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!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Maria, Mater Dei


Audio (Sat. 5:30pm): Click here

As we continue the Christmas season with this second Sunday of Christmas, we focus particularly on the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God.  If we like the shepherds seek out the Christ child, we always find Him with Mary His mother, and with Saint Joseph.  Mary held this child, and looked into His eyes again and again for thirty three years.  She was the first to experience the fulfillment of the words we heard in the first reading and the psalm: “The Lord let His face shine upon you.” Indeed, in Jesus, the Lord has “looked kindly upon” Mary and upon all of us, giving us His peace.  This is precisely what we experience during the Christmas season: God’s face shining upon us.  In fact, this mystery is ours throughout the whole year, for in the sacraments of the Church, especially regular Confession and the Eucharist in the Mass each week, we encounter the face of Christ looking kindly upon us.
Our Blessed Mother Mary is the perfect example of discipleship.  Even Saint Joseph, himself a righteous man, must have learned something from Mary’s faith, who shows us today how to become holy: by letting God’s face shine upon us, and by pondering these things in her heart.  God is working externally, looking upon her kindly.  She is working internally, pondering these things in her heart.  There is a resonance between the two actions, but the first step is that receptivity that is perfectly shown in Mary’s “Fiat,” her “let it be,” her great “yes!”
So too for us to become saints, we must start with that “Yes” that openness to God, letting Him into our daily lives and into the depths of our hearts.  We must let His face shine upon us, let Him look kindly upon us (even when our feelings deceive us that it isn’t so kindly).  But even that is not enough, we must like Mary “keep all these things, pondering them in our hearts.”  We must allow our hearts to echo what God is doing, to resonate with his love and peace.
Ultimately this is done in prayer.  We have to be people who are close to God in prayer throughout our lives.  And this means personal prayer lives as well as communal prayer lives.  We can’t do this alone, but we can’t rely solely on the faith of others either.  Just like we need two legs to stand on our own, we also won’t stand up spiritually without personal prayer and communal prayer.  The books offered as a Christmas gift were one example of fostering personal prayer.
But it’s also a great idea to try to join Mary in her prayer.  There are two ways you can join your personal prayer to Mary’s work of “guarding all these things, keeping them in her heart.” (those things being the mysteries of her Son).  First and foremost, the greatest Marian form of prayer is the Rosary.  Do not underestimate its power.  The Rosary, particularly if done in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, is absolute spiritual dynamite, but doesn’t feel that way.  It quiets the heart and lets us look at Jesus’ life through Mary’s eyes.  If we do this regularly, we will resonate with God’s will and carry it out like Mary did, finding happiness and peace.
Another, perhaps less daunting option, is the Angelus.  I’ve talked about this prayer before, on December 8th.  This prayer is a simple way to contemplate the mysteries of Christ’s Incarnation with three Hail Mary’s. It takes about two, maybe three minutes.  But it is a great way to ponder in your heart exactly what Mary would ponder for years: the gift of Jesus in the flesh.  It also remembers Mary’s great yes, and invites us to participate in that yes as well, so that the Lord can continue to come into our world through us.  If you need help learning this prayer, just ask me.

Finally, the greatest way to pray with Mary is here in the Mass.  We don’t speak of her at every Mass, but she is always here, as is the entire Body of Christ.  Mary carried Jesus in her own person, and soon we will do the same.  It is our turn now, and so we can ask Mary to help us to do so as worthily as she did.  Mary, Mother of God and our Mother, guide us and teach us to contemplate the gift of your Son, to stay close to Him, and to treasure Him in the sacraments, especially the Eucharist.  Amen.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas homily

Audio from kids' Mass: click here!

Pope Benedict XVI: The history of salvation is not a small event, on a poor planet, in the immensity of the universe.  It is not a minimal thing which happens by chance on a lost planet.  It is rather the motive for everything, the motive for creation.  Everything is created so that this story can exist, the encounter between God and His creature.
The Gospel is Good News.  The word euangellion (evangelium in Latin) was first and foremost good news of military victory.  It would be brough back from the front lines by “reporters.”  It was the first and most important type of new and postal service.  And so when the Apostles were running all over the earth with their lives on the line, and the Evangelists were writing their own Good News about a generation later, they meant to include this fact in their news stories: there have seen a great military victory in Christ Jesus, by his birth, and above all by his passion, death, and resurrection.  Isn’t it interesting to think that about 2000 years ago, this was a real as what we read in the newspapers and see on television and hear on radio.  It really happened.  Jesus was a real person on this earth, and the stories we hear are family stories, our family stories.
We all have our own family stories, and when we share them, we include all kinds of interesting details that help us to understand more about the people and the events and why they are important.  For example, one Christmas tradition we had as kids was trying to figure out how to sneak one of Grandma’s Christmas cookies before she brought them out and unveiled them herself.  It was tricky business, but even my dad would play the game, and if grandma noticed and said “who’s been stealing cookies?” all our eyes would run around the room to see who it was (or to see if we would get caught).
The Gospel accounts of Jesus’ infancy are family stories: it is first and foremost history, but it is blended with meditation and deeper insight into the meaning of the facts.  So the details can be quite important, because it was God who wrote the story, and so on the macro and the micro levels we see a deep use of people, places, and events to help us know what is the point of it all, to know what is really going on with this person Jesus.
Matthew’s Gospel includes details such as the genealogy and later the wise men, while Luke uses the reference to Caesar, Herod, and Bethlehem.  Both are using these details to point to the fact that Jesus is a KING, in fact THE king, the new David who would fulfill God’s promise to reign forever as the long­-awaited Messiah.
It is truly amazing that Jesus, to fulfill His role as the new David, had to be born in Bethlehem, but couldn’t live there, since Herod would slaughter all the young children in his paranoid rage.  So God chooses Mary and Joseph, of Nazareth, to care for His Son, and he finds a way for them to get to Bethlehem by Caesar’s selfish census (which was a way of estimating one’s source of power through taxing and forced military service).  While human beings grasp for power, it is the Lord who truly has things under control to carry out His designs of love for us.  The Lord in these stories is certainly carrying out what Saint Paul so beautifully described in his First Letter to the Corinthians: the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
And why does God do all this?  Why does He need to become man?  The angels remind us through their words.  To Joseph they say: “name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”  To Mary: “He will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”  To the shepherds they say: “a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord…Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to people of good will.”  So why does God do the unthinkable?  To save us, to give us His peace, to establish a kingdom without end, and to bring about the greatest and most important military victory of all time: the victory over sin and death.  The answer to the question why? Can be summed up in one word: Heaven.
God wants us to be with him in heaven.  His love will not allow any less.  A good life on earth is not enough, because earth cannot contain the amount of joys he wishes to bestow on us.  He love us infinitely, and needs an eternity to bestow it on us.
He wants us to be with Him, and to do that, He first needs to be with us.  He needs to dwell among us, to make his home here with us, to come find us and bring us home.

Just this past Thursday I went out to visit my spiritual director in Ohio and then pray beside the casket of a priest whom the Lord had called home outside of Fort Wayne.  And thanks to modern technology, I had no problems getting back to here, my new home.  After I changed that address in the system, all I have to do now is tell it to take me home, to lead me home, then follow where it leads.  Brothers and sisters, this church here, just like every Catholic Church in the world, is not just the home of the priest.  It is your home.  In fact, it is your Bethlehem.  You know, Bayit Lechem literally means house of bread.  Jesus was born in the town called house of bread, and was placed in manger where animals eat food.  Brothers and sisters, this is your Bethlehem.  It is here where God dwells with us.  It is here in the Mass where God becomes bread for us.  O Come All Ye Faithful to your home, O Come let us adore Him in the Mass, in your Bethlehem.  When we discover God present here among us, becoming poor so that we can become rich in heavenly gifts, it is then that we can truly say: Joy to the world, the Lord is come.  Amen.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

"Obedience of Faith" - following their examples


Audio: click here!

What does it look like for someone to be a great basketball player?  We look to Michael Jordan, to Larry Bird, to Magic Johnson, Alan Iverson, etc.  These people excelled at the sport and show us what it means.
Today Saint Paul talks about the “obedience of faith” that was the goal of Jesus’ mission on earth.  What does “obedience of faith” look like?  Well, during Advent, we have looked at John the Baptist and the Blessed Virgin Mary, and now today have another great example today in Saint Joseph.
Joseph is named after a character of the Old Testament who was the youngest of the 12 sons of Israel (whose actual name was Jacob).  He was a righteous young man, who had fantastic dreams.  He was betrayed by his jealous brothers and sold as a slave to Egypt.  Eventually he saved their lives when they came starving to the country he had preserved from famine.
Now today we have another Joseph, this righteous man who receives a divine message in his dreams, asking him to accept Mary as his wife because the mysterious child of God will “save his people from their sins.”  What does “obedience of faith” look like?  It looks like Joseph’s response today: “He did what the angel of the Lord commanded him.”  Even though he could not understand exactly what was happening, he did not deny; he did not doubt.  That is the obedience of faith.
Ahaz in the first reading is the perfect example of what not to do.  In the midst of the most difficult situation this king has ever faced, seeing a huge enemy planning to conquer him, Ahaz sounds very pious when he says to the prophet Isaiah, “I will not ask, I will not tempt the Lord.”  But the reason Ahaz is saying this is actually because he does not want to hear from God, he has blocked Him out and turned his back on God.  He doesn’t have any faith, doesn’t trust what God is doing.  But Ahaz gets his sign anyway, a sign that finds an unexpected fulfillment centuries later in the beginning of the Gospel.
Where do we find ourselves at this point in our lives?  When things aren’t going well, do we react like Ahaz and try to trust in ourselves, to do we act like Joseph and listen to what God is asking of us, trusting that He knows what He is doing even if we don’t understand it.  Perhaps when things are going well we seem more like Joseph and Mary and John the Baptist.  But how about when things are not clear?  When things are scary?  When we don’t have control?  Do we revert back to Ahaz?

We have one more week before Christmas.  I think we need to immerse ourselves in these stories so that we can really enter into the season.  There are many ways to do this, but I think the best would be to simply pray with the Word of God this week, particularly the first chapter of Matthew’s Gospel and the first chapter of Luke’s Gospel.  You could get your bible out today and put it on your favorite chair, or next to your alarm clock, or on the kitchen table.  Wherever you can take 5-10 minutes each day to read a little bit and pray, seeing what “obedience of faith” looks like from the great masters.  Another way, if possible, is to attend daily Mass at any parish you can.  The Gospels this week take us right through these stories.  Nothing prepares us better than prayer, Confession, and the Word of God.  Carve out time for silence, for waiting, for “dreaming” like Joseph, so you can hear and follow God’s will before, during, and after the Christmas holy day.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Healing - fast and slow

Audio: CLICK HERE!
A few years ago there was a book that came out titled, Thinking, Fast and Slow.  Today, on this very joyful Sunday, so joyful we see the ROSE color used (Latin for “pink, sort of”) we can see a theme in the readings that might as well be Healing, fast and slow.
The fast healing is obvious in the Gospel.  Jesus is seemingly dishing out the miracles here in order to affirm His identity to His relative, John the Baptist.  But really this is probably a summary of days of ministry, not a few minutes of a flash of miracles.  However, it is the result that matters for John the Baptist, because his disciples can see clearly that in Jesus the prophecies of the Old Testament about the Messiah are coming true.  We see that Isaiah today prophecies such fast healings in the first reading as well.  The desert and the parched land will exult; the steppe will rejoice and bloom. They will bloom with abundant flowers, and rejoice with joyful song.
I’ve heard that deserts sit almost colorless for months waiting for rainfall, and then within hours of rain the colors start to explode.  Of course, being in the Midwest this is something we have to hear from others, perhaps we know someone who goes to AZ for the winter! Or you could always watch Planet Earth episode #5 on deserts, which I have!  It said in Death Valley, the hottest place on earth, one shower is all it takes for seeds that have perhaps been waiting 30 years.  That instant transformation is astounding to see.
But here we get to the other side of today’s theme.  For although things can happen overnight, more often than not it takes lots of waiting.  We know that physical miracles are real, but also that they are the exception.  So too with spiritual maladies.  The sickness of the soul, the illness of our heart, often does not recover overnight.  Does that mean we should despair in it coming to fruition?  Never!  We need to be patient as well, Saint James reminds us in the second reading:
 Be patient, brothers and sisters… See how the farmer waitsMake your hearts firm!
I kind of find myself getting impatient in all kinds of silly ways in life.  Perhaps now more than ever, with the snow on the ground and the fact that my car isn’t going to be able to get from A to B in the same way.  Have you ever found yourself inching forward waiting for that green light? It’s as if I’m convinced that this ¼ of a second and these 12 inches are really going to make a difference for me and thus for the world because everyone knows I’m that important.  It’s nonsense, of course, and winter helps us remember that.  The snow makes us mozey.  We ain’t got no choice, right?  Take your time, soak it up, be patient, wait.
Be patient, brothers and sisters… See how the farmer waitsMake your hearts firm!
This is an important Advent lesson for us, and an essential one for us to make it to the point of true healing.  If we want to be healed, if you truly are ready for it and pursuing it, you will need to be patient.  Wait like that desert seed, because the rain is coming.  Be patient like the farmer, because the plants will come up and yield produce.  Keep up those prayers, keep carrying that Cross, keep showing love to that spiteful or bitter person, because eventually the healing is on its way.  When God heals us slowly, it is a Mercy of His.  It helps us appreciate it more and cherish it, and establish the good habits we need to keep it.  In fact, during Advent, as we look forward to Jesus’ coming, we are meant to be practicing that patient waiting (not opening gifts, holding back on the all-out parties and fun) because Jesus is yet to come.  That is exactly what HOPE is: looking forward with expectation.

So don’t begrudge the fact that most of the time God doesn’t want to be treated like a vending machine or a computer that yields instant results to our unending demands for healing.  Thank Him for His patient love, and patiently wait for the Graces that are on their way.  Watch and pray, in joyful hope.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Not easy, but worth it.

Audio: click here
The coming of God's Son to earth is an event of such immensity that God willed to prepare for it over centuries. He makes everything converge on Christ: all the rituals and sacrifices, figures and symbols of the "First Covenant". He announces him through the mouths of the prophets who succeeded one another in Israel. Moreover, he awakens in the hearts of the pagans a dim expectation of this coming.  These words from CCC 522 speak to us about what we hear from the prophet Isaiah today.  It is almost shocking to think that Isaiah looks forward to the Messiah from our side of history, because we know that Jesus doesn’t come for another 550+ years.  Can you imagine that?  Just think how long 5 and ½ centuries really is: the prophecies about the Messiah were going on for more than twice the existence of the United States.  550 years ago the people of Europe didn’t even know this land existed.
But Isaiah speaks of it like it is around the corner.  That, my friends, is the power of hope.  How much hope to we have in our hearts?  If not much, where do we get more?
I think the more we look up, the more hope we will have – because when we focus on God we will find peace, but when we look at ourselves, we will only find an incompleteness.  Maybe the more we love, or the more we give thanks, or the more we learn about our faith, the more hope we will have.  I think the more we prepare for Christ, the more hope we will have.
The journey of conversion is the most important way to prepare for Christ.  You know, Isaiah’s prophecy of comfort when the Messiah comes is easy to focus on, but John the Baptist speaks in a totally different tone that is just as important for us to remember.  He doesn’t mince words does he? I’m sure I’d get some letters in my mailbox if I said to you guys, “You brood of vipers!  Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?”  Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance. Yet the advice is just as necessary today as it ever was.
John’s image of the threshing floor is a good one for us to focus on.  He is referring to how the harvest is carried out: the wheat is spread out on this floor, is stomped all over and crushed underfoot (or some other weight) then it is winnowed (tossed into the air and fanned so that the good stuff drops and the winds take away all the chaff.
This image of crushing and shedding off the unnecessary excess is a good way to describe what John is trying to do, and what Advent should do for us.  Conversion is a messy and difficult business, so much so that the Catechism reminds us in CCC 1431: This conversion of heart is accompanied by a salutary pain and sadness which the Fathers called animi cruciatus (affliction of spirit) and compunctio cordis (repentance of heart).
So yes, it will be difficult, but conversion is worth it.  It’s like doing exercise or taking care of your health: it’s not always easy, but it is worth it.  Or like overcoming an addiction, even to coffee: it’s going to hurt at first, isn’t it?  But it gets better.  You know when you lift weights it kills, but then you get stronger.
That’s what John the Baptist’s mission is: preparing us for Jesus with a real wake-up call: you are not okay and you should try to get things in order, no matter what the cost.

If we do so, then the comforting images Isaiah uses for us will be our own, because we will be living already in the Kingdom that Christ will establish here on earth at the end of time.  So prepare for Christ’s coming by shedding off what doesn’t matter, focusing on the core of your identity as a child of God, and live more deeply from the hope that is in Christ Jesus.  And no matter how much it may hurt, make sacred time each day for prayer and waiting, for looking up to where our hope comes from.  It's not easy, but it is worth it.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Choose Surprise or Preparation

Audio: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0Bx8IQkJZZ39KMTBpbkVOTmhfTWc

Happy Advent, and happy new year to everyone! That's right, the Church year begins today, over a month earlier than the secular calendar. Did that catch you off guard? It happens a lot that time seems to vanish away from us, where things that we felt were still weeks away are all of the sudden upon us. The new year is one example, but not the only one. Did you know the Jubilee Year of Mercy just ended last week? And of course, Christmas and New Years' Eve are around the corner as well. Sometimes we can get caught off guard with birthdays or anniversaries, with other deadlines that are important for either our work or for our personal lives. We know these “surprises” really aren't surprises, but sometimes we are a little shocked that things come upon us so suddenly. Of course, this wouldn't be a problem if we prepared ourselves ahead of time.

Well, it turns out that it works like that in our spiritual lives also, and at the start of Advent we are reminded (I should say we are warned) precisely about those things that can catch us off guard if we aren't careful, and they are pretty important.

Advent begins really with a call for us to “wake up” to what is really important and to prepare for it so we aren't caught off guard. This is precisely the image Saint Paul uses: we are living in a darkness that is passing away, just like every morning at 6am in South Bend this time of year. That darkness (of sin and evil) which engulfs our world will not last forever, and will in fact be conquered very soon when the sun rises (when Jesus returns). We don't know exactly when, but we know it's coming. So we must prepare, Paul says: put off the deeds of darkness and live as in the light, putting on the Lord Jesus. If we do not live properly, Jesus makes clear in the Gospel that we will be in a very unpleasant situation of surprise: like getting caught by a thief, or being swept away in the flood like those who mocked Noah for preparing his family for the future he saw coming.

So too in Advent we prepare, joyfully but soberly, with true awareness of our need, but with greater anticipation for the good the Lord is planning.

Isn't the idea of a new year exciting, encouraging? I love the thought that I can turn into a better priest, put more good into the world by my work, and help those around me, and fall more in love with the God who created me, who died on a Cross for me, and whose Holy Spirit dwells within me. This excitement is what Isaiah speaks of in the first reading: “Let us go to the mountain of the Lord, to the God of Jacob, so that He may instruct us.” Let us learn what it means to be children of the light and turn aside from the darkness around us, for this darkness leads nowhere, is passing away, and offers us nothing compared to the beauty that the light opens up for us.

So many people make New Year’s resolutions that fizzle out before January ends. However, if you use this season of Advent as an opportunity to get a head start, you will have developed the right spiritual habit by the time Jan 1st rolls around. And don’t settle for some little resolution that doesn’t work on your heart. Make it important, make it significant, but make it attainable.

So what’s your spiritual resolution for the New Year of Advent? Perhaps you can prepare for Christ’s coming with more quiet, more prayer, more mercy & love to those around us, more joy at the new beginning God is offering us, so that the Lord's coming (at the end of time or at our own passing) isn't a terrifying surprise, but something we daily look forward to with joyful anticipation.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Homily - (Christ the King) How to "get it" when it matters

There is a longing for the human heart and mind to know the fullness of truth, and the more important the question, then the more we long for the real answers.  For example, when struggling with an illness, we usually won't settle for "shallow" answers that don't really get at the heart of it.  If our stomach is writhing in pain, we want to know what's wrong.  If our vision is blurred non-stop for three hours but then goes back to normal, we won't settle for the fact that at least things are okay now.  We want to know what is going on, why things are the way they are.  And to do that we have to get to the deeper causes.

Well the same goes for the deeper questions of our faith: why does a 14-month old baby die unexpectedly?  Why do planes crash?  Why do we have to suffer such pain, and ultimately die?  Why?  We don't "get it" sometimes.  We don't see the deeper answer to our deep questions.

The section from Saint Paul's Letter to the Colossians today brings in focus for us the only real answer to our deepest questions: the person of Jesus Christ, and especially his Paschal Mystery.  The truth is that we will never "get it" for the deep questions of life if we don't "get Jesus."  If we don't put Him at the center, nothing else makes sense.

Have you ever said (or had your kids say): "Mom (or Dad), you just don't get it."  I think there's some time where every teenager says this (or at least thinks it 100 times) - whether it is about hippie outfits or 80's hairstyles or grunge music or Pokemon Go or today's "lingo" or anything else.  So often we just don't "get it" - which is fine for small things but is a tragedy and a disaster when it comes to the most important things of life.

Paul summarizes the centrality of Jesus perfectly: All things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things he himself might be preeminent.

And Luke today shows us where Jesus becomes a King, on the Cross.  This is the one who will judge us at the end of time.  If this Year of Mercy has taught us anything, it has taught us that we should not fear the loving God who freely gives everything, even the clothes on his back, to win us back to him - truly a love that is absolutely infinite.

One of the deepest questions, why do we suffer, is answered not by a statement from God, but by His own suffering with us.  We must never doubt that God can use any suffering we endure for love of Him to bring about a greater good, even if we never see it.

Finally, let us remember the words to the good thief: "Today you will be with me in paradise."  This is one of the reason's why we reject the idea of capital punishment and physician assisted suicide: it is never too late on this earth, even to our last breath, to receive God's mercy.  We all need His Mercy, and we may need every moment to receive it.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Homily - Protests and the Gospel of Peace - That they may be one!

Audio: click here!
It is a good thing we prayed last Sunday as a parish community for healing and peace in our country.  Today I urge you to continue that prayer, because clearly we still need it.  Last Wednesday morning college campuses and some city centers had protests – some of them starting fires and many of them riddled with more poisonous speech than our already-wearied ears and hearts wish to take in.  Certainly we can understand what has led some small pockets of people to this type of response, but is this in any way helpful?  St. Paul tells us in his letter to the Romans “Do not be conquered by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  We as Christians are called to something greater, and in the readings today we are reminded exactly of the important lessons that would hinder us from any demonstration that is not peaceful and ultimately directed toward healing and unifying in the truth of Christ Jesus.
Let us look first at the Gospel.  Jesus says clearly that there will be all sorts of false alarms out there about the end of the world, and some will falsely claim to be the Messiah who has returned.  “See that you not be deceived!” Christ tells us.  We will be persecuted because we act in Christ’s name and we will give testimony – testimony to the fact that we stand with Christ Jesus for healing and for unity in the human family, whether here or in Iraq or Syria or Nigeria or Ukraine or Mexico or the Philippines or North Korea.  The social media has been full of little “crucifixions” of so many by parents, brothers, relatives and friends.  Could any of this be from the Holy Spirit?  I doubt it.
Let us look at the second reading: Saint Paul presents himself as a model for how to live.  We as Christians must do the same for each other, and for those beyond the family of God.  And what does Paul ultimately say: earn your own keep by working diligently.
We are not to get sucked into the chaotic fears that the devil wishes to sow in our hearts.  We are called to work, to work for the Kingdom of God in our communities, by living out the Works of Mercy (both corporal and spiritual) that the Church has placed before us anew during this year of Mercy.  If we put our attention on the Lord Jesus, the one who is truly in charge of everything, and stay faithful to our work among families, friends, workplace, church, and local community, then we have nothing to fear, for the peace of Christ will dwell among us.   As St. John of the Cross said, “Where there is no love, put love -- and you will find love.”
And it starts here, with united prayer before the loving God who is the source of all unity.  In this Eucharist, God heals our divisions, caused by sin and selfishness and evil.  May the body and blood of Jesus make us one again.

“By your perseverance you will save your lives,” Christ tells us.  Let us never grow weary in doing what is right, brothers.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Our deepest allegiance is to God

Audio from 11:30 - click here 

November remembers the end before we get to the beginning of all things new in Christ Jesus' Advent, his "coming near" to us.

But for now, as we look to eternity, we see the world fading away.  Leaves die, fall, and trees are left barren.  Light fades, and starting now the sun will set around 5pm every day.  And if we are attentive to it, we can see that the rest of this world passes away as well.  Not just mountains that fall or stars that burn up or other material stuff, but also the immaterial things this world offers us.  Food only satisfies us so long, and a movie or an opera has never kept someone uplifted for weeks.  Not to mention that our bodies do not last forever.  My friend from grade school, Josh, was a good country boy and he died leaving our church on his motorcycle around age 20.  I just heard today that his mom died unexpectedly lastnight.  I can't imagine how the husband and father is feeling, but I know one thing: life is short and we don't know what the end will look like, so we better live today in a way that would make us proud: glorifying God and loving our neighbor for love of Him.
This is what we see in the first reading today.  These boys are put to a shameful death because they refuse to deny their Christian faith.
Lest we think this is only for a distant past, let it be remembered that there are still cases all over the world, especially in the last century, of governments or other groups trying to force people to reject their God, and most often Christians.
One of the newest saints, a young Mexican boy named Jose Sanchez del Rio, 14 years old (an 8th grader).  He was martyred by anti-Catholic government because he was part of the Cristeros movement.
Think also of the 20 Coptic Christians who were executed on a beach last year by ISIL, or Father Jacques in France who was executed this past summer.  They would not reject their faith, would not spit in the face of their God, and for this it cost them their lives, some of them after much torture.

Why do this?  Why endure so much?  Because death is not the end.  Because while this world passes away, our faith holds firm to the truth in the Resurrection.  Jesus Christ changed everything, and in the end, if we cling to Him above and before all else, we will find our hope realized, like the martyrs.

Elections...

Saturday, October 29, 2016

homily

Audio: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0Bx8IQkJZZ39KV3piM1FCLW45NVU

Saint Augustine was one of the most famous christian writers of all time, and there are even more books written about this man than there are about Abraham Lincoln.  Of all the great things written by this Bishop and Doctor of the Church (by the way, our patroness is one of 4 women Doctors of the Church), St. Augustine is most commonly cited for this one phrase that summarizes his own life in a single phrase: "You have made us for yourself, O, Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you."
The Catechism of the Catholic Church mentions this at the beginning of the Catechism, in #30, as it introduces man's search for God.  Although man can forget God or reject him, He never ceases to call every man to seek him, so as to find life and happiness. But this search for God demands of man every effort of intellect, a sound will, "an upright heart", as well as the witness of others who teach him to seek God.  Then it quotes Augustine's famous passage, ending with what we heard, "You have made us for yourself..."
Zaccheaus embodies this passage so perfectly in his very life.  Zaccheaus lives a plush life, enjoying the good things of earth but clearly not finding them satisfying.  It seems what he longs for is communion with others, especially with God, but he almost feels trapped.  How can he change?  He would need to do a total U-turn on his life.  Feeling a bit lost himself, he searches for Christ.  And as Pope Saint John Paul II was so ready to remind us (quoting Vatican II): Jesus Christ is the one who reveals man to himself and makes manifest his supreme vocation.  Zaccheaus searches for Christ, and finds himself.
Isn't it interesting to think that a sinner can search for God and find him so readily?  In some ways, the sinner, after suffering the disillusionment of is mistakes, and "coming to his senses," might be able to seek God even more clearly.
If you recall last week, the focus was on humility.  The Lord hears the cry of the poor: whether materially poor, or spiritually poor (humble).  Today we see this tax collector living what humble prayer looks like: it is a man putting his pride aside to get close to God no matter the cost;  it is someone sincerely looking for something he has been unable to find no matter where it leads him;  it is a person willing to admit boldly when his life needs to make a U-turn.
And in order for him to cling to that pearl of great price that Jesus has offered him, he knows what he must do: it means getting out of the dog-eat-dog race that his life has been.
Have you ever heard of the simple way to trap a monkey?  You just

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Homily outline



This is not my full homily but only an outline.  You'll have to listen to the audio from the parish website (here)



I mentioned last week about Our Lady of Chestochowa having the walls covered with "ex voto" offerings of thanksgiving for prayers answered, miracles obtained.  This is still a good image for today, with the focus still clearly on prayer.

Today's readings stress that prayer works. God hears. "But when the Son of Man comes, do you think He will find faith on earth?"

Pope Francis said this about forgiveness, but the same can be said about us and our lack of resolve in prayer: "God doesn't get tired... we get tired."

I've prayed for years for members of my family to grow in faith. Why does it take so long? I have not prayed consistently. I stray. I lose hope or I lose focus.

Sometimes we pray for the wrong thing, and we might not even understand why it is wrong.  Nevertheless, God isn't ever going to answer those prayers, at least not with the "yes, here you go" that we are hoping for. If a five year old son asks you to let him drive the car, your answer is no, too, and not because you don't love him, but precisely because you do love him.

Other times God answers our prayers in ways that we never would have wanted, but actually are better for us. You ever heard the saying "be careful what you pray for, you just might get it!"? God knows what we need even when we don't want it. Like a kid saying "I'm hungry" (while eyeing the cookies) and their parent giving them a carrot. Why? The parent knows better what the child needs.

Sometimes God's answer is "okay but not yet." 

Friday, October 7, 2016

Saturday, September 24, 2016

SJB-lastHomily -- Remember what you are!

The theme I see in this weekend's readings is pretty simply stated: "don't forget who you are!" (And the flip side of that is: “Don't forget who you are not!”) Amos clearly condemns the complacently rich of Zion (Jerusalem), and foretells their downfall.  Jesus shoes us a parallel image of the anonymous "rich man" who has lost his identity into his wealth: all he is now is just his stuff - Lazarus is not even as dehumanized as him. He doesn't reflect that he is a beggar before God like all of us, and that he is not immortal. Do not forget who you are, nor who you are not.
We see this also in the second reading.  The first letter to Timothy is full of Saint Paul's advice for the young leader who, due to his age, needs reassurance that he is on the right track for where he should be leading the Christian community, as well as reminders of who he is and what he is about.  It may seem a bit of a hodgepodge, but truly is more like a potluck of delicious little dishes like the nice parish picnic we had about a month ago. In fact, this letter follows the typical style of the day when kings/emperors would send instruction to their local governors for how they ought to carry out their duties. Sometimes local Greco-Roman magistrates would even post copies of these letters on the outside of the main buildings for everyone to read, and thus the emperor would write in a way that, while speaking to the governor, truly also spoke to everyone.  This letter of St. Paul is summarized by Luke Timothy Johnson as follows: As in Ephesians, the Christian household and community are witnesses to the world of "faith and truth" (2:7).  But only a community that is orderly and harmonious - displaying the best of the values and virtues of the larger Greco-Roman culture - can truly be the "household of God." Indeed, only as an orderly "household" can the community stand as a witness among the Gentiles  to the great mystery in Christ (3:16).
Saint Paul encourages Timothy in what he knows is God's Will for him as a leader of the Christian community, as well as outlining the vocation of the entire "household of God:" But you, man of God, pursue righteousness,
devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness.  Compete well for the faith.  Lay hold of eternal life, to which you were called...
This is certainly good advice for Timothy, but it is also good advice for all of us.  It is a reminder that the pastor (myself) is at best a good leader when he is simply trying to live as a good child of God like the rest of the "household."  As Saint Augustine put it, "For you I am a bishop, but with you I am a Christian; the first names a danger, but the latter names a salvation."
I have tried to be a good leader by being a good Christian here, and have not been perfect at that but have also never given up.  I pray that the Merciful Lord may look kindly upon me and help me in the future.  Ultimately any priest who sows good seeds for the kingdom is doing it for the future, not the present, and I am grateful for the generous hearts of the pastors who have been here in the past decades of this parish.  Ironically as well, the best priests put not themselves at the center, but Jesus, who alone is the way, the truth, and the life.  You need Him, and you need a priest to bring Him to you in the Eucharist, but that is all. 
Paul indirectly stresses that Timothy needs to remember the primacy of Jesus, by mentioning him three times in this short passage, including the poetic prayer of praise that finishes the reading.  That focus is essential for the pastor, which is why I am at peace with the road ahead for myself and for you.  Father Glenn is a great priest and pastor who will care for this household of God with wisdom and compassion and a deep love for Jesus Christ. You will be in good hands, and I am grateful to pass on to him this family that shows a real love for priests.
May God bless us all as we continue our journey of faith, and may we never forget who we are: children of our heavenly Father, whom He deems worthy of His love!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Make the turn-around, ASAP!

Audio: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B1r8CMMH17Y0VEE2bURvZjdfWGc

While the first reading should have a clear message for you, this Gospel should probably confuse you at first.

Amos: was a prophet who spoke to the northern half of the promised people (commonly called Israel) even though he came from the southern half (commonly called Judah).  He is sent to remind the people that their prim & proper worship rituals don't mean a thing if at the same time they are committing or allowing grave injustices to humanity - which indeed they are.  The Lord will not forget the crimes that are committed to the poor.  He will lift them up, Psalm 113 tells us.  We must not let the lures of mammon (which means money and possessions) cloud our mind from what really matters.

Mammon leads us to our Gospel reading, where we are given this interesting parable by Jesus of an unjust steward.  This man is caught cheating, like Amos warns the people of his own day.  Perhaps getting caught is the best thing that ever happened to the steward in this parable, because it forces him to face the facts that he must render an account of his actions.  And the earlier we change our wicked ways, all the better... and if we never change our wicked ways, all the worse.

So there is the first lesson we get from this dishonest man: knowing our position and responding.  The Catholic word for this is simple: repentance! (or conversion)   This is a very “John the Baptist” kind of word, and he himself used fiery images to wake up the people of his own day.  Repent in Hebrew shoov means to turn around, to do a 180, and that's exactly what this man does today.  He knows that he needs to make quick changes if he is going to fix the situation, and he takes the drastic measures he needs.

The Greek word for repentance or conversion is METANOIA, and this will lead us to our next lesson from this Gospel.  Metanoia means to transform our way of thinking, and this dishonest steward spent his time thinking always about money and profit: how can I get ahead of others, get them to be literally indebted to me.  The funny thing is he turns this thought process on its head when he realizes he is up a creek, since his leverage on the locals is about to completely disappear.  So what does he do?  He flips to forgiveness, to mercy, to cutting the debts of the people he used.  By helping them out of their tough times, they will love him and help him out when his come around.  Talk about a true metanoia, a transformation of mind.  This man shows us how to realize our situation and respond.

Often we are temped to think, like in the time of Amos, that we are on top of the world and nothing can bring us down, but this parable reminds us that there will be an accounting for all of us.
In fact, this parable may be the best example of the prayer we pray at every single Mass: “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
Let us ask the Lord Jesus to help us to realize our sinfulness, our debts toward God and others, and make up for them by forgiving others ourselves.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Triumph of the cross

Triumph - victory. Found in a torture device of capital punishment? That is the mystery of providence, that is the sign of God's great love.
Pilgrimage: hike
Auschwitz - St. Maximillian Kolbe: love is stronger than hatred, light it stronger than darkness, good is stronger than evil.

Because every one of us is overrun with concupiscence (our selfish tendency toward sin), the world hates the Cross. I mean, who looks at that and says "gimme gimme gimme!" No one. But today in a more powerful way because our western culture has tried to throw out the idea of universal truth. And when we do that we are left with the two options of today: whatever the crowd says (aka "the herd mentality") or "whatever feels good", or both.
Emotivism: my emotions = true & good. This is clearly the antithesis of the cross.
"Do what feels good" equals idolatry of the ego
Christ wasn't feeling good on the cross. Feelings were far below where his heart and mind were at the time. They were in the sky.
"Thy Will be done" as we pray in the Our Father
Embrace the Cross if you wish to experience it's triumph. 
How? Daily holiness in the small things: family, friends, work (student). John of Cross:  "in the end we are judged by our love."
Confession. Essential for us because we are all sinners. Let the Cross triumph.  Sin only wins if we stay on the ground and don't get back up.




Saturday, September 10, 2016

Homily Notes - False Idols

Audio from 9am Mass: click here!

False idols are tricky things nowadays.  In the ancient cultures it was, sometimes, very easy to spot idolatry: there was a golden calf, or a statue of another creature (real or not), or a deity in human form.  There was ritual surrounding it: incense, offering, prayers, vestments, priests or priestesses.  This kind of idolatry was easy to avoid.  But nowadays?  Is it still there?
Yes, and it's harder to see it, because while people in our day and age worship all kinds of things, we pretend we don't.  We certainly don't have golden calves lying around our house.  We might have crucifixes on our walls, paintings of saints all around.  We can go to church on Sundays, but idolatry can still be present in our lives, and certainly is present in our world today, if not in our own hearts.
Jesus' parables of mercy are culminated in what has been called the greatest literary masterpiece of all time: the story of the prodigal son.  This amazing parable perfectly shows us God's mercy in the face of the idolatry of the younger son (and older son).  Idols are common because we were created for worship. Idols are problems because, like in this parable, we worship a lower good at the expense of the highest good, namely, our relationship with The Lord: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
So what do we worship? I think we can use this quote from St. John of the Cross as a guide: "O souls created for such grandeurs and called to them, what are you doing? How are you spending your time?" The way we spend our time is a huge sign of what we give ourselves to. Some of our time is partly our own, some of it completely ours to control, but all of it should really be the Lord's. I say this to my own condemnation as well, since for years I was more likely found wasting time and not praying, and even now still have days where I mess up.
Another guide for testing our hearts is: how do I make decisions? What upsets me? What do I often think about or worry about? These lead us to possible idols we need I give over regularly to the Lord.
And the main step to this is His merciful love. If we experience that we are loved, we are more ready to drop the things we hope might fill that void but never do.
Let us ask the Lord to enlighten our hearts so we may give them more completely to Him. Amen.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

"I really appreciate it!"

Audio (Sat eve.): Click here!
Jesus tells us today that when it comes down to it, we need to follow Him and Him alone.  Our loyalty cannot be with political parties before Jesus, nor can we say "blood is thicker than water" if it means losing Jesus.  We cannot have other things share the throne of our heart.  We can only have one altar in our souls, reserved only for Christ.  This is the cost of discipleship: everything is His because He is sharing His everything with us.  The cost is real, and the cost is worth it.
A common phrase we hear in conversations: "I really appreciate it."  We have heard and said this a lot when thanking someone.  The word appreciate means to know the price of something, to be aware of the cost.  So when we are thanking someone, we are saying, "I know what it cost you to do what you have done."  It means we are aware of the sacrifices someone made for us.
Sometimes we say we appreciate things without truly noting the cost of something, without registering the price another person paid.  Instead, I think we often use it in a different way, simply to say something like "it means a lot to me" instead of the original meaning, "it meant a lot to you."
We can only truly appreciate something when we realize that we needed something, that we couldn't do it on our own, and that it was done by another at great cost to them.  We got something we didn't deserve but needed, and it was a sacrifice for someone to make that happen.  And when we really appreciate something, we don't just say it - we show it by living differently.
Ultimately, the greatest act of appreciation should be in our spiritual life: we should appreciate what God has done for us.  We should register in our minds what it costs God to make it possible that we, slaves of sin, can be welcomed into God's family and attain heaven.  We need to look at that cross and let it sink in.  We need to think about the story of God's faithfulness in the Bible to a people that are so stubborn in their old ways that it must break God's heart.  Then we need to think about how we so often spurn God's love again and again, about how we reject His invitations to come deeper, and how easy it would be for us to give up on someone if they rejected us that many times.  Yet God doesn't give up on us.  If we think of these things, then we will begin to appreciate the gift of His Love, the miracle of His Mercy, the blessing of prayer.
Saint Paul asks Philemon for forgiveness to Onesimus.  Brother needs to forgive brother, Paul encourages, because he should appreciate the great forgiveness we have all received in Christ Jesus.  If we think of what we have been forgiven, and we sincerely realize all that God has done and still does for us every day, then forgiveness is easy, acts of mercy and charity are easy.  It's simply paying it forward.
This is the challenge for us this week: who have I failed to forgive at all, or only forgiven partially?  Who or what is it that the Holy Spirit, God Himself present in my soul by baptism, is asking me to graciously get past so that I can share in my part of the forgiveness he has shown me.  How do I show my appreciation for what He has done?  May the Lord speak to our hearts today in this Mass with a name, a face, or a situation that needs His healing, and inspire us with the grace to bring His Merciful Love into that part of our life.  Amen.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Humility - Saint Therese of Lisieux

Audio: click here!
We are Christians.  We believe that Jesus died for us and rose from the dead to bring us with Him into the eternal life of heaven.  We profess that Jesus is alive in heaven, and in His Church on earth.  We profess that He is so closely united to us that we call the Church His Body – the Body of Christ – as He told saint Paul.  We as Catholics furthermore proclaim that He was not kidding around when He said “this is My Body... this is my Blood.”  Jesus is here, he is alive, and He gives Himself to us in the Eucharist.  
Why?  So that we can become like Him.  And what is the most important way to become like Jesus?
Do we need to be miracle workers?  No.  Do we need to go turning over tables and calling out the Pharisees?  Not necessarily.  Do we need to love?  Definitely.  But what is the first step?  The first step is humility.  What we hear in the Gospel and the first reading today is the first step of the Christian life.
Humility is not beating ourselves up and denying that we can and should strive for greatness.  Rather, humility is a gut-check, a reality-check, a down-to-earth quality of being in-touch with the way things are.  And the way things are is this: God is God, and I am a creature.  I do not exist on my own.  I did not  bring myself into this world, nor can I keep myself here.  Furthermore, I cannot fulfill myself – I need others, especially God, in order to be happy.  I cannot control this world, I cannot even control myself at times, and (speaking for myself) there are some things I will never be able to control, like my hair.
That is humility.  Not bad hair, but that real acknowledgment of “c'est la vie” “such is life” and accepting the facts for the facts.  This does not mean we do not hope for a better world, a just society, personal holiness, or any other good dream we should shoot for.  But it does mean admitting where we are at this point.
We can become saints.  We should become saints.  We, God willing, will be saints one day.  Are you saints yet?  No.  That's humility.
And that is where true power comes from.  Yes, humility is the source of strength.  Since we all are weak, unable to conquer ourselves or even to exist apart from God's grace, humility is the first step toward holiness.  Saint Therese of Lisieux is a great example of this.  I'm reading a book about her called “33 Days to Merciful Love,” and I am finding the little two-page sections each day to be very powerful.  She wrote: “I do not grieve in seeing that I am weakness itself. On the contrary, it is in this I glory; and I expect each day to discover new imperfections; and I acknowledge that these lights concerning my nothingness do me more good than the lights concerning the Faith.”
How many of you see weakness as a gift?  Perhaps we need to start, because this little saint has done more good on earth that many “high and mighty” lives combined.
Therese saw weakness (what she often called being “little”) as a gift, saying: “What pleases Jesus in my little soul is to see me love my littleness.”
If we cannot love our own littleness before God, who chose to make us with the limitations that we have, then we too need to grow in humility.
Finally, she tells us: “It is my weakness that makes all my strength. Jesus did everything in me. I did nothing but remain little and weak.”
If we want to do great things, we need look no further than this saint and the Blessed Mother Mary, who was the first person in the Gospel to show us that in order to do great good for God and for the world, we need not boast of ourselves and puff ourselves up, but on the contrary we should become little and be an instrument for God to work in us.  Mother Teresa, who will be named a saint in just a few weeks, said the same in her own way: “God did not ask me to be successful.  He asked me to be faithful.”
I have printed off a handout with two prayers for humility.  You can find them in your pews and in the back of church.  Please use these prayers as a help toward growing in that first step in the spiritual life, and that greatest of all gifts: the gift of our littleness and humbly receiving God's Mercy.

Litany of Humility
by Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val (1865-1930), Secretary of State for Pope Saint Pius X
O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed...
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved...
From the desire of being extolled ...
From the desire of being honored ...
From the desire of being praised ...
From the desire of being preferred to others...
From the desire of being consulted ...
From the desire of being approved ...
From the fear of being humiliated ...
From the fear of being despised...
From the fear of suffering rebukes ...
From the fear of being calumniated ...
From the fear of being forgotten ...
From the fear of being ridiculed ...
From the fear of being wronged ...
From the fear of being suspected ...

That others may be loved more than I...
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I ...
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease ...
That others may be chosen and I set aside ...
That others may be praised and I unnoticed ...
That others may be preferred to me in everything...
That others may become holier than I,
provided that I may become as holy as I should…
O Jesus, gentle and humble of heart, make my heart like yours!


St. Therese's "Prayer to obtain humility" (Prayer 20) written July 16, 1897.
O Jesus! when you were a Pilgrim on earth, you said: "Learn of Me for I am gentle and humble of heart and you will find rest for your souls." O Mighty Monarch of Heaven, yes, my soul finds rest in seeing you, clothed in the form and nature of a slave, humbling yourself to wash the feet of your apostles. I recall your words that teach me how to practice humility: "I have given you an example so that you may do what I have done. The disciple is not greater than the Master.... If you understand this, happy are you if you put them into practice." Lord, I do understand these words that came from your gentle and humble Heart and I want to practice them with the help of your grace. want truly to humble myself and to submit my will to that of my sisters. I do not wish to contradict them nor seek to see whether or not they have the right to command me. O my Beloved, no one had this right over you and yet you obeyed not only the Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph but even your executioners. Now in the Sacred Host I see you at the height of your annihilations. How humble you are, O divine King of Glory, to subject yourself to all your priests without making any distinction between those who love you and those who are, alas! lukewarm or cold in your service... At their word you come down from heaven. Whether they advance or delay the hour of the Holy Sacrifice, you are always ready O my Beloved, how gentle and humble of heart You seem under the veil of the white Host! To teach me humility you cannot humble yourself further. Therefore, to respond to your love, I desire that my sisters always put me in the lowest place and I want to convince myself that this place is indeed mine.

I beg you, my Divine Jesus, to send me a humiliation whenever I try to set myself above others. I know, o my God, that you humble the proud soul but to the one who humbles herself you give an eternity of glory. So I want to put myself in the last rank and to share your humiliations so as "to have a share with you" in the kingdom of Heaven. But, you know my weakness, Lord. Every morning I make a resolution to practice humility and in the evening I recognize that I have committed again many faults of pride. At this I am tempted to become discouraged but I know that discouragement is also pride. Therefore, O my God, I want to base my hope in You alone. Since you can do everything, deign to bring to birth in my soul the virtue I desire. To obtain this grace of your infinite mercy I will very often repeat: "O Jesus, gentle and humble of heart, make my heart like yours!"

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Entering the narrow gate: on never giving up

Audio: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0Bx8IQkJZZ39KN2U2Y2hOZk9DcHM


I've been to WYD three times: once in high school (Toronto), five years ago in Madrid, and the last month to Poland. The trip to world youth day always culminates in an excursion or hike that leads us into a bit of "Mother Nature."  This past event in Kraków was a nine-mile hike to an huge open park with a couple retention ponds and lots of flat green space. Bushes and shrubs and tall grass were all cut down for the crowd of about 2-million.  The hike is never easy. In Toronto and Madrid I recall intense heat.  Kraków had temperatures in the 80's, which was comparatively not too bad.  But it was certainly not easy.
Pilgrimage is a symbol for the Christian life. It's not easy -- but it's worth it.  In some ways that can be said of a lot of things in life: it's not easy -- but it's worth it.  Learning a new language is not easy -- but it's worth it.  Making new friends is not easy -- but it's worth it.  Forgiving someone who hurt you is not easy -- but it's worth it.  Making time for prayer every day is not easy -- but it's worth it.  Taking care of your physical health is not easy -- but it's worth it.  Persevering in marriage and parenthood is not easy -- but it's worth it.
Like all these things, following Jesus is not easy -- but it's worth it.
That is the point of today's Gospel. Jesus says "strive to enter through the narrow gate!" It's not easy, he is saying. Work hard at it. Don't be a pushover.  If you fall, get back up.  If you get distracted, refocus.  Whatever you do, don't follow the easy road.
When it comes down to it, life is about one thing: heaven.  In fact, experiencing heaven means to be a saint - there are only saints in heaven. So you could say that life is really all about being a saint, and if you are a saint on this earth, then the journey to heaven is already heaven.  A poet of the last century said, "There is really only one tragedy in life: to not be a saint."  That is what life is all about. That is our narrow gate.  How many of us wake up every day and say, "Lord, help me to live like a saint today!" Or at least we should pray, "Lord, help me to want to live like a saint today!"
The problem is, our world indeed leads many away from the narrow gate. We go in the wrong direction so easily due to the  various distractions that are present: electronics, media, books, movies, sports, 

One thing that helps us is not doing it alone.
The pilgrimage hike was easier because we weren't alone - we helped each other along the way, picking each other up when it was tough, sharing the burdens of those who were struggling.  The challenges of the trip gave us opportunities to show love for each other in concrete ways - and they increased our love. 
That is the beauty of family, including the parish family. We help each other along the way.
I thank God for my family, and for the family here at Saint Johns. It has been a joy and I'm happy to keep striving for the narrow gate with you. Let us keep helping each other every day to pray in our hearts: "Lord, make me a saint today."
  




Saturday, August 13, 2016

Homily


Have you ever had to do or say something that you knew was going to upset people but you knew it was the right thing?
Every time you did this without backing down, you lived today's Gospel and you said by that decision: "Jesus, I choose you over the false comforts of this world. I love you more. I love you."  This is the truth of today's Gospel (as well as the first reading from Jeremiah): following God's will isn't just a sweet little piece of cake.
Following Jesus is often not easy, often not safe, often not pleasant. The Cross we are called to carry on this life is like a difficult medicine, a bad tasting pill, that ultimately leads to our full health.
Part of the pain of the cross is that when we follow Jesus, it can mean rejection, can mean insults, can mean (as in every century) persecution. Fr. Jacques, the French priest who was martyred in a brutal way during Mass, was only unique because of where this happened: Western Europe.  We must always be ready to witness like him even as we thank God that we can worship in peace.
Hebrews reminds us that we must "rid ourselves of every burden and sin"  --> what have we given up?  What should be we giving up?  Are we willing to listen to what Jesus is asking us to give up?
"I have come to set fire upon the earth, and how I wish it were already blazing"
Jesus is speaking of the grace of the Holy Spirit and the passionate love that should be in our hearts from Him.
Fire -> power to transform - to shine bright in a dark world - to melt the coldest of objects.  but to do so it also conquers, destroys, consumes.  "If you are what you should be, you will set the world on fire." - St. Catherine of Siena
We must be fire to pass on fire, to make others burn with a passionate love of Jesus ("you can't give what you don't have.")
What do we need to rid ourselves of for Christ?  What do we need to say goodbye to, so that we can burn brightly?  Jesus, help me to let your fire take control of my heart, so that I can share it with others.  I love you Amen.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Homily - WYD - A Foretaste of Heaven

AUDIO FROM 11AM MASS: Click Here!

Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your belongings and give alms. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach nor moth destroy. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.

Saturday, August 6th, is always the celebration of the Transfiguration. In this feast, we remember how three disciples, Peter, James, & John, were blessed with a special mountain-top experience, where during Jesus' deep prayer they witnessed Him speaking to Moses and Elijah, and more importantly, all heard the voice of the Father coming out of the cloud: “This is my beloved Son, listen to him.” That experience gave them a glimpse of who Jesus really was, of what God wanted for them. It helped them to trust despite the trials that was coming, for the Messiah and later for all of them.

World Youth Day was a similar type of mountain top experience. It provided a phenomenal opportunity for a broad vision of what life is about, of what we were created for. It was like a vision of heaven. A foretaste, like the Eucharist, of what heaven is meant to be. Just imagine: Surrounded by the church from all continents, surrounded by relics of saints, walking on stones and praying in churches where Saint JPII, St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. Faustina Kowalska, and other Polish saints themselves were. Singing the Lord's praises in over 5 languages. Celebrating Mass with over a million people. Praying for God's Mercy where over a million people were slaughtered. Letting Our Lady of Czestochowa gaze deep into my eyes and warm my soul. Reuniting with old friends from around the U.S., as well as my sister and her husband. Adoring the Blessed Sacrament in an arena full to the brim of 20,000 Catholics. Hiking miles in high heat, yet full of joy as we journeyed.

These experiences tell of what being a Christian is all about. We were not created for comfort, we were created for greatness. Indeed, it taught me the meaning of the words we heard today: Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom. God truly desires to make us happy, but we so often fail to pursue it. All the things I mentioned, things that bring me to tears when I think of how beautiful they were, I notice that these things are free and open to everyone: Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven. We don't need to go running for things in this world to find what we were made for. Little flock, Your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom. A parent loves to see their children full of joy, that's exactly why we buy so many totally unnecessary things: we are convinced that these will delight our children, even if only for a time, and we are suckers for making other people happy. It's what we were hard-wired for. God Himself is hard-wired to delight us, but not with things that come and go, but with things that last.

If you haven't noticed, I loved my trip. Bishop Rhoades, 5 priests, 6 nuns, 14 seminarians, and 110 youth from the diocese truly formed a family from that time, and I will dearly miss them. I felt the same after I attended World Youth Day in Madrid 5 years ago. It's an unforgettable experience of the Christian life, and I cannot wait for this “foretaste” of heaven to be fulfilled in eternity. Little flock, your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom. Indeed these words are truer to me now than ever.


I pray you also can experience the joy of such moments, through personal retreat, through prayer, through friends, through the sacraments, through the beauty of this world. I can only encourage you to carve time out for what you were made for, for the true identity that Jesus reveals to you: a person of community, of faith, of persevering and loving despite the difficulties that the journey of life may bring. Give Jesus your heart, saying “Jezu Ufam Tobie” “Jesus I Trust in You.”