Thursday, September 30, 2010

27th Sunday of Ordinary Time –Year C- 2010

mustard_seed Once when I was a boy ( I know centuries ago) our scout troop was sent to camp out under the stars so that we could earn The Order Of The Arrow.

There were no leaders with us they stayed at the base camp.

It was really cold out and damp and we were trying to build a fire.

Rashly we used up all of our matches and the fire was only a few smoldering embers.

We were all disgusted because we were afraid we would be sleeping in the cold without the benefit of a fire.

When all the big mouth kids, myself included, gave up this quiet kid went over to what was supposed to be our fire.

As we all complained and blamed each other, he very slowly and gently built the few tiny embers left into a big fire.

It took time, skill, a lot of persistence and patience. He was a hero.

Faith is a gift from God. God gives it freely and in the end God gives the possibility of faith to every human being because God loves all of us and God longs for all of us to be saved.

Over and over again in our life we experience little moments of faith little epiphanies or glimpses of God.

If left alone they will slowly fade away like the embers of a fire.

But if patiently fanned, fed and nurtured those little experiences of faith, many the size of a mustard seed, can grow into a raging fire which can sustain us in the dark and cold of the night. 

When a person says I have no faith,
Or when my own faith seems weak,
I usually ask myself how I or we have nurtured our faith today?

How can we expect to have a life of faith when we don’t meditate on the Word of God?

How can we expect to live a life of faith if we are not fed at the table of the Lord?

How can we expect the consolation of faith if we don’t notice our brothers and sisters in need?

I realize I am preaching to the choir you are here in the pews trying to live your faith.

But the point is still valid for all of us… myself included.

If we want to be sustained by our faith we have to patiently, lovingly, nurture it like that young man who built a raging fire from a few embers ready to go out.

Looking at the question of faith from an different angle sometimes we have  to remind ourselves that God uses us to bring others to faith.

Or in other words sometimes we are the embers.

Our compassionate forgiveness…
our random unexpected acts of kindness…
our good example…
Can all bring a person to faith….

One day I went to celebrate Mass at 9:00 PM in St. Vincent’s Chapel

There was a whole row of gumbas there.

I only recognized one of them, the others I had never seen before.

I greeted them all warmly and told them I was happy to see them.

After Mass I started talking to them and asked them what brought them to Mass.

They told me they that last weekend they had gone to the Jersey Shore to party and that is just what they did.

When they came to the next morning one of them was missing.
His stuff was there be he was gone.

They started looking for him and became concerned so they started to drive around…

They found him walking on a highway.. And when they asked him where he was going he said…

I have to go to Mass I never miss.

They were stunned… a couple even went with him the rest went back to bed.

When I saw them they had come to Mass the following Sunday because one of them said..

He’s a good kid and he obviously he knows something that we don’t know.

I never saw a most of them again

But one of those kids  became a regular and never missed mass again.

The example of young man who was walking to mass was like the mustard seed.

All of us have the chance to share our faith in simple loving humble, non preachy ways
Non- Preachy ways…

What was that saying of St. Francis
Preach the Gospel always use words only when necessary.

The world would be a better place if we all did.
Jesus made an important point today..

Even the tiniest amount of faith the size of a mustard seed.
Can change the world…

The disciple wanted more faith… do we ?

Friday, September 24, 2010

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C 2010

walk by wtextMay the peace of Christ reign in our heart…

Today’s Gospel passage is a study in contrasts and Jesus goes out of his way to make it so. 


The rich man eats sumptuously, and dresses extravagantly.
It is obvious that he has everything he needs and everything he wants.
He is comfortable and satisfied.
For him Life is good.

Lazarus the poor man is so weak he simply lies in the street and he can’t even push away the dogs when they lick his wounds.

He is so hungry that he would have gladly eaten anything, even the scraps that fell from the rich man table.

They are both children of God in radically different places.

We really don’t know much more about them.

Jesus doesn’t give us much more detail because it really doesn’t matter.

We don’t know if Lazarus was lazy or just down on his luck.
We don’t’ know if he was smart or not smart.
We don’t know if he was addicted or not addicted.
We don’t know if his poverty was his fault or not.
We don’t know…. and like I said it really doesn’t matter.

All we really know is that he was poor and that he made it to heaven.

The rich man is not mean.
He doesn’t treat Lazarus disrespectfully.
He doesn’t kick him or taunt him when he passes by.
He even seems to have a twinge of compassion for others, because even in hell, he is worried about his brothers. 

Plain and simply put the rich man just didn’t seem to notice Lazarus.

You see he had grown so comfortable that he became self absorbed.

In fact, he had grown so self centered that he didn’t have any feeling for the poor or those in need, even those in desperate straits like Lazarus.

The rich man had squandered away or lost his human ability to feel for others, to pity others, to have compassion on others.

In the eyes of the rich man,
the poor,
those less fortunate,
those who just couldn’t seem to get their act together,
just didn’t matter they were invisible.

How sad, how tragic it is when a heart goes cold.
How sad indeed!

The rich man’s sin is a sin of omission,
and yet it is a serious sin, a sin that cost him eternal life.

He did not notice, and he did not act.

You know sometimes we fool ourselves into thinking that the only time we sin is when we do something wrong.

So often we forget that we also sin when we fail to do something good.
Yes sin isn’t only something we do but also something we fail to do.

Very few people confess sins of omission.

You see, we sin when we fail to do what love calls us to do.
We sin when we don’t notice and we don’t act.

At the beginning of this mass we prayed the Confiteor or the “I confess prayer”

Please repeat it with me…

I confess to almighty God
and to you, my brothers and sisters,
that I have sinned through my own fault
in my thoughts and in my words,
in what I have done,
and in what I have failed to do;

We have prayed those words over and over again…

May their meaning sink into our hearts
May they change us and transform us…

May they transform our parish, and our town, our state, and our nation.

Loving our neighbor is not optional.

Being compassionate to those in need, anyone  in need, is not an option for a follower of Christ.

May our hearts never grow cold.
May we never lose out ability to feel for others,
to be kind to others and merciful to others no matter what.

May the needs of the poor and the weak always pull at our heart strings and call us to service.

May the Gospel this week call us to examine ourselves,
and ask ourselves…

What have I done  for poor, and the outcast, the lonely, and the sick?

Am I able to look beyond my own world my own interests, my own concerns…

…Lest someday we stand before God and say I’m sorry Lord I simply didn’t notice.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

25th Sunday of Ordinary Time -Year C– 2010

The Gospel today is simple.
In fact, I would go so far as to say that it is stark in its simplicity.

Jesus does not mince words when he says..

“No servant can serve two masters. 
He will either hate one and love the other,
or be devoted to one and despise the other. “

After hearing those simple words all of us should be moved, to ask ourselves, “who do we love and who do we hate?”

Is God really our Master?
Do we follow His will?
Day in and day out do we try to realize God’s will in our lives?
Do we trust His Word?
Are we true disciples ?

Do we love God or are we going through the motions?

Are we simply dipping our big toe into the pool of faith or have we thrown ourselves into our faith as real love would have us do?

There can be nothing ½ way about being a Catholic because there can be nothing ½ way about love.

You either do or you don’t.

These are indeed fundamental questions and the fact that Jesus challenges us in the scriptures today means that he wants us to reflect on them.

You know, I have know very few people in my life who have openly and thoughtfully and deliberately rejected God.

Rather quite frequently their or our apostasy has been made up of hundreds or maybe even thousand of little compromises.

When we compromise our faith over and over again after a while God’s will
and God’s word
and God’s love can only seem a distant memory.

It should be no surprise that sometimes people who go to Church every week… and priests who celebrate Mass ever day find themselves in similar situations.

Let’s all reflect on the challenges of the today’s Gospel.
Let’s all strive to give God more and more and more of our lives.

May God be our true Master and may we all fall in love with Him.


Today is an important day in the life of our Parish.
Today is the day that when we bless and commission our Catechists for the coming school year.

Theirs is an awesome responsibility, they deserve our respect, our prayers and are gratitude.

We all know that being a Catholic today means going against the tide or swimming against the cultural stream.

And that goes double for the man or woman who volunteers to teach our faith.

To all heroes who will serve as our Parish Catechists this year…

I say Thank You from the bottom of my heart.

May the Lord who has begun great things in you bring them to fulfillment.


Friday, September 10, 2010

24th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year C - 2010


May the peace of Christ reign in our hearts.

Recently I read a book by Cardinal Francis George the Archbishop of Chicago. It was a collection of the talks he has given around the country. Many of them were way above my head, but I persevered because at the time the book cost $26.75 and I didn’t want to waste my money.

As is usually the case my perseverance paid off because in the midst of these very philosophical discussions I found one phrase which really struck me…

That simple sentence made the book worthwhile and this is what he said..

“The world permits everything and forgives nothing
God and the Church do not permit everything but forgive everything”

There is so much truth in that sentence.
The world indeed does indeed seem to permit everything but if things go awry or the sin becomes public or the media picks it up, the world refuses to forgive.

A person who sins in the world view is never the same.
He or she is marked for life.

We can all remember famous personalities who fell from grace in the world and were consigned to the ash heap of life.

Mercy, forgiveness, compassion, even rehabilitation, are not values that the world shares with those who follow Christ.

Instead retribution, vengeance, revenge always seem to hold sway.

From today’s Gospel it becomes clear that vengeance, or retribution or even anger cannot be a part of a Christian’s life.

According the world’s values the young man in the story of the prodigal son deserved everything the father could dish out to him.

He sinned in every imaginable way.

The Prodigal Son himself expected only to be welcomed home as a slave.

Instead he received from his Father radical and some would say reckless mercy and forgiveness.

The first two passages in the Gospel about the finding the lost sheep and finding the lost coin teach us that not only does God forgive everything,
but Jesus expects us to take the first step.

Notice it was the shepherd who looked for the sheep not vice versa.

Like God we have to seek out the lost sheep even if it’s the sheep’s fault that it was loss.
(Who doesn’t have a lost sheep in their family?)
If you don’t tell me your secret.

Catholics  are called to search  for the lost coin or the  lost soul even when it takes a lot of effort.

Holy ones…
We Catholics have to be known as men and woman of forgiveness.

When Terry Anderson who was a hostage in Lebanon for years was freed one of the first questions he was asked was if he could ever forgive his captors. After years of unjust confinement he said

“…. I’m Catholic and we forgive.”

You know when I was a little boy there was an exaggerated legalism.
You were always worried that you were sinning.

And so in the hippie days the pendulum swung in the other direction. There are some former hippies in this congregation… We’re getting old.

In the hippie days it became fashionable to rewrite God’s law,

and say things like oh that’s not a sin even when it was .

We cannot rewrite God’s law,
rather we need to be a people who proclaim God’s mercy.

We need to say yes you made a mistake..
Yes you sinned…
but God loves you and God longs to forgive you.

In a world so broken and afraid we need to proclaim by our word and  especially by our good example that,

Forgiveness can be ours for the asking no matter what.

In our own lives we need to imitate God’s example and be radical in our willingness to forgive.

You know when Pope John Paul was shot… and almost lost his life one of the first things he did when he was fully recovered was to go to the prison and pardon the man who tried to kill him

This is what Pope John Paul said as he emerged from the cell,

“What we talked about will have to remain a secret between him and me, the Pope said. I spoke to him as brother whom I have pardoned, and who has my complete trust."

Holy ones I know its hard so very hard to let go of resentment and bitterness.

For some reason we convince ourselves that bitterness and resentment give us comfort

They don’t…

Until we forgive like the Prodigal Son’s Father

Until we forgive with reckless abandon like God forgives us over and over again.

We will never be whole
We will always be the victim
We will never be free.

As Catholics let us teach the world how to forgive.

Challenging words indeed..

How we love Your Word Oh Lord.

Friday, September 03, 2010

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year C - 2010

May the peace of Christ Reign in our hearts…

In today’s homily I want to talk briefly about two things.

The first is this, today’s Gospel gives us the perfect occasion to reflect on how Catholics read the bible.
If I were to say to you,
”I am so hungry I could eat a horse. “

What would you think?

Would you think you would see me running across a field with a knife and a fork in my hand chasing a horse ?

No you would understand that I was really hungry.
If I said to you I waited in line for centuries at the DMV
You might think that I really waited in line for millions of years at the DMV,
but probably you would think that I waited a long time.

Because we are from the same culture and understand each other it was easy for you to see that what I intended to say and the literal meaning of the words I spoke were different.
Catholics read the bible trying to understand the intention of the writer what was the message the evangelist was trying to convey ?
Many fundamentalists read and understand the bible according to literal meaning of the words.
The Book of Genesis says the world was created in seven days.

We have archeological data that says  it took million of years.

Catholic trying to understand the intention of the author tend to think that the 7 days are referring to a process which was always guided by God but may have taken millions of years
Many Fundamentalists say the bible says 7 days so it is 7 days period.
That’s like thinking that I really was going to catch a horse and eat it with a knife and  fork.
There are moments when Jesus and  others in the scriptures intended to use the literal meaning of the words to be the meaning of the message.
For example when he said “Take this all of you and eat this is my body”
We know that Jesus intended  the literal meaning of the words because there are other places in the Gospel where he refers those very special words in a literal sense.
The reason I bring this up is that In today’s Gospel Jesus says
"If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.
Jesus does not want us to hate our family.
He does cannot intend the literal meaning of the words, like I wasn’t going to really eat a horse.
The ten commandments say honor your father and mother.

Hhow can you hate them and honor them at the same time? 

Jesus uses the word hate to make the point that discipleship should even come before our family.

Summing up my first thought then…
When Catholics read the  bible we ask ourselves what was author trying to say to us. What did he intend the us to understand what is the message ?
When many fundamentalist read the bible they say it says seven so it means seven.
He said hate so He means hate. Etc.

Obviously we and fundamentalists look at the Bible in very different lights.

The second point I want to make is this.
Jesus makes it clear in this gospel that the cost of discipleship is great.

Yes if we love ourselves more than God you won’t be free to be his disciple.
If we can’t accept the cross in our lives we can’t be his disciples.

Therefore a willingness to suffer for love is part and parcel of being a disciple.

If we love our possessions  more than God we can’t be his disciples…
The message of the Gospel is clear… discipleship is very demanding and if we only go half way we aren’t really disciples.
Discipleship is an all or nothing proposition. We already have enough “catholics” in quotes who just go through the motions.
Brothers and sisters the best way a husband can love his wife or a wife love her husband is to love God first and be holy.
The best parents are those who love God and follow God’s will and because they do so can love their children like God loves them.
The best way for me to be your priest is for me to be a holy priest a priest who wants to conform my life completely to God’s will.
Simply put the Gospel is asking us today are we really willing to pay the cost of discipleship ?

That’s a lot to think about.  Amen..