Saturday, October 18, 2014

29th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year A - 2014

After hearing passage from the Gospel all of us have to ask ourselves

what in our lives belongs to God and what belongs to Caesar?

Yes everything we have comes from God.

In God we find our origin, our reason to live, and our ultimate goal.

In everything we do we should try to live our lives as God would have us live them.

God obviously comes first … and God’s will comes first.

And when we put God’s Word and God’s will first in our lives,  then we will be the best husband or wife, the best dad or mom, the best person, and the best citizen we can, be no matter what our calling in life.

But the parable clearly teaches that we also owe something to our Brothers and Sisters and to our society… “give to Ceasar what is Caesar's”

Because we benefit from many things in our country we are obligated to contribute to the common Good.

We share the benefit of the roads and the infrastructure and we are obligated to share in their expense. Obviously Giving to Caesar means being willing to pay our fair share of taxes.

But being a responsible Catholic citizen demands more.

The Gospel teaches us that we are all brothers and sisters.

Therefore we need to live lives of service.

We should be involved in our communities.

We should go beyond the bare minimum in helping those in need.

We should coach little league teams,

and camp out with scouts.

We should wash cars for the next band trip and donate food to the food bank.

We should share with those in need and those who go without.

For followers of Christ living lives of service and sharing with those in need are are not a pious extras.

They are part and parcel of the Gospel’s call to love one another has God has loved us.

Very Sadly we all fall short on this and our Holy Father Pope Francis is challenging us to change this.

If we all did a little more the world would be such a better place.

Our country and our culture

needs our participation in our common life.

We do this in several ways:

The first is obviously by voting.

When we go to vote it is our right and our duty to take with us all of our values and ideas.

We have a right and an obligation to vote according to our conscience

weighing carefully what every candidate clearly stands for and comparing them to the gospel values which should mold and shape our lives.

But our call to participate goes beyond simply voting in elections.

All of us are also called to participate in our culture by helping to form it.  This is really important.

We are called to contribute to the discussion which shapes our culture and its values.

Our culture needs our values,

Our culture needs our ideas our hopes and our dreams

Our culture needs our witness.

Our culture needs us.

And don’t let anyone tell you that our values can’t be part of the public discussion because they are rooted in our religious faith.

That’s not what the constitution meant by separation of church and state.

When our forefathers wrote about the separation of Church and State they were wisely forbidding a formal state religion not the exclusion of religious values from public life.

The constitution itself was formed in part by the religious beliefs and values of those who wrote it.

We have a right to share our beliefs no matter where they come from.

Let’s participate, let’s discuss, let’s debate let’s listen to the ideas of others and engage them.

So How do we give to Caesar what is Caesar's then?

By living lives of service and sharing with those less fortunate.

By voting with our conscience and our values.

By participating in the formation of our culture.

And doing all these things with a gentle and loving heart.

This is what giving to Caesar what is Caesar's is all about.

Today’s second collection is for World Mission Sunday… a perfect chance to share with those who are less fortunate in the world.

It’s a perfect chance to give to God what is God’s and give to Caesar what is Caesar's.


Saturday, October 11, 2014

Twenty Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time Year A - 2014

All of humanity, every single person who ever was and ever will be,
is called to the heavenly banquet.

The Heavenly Banquet, also so known as, eternal communion with God.

God calls or invites us in so many ways.

He calls in the quiet of a star filled night.
He calls in the glance of two people in love.

God calls when you hold your child with wonder and awe for the first time.

He calls at the glance of a majestic mountain range or the gentle sound of a stream making its way to the sea.

He calls in prayer and the quiet prompting of our conscience.

The clearest way that God calls is through His Word Jesus.
Jesus God’s son reveals so much about God and about us.

God also calls us through His words in the sacred scriptures and the living tradition of the Church.

God doesn’t call us once to the banquet. He calls us over and over and over again, day in our day out, whether we listen or not.
God just keeps calling.

Sadly as the Gospel explained today many who are called or invited simply refuse to come.

They refuse or we refuse for lots of reasons:
Some think they have a better offer here and now.

Many are so preoccupied, so worried, about the now of their lives, that they can’t even think about forever.

And so the first lesson of this Gospel is that simply that everyone is called over and over again to the banquet but sadly tragically many can’t seem to say yes to God’s invitation.

When many refuse the invitation the master sends out his servants to invite those who at first glance wouldn’t seem to fit into a heavenly banquet or any banquet for that matter.

The servants go out and invite sinners, the poor, the addicted, the angry, the lonely, you know people who never seem to fit in or those we are quick to judge.

They accept the invitation because through all their hard knocks they have come to understand that the path they are on and the world in which we live just can’t seem satisfy.

Sometimes when a person hits their head hard enough they can figure out that they are on the wrong road and change the path they are they are on and the choices that they make.
The second lesson of the Gospel is just as important as the first.
For some reason there was a man who accepted the invitation  was thrown out because he was not properly attired.

You see It is simply not enough to say yes to God’s invitation without changing our heart.

That’s what the man who was not properly attired tried to do.

In order to attend the heavenly banquet we have to clothe ourselves in a wedding garment made of acts of kindness and charity and virtue.

Accepting God’s call necessitates a change of heart and a change in what we value and how we live.

The man said yes to the invitation but did not change.

Let us listen to God’s Call.
Let us accept the invitation to the heavenly banquet.
Let us change our hearts and minds.
Let us cloth ourselves with acts of kindness and generosity, mercy, and forgiveness

And one day may we be welcomed wholeheartedly into the heavenly banquet which God so desperately wants us to attend.


Saturday, October 04, 2014

27th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year A- 2014

Brothers and sisters:

In the second reading today we heard…

Have no anxiety at all,

but in everything,

by prayer and petition, and with thanksgiving,

make your requests known to God.

Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding

will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

These are words that all of us have to take to heart. They are very important words

This has been a long week.

There have been meetings every day, morning noon and night, our parish is a big family with lots of needs someone is sick someone has a problem, not to mention the administrative tasks that consume a lot of my time and the parish staff time.

Perhaps the most challenging moment this week was Linda Compochiaro’s funeral.

She was a young Mom with two beautiful kids and a loving husband.

We all know that we prayed for Linda’s complete recovery.

We prayed over and over again.

There were hundreds of people concerned and praying for Linda’s recovery and her family.

We prayed with confidence and trust like the second reading encouraged us to do.

We know that God loves Linda and her family very much because God loves all of us.

There is not a doubt in my mind that God heard our prayers but the answer was simply no.

Our faith teaches us that God is all good and all powerful and all loving.

It follows then that if God is all good..

God could never do evil

If God is all powerful In other words there is nothing good that God can’t do.

And if God is all loving the way how answers our prayers is limited only by His love for us.

In other words God must always do the most loving thing because God is love.

So at first glance it’s hard to understand why Linda or why anyone young and vibrant is not spared.

So many sincere good people asked me that question this week this week.

As we journey through life It’s so important to remember only God has the big picture only God see and understand the whole plan.

Only God can see how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together.

In this case God called Linda home because somehow it must have been the most loving thing to do for her.

Last year God called another young Mom Laura Pagliaruli home because somehow it must have been the most loving thing to do for her.

The death of anyone we love is a very difficult for those of us to remain and in moments like that or any crisis often all we can hold onto is God is Good, God is Powerful, God is Love.

I don’t pretend to be always comfortable with the way God answers our prayers but I do believe in God’s love for each and everyone of us. 

An old farmer here in Berlin was rushed to the hospital a couple of years ago when I first got here.

Immediately his family called up the parish and I ran up to the Hospital to anoint him.

When I saw him in bed I realized that I recognized him.

I always used to see him stopping by church  all the time during the day to say a couple of prayers.

After he was anointed and received communion  surrounded by his family he said to me Father please help my family.

Help them understand if God heals me and I get to stay here with my family I win.

If God does not heal me and I die to be with Him I win

I can’t lose and I am not afraid.

The funeral Director called the next day he had died that very night.

That simple man’s words and that simple man’s faith was a great comfort to his family and a great comfort to me.

Yes God asks us to pray..

God asks us to put our petitions before him with faith.

But he never promises we will get what we want or what we think is best remember we don’t know the whole picture.

Rather, God he makes us a beautiful promise,

Once we have placed our needs before him and trust in his love....

the peace of God which surpasses all understanding

will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Have a good day everyone.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

26th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year - A 2014

Today’s Gospel speaks about two sons.

Both of them are far from perfect.

The first  son seems like he is a train wreck waiting to happen.
He is disrespectful to his father and at first refuses to follow his request but eventually relents and does what he is asked.

The second son responds to his father respectfully and outwardly he seems like the good son but in the end he goes back on his word and never does what his father asked of him

The Son who eventually does what he is asked is judged righteous the who doesn’t is not.

The first son represents the tax collectors and prostitutes  and sinners of Jesus’ time.

Yes, at first they seemed like train wrecks but the love and acceptance they felt from Jesus turned them around and won them over.

Everyone but thought they were lost causes but Jesus knew better and throughout the gospel he made a special effort to reach out to them…. 

When you read the gospels it becomes crystal clear that Jesus had a special place in his heart for the broken, for those who didn't fit in, or people who kept making mistakes.  Let's review

Luke 15:7

Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

Mark 2:17

And Jesus said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick do. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Luke 15:2

And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

Luke 15:3-32

So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

There are so many more passages which illustrate this same point.

The second son represents the religious leaders of Jesus’ time.

They were people  who seemed to be living holy lives, but in reality are just giving God lip service.

The pharasies and scribes did not recognize Jesus as the Messiah.

They thought they were better than others.

They were not obedient to God’s call.

and They did not love, but they did put on a good show.

The parable teaches us three things:

The first is simply this we will not be judged by our intentions but rather by our actions.

In other words it’s not enough to simply say “yes” to God

For our yes to be real

For our yes to be salvific it must seen in the choices we make and the lives we live.

Our yes to God must permeate all that we say and all that we do.

Giving God lip service will not save us, even if our intentions are good even if we meant well.

The second lesson is simply this,

just like you can’t tell a book from it’s cover we simply cannot know the state of a person’s soul.

Only God knows the human heart.

Therefore our love must be shared equally with everyone,

Those who appear good and those who do not,

Those we are comfortable with and those we are not comfortable with,

We are called to love those who share our ideas and even those who do not.

We all know too well that sometimes people seem to live perfect lives and then we find out just how much they need our prayers and God’s mercy.

Other times we are quick to dismiss those who like the first son who don’t present themselves well, or not polished.

How many times do we look down on a person who just can’t seem to get their life together.

How many times have we refused to accept someone who made a mistake but wants to change.

The third lesson of the parable is this.

God is concerned about now, you might say he has a short memory

For God the past is the past.

If a person was a great sinner in the past but repents and turns their life around they will be welcomed home to God.

If a person was a great saint in the past but changed their ways and refused to hear God’s call they place their salvation in jeopardy.


Only our actions Count

Only God understands the human heart

God is concerned about now the past is the past.

Have a great day everyone.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

25th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year A -2014

Can you imagine what it must have been like for the father of a family to get up early every morning and go to the town square in the hope that someone would hire him?

Maybe He knew that there was nothing to eat in his house.

Maybe He knew that his wife and children were hungry.

Maybe he knew that their lives depended on him and the work of his hands and the sweat of his brow.

What was it like for him to stand there as foreman after foreman came by and hired others but did not hire him.

As the day progressed and sun passed over the sky what did the man feel knowing full well that he would probably have to go home empty handed with no food for those he loved.

And just when he thought all was lost almost at the end of the day the foreman came back one more time and hired those remaining.

He must have been so relieved that at the very least he would have some small thing to put on the table for his children.

In today’s Gospel  we should be touched by the generosity of the land owner and taken aback by the reaction of the other laborers.

Instead of rejoicing at the good fortune of those hired last,

Instead of being grateful for generosity of the landowner which might benefit them some day,

the other chose to be angry and jealous and greedy.

Even though all of the day laborers were in the same desperate circumstances of those hired last,

and all of them had received a just wage for the work they had done.

They were still indignant

You  know when I lived in Washington DC it became apparent to me that the whole city depended on the immigrants from South America to function.

On the construction sites the laborers all spoke Spanish and the foremen spoke English.

The men in suits road the expensive subway the poor covered in dust or wearing maid uniforms crowed in busses because the subway did not stop in their neighborhoods.

It was the same In all the restaurants, those who washed the dishes and prepared the food spoke Spanish you could hear them when they spoke with each other.

Washington is always filled with tourists and visitors and there are an incredible number of Hotels, the beds are made and the rooms are cleaned by poor immigrants from Latin America.

All of these types of jobs are done by a vast army of people who have left everything in the hope of something better for their families.

They willingly and gratefully almost always work at the kind of jobs we would not wish for our children or grand children.

When the recession hit the wealthy and our shrinking middle class were largely spared in DC. The government never runs out of money to hire.

But construction projects slowed just a bit.

Soon outside every home Depot and Lowes there appeared groups of men waiting, hoping to be hired for any menial task.

And whenever I saw them I was reminded of the Gospel we heard today.

If a car or pick up truck slowed down when they entered the parking lot the desperate men would run up and beg for work sometimes frightening the drivers.

Some greeted them with sympathy, many greeted these poor desperate men with hostility or anger yelling out of the car windows as they passed.

It seems that Home Depot parking lots had become the new town square where desperate people look for work to feed their families.

Both of these stories force us to ask ourselves are we or our country like the generous land owner in the Gospel  or like the jealous co workers who got their first?

There is a lot of rhetoric emotion about immigration reform these days.

There are cities and towns who actively seek out unauthorized or illegal immigrants and try to send them home even though they have been here for many years have paid taxes and raised their families here.

The  children of many of illegal immigrants have never known any other place.  Even though their parents were illegal they were born here.

The issue of unauthorized or illegal immigration is complex and it is very tempting to knee jerk and just say send them back or be angry that they are here.

The fact remains that if we did so many of our crops would remain in the fields.

If we sent them all  back the cost of construction projects would rise dramatically and many of our service industries would not have the labor the needed to service our restaurants and make up our hotel rooms.

One the other hand simply throwing open our borders to the world would create chaos.

We are a nation of immigrants many of our parents and grandparents and great grandparents were so desperate that they left all that they had too a risk and came to this country.

I have put the statement of the American Catholic Bishops on Immigration reform on our website. Next week, I am going to print the same statement in our bulletin for those who don’t do computers.

Let us ponder this complex question carefully and calmly and prayerfully.

Let us ask ourselves what would Jesus do?

or better yet what would Jesus have us do?


Sunday, February 02, 2014

Feast of the Presentation of the Lord - Year A - 2014

On my dresser in my room there is a picture of my Mom and my Dad. I keep them there because in a beautiful way those pictures remind me of my parents and the love they so freely and generously gave to me.

Certainly I would love to have them here with me but for now all I have are those pictures and my memories.

We are human beings and we all need reminders of people we love and experiences we’ve enjoyed.

God understands, us he made us and he knows our heart.

During the long history of God’s relationship with his people there have been moments when God knew we needed a special reminder of His presence..

As the Israelites fled Egypt they followed a cloud by day and a fire by night.

For centuries the they kept the tablets of God’s law in gilded wood box called the ark of the covenant.

The ark reminded them of God’s presence and gave them comfort. 

When the temple was finally built the Ark of the covenant was placed in the Holy of Holies, a place so sacred that only the High priest was allowed to go in once a year.

Then one day the israelites decided to use the ark of the covenant as a weapon and they brought it into battle. 

And God was so displeased that they lost the battle and the ark was lost forever..

When the temple was finally rebuilt the Holies of Holies was empty.

The chief priest would still go in and offer sacrifice but the Israelites were deprived of the comfort of God’s presence.

The temple was still sacred but the real presence of God was   gone

In today’s Gospel something astounding happened 

When Mary and Joseph brought the baby Jesus to the temple God’s very presence was returned to the temple and the Israelites and to all of humanity. 

Jesus was and is more than the ark of the covenant Jesus is the very Son of God. 

And from that day forward the temple and humanity would never be deprived of God’s loving presence again.

Only two people Simeon and Anna were there to understand the significance of the moment.

While on earth Jesus himself was the living presence of God,
But realizing that he would face death on the cross at the Last supper Jesus gave us his continual presence in the Eucharist. 

The Eucharist is more than a picture which causes us to remember.

The Eucharist, Holy Communion is the very real presence of God.

Since the last supper Jesus has been present in a real way at every Mass that was ever celebrated and in every church where the Eucharist is reserved.

What does this have to do with us.

All day long people stop into our church to pray it is a beautiful thing to see. 

Sometimes I find them smiling, sometimes I find them crying many have their head bowed in prayer.

There is almost always someone here. 

They come to give thanks or to seek help
They come here because they know that this is a sacred place.
They come because they long for the real presence of God in their lives.

So many people in our world long for God, yet can’t find Him.

But like Anna and Simeon the people who stop by during the week 
or the people who come early to pray, 
or the people who don’t rush out after they’ve received communion but remain in their place after the final blessing to pray or give thanks, know that God is here in this holy place.

Let us all be prophets of God’s real presence in our world.
Let us strive to deepen our devotion to Jesus forever present in the Eucharist.

Let us come into the presence of God in our sadness, in our need, and in our joy. .

God wants us to know that He is with us and once we really understand that God is with us, once we get it.

Nothing will be able to harm us or touch us.
May our belief in the loving presence of God  help us to live our generous lives 
lives which give hope to everyone we meet.


Saturday, January 25, 2014

3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time Year - A - 2013

When we read how Jesus called his first disciples at first glance it seems kind of weird.

Who would leave everything and freely follow someone they didn’t even know.

If someone you never saw before comes up to you and says come follow me
Don’t go, it flies in the face of reason.

The scholars tell us that Jesus had been preaching in the Galilee for a while and many believe that James and John, Peter and Andrew had probably heard Jesus preach, they might have even listened to him several times.

Maybe Jesus had looked out in the crowds as he spoke and saw that they interested in what he had to say.

Whatever the case, when Jesus called they left everything and followed him.

If we are honest with ourselves we have to say that God calls us all the time.
All of us have been called by God.

When the little old lady down the street calls, and we see her number on the caller id, and we know that if we answer it will probably mean a half hour of our time listening,  God is calling.

When we don’t really need anything, but we want to just go out and buy something, just because we think it will make us happy,
and in our mind we think of someone who really needs the money we are about to waste on ourselves, God is calling.

When we realize that we know next to nothing about our faith, but we can’t even bring ourselves to buy a good Catholic book or make any effort to deepen in our relationship with God,  that is God calling.

When you get home from work and your wife or husband was with the kids all day and you know he or she could really use some down time, that is God calling.

When there is a new initiative in the parish or our school and you know you have the skills to help out, but you just don’t want to get involved, God is calling.

When we were hurt by someone and we know we should forgive them but we just don’t want to let go of our anger or resentments God is calling.

When everyone else at work is slacking because the boss is at a conference and you know in your heart it’s just not right to follow their example, God is callings

God is always calling us to do this and avoid that.

Quite frequently our response is not like that of the First Apostles.

Many times when God calls we pretend we just didn’t hear.

Many times when God calls we say to ourselves, I can’t do that even though it was God Himself who was calling and He knows we can.

Sometimes when God calls we simply say call me later or I’ll answer you call when it is convenient for me or,

I’ll answer your call when I have nothing else to do.

Sometimes we place God’s call way down on the list of our priorities. We say things to ourselves like I’ll get to that after I’ve taken care my needs or my wants.

Many of us respond to God’s call by saying I’ll do what you want
if you do what I want,
and you have to do what I want first.

The response of the first Apostles was immediate, radical and generous.

The world would be such a different place if our yes to God’s many calls was half as immediate and generous.

We are God’s hands and feet.

Through our lives and with our words the Gospel must be proclaimed and those in need must be cared for.

And Jesus said,
Come follow me and they did, let us do the same.