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!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Keeping things in order

Audio here:

Being soft clay, capable of molding. After the fire, we can only be shattered.

Keeping my house "guest-ready".

Marana tha - Our Lord, come!
Maran atha - Our Lord has come! (And is here!)

Three comings of Christ - Christmas, End-times, and Eucharist. How do I prepare for His coming in these ways? Am I allowing myself to be soft clay that can make necessary changes? Or am I so firmly set in my ways that the Lord cannot work with me any more?

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Good stewards

Audio here:

In today’s readings, we are presented with the hard work of a good wife and of two “good and faithful” servants who made productive use of their time and talents for those they loved.  Their rewards are abundantly clear in both passages.  Equally apparent for us is the punishment of the servant whom the master calls “wicked”: he has failed to deal properly with the huge sum of money given to him (equivalent to perhaps 15-20 years wages).  He was afraid, and didn’t want to fall short, but apparently the master is not compassionate at all in this circumstance.

How will it be for us when our Master, the Lord Jesus, returns to demand an account of what He has blessed us with?  We have been given much more than money, but do we not recognize the urgency of what we do with our own “talents”: whether finances, skills, opportunities, wisdom, or God’s divine Grace placed in our hearts.  None of these things are given for us to keep for ourselves.  All of it - money, time, opportunities, wisdom, gifts, skills, Grace, love, forgiveness - everything we are given is really for giving away.

Look at Jesus’ own life.  It tells us plain and simple, that love isn’t love until you give it away.  God is love, and he gave Himself away, He laid down His life, for you and me.

If you want to discover who God is - you have to give yourself away.  Now this doesn’t mean you need to empty your houses and your bank accounts.  If it did, then 99% of Christians over the last 2,00 years have done a terrible job.  No we don’t need to abandon all our stuff to the Lord.  But we do need to constantly place it in His hands in prayer, and be ready to do with it as He wills.  That is true discipleship.  That is a true response to the demands of Divine Love showed to us in the Cross and in the Eucharist.  Whenever we don’t give away our “talents” (in every sense of the word) for the good of others, then we are burying them for ourselves, trying to protect ourselves, and in fact actually condemning ourselves because we are refusing to be like God, eternal self-giving Love.

Sometimes we may be tempted to think that being a Christian is simply a one-time conversion or act of faith, and then we get to live some sort of spiritual retirement in our hot-tub of Grace just relishing the easy life.  To be a christian and follow Jesus is not something simple or easy, nor is it brief.  Last week’s parable of the wise and foolish virgins reminds us that we must always be alert and ready, constantly of service to our Lord.  We can’t simply make a decision to follow Jesus and then be done with it.  No, that decision ends up leading to new decisions every day that change how we view the world and how we live.The Christian life is not some short sprint, but a marathon race that lasts our entire life.  Do we have what it takes to finish the race?  For the truth is that Christianity is not a soft bed, but rather a Cross that brings us challenges and consolations every step of the way.  Let us thank God for the daily opportunities we are given to discover the beauty of the Cross, which is love in its true form.

And let us pray for the grace to risk ourselves - to lose ourselves - by giving away ourselves to God and to each other.  This is the true act of faith we make in the Lord’s Paschal Mystery, and it is here in the Eucharist where we are promised to truly find ourselves in Christ Jesus once again.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

The Oil of Love - Waiting in Hope

Audio: Click Here

Baby box save. How hard it must have been to make that decision but a blessing.  Cutting off a relationship so that the child might have a safe and profitable future.
"I do not know you" - how much harder it would be to hear those words directed to us from the Lord.  To avoid this eternal heartbreak, we need to do what is required: we need to be like the wise virgins in today’s Gospel.
This parable, like all parables, offers us an analogy of the spiritual life.  It is a truth wrapped in a story, and the story isn’t about oil.  It’s about “Staying awake!”, Christ tells us.  But what does that mean?  Well, staying awake ultimately means living our baptism day by day, moment by moment –living in continual relationship with the Lord Jesus, our heavenly Father, and the Holy Spirit.  If we are doing this, then we are keeping the fire burning – and that fire is love, and unlike oil, love cannot be bought or sold.  You either have it or you don’t – and that is why the five wise virgins cannot share their oil.  Their love is their own.  Our love for Jesus is either there or it isn’t.  When I get to heaven I cannot say: “I know I never really prayed but, hey, my mom went to daily Mass!”  Saint Peter will not be amused or deceived.  Do you love Jesus?  Do you seek Christ tirelessly?
Pray. Hope. Don't worry.
Being on retreat last week was such a great gift.  I feel refreshed by the time I was able to give solely to God. The world would say it was wasted if it wasn't for personal benefit, but even if I got nothing out of it (and there were certainly times of waiting), it was worth it. Why did Jesus die on the Cross and rise from the dead? To give us heaven - who is a relationship with God, something we already experience in prayer. If we don't pray, we are ultimately saying we don't care about heaven. 
Another message from this parable is that we do have to wait. We can't force God. Must wait patiently. Even when on retreat.
Indeed, the Thessalonians were waiting for Jesus to return, and they like Saint Paul thought that the Lord's return was to be very soon, which is why they worried for those who died before the Second Coming.  Indeed waiting is necessary for us all in the spiritual life. We live in a beautiful mess of "already" mixed with a healthy dose of "not yet."
We already have a relationship with the Lord, but we don't yet see Him face to face. We already are God's children, but we do not yet always live as such. We already see the beginning of the kingdom of God, but we know that it is not fully realized.
Ultimately the message of these readings is the same one Padre Pio often gave: Pray. Hope. Don't worry. (Padre Pio’s relics visited SJHS just over a week ago on the 3rd, a total surprise to me, and I received a special blessing from the priest guardian who was holding P. Pio’s gloves over my head.  What a gift!)  …  But anyways: Pray. Hope. Don't worry. We pray to experience the "already”.  We hope joyfully for the “not yet” to be realized and completed.  And we don’t worry about the rest, because God has us in His gaze, and His love is proven to us by the Cross and by this Eucharist.  Lord, help us to pray, hope, and not worry.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

"Father's" Day - The Priestly Ministry - prayers needed

Audio from 9:30am Mass - click here 

This upcoming week is National Vocations Awareness week in the USA, so it is very fitting to talk about the priesthood, especially when the Gospel includes Jesus saying to us: "call no man father..." I'm sure you all can guess that I've been hearing people call me Father every day for the past 6.5 years, and we of course mean the same even when we call our fathers "dad" or "papa" or whatever.  So this teaching of Jesus must not be taken literally.  It needs to be seen in context with the rest of the passage ("master" and "teacher") as well as the context of the whole bible. In fact, Saturday morning we heard the same closing phrase in a different passage where Luke speaks of taking seats of honor at banquets: "whoever exalts himself will be humbles, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." So Luke 14 has something to say about Matthew 23, and the important part - the overlap and the echo - is about how we deal with authority, fame, influence.  So this fits not only the priesthood and teachers and parents, but all types of worldly authority and influence.  More on that in a bit, but first I would like to talk a bit about the priesthood.
The priesthood of Jesus Christ which I share in by ordination is the reason for many of the most difficult as well as the most amazing moments in my life.  A priest will never forget the joy of walking with someone who joins the Church as an adult and receives Communion for the first time from his hands; just as he never forgets blessing a man or woman who just died or grieving with their loved ones.  The priest weeps when he sees a soul running from the Lord unaware of His Mercy, and rejoices in giving absolution to one who returns after many years.
          I'm sure the same could be said about any role of leadership and authority, especially parents, teachers, coaches, and civil authorities.  It is difficult and rewarding.  
We aren't to reject these leadership roles, but we cannot let them feed our age-old weakness of pride.  Authority is ultimately an opportunity for humble service. 
Yesterday there was a great example of this for the priesthood, and I wish you to think about how this applies to yourself in your various roles of leadership, authority, and influence.
          Saint Charles Borromeo -  November 4th.  Actually my first summer parish assignment - my childhood rivals.  Msgr. John vs. Msgr. John (best friends)  "that other parish" "de-program him"
Saint Charles really helped complete the reform of the Catholic church at the Council of Trent and afterwards, making the church work to finish the response that was essential for the Church after the spark of Martin Luther ignited revolution and rupture from the Catholic Church precisely 500 years ago, 1517.  He is the patron saint of seminarians, because he really started seminaries.  He said more or less that the university system should be adapted to train men to be priests in an organized way with more direct supervision, instead of the bishop placing someone in an "apprenticeship" under a good priest-mentor-guide.  More was needed, because priesthood is important - very important.  The fact is, priests can really help people and can really hurt people.  Just like a good coach can build someone up, and a bad coach can crush someone's spirit.  Of course, the same goes for a teacher, parent, etc.  If the priest is not holy, why would the congregation be holy?  He is meant to be an example, like Saint Paul says.
          St. Paul in the 2nd reading: Brothers and sisters: We were gentle among you, as a nursing mother cares for her children. With such affection for you, we were determined to share with you not only the gospel of God, but our very selves as well, so dearly beloved had you become to us. You recall, brothers and sisters, our toil and drudgery. Working night and day in order not to burden any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.
Every year, the priest reads great advice from Saint Charles in the office of Readings.
          From a sermon given during the last synod he attended, by Saint Charles, bishop
(Acta Ecclesiae Mediolanensis 1599, 1177-1178) Practice what you preach

I admit that we are all weak, but if we want help, the Lord God has given us the means to find it easily. One priest may wish to lead a good, holy life, as he knows he should. He may wish to be chaste and to reflect heavenly virtues in the way he lives. Yet he does not resolve to use suitable means, such as penance, prayer, the avoidance of evil discussions and harmful and dangerous friendships. Another priest complains that as soon as he comes into church to pray the office or to celebrate Mass, a thousand thoughts fill his mind and distract him from God. But what was he doing in the sacristy before he came out for the office or for Mass? How did he prepare? What means did he use to collect his thoughts and to remain recollected?

Would you like me to teach you how to grow from virtue to virtue and how, if you are already recollected at prayer, you can be even more attentive next time, and so give God more pleasing worship? Listen, and I will tell you. If a tiny spark of God’s love already burns within you, do not expose it to the wind, for it may get blown out. Keep the stove tightly shut so that it will not lose its heat and grow cold. In other words, avoid distractions as well as you can. Stay quiet with God. Do not spend your time in useless chatter.

If teaching and preaching is your job, then study diligently and apply yourself to whatever is necessary for doing the job well. Be sure that you first preach by the way you live. If you do not, people will notice that you say one thing, but live otherwise, and your words will bring only cynical laughter and a derisive shake of the head.

Are you in charge of a parish? If so, do not neglect the parish of your own souldo not give yourself to others so completely that you have nothing left for yourself. You have to be mindful of your people without becoming forgetful of yourself.

My brothers, you must realize that for us churchmen nothing is more necessary than meditation. We must meditate before, during and after everything we do. The prophet says: I will pray, and then I will understand. When you administer the sacraments, meditate on what you are doing. When you celebrate Mass, reflect on the sacrifice you are offering. When you pray the office, think about the words you are saying and the Lord to whom you are speaking. When you take care of your people, meditate on how the Lord’s blood that has washed them clean so that all that you do becomes a work of love.

This is the way we can easily overcome the countless difficulties we have to face day after day, which, after all, are part of our work: in meditation we find the strength to bring Christ to birth in ourselves and in other men.
          For this reason, I will be gone on my retreat this week.  To enter more deeply into meditation and prayer and my priesthood.  So I can hopefully improve my example of the faith, so I can give myself in service to you more perfectly.  Please pray for me.
          Pray also for all our seminarians.  I would encourage you to pick one and pray for him daily.  Or pray for one every day of the month.  Today, I wish to end by lifting up in prayer these men discerning the priesthood.  Please respond: Lord, watch over him.
                   Seminarians 2017-18
Deacon Patrick Hake
Deacon Jay Horning
Deacon David Huneck
Deacon Nathan Maskal
Deacon Thomas Zehr
Jose Arroyo
Daniel Niezer
Spenser St. Louis
Stephen Felicichia
Daniel Koehl
Michael Ammer
Jonathan Evangelista
Benjamin Landrigan
Keeton Lockwood
Logan Parrish
Brian Isenbarger
Joe Knepper
Augustine Onuoha
Samuel Anderson
Vincent Faurote
Brian Florin
Brian Kempiak
Bobby Krisch
Zane Langenbrunner
Jacob Schneider
Jonathan Alvarez
Dominic Garrett
Mark Hellinger
Caleb Kruse
David Langford
Nicholas Monnin