Saturday, January 28, 2012

4th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B–2012

4 bToday the Church asks us to continue to meditate on the beginning of the Gospel of Mark.

In fact we will meditate on this Gospel for most of the year.

Up until now,
Jesus moved by the preaching of John left his home.
He was baptized in the Jordan.
He is tempted in the desert and discerned what God needed him to say and do.

Last week we heard how He called his first disciples
and finally today in our Gospel reading we find him in the Synagogue in Capernaum at the very beginning his public ministry.

It is important to note that the very first thing he does is preach.

As he preaches the people are astounded because he taught with authority, his own authority.

He doesn’t depend on other rabbis to back him up,
rather he simply proclaims what he knows to be true.

And to prove that he does indeed have the authority to speak for God  he heals a man possess by a demon and everyone in that Synagogue was astounded.

It is important to notice that he does not heal the man by touching him.

He doesn’t need any kind of medicine to free this man from his burden.

Jesus’ word alone has the power to drive the demon from the man.

And so in the Gospel of Mark
from the very first moment of his public ministry
the evangelist  wants to make it crystal clear that Jesus does in fact have power and authority.

He wants the reader to understand that is no ordinary Man speaking.

Catholics believe that Jesus’ Word has been passed down to us in two forms,
the scriptures which we hear every Sunday,
and the living tradition of the Church.

Today the Gospel calls us to ask ourselves how  we view God’s Word?

How do we understand the place of God’s word in our lives?

Are the Gospels a collection of nice feel good stories or are they God’s Word?

Do we give the Gospels and the living tradition of the Church authority in our lives?

Do we model our words
and our lives
and our dreams after the Word of God
found in the scriptures and the tradition of the Church?

If we just feel comfortable after every Mass,
If we come only expecting to be entertained, 
if the Gospel never challenges us,
then maybe just maybe we missed the point.

Just like Jesus healed the man in Capernam
He can free us from out demons too.

May the Word of Jesus,
the Word of God,
challenge us,
mold us,
heal us, and inspire us   Amen

Catholic Schools Week 2012

schoolCatholic School Week at St. Paul School

As you can see today we begin our celebration Catholic School Week.

There are those who say that Catholic Education has run its course.

They believe that Catholic Schools have served their purpose of educating and integrating a vast sea of immigrants into our nation.

They believe that the time for Catholic Schools and even Catholic Education in general is passed and that the resources we spend on them could be better used elsewhere.

We here at St. Paul… do not share their opinion.

We don’t share it.

Over and over again the people of this parish tell me how important our young people are to them.

The parish survey done a couple years ago showed that our young people were the number one concern.

We have a lot to be proud of and grateful for.
We have a excellent school and an excellent Religious Education Program.

Forming our young people in our faith,
being present in their lives,
helping them understand that they are precious in God’s sight
and loved by God is part and parcel of what it means to be a Catholic.

And just like every family sacrifices for their kids so do we here at St. Paul’s.

Just like the parents in our school and in our religious Education write out their tuition checks.

Every month I write out our “tuition check”
and I do so willingly because I know it is the right thing to do.

All of us should understand that we have a serious obligation to prepare our young people for a world that becomes more and more secular and more and more Godless every day.

With our Catholic School and our Religious Education programs we have the possibility of planting the seeds of faith in the hearts of our children. 

Sometimes these seeds don’t germinate… right away.

Recently I met a beautiful couple
who hadn’t been in Church for years.

They came to talk about being married in the Church.

One of them said to me “Father I admit it I’ve been away from church for a long time.

I don’t go to church regularly but now I want to come back to God and come back to the Church.”

I have to admit I was a little skeptical.

When I pushed a little harder and asked this person why?

They responded,
”Father I just wandered away for a while,
I went to St. Paul School and what I learned there is still a part of me.
I want to live a good life.
I want to raise my kids Catholic.”

I was very moved and simply said
“Welcome home.”

There’s a dividend from our little School which is beyond price

I promise you here at St. Paul Church

We will do all that we can to make our school the best that it can be.

First and foremost it will be deeply rooted in the truths of the Gospel.

It will always be a Catholic School in every sense of the word.

Second of all it will be a place where children learn and learn well..
We will never be able to provide our students with all the extras that they can afford in a public school but,

Last year our third graders were reading on 5 grade level
our 4th graders were reading on 6 grade level
our 5 graders were reading on 8th grade level
our 6th graders were reading on 9th grade level
our 7th graders were reading on a 10th grade level

In math
Last year
our 3rd graders were working on 4 grade level
our 4th graders were working on 5th grade level
our 5th graders were working on 7th grade level
our 6th graders were working on just shy of a 8th grade level
our 7th graders were work on a 9th  grade level

Last year in our school every grade was working above grade level in reading and math.

A couple times they were more than one year ahead and we have the test results to prove it.

We do provide an excellent education.
That’s a lot to be proud of.

As we begin Catholic Schools Week. I want to thank the incredibly dedicated administration faculty and staff of St Paul school for their dedication and sacrifices for our children.

I want to thank you for supporting and believing in our young people

When you came in the kids were passing out a little card with a saying which hangs right inside the door of our school.

Let us recommit ourselves to Christ and our young people by praying it together.

Let it be known to all who enter here
that Jesus Christ is the reason for this school,
the unseen but ever-present teacher in all its classes,
the model of its faculty,
and the inspiration for its staff and students.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B - 2012

May the Peace of Christ reign in our hearts,

Being a priest you have the privilege of speaking to many people at so many different places in their lives...

We talk to people when they are young or preparing for marriage.

We talk to people who have been away from God for a long time and are wondering how to come back.

We talk to people when their parent is sick or has just died.

We talk to people when they just lost their job.
We talk to people in intensive care.

The other day I sat right there with our Third Graders who were preparing for their first confessions.

They told me it was really hard to be good.

Last year as they prepared for first reconciliation they asked if it was a sin to shoot your father with a nerf gun.

They were so sincere and honest. It was humbling what a privilege.

Yes Priests listen and talk to lots of people…about lots of things

Some of the most moving conversations a priest has with those who are terminally ill or very sick.

When a person finds themselves in that kind of situation they don’t often have the energy or time for facades.

Frequently they simply say what is on their mind or what is on their heart.
Some are angry that their time seems to be running out.
Some are afraid.

Sometimes they express gratitude for all the blessings in their lives.

Many lament that they’ve left things undone..

They look back on their lives and remember all the times they did not answer God’s call

They say things like…
I should have spent more time with my kids.
I learned too late how much I really loved my wife and how much she loved me.
I should have planned better to provide for my family.

Today’s readings remind us that time is indeed short.

In the first reading the reluctant prophet and procrastinator Jonah finally gets around to calling Nineveh to conversion.

We all know the parable… he did his best to run from God and only after he was swallowed by a whale and spit up on the shore of Nineveh did he say yes to God’s call.
In the second reading St. Paul bluntly tells the Corinthians.
“I tell you, brothers and sisters, the time is running out.”

In the Gospel Jesus simply walks up to the some fishermen and calls them to the service of God’s Kingdom.

The scholars tell us that the first apostles probably knew Jesus before he called them
but nonetheless the call was stark and urgent.

Jesus didn’t try and convince them or woo them
He didn’t explain all of the consequences of his call and what it is going to cost them.

He simply says come follow me and they did.

The call of the first apostles was simple, short, sweet and urgent

Sometimes, even when we accept that doing God’s will in our lives is urgent we find excuses not to answer God’s call.

We convince ourselves that we don’t have what it takes,
that we are not qualified to do God’s work

When we’re tempted to use this excuse
it is important for us to look at today’s Gospel and see who Jesus called.

He didn’t call the theologians or the priests.
He didn’t call the scholars of the law.
He doesn’t call the rich or the powerful who could have gotten the job done much easier.

Jesus called simple hard working people, just like you and me.

Holy ones God has called each and everyone of us over and over again
And God’s call is urgent

We all know how quickly  time flies.
Yes each and everyone of us has only has so much time.
And we never know how much we have

Have we answered God’s call in our lives ?
Will we answer the next time God calls?

Will we pick up the phone and call the sibling or parent we’ve been fighting with for way too long?
Will we put aside our own interests and invest more of our limited time in our marriages and in our kids?

Will we be committed to becoming better people holier people more generous people?

It is so important not to leave things undone  or procrastinate in doing God’s will.

All of us have heard the same call that Jesus shared with the Apostles…

Come follow me …

Pray God the next time we hear it… we say yes.


Saturday, January 14, 2012

2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time – Year B - 2012

May the Peace of Christ Reign in our hearts.

Those of you who are parents… do you remember when you brought your first child home?

Do you remember how you gently laid them in their crib and went to bed only to be awakened a couple of hours later?

Do you remember how long those nightly calls lasted and how many times you got up? Love calls..

You can always tell who the new parents are. They are the ones with the circles under their eyes.

And then when they stopped waking you up to be fed or because of bad dreams or because they were sick,
sometimes you had your whole day planned.

You took this one to soccer and that one to ballet and this one to Boys Scouts and you waited all day with great expectation for that 1 hour before the pickups started.

But finally put your behind in the chair your cell phone rang… Mom soccer practiced ended early can you come and get me ? No rest for you… Love calls…

And then when they were in high school you thought the calls would be over.

However when they were in High School it’s not always them who are calling  but rather sometimes its you who calls.

You call after you lie awake in the wee hours of the morning because they are not home.

You call to ask where are you ? You were supposed to be home at 12:00… etc etc etc… love calls

When I worked in colleges we had to have a special class for parents to know how to deal with it when their kids called home upset.

Most of the time they call in the middle of the night and say things like they hated at school or that  they were failing all of their classes or had no friends maybe that  they were in trouble.  Love calls….

And finally when they are married and out of the house…
You say to yourself whew… we made it no more calls until one night you get the frantic call Mom the baby won’t stop crying what do we do.
My grandma Susie used to simple say give him a little schnapps  he’ll be ok and I turned out OK. love calls

You guys aren’t the only ones that love calls. Sometimes I’m in bed and all cozy and warm and the phone rings… at 3 or 4 in the morning and someone needs to be anointed or needs something else and it doesn’t matter that I have 7:00 Am mass

I have to be honest … I don’t jump out of bed and say hurray love is calling  no quite frankly… sometimes I say God you owe me one.

Or I say Lord, make sure the priest gets out of bed when my Mom needs him.
Love / God calls.

Dear friends we’ve all experienced that throughout our life love will call,
and when love calls it is really God who is calling.

We’ve experienced that God rarely calls at a convenient time or comfortable time.

We know that when  God calls it’s almost a given that we will have to sacrifice a little of ourselves and our comfort or our plans or our will.

When God calls and we answer a little bit of us has to die and in some small way we will have to pick of up the cross and carry it for a while.

That’s what God did when humanity needed him.

In today’s readings we learned a lot about how God calls.

First of all we learned that quite frequently God or love calls in whisper. God’s call is not always easy to hear.

We learned that God calls over and over again…
Because Samuel missed God’s call in the first reading God did not give up on him but kept calling.

We learn that when God calls sometimes it’s hard to understand what exactly our response is supposed to be.

In the first reading we also saw that it took Samuel several times to understand what the call was.

In the Gospel it is clear that John felt called to introduce his followers to Jesus…

He did so knowing full well that they would leave him and follow the Messiah…

Yes God’s call is almost always involves sacrifice.

In the Gospel we also see that when God calls he meets us half way.

When John disciples started to follow Jesus timidly he met them half way. He stopped and turned around and saying “What are you looking for…” he opened the door for them…

And finally in the Gospel we see that when God calls us to a deep more meaningful, more sacrificial life… it is our task our job, our privilege to calls others. 

Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. didn’t just keep his call to himself. He found Peter and said we have found the Messiah… He shared to call.

Good People
All of this begs the questions.

Do we regularly answer God’s call?

Have we been willing to answer God’s call even when it meant letting go of our own plans and surrendering our will ?

Have we been willing to share God’s call with others?

Following God’s call is just like taking care of our kids it is a life time job.

God will never give up on us he will continue to call us until our very last breath.

The world needs people to say yes to God and yes to love, pray God that we respond with generous hearts.. when He calls.