Sunday, July 10, 2016

15th Sunday of Ordinary Time - Year C - 2016

Many of us go through life asking questions like:
What do I need to do to be successful?
What do I need to do to be happy?
What should I do to be healthy ?

We ask ourselves over and over again..
What do I need to do to get ahead of the pack and stay there?
How much money do I need for my kids to go to college ?
How much money do I need so that I can retire comfortably ?

These are all valid questions and frankly many of us live with them day in and day out.
But...all of these questions are about our life here on earth,
which we need to remember  is so very short and fragile.

Every week before the start of Mass we read the names of people who have passed away and we have to wonder as they knocked on heaven’s door if they had wished they had spent more time worrying about eternal life.

Today’s gospel asks us, it is wise to spend so much energy only thinking about the here and now and not spend time thinking about forever?

Today’s Gospel and this question reminds us so poignantly  to raise our eyes and our thoughts and our worries beyond  the normal everyday challenges of this life.

There was a little old lady in my very first parish in a very poor violent neighborhood of Rome.  She had all kinds of challenges, she was desperately poor.

One day when I saw her she was so happy I would say she was ecstatic because a distant family member was coming to visit her.

People rarely came to our neighborhood because it was so violent and they were afraid.

If it wasn’t for the church the little lady would have been terribly alone.

She didn’t have money for any special food so she spent the whole day in a park picking mushrooms.

When  I passed her walking home she was so excited because she found some great mushrooms and she would be able to put them in the pasta she was going to serve her guests.

The next day when I saw her I asked how her visit went and how the pasta was.
For the briefest of brief moments she looked sad and then she said.
I put the mushrooms on my porch to dry and someone stole them
but then she quickly added but Father when you think about eternity what difference do those mushrooms make?

The Scholar’s said the way to heaven was
“You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your being,
with all your strength,
and with all your mind,
and your neighbor as yourself.”

Jesus said to him, “You have answered correctly;
do this and you will live.”

So the next time we find ourselves worrying about
What this person or that person said,
or how much money we have,
or what color we have to paint the living room,
or whatever...

Let us ask ourselves
When you think about eternity what difference does this really make.

And if we really want to live in God’s Kingdom
Let us occupy ourselves with things that really matter.

Let us Love God,
And Love our neighbor especially those in need whoever they may be.

That’s  what the samaritan did in the Gospel and that’s what we have to do.


Sunday, July 03, 2016

St. Maximilian Kolbe

This week the Relic of Maximilian Kolbe is in our parish so we will speaking at all the masses a little bit about his life and his heroic witness.

Maximilian Kolbe grew up in challenging times.
For much of his life it must have seemed like the world was falling apart.

When Maximilian was born, Poland was partitioned between it’s powerful neighbors.

Poland was a battleground during WWI because it was situated in the middle of the powerful countries that had partitioned it.

When he was a young man The Tsar of Russia was overthrown by a the communist revolution and Russia became a Godless socialist state. That must have been terrifying for a pious simple family of faith from Poland

In all this confusion, social turmoil and violence, Maximillian’s family turned to God for consolation and hope. They never stopped trusting God.

When he was 12 while at prayer he asked the Blessed Mother what should do with his life.

He later recounted that she appeared to him and offered him a choice between two crowns, the red crown of martyrdom and the white crown of purity. He with his passionate young faith he told her he would accept both of crowns.

A few years later he and his brothers entered the Conventual Franciscans. By the age of 20 he had distinguished himself as a friar and had earned a doctorate from the Gregorian University in Rome.

As a young seminarian and priest was very charismatic and natural leader and soon many friars wanted to join him in his ministry.

He always lived very simply but wanted to use any modern means he could to share the gospel.

So after his priestly formation he returned to Poland determined to start a printing publishing house. He had no money but one day in church while prayer at the Blessed Mother statue he found an envelope with the exact amount of money he needed to begin the publishing house.

His life was full of successes.
Eventually he published several Catholic publications.

So manywanted to work with him that he had built a huge Franciscan Friary to hold them all. It was so large that it was called “city” of the Immaculate.

He started missions in Japan and India and everything he touched seemed to thrive.

But we all know that worldly success, even when it is for God is not always an indication of holiness.

When World War II came he started a hospital at the city of the Immaculate treated anyone who would come no questions asked and He and the brothers who remained continued his publications.

Eventually, he was arrested by the Nazi who saw his devotional publications as a threat and he was sent to Auschwitz.

While there he ministered to the other prisoners regularly heard their confessions, helped them face the challenges of life in Auschwits and prepared many for death.

He was revered by fellow prisoners who did whatever they could to protect him from of the Nazis who had a special hatred for Priests.

Then one day three prisoners escaped and the Nazi decided to execute 10 in their place as they were being chosen one of the men spontaneously yelled out “my wife and my children.”

In a moment without hesitation  Maximilian stepped forward and offered himself in the man’s place saying “take me instead he said I am a priest and have no family. “ The Nazi were only too happy to comply.

He and the others were confined to a death bunker where they were denied  food and water for the rest of their short lives. In many of the other death bunkers those condemned went insane as they suffered.

From Fr. Maximillian’s bunker  only prayer and hymns could be heard. He prepared and comforted each man for death and finally when he was the only one left because he did not die quickly enough he was executed by a lethal injection.

Fr. Maximilian had huge successes for God throughout his life but it was that singular moment that moment of self surrender that moment when he offered his life which proved that his faith was real and authentic.

I’m sure he had human weaknesses and idiocracies remember being declared a saint does not mean that someone is perfect. It means that in the end they somehow chose God.

By his self surrender in that one spontaneous moment it became clear to all that Maximilian Kolbe had given his life to God.

We live in challenging and difficult times. Sometimes it seems like our world is falling apart. Sadly our church seem to be emptying out rather than filling up as we face our challenges.

The first thing we have to ask ourselves is in this time of confusion where are we going to place our trust.

With all that was happening around them Maximilian and his family did not surrender to cynicism,
they did not become angry like everyone else,
they did not lose hope. They placed their trust in God.

As confused as things have become of late their example should inspire us to do the same.

It is clear that even at the age of twelve young Maximilian understood that life was not only about him. Even at that early age he was willing to dedicate himself for the good of others.

We need to do a better job at teaching our children that they are not the center of the universe, we need to help them understand that everything does not revolve around what they need and what they want.

We need to plant in their hearts a desire to work for the common good and not only think of themselves.

Thoughtout his life Maximilian took the time to properly discern God’s will.
He never did anything without taking it to prayer and discerning if what he hoped to do was for the good of God’s Kingdom.

We need to ask ourselves how often do I seek to understand God’s will rather than our own will. How often do I place the good of God’s Kingdom, the spiritual lives of our famllies before my needs and my wants. Or is it vice versa.

Finally there will come a moment in our lives or several moments in our lives when love will call us to make a special sacrifice.

Someday God is going to call us to step out of our ordinary lives and do something heroic just like he called Maximillian.

Maybe it will be taking care of our elderly parent or infirm spouse or child.
Maybe it will be bringing someone in need into our home
Maybe it will be forgiving someone we love for the hundredth time
Maybe it will sharing something we need for ourselves with a person in need rather than just giving for our leftovers

Maybe we will even be called in someway to give our lives to someone out of love

When God calls, will we be willing to step out of our everyday life and say yes take me. Here I am take me.

Maximilian did and that moment proved his faith was real.  Amen

Saturday, June 25, 2016

13th Sunday of Ordinary Time - Year C - 2016

While Jesus was with us he was a very charismatic and caring person and many were moved by his words and inspired by his actions.

So it’s natural that people wanted to follow him,  
They wanted to live like he lived and practice what he preached.
They wanted to be his disciple.

In today’s Gospel we have four different passages which speak about following Christ and explain the cost of being his disciple.

The stories or encounters described in the Gospel probably did not happen all at once The writer of the Gospel of Luke grouped them together to teach us about what is necessary for discipleship.

In the first little story the disciples ask Jesus if they should call down fire fire on a samaritan town that refused to welcome him.

Jesus quickly rebuked them. When did Jesus ever call down fire on anyone ?
You see the only way a person can become an authentic disciple of Christ is when their heart is change.

You can’t bully or punish someone to faith.
This is a grave mistake which the church in its zeal for souls has made over and over again throughout history.

The only we can bring a person to faith is by loving them and giving them good example.

The second person who wants to follow Jesus, doesn’t really know what the cost of discipleship will be.

Jesus reminds him "Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the I have nowhere to rest my head."

You see some people think that following our Lord is going to make them rich or give them power and influence.

Trust me usually the opposite is true.  

Despite what the televangelists may tell you Jesus never promises prosperity to his disciples the only promise he makes is the cross.

The cross which he willing carried for the salvation of the world.

When Jesus invites another person to follow him the man responds ”let me bury my father first.”

At first Jesus response to the man seems harsh, until you understand what the young man was really saying.

You see  the greek scholars tell us that the man was really saying “let me follow you once my father is dead.” But from the text we don’t even know if his father was old or infirm.

The reality of the young man’s response is this. Yes, he wants to follow Jesus but only when it is convenient for him, not necessarily when Jesus calls.

Jesus tells the young man and us that when God calls we need to respond period.

Discipleship depends on God’s time not on our time.

When a child is really sick or in desperate need no one can imagine a Mom or Dad responding I’ll get to you when it’s convenient to me.

Like love compels them to act right away so should love compel us to answer God’s call when he calls.

Finally, one last person who wanted to be a disciple said “let me go and say goodbye to my family.” It seems like a reasonable request. And indeed the prophet Elijah in the first reading allowed Elisha to go say good by to his family

But when you think about it
No one can really move forward while looking backward.

Once our heart is fixed on discipleship, then that is where we must place all of our efforts.

It is impossible to have our feet in two worlds and serve them both well.

And so dear friends all of us are here or all of us should be here because we want to be faithful followers of Christ faithful disciples.

Let us never expect to profit from our discipleship.
May our love and the gift of our lives be completely free not expecting anything in return.

Let us never try to bully or shame someone into faith.

May people be brought to faith because of our good example and the generous way we share our lives with others.

Let us answer God’s call when he calls, when he needs us,  or when his people need us.
Not when we don’t have any better offers or when it is convenient to us.

Finally, once we say yes to God may it be a firm “yes” a positive “yes”.
May we be single hearted in our service to God’s Kingdom.

We can’t serve our own interest and Gods’
There is no looking back once we say Yes to our Lord.

We are sitting here today in these pews because men and women of every generation  have selflessly said yes to God’s call.

In this time of confusion, when so many things are changing and uncertain.

In this time when there seems so much anger and angst about how things are going.

We don’t need more angry people.

The world and future generations need a selfless humble  church

with selfless humble people ready and willing to give their lives away to God and his people and build up God’s kingdom

May we too follow him with generous hearts. Amen

Sunday, June 12, 2016

12th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year C - 2016

And Jesus turned to his disciples, and asked.

“Who do people say that I am?”

He was asking them..
Do people know who I am?
Do they get it?
Do they know how much I love them?
Do they know I will be willing even to die for them?

And Do they really know what it means to follow me?

As the disciples responded it became obvious that many people didn’t get it, or didn’t know who Jesus  was.
Some thought he was John the Baptist who had come back to life, others thought he was Elijah or some other prophet.

After over two years of preaching about God’s love and healing
people knew Jesus was someone special,
but they just didn’t understand who he was and what he had come to do.

And then Jesus turned to his dearest friends  and he looked them in the eye and he said.

“And You who do you say that I am?”

At first all of them were afraid to answer,
They were afraid to show their cards lest they give the wrong answer.
They were probably confused too, only Peter had the courage to step forward and say “You are the Christ” or the Messiah

With those simple words, that profession of faith, Peter confirmed his belief that Jesus was indeed the Messiah the long promised savior of the world.

Jesus did not deny he was the Messiah but he simply told them not to tell anyone, why?

The title Messiah had come to mean so many different things over the centuries.

  • Some thought the Messiah would restore a Godly or Holy King to Jerusalem.

  • Others thought that the Messiah would establish a Kingdom of justice and peace and prosperity.

  • Others thought that the Messiah would be a warrior king who would defeat the Roman and drive them out making Israel the most powerful country in the world.

No one thought that the Messiah would have suffer and die for the salvation of the world and yet that’s exactly what Jesus would do.

So as soon as Jesus admitted to his closest friends that he was indeed the Messiah he told them that he would have to be rejected, suffer and die.

And he told them that If they really believed that he was the Messiah
and if they really wanted to follow him,
they too would have to be willing to suffer and possibly even die for love.

When Jesus said that he wasn’t just speaking to the twelve.
He was also speaking to us.

Jesus doesn’t promise a new political order.
Jesus doesn’t promise us justice and peace.
Jesus has already come and there sadly the world is still rocked by violence and suffering.

All we have to do is look at the tragedy in Orlando and the violence all over the world to understand that.

Jesus doesn’t promise us prosperity if we follow Him. The televangelists who promise prosperity if you contribute to their work do so much damage to the Gospel.  

Jesus makes us two promises the Cross and Heaven
You see He understands the only way to save to world is to be willing to suffer for it.

And so good people when he asked the disciples “Who do you say that I am.”
He was also asking us the same question

and when he told them that they had to pick of their crosses and follow him..
He was also challenging us to do the same and to follow him.

They way we respond to Jesus’ call to pick up our crosses and lose our live for love will determine what kind of families we will raise,

What kind of schools we will have and communities we will live in.
Our willingness to pick up our crosses  and sacrifice for others will determine
What kind of country we become,
And what kind of world we will leave for our children .
It will also determine how we will spend eternity.

As Jesus said only by giving our lives away
Can we save them.

Only by picking up our crosses can we call ourselves faithful followers of Jesus Christ.

You know we can hide in our creature comforts for a while but anyone who has ever really loved knows that love really means giving our lives away. Day in and day out.

Today is Father’s day
My Father taught me how to be a man
He taught me how sacrifice for your family
He taught me how to go to work when he didn’t want to and put up with all kinds of crazy people.
He ingrained in me, never to be satisfied with job half done of done poorly.
When I was a little boy I knew that I was always safe when I was with him or in his arms.  When I watched him take care of us and his aging Mom Grandma Susie

I knew He knew all about suffering love.
And most of all like my Mom he taught me about God’s love and God’s call.
He never ever missed Mass. We always went to confession as a family.
He was the first one into the confessional and I never forgot that.

I wondered what a perfect man had to say…

Let us pray for our Fathers..

Prayer for Fathers’ day

God our Father, We give you thanks and praise for fathers young and old.

We pray for young fathers, newly embracing their vocation; May they find courage and perseverance to balance work, family and faith in joy and sacrifice.

We pray for our own Fathers who gave us life

We pray for fathers around the world whose children are lost or suffering;

May they know that the God of compassion walks with them in their sorrow.

We pray for men who are not fathers but still mentor and guide us with fatherly love and advice.

Bless, encourage them, help them always Lord