Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Homily for 1 June 2017

1 June 2017

We see an image of a saint and we wonder: What’s prayer like for that person?  Or we see someone in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament and we might think: I wonder how they’re experiencing prayer right now . . . Are they talking to God?  Is God talking to them?  Are their eyes closed in meditation, or are they sleeping? 

And we wonder because, of course, we want to pray…correctly.  We want to make sure we’re doing it right.  And that’s fine and good.  Even Jesus’ prayer to the Father can be instructive for us.  We heard that, “Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed saying: ‘I pray not only for these, but also for those who will believe in me through their word.’”  And he calls his Father, “Righteous,” and expresses his desire that “they may be one as we are one, I in them and you in me.”

John gives us a glimpse into the prayer life—the relationship—between God the Father and God the Son.  And we see there’s an expression of desire, desire from the heart, an unselfish prayer; a prayer, a wish, a hope that everyone may experience “glory”.  We see that the Son is the Son, and he approaches the Father as the Father; they are distinct, and yet, they share everything completely, openly and honestly.

And, with that glimpse into Jesus’ heart, we see how our prayer life with him might be like.  A conversation, an expression of our heart’s desires, our frustrations, our hopes…for ourselves and for others.  Approaching the Lord as the Lord, and we as his brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, friends, handmaids of the Lord.

We often don’t see how others pray, and so it can be hard to know ourselves what prayer is like.  And so we have a great treasure in this prayer of Jesus.  He gives us a little help, a little guidance when we’re wondering: What is prayer like?   

Homily for 31 May 2017

31 May 2017
Feast of the Visitation

On this Feast of the Visitation, we celebrate (among many other things) the idea of sharing faith.  And this isn’t so much in the evangelical sense of “spreading the gospel,” but in the sense of believers sharing stories among themselves of how the Lord has been present to them.  As we know, both Elizabeth and Mary had impossible things happen to (and through) them.  Wonderful things.  And it’s quite natural that they wanted to share that with each other.

But sharing the faith, talking about the “wonders God has done for us,” isn’t just natural, it’s also a supernatural activity.  The Holy Spirit compels us to seek out others who are “in the same boat.”  The Spirit inspires believers to come together, and to share faith among themselves.  Elizabeth and Mary aren’t just two women getting together; they’re two believers who are being a little community of faith.  (And, of course, Jesus and John are there too!)    

We refer to Mary as the Mother of the Church, and we can see why.  Even from before Pentecost, even from before the Incarnation, Mary was “being” the Church—the community of faith with Christ inside herself—with her cousin Elizabeth.  The community of faith that desires to share that faith within itself in order to build it up begins with Mary, our Blessed Mother.

If Pentecost is the “birth of the Church,” perhaps this Feast of the Visitation is like the “conception of the Church.”  The Church is conceived in the sharing of faith.  And we are strengthened whenever we share the “wonders God has done for us.”

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Homily for 30 May 2017

30 May 2017

The gospel of John today (17:1-11a) gives us a little peek into the relationship between God the Father and God the Son.  The heart of God is opened up to us, like an open door.  Think of Christmastime or Thanksgiving, when the world is a little chilly, but through that door you’ll find a comfortable warmth, the welcome of family and friends, and a place where you know you belong.  That’s what John’s gospel opens us up to today.

And that’s simply because at the heart of God is the Holy Spirit, that eternal warm welcome and loving embrace that we all want to be a part of.  The gospel, the “good news” today is that the door is always open to us.  And, in fact, the Spirit has already visited us and said, “Come!  Come and be loved by God who is Love.  Come to eternal life, today!”

In another few days we’ll be celebrating Pentecost, we’ll be celebrating that we don’t have to wait to see heaven—heaven has come to us.  The life of God, the Spirit, has come to us.  And what else is there to do but to accept that; to accept God’s grace, his compassion, his divine love.  What else is there for us but to peek into that open door of God’s heart and say, “I want to be a part of that.”  Thanks be to God for showing us the way, the truth, and the life.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Homily for 24 May 2017

24 May 2017

When you think of a magnifying glass, you see right away that isn’t meant to draw attention to itself.  It exists to magnify other things; to make other things more visible; to bring them forward.  And so, we can say that Jesus is like a magnifying glass, and he magnifies the Father.  In fact, he says, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.”  And, in the same way, the Holy Spirit “glorifies” or “magnifies” Jesus (and the Father). 

And, if you think about it, we are also magnifying glasses, and we magnify the Lord.  We exist to love the Lord, but also to make him known to others.  When people encounter us, ideally, they see God as well.    

Of course, sometimes, it’s hard to be God for others when we ourselves are too broken to be that.  And, in that case, we let others be God to us.  We let the created world reveal God to us.  We let the saints and the angels magnifying the Lord to us.  When we can’t magnify the splendor of God for others, we can perhaps magnify the weakness of Christ to others. 

When people encounter us, ideally, they see God as well.  Sometimes it’s God in majesty.  Sometimes it’s God on the Cross.  Either way, may we be able to pray with our Blessed Mother, “My soul magnifies the Lord.”

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Homily for 23 May 2017

23 May 2017

Jesus promises that the “Advocate” will be sent.  In Greek the word is “Paraclete:” a helper, an advocate, a comforter.  And, as we know, Jesus did send the Advocate—the Holy Spirit—at the first Pentecost.  But while the Holy Spirit comes to us as he is, and dwells within us, he also makes himself known through others.

When Paul and Silas were thrown in prison, and God destroyed the prison so they could escape, the jailer was going to kill himself.  Apparently it was more preferable to commit suicide than suffer punishment for having lost the prisoners.  But then Paul shouted out, “Do no harm to yourself; we are all here.”  That was the Advocate speaking.

Just when the jailer was at his end, he heard precisely what he needed to hear: the prisoners hadn’t escaped, it would be okay.  He was helped; he was comforted by Paul’s words.  And, at the same time, he was profoundly aware of how good God had been to him just then.  And he became a believer.

As we prepare to celebrate Pentecost in another couple weeks, it’s good to realize that the Holy Spirit—the Advocate, the Paraclete—comes to us in many ways; most especially in unexpected ways.  Maybe it’s in our conscience, or through a friend, or through an enemy.  Maybe through a book we’re reading, or in a moment when it strikes us how precious life is. 

The Holy Spirit speaks to us in so many different ways; comforting us, helping us to see just how good God is to us.  And what else can our response be but to come to him, here at the altar, to offer a sacrifice of heartfelt thanks.   

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Homily for 21 May 2017

21 May 2017
6th Sunday of Easter, Year A

When I was in grade school, a friend and I would sometimes walk to his house.  And on the way there was a big, old Victorian house; nobody lived there, and the windows were boarded up.  Now I’m still not sure where I heard this, but the house was supposedly haunted.  And I never had the urge to go find out if it was true.

And I bring up that little image because it highlights the tension between being on “the outside” and being on “the inside.”  From the outside, I only knew what others told me.  And so, I just assumed the house was haunted.  But if I ever wanted to know for certain, I would’ve had to have gone into the house, and experienced the truth of it from the inside.

And this idea of standing on the outside or standing on the inside is important to our lives of faith.  Jesus says, “Whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.”  And that sounds great.  Except that, before Jesus reveals himself to us, we have to love him.  In order to really know the depth of God’s care for us, first we have to keep his commandments.  In other words, we can’t know God’s love from the outside; we can only know it from the inside.

And the keys to getting on “the inside” are trust, commitment, and faith.  And those can be hard keys to use, because they all get at the idea of: believing in what lies ahead, even before it happens; putting trust in someone else, and being committed to that leap of faith.  That’s how we get on “the inside” with God, and the Church. 

I’m sure we’ve all heard people criticize the Church, or teach about how there isn’t a God, and how believers in that kind of thing are unintelligent or foolish or easily deceived.  But where are those people standing?  They’re standing on “the outside.”  It’s easy to tear down something from the outside; it’s easy to pick apart something when they haven’t committed themselves to that thing. 

On the flip side, it’s also easy to romanticize and glorify something from “the outside,” without really knowing what it’s all about.  When “Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed the Christ to them,” the people saw all that he was doing, and “there was great joy in that city.”  But, really, those Samarians were still on “the outside.”  Philip had introduced them to the faith, but they had to make the faith their own.

They had to “own it,” not from the outside, but from the inside.  In order to own the faith, they had to live the faith—with both its joys and heartaches.  And the Holy Spirit was given to them so they could do just that.  The Spirit helped them use those keys of trust, commitment, and faith to get on “the inside” of their faith, and to see for themselves that what Christ said was true.

When Peter says, “Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts,” he’s giving us the “keyhole” into which we put our trust and faith and commitment.  We hear it all throughout Scripture and the teachings of the Church: Trust in the Lord; let Christ be the Lord of our life. 

When I was studying for priesthood, and I had to make the decision whether or not to actually be a priest, I remember thinking very clearly: “This is where the rubber hits the road.  If I believe that the Lord is the Lord, and if I believe that he will take care of me in this vocation, then I need to just trust him.  I need to throw caution to the wind, and just go with it.”  And so I did. 

I didn’t know what would lie ahead of me in priesthood.  I didn’t know I would be coming here to St. Clare.  I don’t know where I’ll go from here.  And that’s okay, because I’m living the Christian life from “the inside.”  This is similar, I imagine, to what it’s like to be married.  You don’t really know about married life until you’re actually living the life. 

There’s an old proverb that says, “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.”  You won’t know how good (or bad) the pudding is until you put it in your mouth and swallow.  I used to work at a bakery, and we were always encouraged to try the foods we baked.  And that makes sense; after all, how’s a baker supposed to really sell anything if he or she hasn’t even tasted it. 

A significant reason why Jesus made such an impact on people was the fact that he practiced what he preached; he walked the talk.  He wasn’t preaching forgiveness and mercy from “the outside;” he was living it every day of his life; he was committed to it.  And so when others criticized him for it, it didn’t bother him.  He knew what was right and just and true.  He knew it.  And he knew it from being on “the inside,” from being one with the Father, from living the life.

If we want to know if what Christ says is true, then we also have to live the life—not from the outside, but from the inside.  The proof of the pudding is in the eating.  And the proof of Christ’s promises is in the living of a life of trust, commitment, and real faith.  

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Homily for 19 May 2017

19 May 2017

Living a Catholic Christian life is both simple and difficult.  The commandment Jesus gives us is pretty simple: Love one another.  It’s as simple as the two Great Commandments: Love God with every ounce of your being, and love your neighbor as yourself.  But exactly how to do that is where the difficulty so often seems to come in.

Way back when, before mass communication, new trends in thinking were maybe slower in getting around.  Life was maybe simpler because of it.  But now, with social media and the internet, everybody has a platform to preach his or her message.  Everybody has a place to express their thoughts and beliefs on every topic under the sun, including the Catholic faith.  And so, trying to stay on the “straight and narrow” can be much harder.

And maybe that’s similar to the situation in the early Church, where people were getting concerned because of some incorrect preaching they’d heard.  Instead of resting in Christ, they were getting worried that maybe they weren’t living their Christian life correctly.  And they started to feel lost.  So the Apostles spoke up in order to bring clarity and restore peace.

But the Apostles themselves didn’t go; instead, they sent representatives.  And the remarkable thing is that the people listened to those representatives just as attentively as if the Apostles themselves had been there speaking to them.  Those representatives were upstanding people, faith-filled, and totally committed to the Lord and the teaching of the Apostles.  And in that we can take a lesson.

If we find ourselves questioning if we’re living our Christian life correctly, we have to wonder: Who have we let disturb us in spirit?  And who is a person (or people) who we recognize as having the authority and trustworthiness of the Lord himself?  We can always go to the saints, to their spiritual writings.  We can go to the writings of the Church, the Councils, the popes and bishops.  We turn to those people whom we experience as channels of God’s mercy.

When our discipleship in Christ becomes confusing, those are the people who’ll make it clear again.  Those are the people who can lead us back to the simple and peaceful ways of Christ.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Homily for 18 May 2017

18 May 2017
(School Mass)

One of my favorite fruits to eat is apples.  And there’s a whole bunch of different kinds.  There’s Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Macintosh, Granny Smith, Gala, Honeycrisp, and a whole lot more.  If somebody asked you to go to the store and get them an apple, you’d have to ask: “What kind?” because there are just so many.

And that’s kind of like Christians, too.  There are a lot of different kinds of believers in Jesus.  Way back in the beginning, Peter, Paul and all the Apostles had a lot of discussions about what it means to be a Christian.  And what they realized is that, even though people spoke different languages and had different backgrounds, they could all be Christians.  There wasn’t just one way to be a Christian.  Just like there isn’t only one way to describe an apple.

And that’s important to remember because when Jesus calls us to be his disciple, and to stay close to him, he’s asking us to do that in our own way.  You know, we have lots of saints in the Catholic Church: Saint Benedict, Saint Francis, Saint Theresa of Avila, Saint Clare, Saint Paul, and thousands of others.  But to be a good Catholic doesn’t mean we have to try to copy exactly what they did. 

And that’s because God made only one Saint Francis.  He made only one Saint Clare.  He made only one Saint Peter.  And God made only one of you.  Jesus asks us to be a saint, to be a faithful friend and follower of his—but each in our own way. 

There are a lot of different kinds of Christians.  The important thing is to thank God that you are one, and to be the best follower of Jesus you can be—each in your own way. 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Homily for 17 May 2017

17 May 2017

The Bible is really indispensable for Christians.  It’s one of the primary ways God makes himself known to us.  But the Bible isn’t the only way God reveals himself.  For instance, when those early Christians debated about ritual circumcision, they had the Law of Moses as a reference.  So, they did consult Scripture.  But we know they also consulted “the Apostles and the presbyters” in Jerusalem.  They consulted “the Church.”

The Holy Spirit working through the living, breathing Church is another prime way God reveals himself and his will.  And turning to the Church with questions is not only good, sometimes it’s necessary.  And that’s simply because Scripture doesn’t have—explicitly—all the answers we’re looking for.

For instance, the Bible says, “Thou shall not kill.”  But we ask, “What about in self-defense?  What if the country is being attacked?”  Or there are a lot of social and moral questions that Scripture doesn’t really get specific on; things like: contraception, the use of social media, taxes, the sciences, the best use of money, and so on.  Instead, Scripture gives us a lot of general principles.  And from those principles, and with help from the Holy Spirit, the Church is able to discern what a good answer is to those more specific questions.

The Bible is indispensable to us.  It’s inspiring to listen to the Word of God being spoken.  It’s also inspiring when the Church speaks because there, too, God is at work.  And so, the Church, too, is indispensable for us.  When we face the questions of life, it’s always a good move to consult the Church; to see what the Saints have said throughout the centuries, to benefit from their inspired wisdom; to read what various Councils have declared; to consider what the popes have reiterated time and time again.

It’s always a good move to consult the Church.  As indispensable as the written Word of God is in Scripture, so too is the living, breathing Word of God present in the Church.

Homily for 16 May 2017

16 May 2017

The Second Vatican Council called for “fully conscious and active participation” in the liturgy.  And what we’re called (by baptism) to participate in is what God is doing.  God is the one who calls us to himself, who speaks to us through Scripture, who gives himself to us in the Eucharist; God is the one who sends us out to “go and announce the gospel of the Lord.”  We’re participating in what God is already doing. 

And that’s a reason why we have the Sign of Peace at Mass.  Jesus said to his disciples, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.”  God is offering us his peace, and we participate in that by receiving his gift of peace, and then offering the same gift to others.  But it isn’t just a cordial greeting that we offer; it’s the peace of God.

Christ’s peace is his oneness with God the Father, and that “oneness” we know as the Holy Spirit.  Christ extends to us an offer of his peace.  He offers us a share in the divine life of God, the Holy Trinity.  In other words, his peace is “life, life in abundance.”  That’s what we want to be “fully, consciously, and actively participating” in today and forever: the life of God, the peace of Christ. 

And our participation in that is renewed at every Mass, every time we receive “the peace of the Lord,” and share that same wish of peace and life with our neighbors.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Homily for 14 May 2017

14 May 2017
5th Sunday of Easter, Year A

Trying to live as a community takes work.  It doesn’t seem to matter what kind of community we’re talking about; it takes a deliberate effort to make it work. 

For instance, when the United States was coming to be, it took a Revolutionary War, lots of arguing, compromise, and a lot of heartache for our founders to come up with our basic societal structures and system of self-government.  Of course, that’s on a large scale.  So, consider also the small scale; for instance, when two people get married.

A marriage is a community of two.  And it takes work to make that union work.  There’s probably debate about the smallest details: Who’s going to make sure the bills are paid?  Who’s going to take care of the garbage and the house cleaning?  Who’s going to make sure the newlyweds stay active in their church?  What are the ground rules for this new household, this new community that’s taking shape?

Trying to live as a community takes work.  And it doesn’t seem to matter what kind of community we’re talking about; it takes a deliberate effort to make it work.  And this is no different in the community of faith. 

Just three weeks ago, we read in the Acts of the Apostles that the early Christians were doing well.  We heard that “They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life.  All who believed were together and had all things in common. Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple area and to breaking bread in their homes.  They ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart, praising God and enjoying favor with all the people” [Acts 2:42-46]. 

But now, today—just four chapters later in the Acts of the Apostles—we hear there was disagreement in the community.  And what’s interesting is that this was only three or four years after the Resurrection of Jesus and the first Pentecost.  After only three or four years the Christian community was already starting to have tensions within itself—and for good reason.

We know from the Acts of the Apostles that “every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved” [Acts 2:47].  Every day the community got larger.  And, as we know, the more people there are coming together, the more chance there is for disagreement among them, and the more need there is for organization and rules.  The difference between Chapter 2 and Chapter 6 in the Acts of the Apostles is that the Christian community had grown in numbers, and it had become more diversified.  And so the work and struggle of being a community of faith became harder.

And almost goes without saying that this same dynamic of communal growth, tension, resolution, and further growth is just part and parcel of what it means to be part of the Church.  To be part of the Catholic Church means learning how to live with one another—emphasis on the word “learning.”  It takes work, and heartache, and headaches, and laws and structure, and lots and lots of prayer and humility and faith. 

Being part of the Church doesn’t mean that every day is going to be a “mountaintop experience.”  You know, some days it’s going to be nothing but a chore to try to be charitable to a fellow parishioner.  Some days we’re going to think about a brother or sister in Christ and wonder, “What in the world are they doing?”  And then there are days when you just want to jump ship and get off this crazy ride we call “the Church.” 

But we don’t.  We stick with it.  Not because we like conflict, but because of our common, shared faith. 

In Scripture today we heard that “the Twelve called together the community of the disciples and said, ‘It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table.’”  Now, this is a particularly important line for me as an ordained priest.  But, really, it’s an important line for all the faithful, who are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of God’s own.”  And it’s important because it reminds us of a basic structure that underlies any community of faith.

The basic structure is: to put God first, and material goods second; and then to have certain people within the community whose job it is to make sure that God is first and material goods are second.  In the Gospel of Luke, there’s a scene where Jesus is teaching the crowds about heaven, and then a man interrupts him to ask for help with a legal problem he’s having with his inheritance.  And Jesus’ response is: “Friend, who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator?”

In other words, he was saying, “Friend, I didn’t come to be an administrator of your goods; I came to lead you to God.”  And that’s the sentiment the Apostles have when they say, “It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table.”  In the Christian community, there are those whose basic task is to make sure the people of God remain people “of God;” and to be a people of God means, among other things, to take on the heart of the one Priest, Jesus, and to be faithful to him.

As I mentioned before, there are days when you just want to jump ship and get off this crazy ride we call “the Church.”  But we don’t.  We stick with it.  And we do that because, even in spite of our differences, we know that our common faith in Jesus is at the heart of it all.  We are a community “of faith,” first and always.  And this really is what makes being Catholic such a wonderful thing.

The U.S. Bishops use the phrase “unity in diversity.”  Our unity is in Christ.  Our unity is our common profession of faith that, “I believe in one God, the Father the almighty; I believe in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord; I believe in the Holy Spirit; and I believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.”  But around this core of unity is an immense diversity—what St. Paul calls “the many parts of the one Body.”

Way back in the year 36/37 AD that concept of “unity in diversity” was already at work.  Only three years or so after the Resurrection of Jesus, the Church was already trying work through what it means to be unified in Christ, and yet diverse within itself.  And every now and then, throughout its history, the Church has had to struggle with that same question.  Even here, today, at St. Clare it’s something that we’re working through as a merged community of faith.

As I’ve mentioned before in the bulletins, newsletters, and announcements the parish is considering its short and long term direction.  There are a lot of “pots on the stove” right now; things like: getting a new hymnal, reorganizing our committees and groups, forming several new ones, getting a better financial plan in place, rethinking the way we do our high school religious education, considering ways to keep growing the school and, finally, coming up with a pastoral plan for the parish as a whole.

There are a lot of “pots on the stove” right now for St. Clare.  And a common ingredient in them all is that very ancient concept of “unity in diversity.”  How can we be a community “of faith”—a community rooted in Christ and our common profession of faith—and yet also a community which allows for our diversity to come through. 

And we are certainly a diversity parish: people who are farmers, others who commute to the Fox Valley or Green Bay; people who love organ music, people who can’t stand the organ; young people, old people; young families and empty nesters; rich people, poor people, and everybody in between; Hollanders, French, Belgian, Irish, Germans, Hispanics, and more; outsiders and insiders; loud people, quiet people; stubborn people, easy going people; progressives, conservatives; happy people, sad people; brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers; sinners and saints, children of God.

There’s a lot of diversity in this community of faith.  And it takes a lot of work to make it work.  And the most basic “work” we each do is to be a person “of faith.”  In spite of our diversity, and even right within our diversity, we nonetheless share a common faith and a common destiny.  We’re all headed to “the Father’s house, where there are many dwelling places.”  And we get there through the one Lord of us all, Jesus, who inspires us and builds us up in faith, to live in faith.

And so, let us stand now, and profess together: “I believe in one God . . .”

Friday, May 12, 2017

Homily for 12 May 2017

12 May 2017

Our God keeps his word; he fulfills his promises.  Of course, he does it in his own time and in his own way.  Nonetheless, he fulfills his promises.  And Scripture is full of examples, the biggest one being the death and resurrection of Jesus, and the coming of the Messiah.  The Lord does what he says he’s going to do.  And so, we know we can trust him.

Jesus says, “I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.”  And that place is “his Father’s house,” where there are “many dwelling places.”  Jesus also says, “I will be with you always, until the end of the age.”  He also says, “Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood has eternal life."

God offers some pretty amazing promises.  But, as Jesus says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled, have faith in me.”  And we do.  We know we can trust him because our God keeps his word; he fulfills his promises.  And that is truly good news.  

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Homily for 11 May 2017

11 May 2017
(School Mass)

If you ever look at a piece of fabric, you see it’s not just one solid piece.  It’s made up of lots of individual threads.  And, together, they make that piece of fabric.  Well, that’s kind of like our Catholic faith.  Each one of us is like an individual thread.  And, together, we make up the community of the faithful.

And that’s an important thing to remember, because it’s one of the big reasons why we have faith in the first place.  If someone were to say, “Why do you believe in Jesus?” you could easily say, “I believe in Jesus because my ancestors did.”  Or you could say, “I believe in Jesus because of all the things God did for my ancestors.”  And that would be a good answer.  In fact, it’s the same answer that St. Paul gave at Antioch in Pisidia.

He stood up in the synagogue and he gave a short history of God’s people, and how God was working in their lives throughout the centuries, and then finally how Jesus fit into that history.  Basically, St. Paul was saying, “I believe in Jesus because of all the things God did for our ancestors.”  And we can say the same.

We’re each like an individual thread in a big, big piece of fabric.  And so, “Why do I believe in Jesus?  Well, just look at this beautiful fabric God has woven together throughout time.  It’s a fabric made up of the lives of the saints, the Apostles, the prophets and martyrs; and the lives of everyday faithful people, even today.  God works throughout all of history.  Just look!  That’s why I believe.” 

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Homily for 10 May 2017

10 May 2017

It’s been said that “Christians aren’t born, they’re made.”  And that seems to be largely true.  When we think of so many of the saints, they became saints—in time, eventually.  It didn’t happen all at once; instead, their lives of holiness needed time to unfold.  And they needed to be molded and shaped by the Holy Spirit to become who they became.

We see this with St. Paul.  In our reading from the Acts of the Apostles today, Paul wasn’t called Paul yet—he was still referred to as “Saul.”  But, gradually, as Saul began to live his new life in Christ, and as he began to figure out what it means to be a Christian, he starts to be referred to as “Paul.”  He wasn’t born “Paul;” he became the person we know as “Paul.”

We could say the same about St. Peter.  He was given the name “Peter” by Jesus; and the name “Peter” means “rock.”  But, you know, when Jesus was being arrested and crucified, Peter was hardly what we’d call a “rock” of faith.  He had the name Peter, but at that point he wasn’t Peter yet.  That happened later.

Christians aren’t born, they’re made.  In time, we figure out what it means to be a follower of Christ.  And so, we shouldn’t get discouraged when we fail, when we sin, when screw up yet again.  We weren’t born Christians; we were baptized Christians and, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we’ll gradually flourish as Christians.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Homily for 9 May 2017

9 May 2017

There’s strength in knowing that you belong to someone.  It’s a reason why Jesus is able to speak so plainly with others: he belongs to God the Father, and he knows it.  He doesn’t have to worry about offending these people or those people: he belongs to the Father, and that’s where his loyalty lies. 

And it’s a reason why those early Christians could still preach the good news, even in the midst of the persecutions: they belonged to Christ—not just as a nice idea, but really and truly.  They didn’t have to worry about getting these people or those people mad at them; they belonged to Christ, and that’s where their loyalty lay.  There’s strength in knowing that you belong to someone—especially when that someone is God himself.

When Jesus talks about his followers, he calls them “my sheep.”  He calls us “his” sheep.  It’s so easy to overlook that little possessive pronoun.  But we can’t.  We belong to him; we are “his”—even more definitively than two best friends belong to one another.  And knowing that we never walk alone—unless we choose to—knowing that we are always in the hands of God is a reason for us to be strong in faith.  It’s a reason for us to go through life with confidence that, no matter what, we are deeply, irrevocably loved by our God.

It’s why we wear a crucifix on necklaces or rings or bracelets.  It’s why we make the Sign of the Cross over ourselves.  It’s why we come to the altar of God with joy and not slugglishness.  We do all that (and more) because we know that we don’t go it alone—we are the Lord’s sheep; we are “his,” and he always has our back.  And there’s strength in knowing that.

No matter comes in life, there’s strength in knowing that we belong to someone—especially when that someone is none other than God himself.  He is our refuge; he is our joy; he is our strength. 

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Homily for 5 May 2017

5 May 2017

Sometimes you just want to stay in bed.  The alarm goes off, or you just wake up, but you don’t really want to get going—not yet.  The bed is too comfortable and warm.  But, you know, sometimes God is like the alarm clock; or God like the sun peeking in through the window saying, “It’s time to wake up.”  And what’s our response to that?

Well, we know St. Paul’s response.  The Lord woke him up with a big flash of light.  And St. Paul stepped outside of the status quo, and started living life the way God wanted him to.  Even Ananias—faithful servant that he was—was pushed by God to keep an open mind toward Paul.  God woke Ananias up a little that day, too; not just Paul.

And in the gospel, Jesus is trying to wake the chief priests up to the truth: “I am the bread of life; whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood will never die.”  Of course, as we know, they didn’t really want to wake up to that; they didn’t want to step outside what they knew; they wanted to stay just doing their thing.

God is sometimes like an alarm clock, trying to wake us up.  Sometimes he’s like the sunlight, pushing us to get out of bed, to step outside of what we’re comfortable with, and to try something new—not because it’s new, but because it’s where Jesus the Way is trying to lead us.  But, what’s our response to all that?

Every day is a new day, as far as God is concerned.  But we can’t experience that newness unless we get out of bed.  The new day won’t be ours to enjoy until we look beyond what’s familiar, and set our feet to follow God’s path for us.

Every day is a new day.  And God is our alarm clock.  The question is: Are we going to get up and see where’ll take us, or are we going to stay in bed, where it’s comfortable and familiar?       

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Homily for 4 May 2017

4 May 2017

(School Mass)

For the past couple of months we’ve been thinking about a new lunch menu for school.  And everybody was asked what kind of food they like; what kind of food do they really, really, really want for lunch—what makes their mouth water.  And so we heard: macaroni and cheese, fried chicken, salisbury steak, chocolate milk, broccoli . . . I’m just kidding, nobody said broccoli.

It’s good to know what fills our appetite.  And, you know, we have an appetite for people, too.  There’re just some people who we love to spend time with, or we love to be around them.  They inspire us; they make us laugh; they love us and they care about us.  We want to be around them because they fill us up; they satisfy us.

And, you know, that’s how Jesus wants us to approach him.  He wants us to crave him, at least as much as we crave macaroni and cheese.  And he wants us to love being with him, at least as much as we love being with our friends.  He wants to fill our appetite.  And he has quite a feast for us!

After all, Jesus gives us the words of Sacred Scripture to “chew on,” to investigate, to dive into.  That helps to satisfy our thirst for truth and knowledge.  And he gives us the Eucharist to “chew on;” and he wants us to savor that and to enjoy it.  The Eucharist helps to satisfy our hunger to really know that God is with us, always.

We humans have a big appetite, and we know we want.  Sometimes fried chicken and chocolate milk satisfies us.  Sometimes playing a game of basketball with friends satisfies us.  But we humans have an even bigger appetite than all that.  And that’s where God comes in.  And that’s a reason why we come to the Altar of God: to be fed, to be filled up with God’s goodness, so our appetite for heaven can start to be satisfied.

Homily for 3 May 2017

3 May 2017

“If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it,” says the Lord. That’s a pretty bold promise Jesus makes. And it sounds too good to be true: If we ask anything of Jesus, he’ll do it. Of course, it doesn’t ring true to us.  I mean, we ask Jesus all the time to help us with this or that—and nothing happens. It’s a bold promise Jesus makes, and perhaps a dangerous one, too, because his reputation, his trustworthiness is on the line.

But, of course, the promise Jesus gives here is very trustworthy. “If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it.” And we focus on the word “anything,” but really, the important phrase here is “in my name.”  If we ask anything of Jesus—“in his name”—he’ll do it.  And what he means here is that if we ask things of Jesus, he’ll do it—as long as it’s in line with the will of God.

And we can think of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, when he says, “Father, I would rather not go through this suffering of the Cross, but let your will be done, not mine.” Jesus himself practices what he preaches.

The Lord wants us to rely on him, and the Father and the Holy Spirit.  He wants us to turn to him for help. We just have to be sure that whatever we ask of him, we close our prayer with “thy will be done.” In our ultimate prayer is that God’s will be done, we’ll never be disappointed. 

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Homily for 2 May 2017

2 May 2017

It’s often said that we are an “Easter people.”  And that’s true; our lives should be characterized by a profound sense of joy and hope, rooted in the Resurrection of Jesus.  We are an “Easter people.”  But, at the same time, we’re also a “Lenten people.”  Even in the middle of Easter, we’re still reminded that our hope for ourselves isn’t entirely fulfilled—I mean, none of us is in endless bliss of heaven . . . yet.  We’re on our way, but we’re not there yet.

And that’s a reason why each Sunday we make a profession of faith.  It isn’t enough to just profess that once and be done with it.  We have to be reminded week after week what it is that we believe, and why we believe.  It’s a reason why we come to the Altar of God again and again and again, day after day.  It’s why we go to confession—not just once, but whenever we need it.  We’re on our way to fully resurrected life, but we’re not there yet. 

Our psalm today (and really, all of the readings) focuses on the prayer: “Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.”  And it’s a beautiful prayer—a short prayer, but a beautiful one.  And it would be wonderful if we could pray this prayer from the depths of our heart, and it would stick!  It would be wonderful!

I mean, this is a beautiful prayer for someone about to enter into heaven: “Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.”  And we can picture the Lord saying in reply, “Well done, my good and faithful servant...Come, share your master’s joy” [Mt 25:23].  It would be great if we could just live that prayer definitively, once and for all time.  Of course, that’s our hope.  That’s our hope as an Easter people.

But we’re not there just yet.  And so, we pray again and again, “Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.”  Every time we sin, we get up again, turn to the Lord and say, “Into your hands, I commend my spirit.”  Every time we realize (again) that we’ve neglected our prayer life, we get back on track and say, “Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit.”

We’re an “Easter people,” for sure.  We live with joy and the hope of heaven.  But we’re not there just yet.  And so, we turn to prayer again and again and again until, someday, our Easter hope is fulfilled.  Until we can say for the last time, “Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.”