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, December 30, 2018

Holy Family

Audio: click here!

As we celebrate the octave of Christmas, we remember the gift of family life and the example of the family life.  We are invited to reaffirm and reengage in family life.  Family life is a struggle, a challenge that requires the best of us day after day after day.  Even with God's grace, this is work, a cross, but definitely worth it.
The 2nd reading: God invites us to be a part of His family.  We are united to Jesus in such a close way that we are called "children of God."  God desires to be so close to us that he draws us into the most intimate type of relation we know of, that of family.

The 1st reading: Our families are to be dedicated to God.
Hannah gives her son, Samuel, completely to God.  Our families are for God, even if it means real sacrifices.  There is a temptation to get too self-focused - or too family-focused - so that it seems to be us vs. the world, but rather our families are called to be a light for others.  Our lives are not for ourselves, nor are our families.  The same goes for the church.  We aren't here to make ourselves holy just so that we can get to heaven or be happy.  No, we are called to share this with others, and so also with the family.

Holy family is not perfect family.  There is no perfect family.  I just spent three

Poor Saint Joseph, always going to Confession alone.

A saint is a sinner who keeps on trying.  If we are trying to live our family life well, it isn't about never messing up, but is about continually rededicating ourselves to growing and improving.  Our strength lies in the little things.  The Christian life, and also the family life, is more like a marathon.

Three simple pieces of daily family life are wrapped up in simple phrases.
1. I am sorry.  apologize.  Admit we are wrong.  Seek reconciliation.
2. I forgive you.  Really let go.  Desire reconciliation and healing more than winning.
3. I love you.  This is what make a holy family.  Love as Jesus loves us, as God our heavenly father who invites us to be part of His family, loves us.

If we can say these three things and grow in them one day at a time, then our families will be what they are meant to be: a light for the world through which the love of Jesus can shine upon others who really need it, and allow our families to be a safe haven for others to come and find healing and strength they need to live their own lives in Christ Jesus.  Let us pray to Mary, Joseph, and the child Jesus, that they may intercede for us to truly live this vocation in our homes.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Christmas - babies and God

Audio: click here!

Christmas is a wonderful gift from God.  It is a gift that reminds us every year to never forget what is the greatest Gift of all: the Lord Jesus.  This gift of Christmas points us towards Easter, for the most important thing about Jesus is at the end of his earthly life and the beginning of his return to eternal life: His paschal mystery that sets us free from sin and death.  Anything else about Jesus means nothing if it doesn't connect to that one truth of the Good News.
          Now for today's mystery, we are led to behold how God chose to save us, how he chose to come among us.  With quiet wonders, with whispers in the night, we join the shepherds who were told the secret.  With them we are astounded to see an army of angels singing "Glory to God in the highest!" while they announce that God is present among us in the lowest, simplest, humble-est.  God comes in secret, in quiet.  God chose to save us by sending His Son to us, by taking our human nature to Himself, by becoming a little baby inside Mary's womb, and then born among us today.
          What does this teach us about God?  What is He trying to show us?
          So, let's think about this for a minute.  Now I've been blessed to have a big family and three of my siblings have had children.  My oldest brother and his wife had their first child just four months ago: Phoenix.  I met her about a few weeks after she was born and I get to keep up with her a lot through my phone - that's right, Snapchat is great for families, folks.  I love seeing my nieces and nephews.  Now This girl, Phoenix, has been so fun to watch as she grows and learns how to control her hands and arms.  So, what are some basic things about babies?
1. Babies are irresistible, and we often even call them adorable.  When you look at a baby you often are filled with wonder, with amazement, especially when they are looking back at you!
2. Babies are harmless.  Seriously, could you ever be afraid of a baby?  Babies can't hurt anyone or anything, except maybe themselves.  Is that why we often talk to babies in such silly ways?  We aren't ashamed of ourselves in front of them.
3. Babies are needy,  What happens if you leave a baby alone for too long?  They start crying.  They want something, whether it's their diaper changed or food or they're too hot or they're too cold, or they're uncomfortable, or maybe they're just too comfortable and that scares them - they just cry for no reason sometimes!  Babies need parents and other people to help them.
          These three things tell us a bit about why God became a baby.
1. God wants us to draw close to Him.  He wants us to approach Him and be with Him.  He doesn’t want us to be afraid, but wants to invite us into a relationship.
2. God wants us to trust Him completely.  He's not out to harm us, and He doesn't want us to be ashamed of ourselves in front of Him.  He looks upon us with eyes that continually wonder anew at us, with a pure love that takes away our pain and heals us.  Why should we ever be afraid of our God who loves us this much?
3. In a certain way, God needs us.  He loves us so much that He has no alternative.  He has chosen to live only with us, no matter what the cost, even if it means the Cross.  He needs you to carry Him, to hold Him, to sing to Him with your life and your love.
          There's one other point about Christmas that I think is very important: God didn't become a baby in a royal palace or in an important place, even though he deserved far better than the entire world could ever offer Him.  He didn't have a huge fanfare of noisy celebration at his birth.  Only three wise men and shepherds were able to hear the secret.  Instead, God decided to come in a humble, lowly, poor stable, with shepherds around Him so that we can remember that God wants us all to be close to Him.  We don't need to be special in the eyes of the world to get close to Jesus.  The only thing God wants from us is our love and our lives, and that is something we all are able to give.
          Finally, the manger is here year-round.  This tabernacle is Jesus's manger until the end of time.  It is here that we simple, humble, lowly people, like the shepherds of Bethlehem, get to draw close to God, to look with wonder at the face of Infinite Love that heals us and transforms us.  It is here that God wants you to be close to Him.
          Are you afraid of babies?  Of course not.  At Christmas, God is telling us, "don't be afraid of me.  Come close.  I want only you."

Advent 4 -

Audio: click here!

When we are listening to God, we will feel the call to service.  To serve is to be like Christ, who came not to be served but to serve.  This is why Mary, as soon as her encounter with the angel is complete, sets her mind towards her relative Elizabeth, whom she had just heard about from Gabriel as well.  The angel told Mary that Elizabeth has conceived in her old age.  Perhaps Mary took this message as another invitation from God, an invitation to serve in another way, and she gets right to it.  She travels many days to be with her relative, and spends three months with her.  I think in our culture if we were to spend three hours serving someone we might find it hard to avoid panicking.
Mary was indeed "blessed among women" not because she carried Jesus within her.  It was because she was so responsive to God's grace and His will for her life that she was blessed, and thus she was invited to be the Mother of God.
I visited my family recently and I was very impressed by two of my younger siglings.  They were back for a few days at home and both work in restaurant business.  One was preparing dinner and stepped away from that to make me a quick sandwich because I was starving.  Another brought wine and got the table set for dinner that evening without anyone else helping.  All this happened so quickly and without thought that I was deeply impressed.  They noticed an opportunity for service and they did it before I could even begin to help.  They were using their skills to serve, and jumped right in.
When we are close to God, like Mary, we become like him.  This happens with friends, married couples, etc.  In many ways, not every way, they become like each other because of their closeness.  Well, since God is love, when we stay close to Him, we become more like Him.  We wish to be love, we wish to serve, we wish to give for those around us.  This is the lesson that Mary shows us today in spending three months with Elizabeth.  Truly she was blessed.  May we be so as well.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Advent 3 - Gaudete Sunday -

Audio: click here!

Today is known as Gaudete Sunday, meaning to rejoice, as we hear stressed in the second reading.  But we aren't talking about some counterfeit joy.  We want real joy, and real joy, brothers and sisters, is not a surface-level joy.  Real joy goes all the way down to the depths of our heart and the depths of our problems, and heals and transforms them. Nor is this a compartmentalized joy, experienced in only some aspects of our being and not others.  Real joy is something that seeps into every single part of our lives.

For real joy must be founded on truth, and in true conversion.

John the Baptist, we are told, preached "Good news" (the Gospel) to the crowds who ran out to the area of the Jordan to hear his message.  All the people who went out to see John went on a sort of retreat.  It would have taken a day or more to journey to the Jordan river from Jerusalem, 21 miles.  If you were father west than Jerusalem, even longer.  Imagine the planning, preparations, and hard work it would require to go out there.  Sometimes we think it hard to make room in our lives for retreats and for prayer, but in this case, these crowds had a much harder time to get to John the Baptist's river retreat.  And for all that hard work, what did they get to hear?  It is good for us to imagine what the crowds would have thought about John's message.  I think we will see that they experience real joy at his message, but at the same time, there is some great news and some scary news.  First, John says that the Messiah is coming after him: great news! Finally, after all these centuries, the Lord is sending the promised Christ (Messiah) who will deliver Israel, and right here our own time, or perhaps our children's time.  But then John says some more mysterious and unsettling things: the Messiah will baptize with the Holy Spirit (good) and with fire (what? I much rather prefer water!) and he has a winnowing fan, and the chaff is going to be sent to the unquenchable fire.   Just a quick side-note: at harvest, the wheat was crushed on the threshing floor, then tossed into the air so the grains would drop and the chaff would be fanned away to be cast aside.

The reality is, brothers and sisters, this is intimidating for John's audience.  Ultimately, he is saying that crunch time (pun intended) is coming and we want to be wheat and not chaff.  The Good News he preaches, just like that of Zephaniah, is harsh: we need to get our act together.  And this is why the questions posed to John the Baptist make sense: people want to know what they need to do to be gathered into the barn and escape the unquenchable fire.  I would recommend reading the lessons John gives once again in full.  They may speak something to your own heart and life.  But ultimately, God is trying to tell all of us how to prepare for Jesus' coming, not next week, not when we die, but now, and we all need to hear that message.  So we ought to ask him in prayer: "God, what do I need to change now, today?  Who do I need to treat better?  What habits needs to change?"

If we do so, we will begin to experience true joy.  Let's not be afraid of John's call to conversion, which is really the call of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.  Why not change for the better?  Why not try following God more perfectly and turning away from any sins we have?  I once heard it said that the definition of "insanity" is dong the same thing over and over again and expecting to get a different result.  If toying around with surface-level joy and compartmentalized joy never leaves us satisfied, why not try the hard work and change required for real joy?  We have just over a week before Christmas.  Give God some space in your life and see what He can do.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Advent 2 -

Audio: Click here

John the Baptist - Advent/Lent - preparation.  In Christ, the world is changing.

1 Cor 7:31 Those who use the world as not abusing it (not using it to the full), for the world in its present form is passing away.

The current order of things is not stable.

When I was a kid my friends and I would try all kinds of creative and mildly dangerous things, usually involving trampolines or bike ramps.  Using the best engineering a twelve or thirteen-year-old can conjure up, we were sure that the plan was always fool-proof.  But based off the scars and blood that often ensued, we must have had some serious mistakes in our designs.  And yet, we never noticed it: the trampoline looked solid.  After all, it was propped up on bricks and everything: what can go wrong?  Many things, my friends, can go wrong. and many things did.

Our day and age is not very different from the time of Christ in a lot of ways, but one of them is this: we often don't notice how fragile and artificial things really are.  We take for granted, just like myself as a reckless daredevil, that the apparently stable things in our world are not going anywhere, particularly the powers that be. 

Dorothy Day’s biography of Therese spoke in the introduction about how Therese showed us a little way for us who feel like our little things can’t change the world.  When faced versus "system" we may be temped to lose hope.

We see a huge quote-unquote "system" out there that broods over our life and the lives of everyone and controls the way things are, much like Luke accounts today in chapter three of his Gospel.  Luke is setting his audience up to consider the "powers that be," the "system" that controls everything: Tiberias Caesar, Pontius Pilate, Herod and the other tetrarchs, and the high priests (peculiarly two) Annas and Caiaphas.  Then he turns it upside down once again: The Word of God comes to John in the desert.  John is the forerunner who is going to start the process of turning things upside down.  In Jesus, the "system" is broken and the "powers that be" are made powerless.

The things we often hang our hat on, brothers and sisters, are not so stable as we think they are, unless it be the Lord alone that we rely on.  Everything else is idolatry and one time or another it will fail us like my poor trampoline on bricks.
Let us learn from John the Baptist and Mary and Therese to rely only on the Lord, for then God can use us for something great.

Advent - Get ready!

Sorry this is so late, I forgot to upload it!
Here's the audio from Sunday 9:30am: click here

Monday, November 26, 2018

Sunday Homily - Christ's Kingdom and My Heart

Audio: click here!

Four ways the kingdom of this world does not align with Christ's kingdom:
1. Consumerism
2. Individualism
3. Secularism
4. Relativism

Four ways to examine if these "diseases" have started to enter our life:
1. Calendar
2. Checkbook / Wallet
3. Use of entertainment
4. House (each room) and other possessions

Monday, November 19, 2018

THE END - Nothing to Fear

Audio (9:30am Mass) - Click Here!

As we are approaching the end of the church year, our readings speak of the end of days, so I thought it would be good to look at the end.  Really there are two: the final judgment and the particular judgment, which happens when we die before the final judgment.

Jesus is speaking about the coming of the Son of Man, which we also call the Second Coming of Christ, which begins the final judgment as we profess in the creed that "he will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead."  The type of imagery Jesus is using is known as apocalyptic.  Think of the book of Revelation, which is just the Latin word for Apocalypse, and is almost entirely in apocalyptic language, like our first reading today as well.  The prophet Daniel, who speaks of the Archangel Michael in today's passage, reminds us that Jesus' coming will bring glory to some and shame to others.  If we are in Christ and united to him, we can look with confident expectation for the return of the one we love and who we know loves us.  So - what are we afraid of?

Ultimately, every fear is connected with death, with the loss of some part of life.  Death is the loss of all those things combined, and thus is the greatest fear we have by nature.  We can overcome this fear, but often it comes too late.

I'm reading a book right now called Being Mortal.  It's been a NYTimes best seller for 62 weeks now.  It is very well-written, timely, and I highly recommend it.  The author, a doctor named Atul Gawande, talks about how our approach to medicine often ignores the fact that we are going to die, and how the choices we make end up missing the main concerns/needs of the patient during the long, slow process of dying.  Think of this fact: in the past, almost everyone was susceptible to death by disease or accident or war on any given day, month, or year.  We live in a totally different circumstance with modern medicine, so that outside of tragic accidents or acts of violence, we all feel much more assured that our health is not going to bring us home to God tomorrow or next week or even beyond.  Because of this, we hear the urgency of the Gospel in a very different way.  "Repent today!" doesn't hit as hard.  We feel like "the end" will have to be down the road for us, at least certainly not tomorrow.

So we often don't face death until it's right upon us.  Confident that medicine can always save us, we very often end up with only days to prepare for something that should be part of a lifetime.  For the reality is: it could be today. We know neither the day nor the hour, Our Lord tells us.
Remember I spoke about the word Apocalypse - or Revelation - which literally means to take away the veil.  Well, I think the devil has put a veil on us, has pulled the wool over our eyes in so many ways, including the reality of mortality, as well as of fear of death.
Why should we be afraid of Jesus coming back or meeting Him at our own end.  God wants to give us something so much better than this life, and we won't lose anything good that we have in this life.  All our relationships will be heightened to a more beautiful level because they will all be in Christ Jesus.  We pray "thy kingdom come," but do we ever think of how wonderful a gift that Kingdom will actually be?  Do we consider how much we really do want His Kingdom to come?

Another truth is: we live a lot better when we face the reality of being mortal.  If we face death, we can overcome the great fear that, as the Letter to the Hebrews says, "has subjected us to slavery for our entire lives."

Another book for helping us when loved ones are nearing death: Final Gifts.  My mom read it when my grandmother was dying about five years ago.  We are all called at different times in life to be like Simon of Cyrene who helped Jesus carry his cross.  The final journey is an important time for us to be ready to lovingly support family and friends who are preparing to go to Jesus.  They may have worries or concerns or needs that we can be a support for.  Perhaps helping someone else is God's way of preparing us for our particular judgement, which will ultimately help us to live every day better.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Widow's Mite - Small Things with Great Love Capital Campaign

Audio (9:30am Mass) Click here!

God wants us to give Him everything before we can receive everything.  This is the lesson of the readings today, both the widow of Zarepath who is called by Elijah to give up her last bit of food in service of God's will, and of the widow at the temple who in the Gospel gives up her whole livelihood for God.  They seem to be at rock bottom, but still they give.  What a testimony of faith and trust in God.  And for that they are richly rewarded.
It seems that God chooses to work most powerfully in the lives of those who completely depend on Him, who hold nothing back for themselves.  If we give God everything, then we are finally empty handed enough to receive the abundance he wants to offer us (usually not material abundance).  Sometimes that's how God works.  Perhaps that's always how God works.
Mary was asked by Gabriel to trust God with her life.
Joseph, when he took the holy family and fled for Egypt, was putting their lives completely in God's hands.  Traveling at that time didn't have any of the protections we have nowadays that make it safe and less stressful.
David when he faced Goliath without any armor and only a sling was giving up control entirely to God and trusting Him alone, something none of the other soldiers of Saul's army were willing to risk, even fully equipped.
Job had to abandon himself to God's will when he lost everything, and eventually God blessed Him abundantly.
Elijah himself will put everything in God's hands when he challenges the 450 false prophets by himself alone at Mount Carmel, just in the chapter following today's passage.  He has to run out of the country to escape the wrath of the queen Jezebel.
Giving up everything to God is a requirement of the spiritual life.  This is what Jesus means when He says "everyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple."  But not just possessions, Jesus mentions that we must put our relationships (father, mother, sister, brother) and even our own lives second to following Him, which is why the martyrs are so important to us: they did precisely that.
Sacrifice is a special word.  It literally means to make something holy or to do a holy deed.  In the Old Testament, things were made holy by being offered to God in the temple.  Yes animals and food offerings were sacrificed to God, but also the people and the things that were before God were made holy through those rituals.  Then they were dedicated only to God's service.  This is what our entire lives should be: given completely to God, then returned back into our control to be used for His Glory.  The word Stewardship means pretty much the same thing: a steward is in charge of something that does not belong to him, so he must take care of it and use it in the way his master desires.  Our lives, and all we have, are meant to be lived in stewardship.  Like Mary, Joseph, David, Elijah, the widows of today's readings, and all the saints, we need to live as if our lives are not our own, but about something much greater than ourselves.  In this Eucharist, God wishes to give us the abundant blessing of Eternal Life that is found in His Son Jesus.  But we must give Him everything first.  Let us pray to the saints to show us how to do that day after day.

Today is committment Sunday for our capital campaign and so I would like to ask the ushers to distribute the pledge cards as I begin to review the case of our campaign.  As you receive your pledge cards, please fill out the basic information as I do a quick run-through again of our needs which you've heard about in the past weeks and received a letter in the mail outlining the campaign.  Our parish is looking to raise $1.3 million dollars over three years for various projects to help our parish church to be a visible sign of the vibrant life that is present here day after day.  In order to ensure our church stays warm in the winter and cool in the summer, we are planning to replace the over 60-yr old boiler and the A/C units which will require replacement in a few years by government regulation.  We will also install A/C for Payne Hall below the church.  The church itself will receive new lighting to brighten up the space and spread light better on our ceiling and paintings of the stations of the cross.  The 30-yr old flooring will be replaced.  The church pews will have the kneeler pads replaced.  The tabernacle will receive a larger altar of repose.  The choir and Mary shrine will trade places, and the chapel will have a glass divider allowing the chapel to be used as a "calming area" during Masses, with a door toward the rear of church.  New audio technology for hearing aids should assist people with difficulty from ambient noise and allow them to participate more fully in the liturgy.  An information kiosk in the back of church will provide a central location for helping people get involved in the parish.  Finally, we also will cover the Annual Bishop's Appeal and prepare to replace the parish center roof and resurface the parking lot.  These plans will cover our foreseeable needs to put our parish in position for continued success and growth as we bring the love of God to the world from our prayer and through our service to the poor and needy.
But this is going to require all of us to be a part of it, and today we are doing this together, because we really are doing this together.  As we prepare to make our own pledges, I am happy to confess that we have already received pledges from about 60 households to amount to almost $400,000 of our goal, of which my personal pledge is a part (yes, my meager salary is going to help build our church!).  This pledge total is a phenomenal sign of the dedication of our parishioners and evidence that we can attain this goal.  I am truly grateful to those who have stepped forward in faith already to reach this huge portion of our goal, almost one third already!  But to finish our goal, sacrifice is needed on behalf of all of us, and so I ask you to consider at least the commitment to give $1.50 each day (that is, $45 a month) for 36-months to our pledge campaign.  This is truly a case of the widow's sacrifice, putting everything into God's hands.  I am excited about the work that this parish offers to South Bend and St. Joseph County in so many ways, and am hopeful that this project will be a true benefit to our parishioners and really enable us to continue our mission and ministries.
Please look over your pledge cards to be sure they are complete, and I now invite our ushers to come to the front of church and begin to collect the pledges.
I want to thank you for your pledge today, for your commitment to give everything to God like Mary, Joseph, and Therese the little flower.  May we continue to do our small things with great love, and find joy in filling the heart of God with our love.
Every single pledge will receive a thank you letter in the mail.  If we have not heard from parishioners due to travel, etc., they will receive a series of follow-up mailings inviting them to participate in this important campaign.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Two for the price of one

Audio: Click here!
There is no other commandment greater than these, Jesus says, after he answers the scribe who puts Him to the test.  The Pharisees and scribes (two different groups but both very united against Christ who threatens their power), they both try again and again to put Jesus on the trial of public opinion and hope for Him to make a huge mistake.  Every time, however, Jesus undoes their snares and today is no exception.  What is the greatest commandment? Is a test to hopefully humiliate Christ so they can maintain their authority.  However, this man has a heart that is more focused on God than it is on shaming Jesus, as we see in Christ's final words to the man after he responds with understanding: "You are not far from the Kingdom of God."  This is probably the greatest compliment Christ gives to an adversary, and it is worth noticing.  If we truly understand these two truths the man says today, then we ourselves "are not far from the Kingdom of God." 
So let us look at these two commandments that Jesus gives as sort of one and the same.  I guess you could say it’s two for the price of one.  Or better yet, it is if you want one, you gotta take them both.  So here we go: First, Jesus answers with the prayer every faithful, praying Jew would have known, for it is something they recite twice a day.  It is called the She'mah from the book of Deuteronomy which we heard as the first reading today.  In seminary I learned to sing it in my Hebrew class.  It goes like this...  v'hayoo ha-d'v'rim ha-aleh asher anoki blah blah blah (I don't remember the rest, maybe because it wasn't set to music - or because I'm getting old, or because I don't recite it twice a day like a good Jew would have done!) Anyways, it was a beautiful prayer that affirmed the monotheism of the Jewish people: nothing can replace God or compare with God, so they need to live that way, loving Him with all that he deserves, which is our entire self.  Thus we have the poetic repetition to love God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.  (Jesus adds, by the way, with all your mind. Perhaps to speak more clearly to the audience of his time that the mind isn't excluded from the everything that God deserves from us)
The second commandment comes from Leviticus: to love your neighbor as yourself.  Love is not a fuzzy feeling for Jewish people.  It was much deeper.  It was more closely tied to justice, to how you treated someone.  Freely giving them what they deserved as human beings was loving them.
And all that comes back to God.  Why they deserved anything was because of the biblical truth that we are all created in God's image and likeness.  God has made us all, unrepeatably, and we must honor the truth that each of us is called to a relationship of love with Him, and thus with each other.
          If we live these two truths, if we meditate on them deeply, then we are not far from the Kingdom of God.  This is truly something worth modeling our lives around!
Now how do you eat a whole pie?  One bite at a time, or so I hear.  I’ve never actually tried to do it myself.  I promise!  So for us to live this 2-in-1 commandment, we should really look for one way we can make our daily lives fit more closely with what these words of our Lord require of us.  How can I love God more today, with all my heart, with all my soul, with all my mind, and with all my strength? (Perhaps it should start with a daily examination of conscience.  Five minutes each day, we can reflect back and ask "how in the last 24 hours did I love God or fail to do so?")  How can I love my neighbor as myself more today?  Perhaps it starts with our family or our friends or co-workers. Can I forgive the way I wish them to forgive?  Whatever it may be, let us ask God to show us how to live these two lessons a little more deeply one day at a time.  If we do so, we are not far from the Kingdom of God!

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Homily - Bartimaeus and Us

Homily & Campaign Proposal: Click here to listen

Jesus healed many people in the Gospels, and a lot of the times we don’t hear the details of it.  Sometime there are individual encounters, but almost never are they named.  Today’s encounter is remembered because it is special, and it is told in such a way that it outlines what the every Christian life is meant to be – in one way or another.  The blind man from today, Bartimaeus, must have been known to the early Christian communities.  This is the best explanation for why his name is remembered.  It says he got up and followed after Jesus, which is not just a fact, but is also symbolic language for becoming a disciple.  The same goes for Jesus’ call.  He indeed calls the man to come to him (notice that the community of faith brings this man to Christ, kind of like the man who is lowered through the roof on a stretcher – a great lesson of intercessory prayer), but that calling is a symbol for the invitation to the church, to be invited into the faith community.

2. I want to see.  – How rarely do we truly express our need.
Symbolic for the light of faith.
3. Jesus heals.  The doctor needs to know our needs.  Do we trust him?
4. With transformation comes the demand for response – DISCIPLESHIP.  Will we follow?

Trust God.  Draw close to him (through church).  Express your needs.  Walk behind him in faith.

Campaign Presentation #1

I am very excited to announce that we have launched the 3-year (36-month) pledge drive titled “Small Things with Great Love” to raise $1.3 million dollars for the benefit of our parish facilities. In fact, the past week or two we began with some individual visits and two small-group information nights. As of today, a number of us who were asked to pledge ahead of time have already committed to a total of ~200,000 dollars (15% of goal), showing that we are on track for success if we have a similar amount of commitment and support from all of us. Although this will require all of us to make significant sacrifices, it will be a great blessing to the parish.
This is an exciting opportunity for our parish, so please allow me to explain to you as I have with the initial pledge-group some of the main projects that we are looking at. The largest portion of the funds raised will be toward something many of you are aware of: our church boiler which has been faithful for over six decades, decided to take a couple weekends off last winter. Judging by the coats I saw everyone wearing those days (not to mention the hats and gloves) I am sure this is something that everyone can be supportive of. We also will need to change our air-conditioning units, as these machines use a cooling technology that is not very environmentally friendly and the government is phasing it out. The initial quote I received for this was $450,000. This is the main reason I stand before you today, but I would like to share all the others as well.
The finance council recommended that we do a campaign once and do it right, so we looked at other items of deferred maintenance or general upkeep that could be part of a capital campaign.
First off, the Annual Bishop’s Appeal is still a need that we as a parish must contribute to for our wider church, and this year’s parish contribution will be included in the pledge drive so that we are not sending confusing and mixed signals by two campaigns at once. Next year, we will do the ABA as a separate commitment.
As we looked at parish needs, the focus was directed to the church interior which has not had a widespread project since the renovation of 1987. One of the things that came up was these lights, which are original like the boiler, and the wiring is very dried up and rotted off in places so that it is truly a hazard to our church. Our parish maintenance man has cut back the wiring multiple times. Instead of rewiring, I had the lighting specialists from Notre Dame come over when they were working on the basilica last winter/spring, and they gave us a proposal for lights that will be brighter, be dimmable, and shine light more generously than just down, allowing the church’s beautiful ceiling and stations of the cross to be more visible in these winter months. It would also make the sanctuary brighter, which is important for the lectors to read well at the ambo. I recently heard that the lights were going to be replaced decades ago but a leaky roof diverted funds to that more important project. I think it will be great to finally see this old dream brought to completion.
The carpet also needs replaced as it has served well these 31 years. But for the area where Communion is distributed (and the sanctuary) I would like to return to a hard surface similar to the church’s original set-up. This is so that the Most Precious Blood of Christ can be easily cleaned and properly cared for in the instance of a spill.
Something else I think we all could appreciate is new kneeler pads in our pews. The pews themselves, which were used when we purchased them, are in pretty good shape, but we have received some donations in the past for their refurbishing and I think it would look great to have them stained to match the beams and ceiling of our church.
Other ideas are not focused as much on current needs but are meant for the enhancing of our Eucharistic worship. Along lines with Fr. Tom’s revised proposals just over two years ago, the tabernacle will have a more substantial base for it, often nowadays called an altar of repose, allowing for a cleaner look in our sanctuary. The back wall will not be touched, and I have a drawing of what the altar potentially would look like (at least size-wise).
The choir will move about ten feet and trade places with the statue of Mary so that we have the devotional space in the front of church. This also allows the choir to be more connected with the congregation, facing more toward the altar, the focal point of our prayer. We could also consider moving the statue of Therese up here somewhere, since right now she is not so visible to us while we are at prayer.
In order to allow for easier access to the church from the chapel during the liturgy, we would install a permanent glass division as well as a door at the back of the chapel area. This also allows the area to be a temporary calming area when parents feel they need to use the space for a short time before returning to their pews. It could still also be used for our large Masses twice a year at Christmas and Easter.
Beneath the pews, under the carpet, we have hopes to install a relatively inexpensive audio-loop technology that works with hearing aids to allow for much clearer audio of the readings and music at Mass.
In the back of church, an info kiosk (probably movable) would be very helpful for both parishioners and visitors alike to have a central and conspicuous location to go for answers to any questions or concerns they have about involvement in the life of our parish, to pick up flyers, etc.
The last idea for the church is to create a priest vesting room in our current decoration storage area that can also serve as a second Confessional when needed.
Not too many years down the road, we can foresee two other significant expenses that will be essential: the roof of the parish center, which is now 18 years old, and the parking lot, which will need re-grading at parts, and a new surface after some more winter seasons.
I’m sure that was a lot to take in, and you may have only heard about some of these things in the past. Don’t worry, all this is going to be on the parish website for access anytime, anywhere. You can also see the table in the back of church.
Although we have asked several parishioners to come forward with their pledges beforehand (with some still discerning their finances to make an accurate pledge, we are not asking for pledges today from the rest of the parish. We want two weeks of information to help guide and direct your pledge process, and to give us time to think about how we can be a part of this important time in our parish.
This is an exciting opportunity for our parish to prepare itself for the decades to come, so that our worship space looks a little fresher and can continue to speak clearly about the vibrant life we have in the parish, making it an inviting space for guests who can more easily be brought into the community of faith and encounter Jesus here, like Bartimaeus in today’s Gospel.  May we be driven by this initiative to continue our work of building God’s kingdom through small things with great love.

Monday, October 22, 2018


Audio: Click Here

Power corrupts.  Absolute power corrupts absolutely.
This formula works only with humans who have a tendency toward sin and have not yet overcome it by grace.  Well I guess fallen angels too.  Those who have abused their freedom will abuse any power they have as well.
James and John come before Jesus today walking on seriously thin ice: they know that Jesus has given Simon Peter a special role in the kingdom because he gave him a new name and the keys.  They want some of that power for themselves.  They got nicknames too, it says in Mark's gospel, boanarges, the Sons of Thunder (doesn't that sound like a rock band?) and they are wondering if some power can come along with that name.  But they are blind to all Jesus has been trying to say again and again.  Talk about selective hearing.  The only thing that stays in their head is the glory part and not the suffering part, which goes in one ear and out the other.  Jesus might have felt like he was dealing with teenagers - no offense to teenagers, because we all act this way at our worst.

What we see is the potential for a power-trip.

This is indeed a reality that hits close to home, for we are seeing nowadays the exposure of ways leaders in the church have abused their power in horrific, sinful ways.  Just this past week, Archbishop Vigano issued a third testimony letter in response to the problem of human weakness within the leaders of the church which has lately centered around the U.S. ex-Cardinal McCarick.  And unfortunately, this isn't new, for the saying that "power corrupts" can be traced back thousands of years.

Jesus shows us how authority is meant to be used.  To love is to spend yourself for others.  "Can you drink the cup?" James and John don't know what Jesus really means here, but are more than happy to say yes.  Indeed, they will drink the cup of martyrdom someday, but only after their delusions of grandeur are shattered by the crucified Lord, between two other criminals bleeding and suffocating to death at Jesus' right and his left, ironically in the exact places James and John are just asking to be seated.  Jesus' lesson is a wake up call for not only the twelve apostles, but for all of us:  "great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many."

The temptation to abuse power is always there for us fallen creatures.  It is the same temptation that the devil offered Adam and Eve "you may become like gods."  This is a spiritual battle we continue in, and so Bishop Rhoades (and Pope Francis) want us to remember to call upon divine assistance.  This is why we now have prayer cards to Saint Michael the Archangel.  Please leave them in the pews to be prayed after every Mass for the months ahead.

The final question for us is: how will I serve today?  Who will I serve today?  For if I do not serve someone, then I am only serving myself.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Saying No to Jesus - A recipe for disappointment

Audio: click here!

Texts for reflection on today's Gospel reading (the primary sources of my homily!)
From JPII's Homily in Boston on 1 Oct 1979:

6. And now coming back to the story of the young man in the Gospels, we see that he heard the call—"Follow me"—but that he "went away sad, for he had many possessions".
The sadness of the young man makes us reflect. We could be tempted to think that many possessions, many of the goods of this world, can bring happiness. We see instead in the case of the young man in the Gospel that his many possessions had become an obstacle to accepting the call of Jesus to follow him. He was not ready to say yes to Jesus, and no to self, to say yes to love and no to escape.
Real love is demanding. I would fail in my mission if I did not clearly tell you so. For it was Jesus—our Jesus himself—who said : "You are my friends if you do what I command you" (Jn 15 :14). Love demands effort and a personal commitment to the will of God. It means discipline and sacrifice, but it also means joy and human fulfillment.
Dear young people : do not be afraid of honest effort and honest work; do not be afraid of the truth. With Christ's help, and through prayer, you can answer his call, resisting temptations and fads, and every form of mass manipulation. Open your hearts to the Christ of the Gospels—to his love and his truth and his joy. Do not go away sad!
And, as a last word to all of you who listen to me tonight, I would say this : the reason for my mission, for my journey, through the United States is to tell you, to tell everyone—young and old alike—to say to everyone in the name of Christ: "Come and follow me !"
Follow Christ! You who are married: share your love and your burdens with each other; respect the human dignity of your spouse; accept joyfully the life that God gives through you; make your marriage stable and secure for your children's sake.
Follow Christ! You who are single or who are preparing for marriage. Follow Christ! You who are young or old. Follow Christ ! You who are sick or aging ; who are suffering or in pain. You who feel the need for healing, the need for love, the need for a friend—follow Christ!
To all of you I extend—in the name of Christ—the call, the invitation, the plea : "Come and follow me". This is why I have come to America, and why I have come to Boston tonight: to call you to Christ—to call all of you and each of you to live in his love, today and forever. Amen !

from Pope John Paul II's Veritatis Splendor

“Teacher, what good must I do to have eternal life?” (Mt 19:16)

8. The question which the rich young man puts to Jesus of Nazareth is one which rises from the depths of his heart. It is an essential and unavoidable question for the life of every man, for it is about the moral good which must be done, and about eternal life. The young man senses that there is a connection between moral good and the fulfilment of his own destiny. He is a devout Israelite, raised as it were in the shadow of the Law of the Lord. If he asks Jesus this question, we can presume that it is not because he is ignorant of the answer contained in the Law. It is more likely that the attractiveness of the person of Jesus had prompted within him new questions about moral good. He feels the need to draw near to the One who had begun his preaching with this new and decisive proclamation: “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the Gospel” (Mk 1:15).

People today need to turn to Christ once again in order to receive from him the answer to their questions about what is good and what is evil. Christ is the Teacher, the Risen One who has life in himself and who is always present in his Church and in the world. It is he who opens up to the faithful the book of the Scriptures and, by fully revealing the Father’s will, teaches the truth about moral action. At the source and summit of the economy of salvation, as the Alpha and the Omega of human history (cf. Rev 1:8; 21:6; 22:13), Christ sheds light on man’s condition and his integral vocation. Consequently, “the man who wishes to understand himself thoroughly — and not just in accordance with immediate, partial, often superficial, and even illusory standards and measures of his being — must with his unrest, uncertainty and even his weakness and sinfulness, with his life and death, draw near to Christ. He must, so to speak, enter him with all his own self; he must ‘appropriate’ and assimilate the whole of the reality of the Incarnation and Redemption in order to find himself. If this profound process takes place within him, he then bears fruit not only of adoration of God but also of deeper wonder at himself”.(16)

If we therefore wish to go to the heart of the Gospel’s moral teaching and grasp its profound and unchanging content, we must carefully inquire into the meaning of the question asked by the rich young man in the Gospel and, even more, the meaning of Jesus’ reply, allowing ourselves to be guided by him. Jesus, as a patient and sensitive teacher, answers the young man by taking him, as it were, by the hand, and leading him step by step to the full truth.

“There is only one who is good” (Mt 19:17)

9. Jesus says: “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments” (Mt 19:17). In the versions of the Evangelists Mark and Luke the question is phrased in this way: “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone” (Mk 10:18; cf. Lk 18:19).

Before answering the question, Jesus wishes the young man to have a clear idea of why he asked his question. The “Good Teacher” points out to him — and to all of us — that the answer to the question, “What good must I do to have eternal life?” can only be found by turning one’s mind and heart to the “One” who is good: “No one is good but God alone” (Mk 10:18; cf. Lk 18:19). Only God can answer the question about what is good, because he is the Good itself.

To ask about the good, in fact, ultimately means to turn towards God, the fullness of goodness. Jesus shows that the young man’s question is really a religious question, and that the goodness that attracts and at the same time obliges man has its source in God, and indeed is God himself. God alone is worthy of being loved “with all one’s heart, and with all one’s soul, and with all one’s mind” (Mt 22:37). He is the source of man’s happiness. Jesus brings the question about morally good action back to its religious foundations, to the acknowledgment of God, who alone is goodness, fullness of life, the final end of human activity, and perfect happiness.

10. The Church, instructed by the Teacher’s words, believes that man, made in the image of the Creator, redeemed by the Blood of Christ and made holy by the presence of the Holy Spirit, has as the ultimate purpose of his life to live “for the praise of God’s glory” (cf. Eph 1:12), striving to make each of his actions reflect the splendour of that glory. “Know, then, O beautiful soul, that you are the image of God”, writes Saint Ambrose. “Know that you are the glory of God (1 Cor 11:7). Hear how you are his glory. The Prophet says: Your knowledge has become too wonderful for me (cf. Ps. 138:6, Vulg.). That is to say, in my work your majesty has become more wonderful; in the counsels of men your wisdom is exalted. When I consider myself, such as I am known to you in my secret thoughts and deepest emotions, the mysteries of your knowledge are disclosed to me. Know then, O man, your greatness, and be vigilant”.(17)

What man is and what he must do becomes clear as soon as God reveals himself. The Decalogue is based on these words: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage” (Ex 20:2-3). In the “ten words” of the Covenant with Israel, and in the whole Law, God makes himself known and acknowledged as the One who “alone is good”; the One who despite man’s sin remains the “model” for moral action, in accordance with his command, “You shall be holy; for I the Lord your God am holy” (Lev 19:2); as the One who, faithful to his love for man, gives him his Law (cf. Ex 19:9-24 and 20:18-21) in order to restore man’s original and peaceful harmony with the Creator and with all creation, and, what is more, to draw him into his divine love: “I will walk among you, and will be your God, and you shall be my people” (Lev 26:12).

The moral life presents itself as the response due to the many gratuitous initiatives taken by God out of love for man. It is a response of love, according to the statement made in Deuteronomy about the fundamental commandment: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your children” (Dt 6:4-7). Thus the moral life, caught up in the gratuitousness of God’s love, is called to reflect his glory: “For the one who loves God it is enough to be pleasing to the One whom he loves: for no greater reward should be sought than that love itself; charity in fact is of God in such a way that God himself is charity”.(18)

11. The statement that “There is only one who is good” thus brings us back to the “first tablet” of the commandments, which calls us to acknowledge God as the one Lord of all and to worship him alone for his infinite holiness (cf. Ex 20:2-11). The good is belonging to God, obeying him, walking humbly with him in doing justice and in loving kindness (cf.Mic 6:8). Acknowledging the Lord as God is the very core, the heart of the Law, from which the particular precepts flow and towards which they are ordered. In the morality of the commandments the fact that the people of Israel belongs to the Lord is made evident, because God alone is the One who is good. Such is the witness of Sacred Scripture, imbued in every one of its pages with a lively perception of God’s absolute holiness: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts” (Is 6:3).

But if God alone is the Good, no human effort, not even the most rigorous observance of the commandments, succeeds in “fulfilling” the Law, that is, acknowledging the Lord as God and rendering him the worship due to him alone (cf. Mt 4:10). This “fulfilment” can come only from a gift of God: the offer of a share in the divine Goodness revealed and communicated in Jesus, the one whom the rich young man addresses with the words “Good Teacher” (Mk 10:17; Lk 18:18). What the young man now perhaps only dimly perceives will in the end be fully revealed by Jesus himself in the invitation: “Come, follow me” (Mt 19:21).

Sunday, October 7, 2018

One Marriage in France 150yrs ago

Audio from 9:30am: Click Here!
I watched a French movie (the exchange of the princesses) which recounts a double-arranged marriage between the kings of France and Spain as they tried to end a bitter war of twelve years.  It poignantly shows how even in the midst of the royal court and tense political situations, marriages still have the same fundamental problems and challenges.  Indeed, with all the problems and attacks to marriage that come from outside the couple, the most important problems and challenges are within the individual.  For marriage is founded on love - the highest calling of the human person and thus of marriage.  And we cannot truly and fully give ourselves to our neighbor (love) until we have true and full possession of ourselves.  Selfishness is poison to marriage, as it is poison to love.
Last week I went on pilgrimage to France, to see many holy shrines but most importantly for me, to see our patroness, whose relics were on display for over a week in the basilica made in her honor in the early 20th century.  The only book I read while I was away was this: Therese by Dorothy Day.  In her own assessment, she says with regret that this project revealed to her that she only has the ability to write about herself.  However, I am truly enjoying it, and at times the beauty of Therese’s family life, which truly shines through, has brought me to tears.  This girl could not have become a saint without her family.
          Louis and Zelie Martin - Zelie died when Therese was 4-½.
Marriage is the most important thing in the world.  Little Flowers grow in the garden of the family, which is founded on marriages that are healthy and holy.  Virtue is grown where there is love and faith.  The world ends this more than all the other causes that draw our attention because they seem more urgent but are truly less important and less impactful.  The future of society rises and falls with the family.
All married couples must continue to grow and allow God to work in their marriages, and we all have the duty to support them.  The Perfect must not be made the enemy of the Good.  Sure, there are failures.  Sure, things aren’t exactly as they should be and definitely not always suitable to our desires or tastes.  Don’t let past imperfections impede you from doing as much good as you can now.
1 - Marriage in Christ Seminar.
2 - Five Love Languages.
3 - Date night - spend time together.  Marriage is work, certainly, but if it is only work there can be little enjoyment. Children want (and really need) to know and see how much mom and dad love each other.  That stable foundation of knowing that mom and dad are all in, no matter what, is the fence around the garden that allows little flowers to flourish.  May the Lord Jesus, truly present in the Eucharist, help us all, especially marriages, grow more and more in living a lives for each other and thus giving new life to our world.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

"What do people say about me?"

The diocese's communications office has asked the following note to be read regarding Bishop Rhoades' investigation that we spoke of last weekend.  I would like to read that before the homily.

We can be grateful for Bishop Kevin Rhoades, not to mention our predecessor Bishop D'Arcy.  Although he may not necessarily do everything perfect, and I'm sure he doesn't please everyone 100% of the time, but I know that our bishop is a good man at his core.  In the way that the twelve disciples, who followed Jesus around for his three years of public ministry and truly saw into his heart, I am confident that Bishop Kevin has a good heart for his people.  How did Peter know this so certainly about Jesus?  It was written in Jesus' actions.  Our actions speak louder than our words, right?  Then the way we see others live on a daily basis is more fundamental to understanding their character. 
That is why Peter could make his claim of who Jesus is.  He called him the Messiah because he saw Jesus' actions speaking as a strong support to the Lord's words.  Many people of Jesus' time claimed to be the Messiah.  Go back to the book we got for Lent title "Case for Jesus" and you will find examples of that.  But all those false messiahs could not back up their words with actions like Jesus' healing of a deaf-mute like in last week's Gospel.
What others think about us is important, but not as important as what God knows about us.  Building  our lives around what others think about us is like building a house on sand.  It may start out fine, but the odds are small for it to endure the test of time.  Founding our sense of identity on what God knows about us, both what are the intentions of our hearts and what our actions are showing day by day, that is building a house on solid rock.  For popularity is much cheaper than integrity.
Jesus gives us a great example of this.  He knew integrity was worth much more than popularity.  Despite what others thought about him, He knew how His Heavenly Father looked upon Him with Love and was well-pleased with Him.  Like the prophet Isaiah, he was true to his identity in the midst of opposition, even to the point of death on a cross.  And in that time of trial, Jesus revealed his true self by his actions.  He didn't just say "the Son of man must be rejected" and "take up your cross after me," but he lived it.  Even when Peter tried to tempt Him away from God's will, to take the easy way out, to be a different type of savior, he said an emphatic NO.  Rather, he laid down his life.

For it is the cross that makes a saint.  We cannot be saints without the cross.

 He put this Eucharist into action on the Cross.  Let us, from this Holy Communion, live a life founded on integrity and on what God sees in us, a life that takes up the Cross after our redeemer.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Poverty before God

Audio (Sunday 9:30am): Click here!
St. James’s letter makes clear that distinction and factions are not allowed in God’s house, at least not when judged by worldly standards. 

All the poor are heirs of the kingdom of God as much as we are, if not more.

We ourselves must make ourselves poor in order to receive the Eucharist worthily. Not necessarily materially poor, for even the rich have a place to worship at the altar of God that St. James describes, although Jesus does say if you forsake earthly things you will gain heavenly ones. But really we must be poor in a different way to receive the Eucharist - poor in spirit. It is the hungry who are filled with good things, the blessed Mother tells us in her Magnificat.
Pope St. Leo the Great: When Christ says “blessed are the poor in spirit,” he shows that the kingdom of heaven is to be given to those who are distinguished by their humility of so rather than by their lack of worldly goods.  Spiritual poverty is first and foremost a type of humility.  We must be humble before God to realize we need God and all the other blessings of life that He freely showers upon us.

Think about this: how many Pharisees and scribes were healed by Jesus? I don’t think any are mentioned in the Gospels. That's because they weren’t able to express their need, to acknowledge their poverty.  The one Pharisee I know who was healed by Christ was Saint Paul, who first had to be blinded by Christ.  The Lord had to break him down so that he could raise him up.  He had to make him poor in a certain way, in the way that was most important to Paul, so that he could realize his need.  Not only was he blinded, he was told by the Lord Jesus that he, Paul, was persecuting Him, that he, Paul, was doing exactly what God did not want him to do: consenting to the killing and arresting of Christians.

Like Paul, If we aren't humbled, we will be humiliated.  Which ultimately, it taken properly, will be something that saves us.  Pride is the worst of sins.  Thinking we don't need God or others, or that we have earned all our blessings on our own.

Perhaps this is one of the blessings that God is offering to the Church in the U.S. and other parts of the world that are suffering through current events.  It seems God is reminding us of our poverty, stripping us of any ability to rely on our own powers.  In the first days of his papacy, Pope Francis cried out, "Oh how I wish the Church to be poor and for the poor."  Not materially poor only, but poor in spirit and grounded in true humility.  Indeed, God is answering our Holy Father's cry from the heart, and it is a mercy and a grace.  Amen. God's will be done.  

We must be like that dry thirsty ground spoken of in the first reading.  For it is then that God can transform us, make us whole, and heal us.

May we receive the same poverty of spirit in our hearts so that God can truly work in us.  May we be small like Therese, and may our little deeds, our little flowers in God's garden, be noticed and smiled upon by Our Loving God.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Bad Shepherds

Audio from 9:30: click here

A couple people met up with me after this Mass and expressed concern with my homily.  I did not express clearly whole breadth of the problems, and tried to emphasize it better in future homilies.
Here are various resources that I find helpful.

"The truth will set you free." John 8:32.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Bread of Life - Self-Gift

Audio (9:30am Mass): click here!

If the Eucharist is the Bread of Life, then we need to change the way we look at our lives, especially on Sundays.  I’m preaching a truth that we all need to hear, but especially the people who are not in the room.  For Jesus says “unless you eat the flesh and drink the blood…” and yet the reality is that 75% of Catholics in the United States don’t make it to Mass regularly.  It’s not a priority, so they are spiritual zombies like we talked about last week.

The Eucharist isn’t magic.  God doesn’t bulldoze us.  He desires our free response, and so He allows us even to reject Him. This explains That type of person ends up being someone who eats the Bread of Life but doesn’t live it - perhaps even trying to live a life of duplicity - as if sin and God can be friends within our hearts.  —And in light of the news over the past weeks, I think especially especially for priests or other church leaders who do harm through a life that in serious ways does not conform to Jesus, a life with a dark side that ends up causing more harm than good.  “Whoever causes one of these little ones to sin…” Jesus says, and indeed it is a tragedy to see how some of the Church’s representatives have failed to help others, even here in this parish in the past from what I’ve heard.  No, clearly the Eucharist isn’t God’s magical way to force us to change.  We must be willing to be changed.

Communion will not affect you unless you let it.  And the biggest part of letting it, letting Him, work within you, is to grow in intimacy with Jesus.  If you know Jesus deeply and personally, the Eucharist will transform you.  You will start to become a different person, you will become Him, and through that, you will become the best version of yourself.  We may also need to get to Confession, for the Eucharist will not help us at all if we take it when not prepared, for Saint Paul says “whoever eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself.”

The Seven Secrets of the Eucharist would be a great book to help you unleash the power of the Eucharist in your life. 

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Running on empty

Audio (9:30am Mass): Click Here!

Elijah is trying to run on empty. He needs food but even is entering a type of despair, practically begging for death and almost refusing to eat.  He can’t make it to the mountain God has sent him to unless he eats.

This reminds me of a story in my life. A time that I’m very happy about - when I ran a half marathon in southern Ohio while in seminary in Columbus. I remember it so fondly because it is the one time I beat my brother Fr. Matt in a head-to-head race.  Unfortunately, it was only because my brother has a finnicky stomach and a strong will that I was able to pull it off.  Like Elijah, he tried to run on empty, or almost empty.  He was afraid of cramping so he had a banana and some granola for breakfast - that's it.  Then we drove for like an hour and warmed up and tried to run 13.1 miles.  Not a good idea, but at least there's gatorade stations right?  Nope, not for Fr. Matt - they will slow him down from his goal time and he might cramp up, so "no thanks" on the only fuel he had for the race.  So he's out there clipping like 6-minute miles or something for the first ten or 11 miles, but eventually he just can't do it.  He literally stops, completely.  He sits down, lays down out in the middle of nowhere.  A few minutes later, he's up and just walking, and I come along and find him.  He explains that he hit the wall (I like the word "bonked") and will have to go in nice and slow, unfortunately.  I say "well, glad you're okay, see you in a bit!!" And there you have it.  I beat him!  But only sorta-kinda.

You can't run without fuel. Life is usually not an easy stroll.  It's not a marathon either, at least not all the time.  But you will certainly "bonk" without getting fed.  A lot of our world doesn't seem to care about God, but really, they have just hit a wall and need to be refueled.  They need their souls to be recharged.

We need to feed our souls good, wholesome stuff.

How to refuel?
1. Get to Sunday Mass, even when difficult.  Not going to Sunday Mass is like missing the family photo.  When your not there, you can't be replaced.  Alongside that, nothing can replace the gift of God in the Eucharist.
2. Set a daily payer routine - When?  Where? How?  What? (Include a daily review and a plan for the next 24 hours)
3. Go on a Retreat.  Jesus says "come away and rest a while."  You know, even organizations often take time to think deeply about what they are doing and where they are headed.  Why don't we realize how important that is for our spiritual lives?
4. Find some Christian Fellowship. We need to face the fact that our culture, with its rampant individualism and moral relativism, is not supportive of Christian living.  If we want to survive, we need support.  That's why God gave us each other.
5. Practice Acts of Service.  Whether it is volunteering at the parish or in a charity program, or just spending yourself for the sake of those in your daily life, God recharges us when we give ourselves away.  Love overflows back into us.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Food that perishes

Audio: click here!

When I thought about Jesus' words today, "food that perishes," I couldn't help but think of my refrigerator.  Let's be real, as far as sanitation goes, you don't know what you're gonna get when you walk into a single guy's house.  I mean, a teenage bedroom isn't much better, but they usually don't have free reign over the entire house so it just stays in their room.  The single-adult male however, yikes.  Especially their refrigerator, unless they cook often (I don't devote much time to that). So, over the past few years of living alone and spending most of my evenings out and about with high school and parish activities, I have discovered that almost any food will eventually perish, and then can take on new and exciting life in the wonderful ways of bacteria.

But when Jesus was speaking of "food that perishes," he wasn't talking about things that spoil - since the only thing that doesn't is the Twinkie that layed on a science teacher's shelf in Maine for 40 years and counting.  Not physical food, then, but something else - a type of spiritual food, something that feeds our immaterial parts of ourselves: our souls and our minds.  Our minds long for truth, they are made to eat it up, so to speak.  G.K. Chesterton says "The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid."  If it doesn't do that, then the open mind is just plain foolish.  We were made to cling to truth and find a spiritual satisfaction in that truth, a truth that is bigger than just facts because it goes beyond trivia questions to the deeper wisdom about life and eternity.

1. Jesus says "The truth will set you free," and indeed it does, even if it puts you in jail.

Whether it's Cardinal McCarick's recent demise in public light or the truth about Pope Paul VI's encyclical Humanae Vitae from 50 years ago that prophesied how contraception (the pill, etc.) will exploit women, destroy marriage and family, and make parents feel that children are burdens instead of blessings.  People thought he was crazy then, but we can say with perfect hindsight that this Pope had God-given foresight as to where our culture would head.  Hard truths are not always easy for us to take, just like turnips or brussel sprouts (without bacon!), but the truth will set you free.

Besides Truth, we were made sure something even more, and that is the deeper meaning of Jesus' words: "Do not work for food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you."

2. GOD IS DESIRING US.  We often think of the Eucharist as God's fulfillment of our desire to be with Him.  Indeed it is this.  We were created by God with a special longing that can only be satisfied by Him alone.  Our human nature is hard-wired for a "food" that goes beyond the natural world.  Even beyond the spiritual food of truth that our souls hunger for.  The desire for little truths ultimately lead us to larger ones, until we are swept up in the Lord alone as the only true satisfaction of our souls.

But we should also look at this Eucharist and see that God is desiring us.  Remember that: God gave us the Eucharist and the other sacraments, God gave us His only-begotten Son, and opened heaven for us by His resurrection and ascension, He allows us to encounter Him in prayer, all because He wants to be with you.  He can't wait for heaven.  He brings heaven to earth.  Yes, we indeed desire God.  But if you look at the gift of the Eucharist, you must see that God desires you even more.

3. Little kids don't know what's good for them.  In some ways, adults will say they don't even know what's good, period.  I mean, looking back at some of the foods I really enjoyed, can make me a little squeemish.  If we let kids choose what they wanted, they wouldn't eat their vegetables or go back to school or do their piano lessons or help around the house.  We don't know what's good for us, and we are all a bit like those little kids who would rather listen to those more immediate, earthly desires rather than the deeper ones for truth, love, and God.  

Prayer keeps us in touch with those deeper desires.  So too does discipline, sacrifice, and a life of spent on those around us.  Quiet yourself down each day, listen to that desire for God, and God's desire for you.  Amen.