Saturday, August 31, 2013

22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time Year C - 2013

Not to long ago I was vacuuming my car at the Car wash by Kensington Market. I was working pretty hard because it hadn’t been done for a while.

I was also rushing  because my minutes were clicking away.  All of a sudden someone started calling me repeatedly  Sir are you Robert from the St. Paul?

I looked up and the man was walking toward me .
Are you Robert from St. Paul’s he said again and I said yep that’s me…

He said I saw you at a funeral and I just want you to know that I used to go to St. Paul’s but I gave up on religion, however I like the pope.

I didn’t really understand the point he was making so I asked him...
You gave up your religion but you like the pope?

Yep, he said, I like him because he’s humble and sometimes I even listen to what he has to say.

I thanked him for saying hello and assured him the door was always open at St. Paul. Then I went to find more quarters.

When I was stationed in Assisi I walked out of the Church and there was a man there that looked really familiar.

I went up to him and said sir you look so familiar to me have we met before?  He said I’m Martin Sheen. and when I didn’t recognized the name he simply said I’ve done some acting maybe you saw a commercial or two that I made.

He was so simple and welcoming he had come to Assisi to learn about St. Francis and pray for peace..

He asked me lots of questions about St. Francis and the Basilica.

A couple of days later there was a rerun of  the West Wing in italian on television and I realized that I had been talking to President Bartlett.

If there ever was a virtue that is counter cultural it’s humility.

It is so counter cultural that sometimes people can’t believe their eyes when they see someone important being humble.

The world teaches us to always strive to be number one.

It teaches us to get all the recognition we can and then want more.

We are encouraged not only share our gifts with others butto  make sure everyone knows we’re are sharing our gifts.

When a proud person does something good, their love is not free they expect to get paid with recognition and honor.

When you think about it Our Holy Father hasn’t changed anything that we believe as Catholics.. rather, he simply speaks and lives in a gentle and humble way.

I can’t remember in recent history when the leader of our church has received more positive press and recognition.

All of us have a lot to learn from people like Pope Francis and Martin Sheen.

At this Liturgy we celebrate the most significant moment of all time because at this mass and every mass we enter into the mystery of God’s humility,

the all good, all loving, all powerful, all just God who entered into our lives through the incarnation and sacrificed himself on the Cross for our sins . Only radical love could be this humble.

A later on in this liturgy we will have the chance to receive our humble lord in the sacrament of his Body and Blood

God, the creator of the universe, will change some humble bread and wine into his very body and blood and share himself with all of us the good the bad and the indifferent.

The message of today’s Gospel is pure and simple

We, we as a church have to be more humble more loving more gentle, We can’t change the truths that God has give to us  but we can and must proclaim with generous and gentle and loving lives.

All of us should strive to be just a little bit more humble, never seeking the place of honor or recognition.

May we love love each other expecting nothing in return.
May our love always be free seeking nothing in return and may our lives be humble.


Saturday, August 24, 2013

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year C - 2013

I once heard a story about a very kind elderly woman who had one daughter.
She loved her daughter and always looked forward to seeing and being with her.

The daughter however was often busy and unable to come and visit.
Sometimes she could not even spare the time to talk on the phone with her Mom.

There was always some pressing issue that needed attention or she just had so much on her plate.

When she did come to visit she often arrived late, stayed a short time and left early.

The mother never got angry, she never held a grudge,  she always forgave her daughter even though she longed for more time and attention from her.

As the mom got older and more dependent on her daughter the visits became even less and less.

Finally, the Mom died but the daughter arrived late as usual and was unable to say goodbye.

The next day after her mother had died the daughter went to the funeral home to make the arrangements.
But to her surprise they had already been made by her Mom.

When the daughter tried to change some of the details but she was told that her mom had left that responsibility to someone .

Leaving the Funeral Home the daughter drove to her Mom’s home. To her surprise her key no longer worked in the door and she could not get into the house.

A neighbor saw the daughter trying to get and and came over.

Your Mom had us change the locks as soon as she passed away and she left me in charge of the house and the property…

The daughter was shocked and dismayed yet there was nothing she could do there was no way to make amends.

The religious leaders of Jesus’ time believed that because the Jews were God’s chosen people that their salvation was assured.

Because of this they took God’s love
and God’s mercy
and God’s forgiveness for granted, just like the daughter in the story to her mother for granted.

Today’s Gospel is not easy to hear but the message is clear Jesus was warning the religious leaders of his time and he is warning us that our salvation must earned, and that it is not assured.

He even goes so far to say that salvation is not necessarily easy to obtain.

““Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough. “

Yes God loves us.
Yes God longs to be with us  in heaven forever.
Yes God is good and merciful.
Yes to all these things.

But God is also just.
God is and must be as just as he is loving,
as just as he is merciful,
as just as he is forgiving.

It is so important for us to remember that what we do and how we live our lives matters.

No one wants to be loved half heartedly.
No one wants a relationship which is really going through the motions.
Who wants a friend who views their relationship with us as a burden or obligation.

One day when our time comes our merciful and loving and just God will be forced to judge us justly and fairly
by how we have lived and how we have loved.

Sadly and tragically this Gospel seems to imply that there are some who will expect to enter through the door only to find themselves locked and their key no longer able to open them.

The Gospel today is not an easy one to listen to but it is important for each and everyone of us to take to heart.

Lest one day we be heard saying something like…

But I went to Mass on most Sundays at St. Paul’s
and I said my prayers
and I tried not to hurt anyone

And God respond depart from I don’t know where you come from.

The woman in the story neglected her Mom but when she realized it there was nothing she could do to fix it.

Pray we don’t find ourselves in the same situation when we knock on heaven’s door.

Let us one and all be attentive to these most sobering word and never stop trying to be the generous and loving and caring people God created us to be.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year C - 2013

Once I knew a young man who grew up on the streets in Newark. His family disintegrated when he was a little boy and he was shuttled from aunt to uncle to grandparents, never feeling really wanted or loved.

He was angry and always in trouble.  His only solace came from his friends whom he called “his brothers” He told me once that  he was willing to die for them.

After years of chaos through God’s grace he came to his senses in the back seat of a police squad car and decided to change his life around.

He got involved in his church and somehow got admitted to Catholic U. As graduation approached all he talked about was wanting to introduce me to his friends.

Truth be told no one came, none of his family and none of his so called brothers, not one.

I ran around and got some kids and we were the only ones screaming for him when he got his diploma.

His friends refused to come because they said he was different he had changed. Obviously he had changed, changed for the good.

and Jesus said...

Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?

No, I tell you, but rather division.

There was a man I knew who worked in a marketing firm.

His whole office was excited about a conference they were all attending. They were especially excited about the evening activities they were planning.

When it came time to go to the “gentlemen’s club” and that’s an oxymoron if there there was one....

He simply said “I’m going to say back and relax tonight. His co-workers were not happy.

When he got back into the office he was called in by his boss who said that his co-workers were complaining about his work ethic at the conference and that he was not a team player.

All that man did was follow his conscience and refuse to join in the evening activities.

And Jesus said

Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?

No, I tell you, but rather division.

There was a lady who worked in an office which was abuzz because the boss was going away.

The ladies all planned to go work as usual but spend the whole day shopping on the internet instead of working.  The woman who kept on task and chose to do the right thing was ostracized and made to feel so uncomfortable that she quit.

Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?

No, I tell you, but rather division.

A young man was helping a contractor during the summer it seemed whenever they finished a job there were tons of materials left over and all of it was gathered up and taken to his co-workers house.

When inquired about all of the extra materials his co-worker said I always tell them I need almost double of what I do need and then I keep the excess.  Then he offered the kid some tools but when he refused the stolen tools and the rest of the summer was not pleasant.

Even though he was a great worker needless to say he didn’t get the job the next summer.

I could go on and on and on but you get the point.

All of these people chose to do the right thing.

All of these people followed their conscience and all of them suffered for it.

Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?

No, I tell you, but rather division.

When we hear those words they just don’t make sense to us.

Jesus doesn’t want to create division but he wants us to clearly understand that when we follow him, when we try to realize God’s will in our lives, we can be pretty sure that there will be consequences and sometimes difficult consequences.

Because Jesus chose to follow His Father’s will,

because he refused to be the type of political messiah that Judas wanted him to be,

Judas betrayed him and he was executed on the cross.

Being ostracized, or shunned, being made fun of or not hired again are all painful experiences but they are all possibilities which we should realize can happen if we are true to ourselves and true to God’s will.

The Gospel today reminds us about the cost of discipleship.

I once had an old priest say to me Robert if you find being a Catholic and being a priest and being a friar easy, maybe you’re not doing a good job at any of them.

Let’s pray that we can be willing to pay the cost of discipleship even when it hurts.

Let’s pray that both we and our children and our grandchildren will have the courage to do the right thing even if it means being misunderstood or shoved away.

For Jesus said

Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?

No, I tell you, but rather division. 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

19th Sunday of Ordinary Time - Year C - 2013

I have to admit I’m kind of surprised that my homily last week generated so many comments both positive and negative.

I don’t mind the comments at all, everyone who emailed me or spoke to me or facebooked me, was very considerate.. It is OK to have different opinions as long as we are respectful.

You know when your friars or deacon preach it is not our task to tickle your ears.

When we preach it is not always meant to make you or even ourselves feel good or comfortable.

Many things that Jesus said did not make his disciples feel good at all.
In fact some of his followers left after they heard him preach just read the Gospel of John Chapter 6 which we call the Bread of life discourse.

I can’t promise you that you will not be offended when I preach.
I can’t promise you that you will find it entertaining,
Some priests can be like a stand up comedian most cannot.
Is it really fair to expect us to entertain you like Jay Leno?

I can’t promise that my delivery will always be great, sometimes I have a lot on my mind or I’m just having a bad day. (Priest’s have those too)

What I can promise you is that I take this privilege I have of speaking to you,my ministry of preaching  very seriously.

I prepare my homilies and and trust me  my preparation for next week’s homily will begin tonight.

I will also promise you that I always try to find some way to bring the God’s word and our lived experience together .

I always want to  say something that relates to our lives and is not just a bunch of sweet nothings.
And finally I  promise you that my homilies will be the fruit of my prayer.

I will do my best to let God speak through me, we all know that I am far from perfect, a very broken vessel to be sure.

If what we say touches you then it a gift from God not a gift for me.

If what we say does not relate to your experience in anyway I assure you it’s not for lack of trying.

Now let’s take a quick look at today’s readings.

Once I heard a story about a little boy who was trapped on the second floor  balcony of his apartment building by a fire.  His Dad somehow got out and was on the the ground yelling for him to jump.

The little boy yelled back I can’t jump because I can’t see you. There was just too much smoke and fire for him to see his father.

The father yelled back It’s ok to jump I can see you I’ll catch you trust me and jump.

When he heard this the boy jumped safely into his father’s arms.

That little story speaks to today’s readings really well because all of them speak about faith, having faith.

Almost everyday God calls us to jump into his arms even when we are afraid and can't seem to see him.

Just like the little boy had to have faith in his father.

Abraham had to have faith when God called him to leave all that was familiar to him and go to a strange and foreign land.

Abraham and Sarah had to have faith when God promised them a child after years and years and years of disappointments. There are a number of young couples who find themselves in the very same situation.

Today’s Gospel also speaks about faith.
It calls us to have faith that this life is not all there is and reminds us to invest in our heavenly future.

It reminds us to store up our treasure for our journey home to heaven and place our trust in God not things or wealth or riches.

Sometimes we say to ourselves If I just had a little more in my retirement fund.
If only my nest egg could be just a little bigger....

So many of us worry and worry and worry.. about our  retirement investments.

We make a grave mistake if all we do is worry about balance  in our earthly 401ks.

We must never forget to build up our treasure in our heavenly retirement fund. 
We all know you can’t take our money with us.

The only thing that we can deposit in our heavenly investments are  good deeds and acts of love.

One day when we knock on the pearly gates may we present to God a beautiful treasure of generous lives well lived and well loved.

How much is in our heavenly Pension Fund.

That’s a very important question indeed.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

18th Sunday of Ordinary Time–Year C

You know whenever I go to a new assignment I have a very strange ritual.

When I have free time I simply take my car and go out driving.

I don’t take a map, but just drive until I find a road that I recognize. Sometimes I end up going down the same street twice or three times and people begin to wonder.

When I came to Kensington I did the same thing. I drove all over the place and as I drove in New Britain I noticed that when the immigrants came they built three family houses.

We don’t have any of those in Buffalo most of our houses went up only two floors.

I talked to people I came to understand that extended families would move into those house in New Britain and it was not uncommon for Aunts and Uncles and Grandparents, and cousins would all live in the same house.

They were like apartment buildings for extended families and sometimes if there were more siblings your aunts and uncles and cousins would also live in buildings a couple of houses down the street.

New Britain is not a large city geographically and if people had to get someplace they would usually walk to the store or Church.

It seems that as these immigrant families got more settled and saved their pennies many eventually moved to Berlin and as I walk around town especially in this area there are lots of little Cape Cod houses where these families moved.  These little houses had a bathroom and two bedrooms on the first floor and sometimes a bedroom upstairs. Our neighborhood is full of them interspersed with old farm houses. I think the big influx was in the late 50s and early 60s. That’s when St. Paul’s exploded and they built the School and the new wing and expanded the friary to accommodate the influx.

When these families moved to Berlin. It was like moving up. Now each family had their own four walls and a yard. They could yell and not be heard by the in-laws but they also lost the regular presence of their extended family. You could not walk to places from their new homes so they got a car to go visit their extended family.

In the late 60’s and 70s places like Parish Drive were built they weren’t little Cape Cod homes any more they were split ranches with a family room and attached 2 car garages. People were livin large for sure.

If you keep walking around town it is easy to see that no one is building two bedroom cape cods with a single car garage anyone. 

Now the houses are much larger with bigger lots. There are two or three car garages , that’s a long way from the three story houses in New Britain or Hartford or wherever.

With each generation the houses seem to get bigger and bigger obviously making them more expensive.

This same process was repeated all over our country as the suburbs grew up.

Several years ago some of the kids in the Architecture School Catholic U gave me a lecture on the disaster of Suburbia, They felt very strongly that the suburbs contributed to the decay of our cities, a two class society, a lot more pollution and distressed our extended families. They went on and on and on. In fact right now there is a movement to move back into the cities.

Some of you are thinking Fr. Robert get to the point. Well here it is.

You know It seems the rich man in the Gospel could never get enough.

He worked harder and harder and got richer and richer but he never was satisfied. He always wanted more.

When he finally had enough it was too late for him to enjoy what he had worked so hard for.

This Gospel is very important for us.

It seems we are in the same situation. 

We as a nation and we as individuals always seem to want more.

Our houses and our expectations get bigger and bigger. Now we need Great rooms and multiple bathrooms, granite countertops and swimming pools in the back yard. There is not one TV but many and we don’t know how we could live without central air. (We have global warming you know)

Extended families don’t live on top of each other anymore.

They don’t live on the same street.

You can’t go to downstairs to your grandma’s house if you don’t like what your mom made for Supper.

Sometimes Mom isn’t even home for supper because now she has to work just to make end meet and keep up the payments on the big house.

How many baseball games and dance recitals have been missed because Mom and Dad had to work.

How many families are able to have common meals or quality time together.

Why do I hear so many times “Father at the end of the day I’m just too exhausted to pray”

This Gospel should cause us all to stop and think, yes our living standard has risen substantially but are we really better off?

With our personal debt and national debt will our kids and grandkids ever be able to reach our level of affluence ? Is it really fair to give them this expectation ? Are we leaving the world better off or worse ?

The Gospel today challenges us all to ask ourselves when is enough enough ?

When can we get off the treadmill of material well being and live?

Are we rich in worldly things or are we rich in the things of God ?

A very important question indeed.