Audio Available!

Audio Available!
Be sure to check out in each blog post the links to the audio recordings of my homilies. They are at the beginning of each post! Also, look to the right for links to Audio from other good resources!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Homily - The Kingdom is Worth it!

The Kingdom of Heaven is worth any cost.  It's worth it.  With these last parables, we reach the end of our three-week review of Matthew's teaching section from Chapter 13.  We hear about the Kingdom of Heaven, something we should always keep our eyes fixed on as we continue to wait expectantly.  The Kingdom of Heaven begins in Christ Jesus, whose first words in the New Testament are: "The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.  Repent and Believe in the Gospel!"  The last parable, in the common Jewish parallel structure, resembles the about the weeds and the wheat that are not to be separated until the end.  We ourselves must be patient until that Kingdom is fully revealed, but until then we can and must live within the Kingdom through our relationship to Christ.
For you see, that is part of the great Good News: we don't have to wait.  In Christ, the Kingdom is breaking through.  If you live within the life of the Church and in a deep personal relationship to Jesus, you are already part of the Kingdom of Heaven.  And you will never realize what you are missing until you start to really follow Him as a disciple, really pray to Him as your friend, and really love Him your Savior.

But the trick to getting to that point of deep and lasting happiness is making a sacrificial choice.  The choice to be a true disciple of Jesus and begin living within the Kingdom of God by that relationship - that choice means we have to both give some things up, as well as pursue something else.

But The Kingdom of Heaven is worth any cost.  It's worth it.  I just got back yesterday from two beautiful days in Nashville, TN.  The beauty, my friends, was not in the architecture, or the oppressive humidity or 91-degree temperatures, nor in the great music (though there was all of those things!).  The beauty for me was in watching the mystery of the Cross unfold in the life of the Church.  I went down for two occassions that coincided: a final profession of five sisters in the Dominican Sisters of St. Caecilia, and an ordination of nine, that's right, nine, men to the diocesan priesthood.  I knew 4 of them from seminary and 1 of the sisters from college.


What have I turned away from for the sake of the kingdom?
Throw away CDs or DVDs. Left friends or potential friends.  Lost popularity.  quit wasting huge chunks of time on video games. Given away inheritance etc. (Katherine Drexel and Francis)

What have I gone after for the sake of the kingdom?  
Went on retreats. Went to Byron Health center. Got up to pray a rosary on Thursdays. Morning Mass.

Do I truly value it? Like the pearl and the treasure?

This is true wisdom: to see the big picture and how day-to-day fits into it. To know what's worth your time and what's not. To know what to spend yourself for, to never quit on, to fight for. To drop what is a waste of your finite resources of time, energy, and love.


Monday, July 21, 2014

Sunday Homily 7-20 Led by the Spirit in our prayer

I would like to start today with our second reading. A great biblical scholar, Jesuit priest named Daniel Harrington, said chapter eight is the most important chapter for arguably the most important book of the bible (I think he was talking about its huge impact in Church history).
Today we hear about how our prayer is meant to be guided by the Holy Spirit. We must, as Pope John Paul II describes of himself in Crossing the Threshold of Hope, be led by the Spirit in our prayer for we do not know how to pray as we ought.
We groan with inexpressible groans when, for example, we think of the some 500 lives lost in two Malaysia airline flights, or the excessive injustices occurring perhaps a lot closer to home. Our pain and our looking to God for healing is a prayer, a request for the resurrection to be present anew in our world.
But the Spirit leads us in our prayer, or He should. Our prayer should be a lot more of the words “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening” rather than “Listen, Lord, your servant is speaking.”

Getting to the Gospel parables, we can look simply at the power of Christian meditation: reflection on the mysterious truths of our faith and how they connect with our life.
This allows us to see our life with a spiritual vision: as God sees it.
With today's parable(s), for example, we can reflect on how our world is a mixture of good and evil, but at the end God's merciful judgment will be exacted upon each of us individually.
We can see our need for greater patience, perhaps as parents or with our friends.

The Blessed Mother Mary is a great example of this type of Christian prayer.  Many times the scriptures say that she "held all these things, reflecting upon them in her heart".  This is meditation and reflection.
As we draw closer to her during our 33 Days diocesan retreat, let us ask her to teach us to practice this prayer so that we can know the Holy Spirit's voice and let Him guide us throughout our days.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sunday Homily - Being sown... and Being sowers!!

One of Pope Francis' key phrases is that the Christian message needs to reach the peripheries. Here today we see Jesus doing exactly that when he goes out of the house (a symbol for the faith community) and engages the crowd and entices them further along discipleship.

We can do the same on the peripheries of our hearts, our souls, our lives.  We all have parts of us that are interested and intrigued but not yet fully committed to following Jesus.  That's what original sin has left in our souls - it's residue, even after initial conversion, is a tendency toward sin called concupiscence that always need to say "yes!" to following Jesus in a deeper way.

We have to let Jesus speak to us and reach those parts of our soul that are longing for Him.  This has to be done in the same way that Jesus does it today: by an enticing invitation to go further.  Information can be part of that invitation, as Christ uses a parable to teach a type of lesson. Experiences can be part of it, too, for we often learn in such ways.  The goal, however, is a deeper relationship with the person of Jesus, and this cannot be forced or taught.

Christian Media can be great tools for this type of invitation to grow.  For example, with Music. Audrey Assad, Matt Maher, Jars of Clay, Rich Mullins, and Caedmon's Call.  Even local songwriters like Liz Cotrupi and Joshua Comeau who make beautiful worship to God.
Also there are great movies on the lives of saints, though sometimes you may need to be a little patient with the production or acting or storyline. Also, many mainstream films are clearly faith-based, such as The Chronicles of Narnia and Lord of the Rings series.
If you've never really given Christian media a try, do it!...especially in the realm of music, which is a personal favorite of mine.  You'll be surprised what it can do for your faith.  Putting good things into your mind and soul is just like feeding your body the right foods: it's the simplest way to promote health.

Now this all fits in with today's parable of the sower.  God, represented by this extremely generous sower, is sending us messages all the time, but so often we fail to notice it or to accept it.  His grace is always sufficient for us, so the problem is in the soil, not the seed.  We want to be that good soil that allows the Word of God, as Isaiah says, to achieve the end for which it was sent, just like the rain never goes back to the heavens wasted.  Just like the soil, all kinds of weeds want to grow in our hearts, too, often more aggressively than the good plant of the Word of God.  So we have to do our part, and thinking of God and our relationship to Him throughout our daily lives is perhaps the best way to prepare that soil of our hearts.  That meditation, along with intentional daily prayer, is what gives God the space he needs to work with on the front lines of the battle for our heart.
So faith-based music, films, and books are all ways that help provide that space.  They are logs for the fire of a soul burning with love for God, keeping the flame going.  They are like the plow that breaks up the soil of our hearts and minds, so we can truly receive the messages God is always trying to send us through the Spirit that Paul reminds us has been planted within our souls through Baptism.

Reading Sacred Scripture and getting a sense of how God has worked in the lives of the saints helps us to understand how God is working in our world today.

The next step is sharing the fruits of what has grown in our hearts, just like the sower himself.  You may not think about this every day, but we Christians are meant to change the world.  And although that starts with us, changing the world means touching the lives of others, and that's not has hard as you think.  If you shared a book, film, or CD with someone once a month, you could change a lot of lives.  If this whole parish did that, it would have eternal effects.  So let's be like the generous sower of the seed, our loving God, and allow the fruits of his word overflow from our hearts into the lives of those around us!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Marian Consecration: Give your heart to someone you can trust!


I wish to encourage all of you to participate in the Marian Consecration that Bishop Rhoades has organized for the entire diocese.  Go to this website and listen to the Bishop’s words about the consecration: http://www.diocesefwsb.org/33-Days-to-Morning-Glory
Using the simple and accessible work of Fr. Gaitley, 33 Days to Morning Glory, there are a large amount of resources available.  The most fundamental is the book with the included prayers that prepare you over the 4.5 weeks for August 15th, the feast of the Assumption of Mary into heaven. 
This is like an extended novena plus a book study.  I did it myself just last August and it requires about 10-15 minutes of your time each day.  I hope reading this makes you say, “I can do that!”  And it is worth it.  I have found it pays great dividends in the spiritual life to understand Mary’s role in our journey to holiness and seek her help.
However, you do not have to do this alone: there are many wonderful ways to participate in small groups with other resources or just discuss the book and pray the prayers together.
Below you will find more information regarding the Consecration, especially to participate in that weekend's things.
Thank you for your courageous response to this diocesan-wide initiative,
~FT


33 Days to Morning Glory – FAQ’s

What is a “Total Consecration to Mary”?
A Total Consecration to Mary is a beautiful exercise to increase your spirituality and ability to truly serve our Lord Jesus Christ. Consecration means to set aside for a sacred purpose. Mary’s life was set aside for the sole purpose of serving our Lord. By following her example, we, too, can completely give ourselves to Christ in a way that consecrates us to Him.
Why do this?
We consecrate ourselves in order to be more devoted to the Lord and His Blessed Mother. It helps us grow in holiness and increase our faith, hope, and love. It is a prayerful and focused method of drawing closer to Jesus than ever before.
Who is this for?
Consecration to Mary is for anyone, Catholic or not, who is old enough to understand the love of Jesus and Mary. It is easy to grasp and simple enough to put into practice. It is excellent for anyone who does not have a lot of time, yet still desires to grow spiritually. Bishop Rhoades is inviting all to participate.
How will the diocese “as a whole” participate in this Marian Consecration?
The diocese will use the book written by Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC, “33Days to Morning Glory” which includes the works of Blessed Mother Teresa, St. John Paul ll, St. Maximilian Kolbe, and St. Louis de Montfort (who developed the original Marian Consecration). Parishes are invited to participate in a way that best suits their needs and may include:
• a format where small faith group(s) meet once a week for 6 wks to watch Fr. Gaitley’s DVD and discuss the daily readings (generally 2 pages) with the aid of a companion manual, or
• a format where small faith group(s) meet once a week for 6 wks to view the DVD and discuss daily readings (without the aid of the companion manual), or
• a format where participants read and ponder the daily meditations on their own.
When will this take place?
This six week retreat begins on or before July 13th. It will end when Bishop Rhoades rededicates our diocese on the Feast of the Assumption, August 15, 2014 in a special Marian Consecration at the 6pm Mass celebrated at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. Immediately following Mass, Bishop Rhoades will lead a Marian Procession to Headwater’s Park to mark the beginning of the 3rd Annual “Festival of Faith”. For a listing of “Festival of Faith” events on August 15 & 16th, visit www.kofcfestival.com.
What if I would like to partipate but cannot attend the Consecration?
You can watch a live video stream of the Mass on your computer by visiting the Diocesan website at www.diocesefwsb.org or you can listen to the live audio broadcast on Redeemer Radio 106.3 FM or www.redeemerradio.com
How do I get started?
Check with your parish to see if it is providing the format to form small groups or if you will need to participate on your own. Your parish may choose to order the materials (book and guide in bulk).
Where can I order the book and companion guide if I want to do it on my own?
Please contact Marian Specialist, Ida List, idalist@gmail.com or at 574.453.3143 (evenings) or 574.376.0046 (cell) for questions and ordering.
To find out more information on the Total Consecration to Mary, you can visit http://www.allheartsafire.org/33days/overview.php or listen to Fr. Andrew Budzinski, Parochial Vicar at St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Fort Wayne, share the experience of a Total Consecration to Mary by clicking on http://www.saintv.org/departments/Parish_Life/Homily/FrAndrew/2014/2014-05-11%20Fr%20Andrew%204th%20Sunday%20Of%20Easter.mp3

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Cross


The cross makes the saint.  You cannot be a saint without the cross - both Christ's and your own.
In today's Gospel, it is pretty clear that the yoke Jesus is talking about is the cross.
The bike trip to Rome was, all things considered, a success.  Despite theft twice and the challenge of traveling across the continent of Europe (including those terrible Alpine mountains) Fr. Bill arrived safely (as did I, though I only did about a sixth of the distance).  Now, there's a lot of ways to get to Rome, but this pilgrimage group did not choose trains, planes, or automobiles, but bikes.  For the seven of us, the only way to our goal was a bicycle.  As far as Fr. Bill was concerned, when his bike was stolen, he had no choice but to get a replacement (with the help of insurance) and see this journey through.
Today, Jesus gently points out to us what our vehicle to heaven will be: His "yoke", that is, this Cross.  This is our way to heaven.  There is no other way, and if we think we can sneak around it, the Cross will somehow find us!  Suffering is unavoidable, especially when sitting on a bike seat for 5 hours a day and climbing a hill for an hour straight or even longer.  But even in a regular day, we find suffering.  This doesn't mean despair and defeat - it means salvation and victory. Why? How? 
Because, thanks to Jesus' perfect sacrifice, the Cross now brings healing and eternal life.  Suffering finds us be

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Ecstasy, The Agony, and the Ecstasy

...again and again and again.  This trip had its share of highs and lows.
After getting three bikes stolen in Lucca, we were able to bike safely to Rome over the next 4 days.

Then immediately after arriving in Rome, our luggage was stolen.  Every single bag or backpack was taken out of our van, parked up against the Vatican wall for a couple hours while we were with His Holiness Pope Francis in St. Peter's square.
It was such a dramatic shift from the absolute high of finishing a crazy-hard pilgrimage (for those guys who started in Canterbury) to the absolute dumps of having almost no clothes, canceling credit cards, and panicking over lost passports.
We clearly had to make dramatic adjustments to our plans.  We spent the first six hours getting clothes, toiletries, and any other absolute necessities (iPhone chargers!), washing up, and making credit / insurance calls.  We looked (and smelled) ridiculous for those 8 hours!

Finally we went to dinner (no one had really eaten since breakfast) and planned for an early start at our scheduled Mass in a grotto chapel at St. Peter's (down near Peter's tomb).  It was quite an emotional experience, as the readings spoke about injustice!
We immediately went to the US Consulate to do everything we could to get new passports. After 4 1/2 hours and a quick lunch, we went back and got new passports just in time to still make our scheduled tour at the Vatican museums.

We had a wonderful tour guide named Liz who was funny, efficient, and devout.  Her insights were great, focusing on the popes who promoted the arts, and of course, Michelangelo. (The convent we stayed at, by the way, was next to the entrance to the Vatican museums).