sacrament of Mercy because it heals the wounds of sin and guilt.

On Friday March 4 there will be Festival of Mercy and Forgiveness for our area at Our Lady of Victory in Fergus Falls. From 10am to 10 pm the church will be open for prayer examination of conscience, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the performance of penance and Adoration. Please take advantage of this opportunity to reconcile with God in preparation for Holy Week and Easter.

Let Us Pray:

Lord Have Mercy  - (R) Lord Have Mercy
Christ Have Mercy  - (R) Christ Have Mercy
LORD Have Mercy  - (R) Lord Have Mercy

[1] Jackie Francois-Angel, “What Does Mercy Mean?”
5 December 2015 on Dynamic Catholic Web Site:

[2} A listing of all seven of Jesus' examples of horizontal (person to person) mercy can be found here:

© Copyright 2016 Joseph E. Hilber. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any manner without prior written permission of the author. This post may be printed and shared  with those without internet access if no changes are made to the original text.

A Song for Lent - I'm Coming Home

Lent is a time of "Coming Home". Here is a beautiful song by the Scott Brothers of HGTV fame that captures the human heart's desire for home coming and reconciliation. May these images from the human. (horizontal) realm move us to see clearly the desire for reconciliation and home coming on the heavenly (vertical) dimension. The song is "Hold On" and will soon be a part of a full album of songs by the twin brothers.

You can down load this song from Amazon by clicking the image to the right.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

North Dakota Catholic Writer Coauthors Ramona Trevino's Memoir

North Dakota Catholic Writer Coauthors Ramona Trevino's Memoir
Book Reviews by The Lake - 2016.5

Redeemed By Grace
 By Roxane Salonen and Ramona Treviño  

Redimida por la gracia
By Roxane Salonen  and Ramona Treviño

Click Image to Order

Click Image to Order
Ramona Trevino was a Catholic woman working for Planned Parenthood as the manager of a feeder clinic which did not perform abortions but sent women to nearby Planned Parenthood clinics that did do abortions. She had taken the job convinced that she would be helping other women at difficult times in their lives.

Her clinic generated revenue by charging for a small set of services and by selling contraceptives. They charged $25 to perform a basic pregnancy test. When a client was too poor to pay this fee she would send the girl to the nearby Pregnancy Care Center which did the test for free. One day an administrator discover the name of the Pregnancy Care Center in the clinic rolodex and showing it to Ramona said, "We need to get rid of this. We don't really refer people here." This and many other experiences convinced Ramona that Planned Parenthood's priorities were to market contraception and abortion while helping women resolve their underlying problems was talked about but not encouraged. Meanwhile the 40 Days For Life prayer group began praying outside her clinic.

She became aware that they were praying for her and her staff. This and a growing realization that she was not helping women solve their real problems led her to take steps to leave Planned Parenthood. This memoir is the story of that journey. Not being a writer she sought help in writing her book. She enlisted Roxane Salonen, a journalist and author, who had the writing and story telling skills to help. Roxane, of Fargo, ND, is familiar to many in our area as her feature stories appear weekly in the Fargo Forum, our regional daily newspaper.

The book is available in both English (Kindle and Hardcover) and Spanish (Paperback).  Click on the links below to order this book in English or Spanish.

Redeemed by Grace  (English)                            Redimida por la gracia (Español)

Monday, February 08, 2016



Down The Highway A Peace
by Richard J Hilber

My brother, Richard J. Hilber (Rick), has been writing poems for as long as I can remember. He has had a poem published here and there over the years and he has published a few on his Blog and read others in public venues. Now he has published a book length collection that is available in hardback, paperback and Kindle formats.

Click Image to Order

One theme of these poems is a fascination with the prairie. As you  travels west from Fargo North Dakota you soon approach an line of hills rising 200 to 300 feet from the valley floor. Geologists call this the Pembina Escarpment. As your road winds up these hill you be entering the middle plateau of the Great Plains called the "Drift Prairie". If you were to continue west of Jamestown you would come to another wall of 300 foot high  hills called the Missouri Escarpment. However if you turn south at Jamestown and follow the James River south you will come to the little town where Rick was born and I grew up wandering the prairie and finding ancient campgrounds and arrow heads and wondering what life was like centuries before in this fascinating land. Many of Rick's poems celebrate the beauty of this land and the animals and people that live here now and lived here over the centuries.

When Rick, I and several of our sibling began researching our family tree we discovered that our parent's and grandparent's had been keeping a kind of wall of silence about the origins of my mother's family. I remember encountering it as a college student asking my maternal grand parents about their parents. I remember thinking at the time that perhaps one or both families had been illegal emigrants and fear had led to this silence. "They were French" seemed to be the extent of the information they were willing to provided. Years later advances in technology made genealogical information more accessible we began to confirm that our "French" ancestors included Native Americans. 

This discovery helps explain a second theme in these poems. The struggles of the natives of the prairies with the European emigrants took on new meaning after learning  of our ancestral link to them. Several of Rick's poems explore some of these struggles in Minnesota and the Dakotas.

This book is available in hardback, paperback and Kindle format. Click the link below to price or order the book

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Reading Kindle Books on Phone, Tablet, PC or Mac

Book Reviews -  Addendum

A growing number of books are only published in Ebook form. In addition many out of print books are now available in Ebook format. Here is a recommendation for tools for reading books in your Kindle Library on any of your network connected devices. This includes Smart Phones, Tablets, PCs and Macs. Click the link below for access to the Kindle array of apps for your devices.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Local Author's First Novel

Book Review from The Lake - 2016.3

Pelican Rapids Author, Gene L. Thompson, published his first novel in 2015. The story and characters reveal a group of men and women whose lives are little understood by most of our society even though they exist in every community of our land.

(Click Image to order Book)

The Carpenter's House
By Gene L. Thompson

Gene had been on the road and homeless for three years when he arrived at Dorothy Day House, a homeless Shelter, in Moorhead Minnesota. His stay there lasted for over ten years because he joined the team of men and women who dedicate their lives to caring for the homeless of our society.

After I read the novel I asked Gene if the characters in the story were real people that he met on the road or while he was at Dorothy Day House. He responded that he had met over a thousand homeless men, women and children but that the characters in his book were fictional, each with life stories and personalities that were composites of many he had come to know over the years. 

While the story is populated by homeless men and women, it is also a love story involving a man and a woman and their struggles to over come the financial, political and regulatory roadblocks to the achievement of their dream. You also meet the heroes and villains among the public, the politicians and the clergy that mark the progress of their journey.

Pope Francis has called upon all Christians to bring God's love and mercy to the margins of human society. The Carpenter's House  will bring you closer to knowing one way of doing that. In the final scene the couple are talking:

"For some of us, maybe all of us, there's only one reason we're alive. For me and you, I think it's the same reason. We're here to help people, be nice to people. It fulfills us, gives us what we need. Makes us happy, The only reason we're here is to help people, babe."
   She leaned over and kissed him. "Your right,"she told him. "But it's not just us. Its everyone. The only reason anyone is here is to help each other."

The Carpenter's House is only available in Ebook (Kindle) format 
and can be ordered by clicking here. .

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Lenten Reading Suggestion

Book Reviews By The Lake   -  2016.2

The start of Lent is just a week away and recommendations for Lenten reading might be in order. The first to come to mind is a little book by Mitch Finley:

(Click Image to Order)
The Catholic Virtues
(Seven Pillars of a Good Life)

I recently reread this book in preparation for a Religious Education Class for high school students that I am writing called "The Language of Faith". The virtues are important themes covered in the course. The back-cover summary says this:

"Just as all organisms are governed by biological laws, human beings also have an ingrained moral compass - laws that direct their behavior in a certain way. According to Catholic Tradition, the virtues operate as central principles behind our notion of goodness."

He covers both the four Cardinal Virtues and the three Theological Virtues. In addition to defining each virtue and how it relates to the others he give biblical and current examples of their application. 
  Click here to order this book

To see all of Deacon Joe's recent Blog Postings click here..

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Book Reviews - 2016.1

Book Reviews By The Lake - 2016.1

For some reason the start a new year stimulates me to think about books that I have read over the preceding months. So the posts this year labeled "Book Reviews By The Lake - 2016.x" will run the gamut from simple recommendations to my readers to buy and read the book(s) to full blown reviews and evaluation of the work(s) recommended. Today I will launch the series with a repeat of a review of a relative's book that I did back when this book was first be published.

Friending God  By Marsh Larsen

A relative has written a book about her awakened search for God. Among those cheering her journey are Fr Richard Rohr, O.F.M. and many relatives and friends. In my brief review in Amazon I said the following:

A wonderful journey through her garden of friends. however, the treasure seems to still lie ahead as one is left with the sense that most of her journey or at least the telling of it is yet to come, perhaps in a sequel.

Father Rohr in his editorial review said this:

Most of us do not read formal theology books, and if we do, we too often find them abstract or distant.  Well, here is a fine antidote!

As a Deacon I have the joy of hearing many people's faith journey stories. I am sure you will enjoy Marsha's conversations with her friends about their faith and her journey. Friending God is available in paperback.

 Marsh began her journey as a atheist and come a long way but she is still on the journey and you can follow her progress on her blog "Friending God":