Peace be with you!

My name is Nader Ata. I am a Conventual Franciscan Friar of the Our Lady of Angels Province, USA. I am a transitional deacon preparing for Priesthood Ordination in the fall.

Seeking to live with Franciscan Joy each and every day!

*All of photos on this blog were taken by me unless noted otherwise. Please ask permission before using them. Thank You!*

*Also I am not the greatest speller or writer in the world, so please let me know if something is misspelled. Thank you!"


Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

         If the Trinity could have a motto, I think this would be it: Come home and be loved. Two Sundays ago we heard at Mass that God is love, thus the Trinity that we celebrate today is also love. The Trinity is the source of love.
         In the Gospel Jesus instructed the disciples to “Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations” And they are to achieve this by doing two things:
         1) Baptizing in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
         2) Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.

         Come home and be loved.

         In Baptizing others, the disciples are saying come home. Come to God, come in union with the Trinity and be at home.
         In Teaching others, the disciples are saying be loved. For in observing all that Jesus has commanded them, is to love. Jesus’ teachings are centered on love. Love of God, Love of Self, Love of Others – Neighbor and Enemy, and Love of Creation.
         Now where does that leave us – well the call is still the same – “Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations” – by baptizing and teaching –  come home and be loved.
         All of us may not be called to physically baptize people, but each us are called to bring people home. We are to bring people to God. We may not realize it, but we are different because we were baptized, because we are Christian. In Baptism our sins were forgiven both original and personal, we received the gift of the Holy Spirit, and we entered into the community of God and are united with all those in heaven and on earth. In baptism we received the virtues of Faith, Hope, and Love. Faith being the foundation of our relationship with God. Hope being the promise of eternal life. Love being the bond between all of us: God, creation, and humanity; that gives us the strength to live the Christian life of love. Because of our Baptism, we know what it is like to come home. You and I can share that with others. We can invite people to come home, both into our physical homes of our biological family and into our parish home of our spiritual and eternal family.
         All of us are also called to teach, to invite people to “be loved”. We teach by the way that we live our lives. We teach by the way that we love others. We may not say to others “be loved” but we do so by our actions. By sharing with those less fortunate than us, by forgiving others when they hurt us, by admitting that we are wrong and making amends when that happens, and by praying for each other.
         Come home and be loved. This is the heart of the Trinity and is the heart of our faith. When we open ourselves up to the sacrament of confession we say to God “I want to come home and be loved” and God is saying to us “Come home and be loved.” When we come to Mass we are making a decision to “come home and be loved.” Throughout Mass, through songs, through the Word, and through the homily, we hear the message of “come home and be loved.” In the Eucharist, Jesus invites us to “come home and be loved.” In becoming the Holy Eucharist, the Body and the Blood, Jesus earns to be in the physical homes of our body and wants to love us. In receiving the Eucharist, we invite Jesus into our homes; we invite Jesus to love us. And when we leave Mass, Jesus commands us as he did his disciples back then, to go, therefore and make disciples of all nations – by baptizing and teaching. Go, show people love, go bring people home, go and help them be loved.
        Welcome home and be loved. 

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity
May 31, 2015
St. Peter's Church
Point Pleasant Beach, NJ

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Seventh Sunday of Easter

         You probably have heard people talk about the “real world.” Like when someone is about to go to college or when someone is graduating from college, people often say “Wait until you graduate and go out in the “real world” ” or “Graduating next year? You’ll finally be in the “real world” or “Now when you go into the “real world”….” blank and blank. In talking about the “real world” we often are referring to a “world” that is tough, harsh, full of challenges, and of people who let you down or who won’t like, there is a negative meaning.
         I talk about the “real world” because it is important to understand the “world” referred to by Jesus in John’s Gospel. The world also carries a negative meaning here, it is not about the physical earth, rather the world is everything that was hostile to Jesus and his disciples. The world included Jews and Gentiles alike, it represented those who refuse to accept or believe in Jesus. The world was understood as hating Jesus and hating those who believe in and follow after him. The world referred to the people who preferred darkness to light. But despite all of the negativity around the “world” in the Gospel, Jesus is adamant in his prayer to God “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.”
         As parents of grown children know, one of the difficult experiences of parenthood comes at that time when the child is growing up and is about to separate from them and go on his or her own. Of course, parents acknowledge that they must allow their child to be on his or her own, to go out into the “real world,” and to experience all sorts of risks; yet this doesn’t diminish their anxiety about the child. All parents know many a sleepless night, worrying about their children, where they are, what are they doing, are they making the right decisions, I know my parents did.
         This is similar to what Jesus is going through with his disciples. He has a great concern for them, Jesus realizes that he will shortly depart from them and he anticipates all the suffering, abuse, disbelief, and skepticism they will encounter when they begin to go into the world to carry on Jesus’ mission. Like a caring parent, Jesus is truly concerned for them; he has a kind of anxiety and worry, which is rooted in his very profound love for them. The deeply felt prayer that we hear in today’s Gospel is prompted by this concern “Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as you are one” – Jesus is essentially praying for their protection.
         This prayer is not just for his disciples, but is for us too. During this waiting time between the Ascension of Jesus into heaven and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, we can be assured of Jesus prayers for us. Jesus prays that we are protected, that we share with his joy completely, that we are guarded from the evil one, and that we are consecrated to truth. Jesus asks God, to protect and guard us. As like a parent gives his or her child, so Jesus gives his disciples and us, freedom. Freedom to live our lives. Parents must rely on the fact that they have done a good job raising their children and that they have tried their best to instill proper values in their children. Hopefully these will sustain their children in whatever difficulties they face. Jesus, too, relies on this. He passionately communicated to his disciples his teachings and his love as well as their responsibilities and obligations. After his death and resurrection he too, had to trust that once he had left them, they would be able to withstand all the risks and dangers they would surely encounter. He did trust them; he wanted them to remain in the world and to be given the strength to live in the world. He continued to pray for and to show his concern for them as he does for us today, after all he gave us the Holy Spirit. As Jesus cared for them, so in the dangers and risks we face, Jesus also cares for us.
         Jesus wants us to be in the “world” or the “real world.” He prays that when we are in the world, that we do not lose ourselves. That we hold fast to his Word and his teaching. As we heard in the second reading “God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him” Jesus wants his disciples, Jesus want us not just to love, rather he wants us to become love. To be walking models of love, who care for and love one another. We are to be one with God, ourselves, others, and all of creation.
         Yesterday, I got the chance to visit some college friends of mine, Tara and Jimmy. They just had their first child, in February, a baby girl named Cecilia. I had the privilege to hold her yesterday and to have her sleep in my arms. There is a love that seems to radiate from an infant sleeping. There is a deep sense of utter peace and joy. May we radiate utter love, peace, and joy in the way we live our lives. May we be people of light and may we remember that we are never really alone or separated from Jesus in the dangers and risks we face in our lives, he is always there supporting us and understanding our difficulties.

Seventh Sunday of Easter Homily
May 17, 2015
St. Peter's Church
Point Pleasant Beach, NJ

Monday, May 4, 2015

Fifth Sunday of Easter

          One of my favorite parts about living in Point Pleasant is that there is Hoffman’s Ice Cream only 2 blocks away. If you know me you know that I love ice cream. I never knew people who liked ice cream more than me until I met Fr. Phil and Fr. Richard. They particularly like their ice cream sandwiches. They sell 4 types the vanilla, chocolate, vanilla with sprinkles, and chipwhich (vanilla with chocolate chips and chocolate chip cookies. Have you had them? They are good. Hoffman’s does not sell either the vanilla or chocolate flavor, it sells both/and not either/or.
         In the second reading, the author emphasizes that life is about both/and not either/or, he brings together things that are often separated from one another in our thinking. For example:

We must believe in Jesus and be obedient to his commandments. We can’t believe in Jesus and then not live out his commandments. This is like talking the talk, but not walking the walking. What we say we believe and what we do are to be the same.

We must love in word or speech and in deed and truth. You can’t love in name only, you have to live it. This is the debate over faith and works. The Christian life is not about only having faith or only doing good works, it is both/and, our faith leads us to do good works, and our good works are reflections of our faith.

We must believe in God’s son and love one another. Believing in Jesus can’t end with just the belief, we must be open to transformation to become like the One in whom we believe. And the One in whom we believe loved others. And to love  others is to respect his or her person in every sense of the word. This means loving everyone, even our enemies. Saying that we believe in who Jesus is, and yet choosing to not live like Jesus, is a contradiction.

         Now is it easy to live a both/and Christian life. No. It is difficult and takes work. Some days are easier than others. Some days it is really difficult to walk the walk, to do good works, or to love your enemies. Or some days it is really difficult to believe in Jesus or to have faith.
         But as we heard in the Gospel, whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit because without me you can do nothing. See a vine and its branches are so intricately connected. The life of the vine is the life of the branches. The life of Jesus is our life. The vine bears fruit through its branches, and the branches bear the fruit of the vine. Jesus bears fruit through us and through us we bear fruit for Jesus.
         May you and I always remain connected to Jesus the vine and may our Christian lives be both/and not either/or.

Fifth Sunday of Easter Homily
May 3, 2015
St. Peter's Church
Point Pleasant Beach, NJ