Friday, March 25, 2016

Easter Homily 2016

He is Risen Alleluia!

Tonight is the most important night of the year.
Tonight we celebrate the victory of Jesus over sin and even death itself.

Both his early disciples and we finally understand  without a shadow of a doubt that Jesus is really the Lamb of God once slain who lives forever.

The members of the early church found great solace and hope in the Resurrection.

Their experience of the Risen Lord radically changed their lives forever.

What was at once important to them became unimportant
What once frightened them even terrified, them had no power over them.

Fortified by their resurrection faith they travelled to every corner of the world, to share their resurrection faith with anyone who would listen.

The hope and faith which began in the backwater capital of a tiny insignificant country spread throughout the whole world.

And in three short centuries  the Good News of Jesus Christ won the hearts of the entire Roman Empire which had for those same 3 centuries tried to do everything it could to stamp it out.

So strong was their faith that the first disciples willingly suffered any hardship rather than renounce their faith.
And over and over again they went to their death rather than remain silent because they understood that death had no power over them.

Tonight like the early Church we too dare to hope.
We dare to hope that we are loved and  cherished by God.
And we dare to call God Abba just as Jesus taught us.

And we dare to believe that our sins and the sins of the whole world can be forgiven because Jesus God himself paid the price for our reconciliation.

Tonight we dare to hope that it is possible for us to love and be loved.

Tonight we dare to hope that death does not have the final word and we dare to believe that our destiny is not to rot in some grave but rather to live forever in the loving presence of God.

So our resurrection faith should also cause us all to see life in a different way.

It should challenge us to heroically discard anything that holds us back from being the men and women that God wants and needs us to be.

Our faith should challenge us to reevaluate our values and goals.

For over two thousand years men and women young and old rich and poor have huddled around the Easter fire filled with new hope that only our faith can give.

Today our world seems lost in the darkness of anger and violence.
So many terrible things have happened since the last time we gathered around the Easter fire.

  • The events in Brussels and Paris and all over the world bring a tear to our eyes.
  • The suffering of so many men and women young and old fleeing the civil war in Syria is heart wrenching.
  • The sight of the lifeless body of that little boy that washed up on the shore of Greece is an icon to world which is losing hope.
  • The genocide of the Christians in the Middle East leaves us speechless.
  • The horrible tone that our political discourse has taken almost leaves us in shock when we watch the Evening News.
All of these thing could easily cause one to despair.

But we will not despair .
Hate doesn’t have to win it is not as strong as it appears.
Hate did not win on the cross.
Power did not win on the cross.
Anger did not win on the cross.

Love won,
The cross that Jesus carried and his resurrection teaches us that sacrificial love is the only answer to hate.
None of the suicide bombers or no one filled with hate has risen from the dead.

Jesus’ suffering on cross and His resurrection teach us that you can’t out hate hate.

And so dear friends  on the Easter night let us remember and find comfort in the reason for our hope.

He is Risen Alleluia
He is Risen Alleluia
He is Risen Alleluia    Amen

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Palm Sunday - 2016

One of the most important questions a person has to answer in life is simply
How do I know if he loves me or how do I know if she loves me.

At first glance it seems like a simple question but tragically we all know that it is very easy to make a mistake and many people do.

Experience teaches  us that

If someone laughs at all of your jokes it doesn’t mean they love you.
If someone gives you everything you want it doesn’t mean that they love you.
If someone stays with you for a long time it doesn’t necessarily mean that they love you.
If someone tells you that  you are beautiful it doesn’t mean they love you. .

No I would venture to say that the only way you can be really sure if someone loves you is if they are willing to suffer with you and suffer for you.
Then and only then can you begin to believe that some really loves you.

Today we heard the reading of the passion.
It is never easy to listen to.
The humiliation and emotional anguish and extreem physical suffering that Jesus the Son of Mary and the Son of God endured for us
Is proof positive that he loves us and cares for us.

If  you have been feeling lonely
If you life keeps throwing things at you and you don’t know what to do.
If you can’t figure out what your next step should be
I encourage you to turn to Jesus Christ
LIsten to his words and follow his example
Holy weeks is a perfect time to start.
Three days which proclaim the entirety of our faith.
On Holy Thursday The power of the Eucharist, the humility of our fellowship
The depth of God’s love on the cross
And the power and joy of the resurrection.

I’ve you’ve never go to all of the Holy Week services give it a shot this year.
Enter into the mysteries
Pray them well and open your heart to God…
He longs for our love and he longs for us to accept his love.


Sunday, March 13, 2016

5th Sunday of Lent Year C 2016

May the Peace of Christ Reign in our Hearts.

Today we heard an incredible story,
a story which should touch all of our hearts,
a story which should give hope and challenge to sinners.
This gospel story should cause us all to pause and think before we ever condemn anyone for anything.

There is no question of the Woman’s guilt.  She is guilty.
She is ashamed, humiliated, and she is definitely terrified.

The crowd is ready to stone her to death.
It is a very emotional and volatile moment.

Jesus in a very difficult spot.
To say stone her would go against everything he has taught.
He was the friend of sinners.
To the consternation of many
He welcomed sinners and even ate with them.

It also would have put him at odds with the Romans because Roman law forbade the Jews from executing anyone.

To refuse to stone her
Would have seemed to but him at odds with the Law itself.

It would have seemed that he considered himself above the Law.
And for the pious Jew of his time during this harsh and brutal occupation of their home the observance of the Law had become so important because it was the glue that held them together.

No easy spot for Jesus to be in..

One author said that he might have been writing or doodling  in the sand to give himself time to think how to respond..

But with just a few simple words he changed the whole moment.

With those few words he showed the crowd and the scribes that they were not that different from the person who they intended to stone.

Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.
Yes, the stone can and maybe should be cast but the person without sin must cast the first one

And you know what no one cast the first stone no one threw a pebble,  because no one could.

And if we are honest with each other, no one can none of us can.

All of us are sinners, and all of us have done things that we are ashamed of
all of us.

And when we realize that  we can never pick up a stone again… never.

Only God can cast the first stone and he chooses not to.

So what are we to do when we witness sin?
How are we to treat those like the woman who are just plain old broken,
guilty as charged no doubt it.

What should our response be when we encounter someone whose life is all messed up and who has also messed up the lives of others?

What are we to do?

I think once again Jesus’ response to her,
his ministry to her if your will must be the  template for what he expects of us.

First of all  Jesus had no anger in his voice.
He does not give into the self-righteous mood of the crowd

It is almost as if he is embarrassed for her, uncomfortable to be in this situation.
There is absolutely no self satisfaction in his manner.

Even his body language spoke in this manner.
Rather than stand up he stoops down seeming to  make himself lower less imposing when he speaks.

He does not say that they were mistaken. He does not make excuses for her like  she couldn’t help herself etc

He freely accepts that she was in violation of God’s Law.
No question about it.
He did not water down the law or its prescribed sanction.

Third  Jesus challenged her  He challenged her change her life
He didn’t say that’s alright it’s really not that important rather he said go and sin no more.

But the manner in which this challenge was delivered was also so important.
He spoke to her in private.
He did so quietly humbly.
He did so without trace of anger or personal righteousness.
There was no “how could you have done this?”
He spoke to her respectfully almost as a servant would speak to the master.

He believed in her
He believed that she could change
He believed that there was hope for her
No matter how lost she was
No matter how habitual her sin was
No matter how great the sin was
He held out hope.   

By telling her not to sin again he was kind of like cheering her on…
Come on you can change this….
You can have a better life  A richer happier life a holier life.

What about us…
What should we take from these simple powerful words from the Gospel of John ?

We should print this gospel and hang it on the walls of our room
And whenever we begin to condemn others.

Whenever we begin to allow ourselves to think that somehow we are better than anyone else.

That simple phrase “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”
Should sound in our minds and change our hearts.

All of us write people off.
All of us give in to moments of pridefulness.
All of us have had moments when we convince ourselves that we are better than this person or that person.

We as a society do the very same thing.
There are people in our jails and on our streets that we really don’t care about.
We don’t want to rehabilitate them…..   
We have no hope from them  we have written them off

They are simply to be warehoused until they die or go insane
While we can never judge with righteous indignation
we still have an obligation to love our brothers and sisters enough to challenge them.

Like Jesus challenged the woman. We have to love people enough to challenge them to bring out the best in them

We all have many relationships in  life, many friendships
And you will have to evaluate which one are worth holding on to ?

Hold on to the ones where the person loves you enough to loving challenge you
People like that are way beyond drinking buddies…
People who challenge have hope for us.

When we correct or challenge people we must do it in private and humbly just like Jesus did.

That moment is sacred and holy it is so important that correct with compassion and charity.

So much think about
So very much

As usual if we take it seriously the Gospel calls us to great things

If we don’t go home disturbed a little  or wondering how we can concretely put message  into action in our own lives

Then  We haven’t really listened have we..

Lord to whom shall we God you have the words of ever lasting life.   

Sunday, March 06, 2016

4th Sunday of Lent Archbishop Blair Speaks

Saturday 03/05/16 11:10am from StPaul Kensington on Vimeo.

End of the Year Report for 2015

Once year I take a weekend to speak to you about the our parish and how things are going.

This is the Third Sunday of lent and the readings are important please take a moment to meditate on them this week.

All I have to say is that this year things look great financially.

Last year I was very concerned because our offertory collection was down for two years in a row.

When I brought it to your attention, many of you dug just a little deeper in your pockets and our income increased by 4% or $35,000. The annual family gift increased from $420.00 to $445.00 that around 2 bucks a month but it adds up.

This took a huge strain off of our parish finances and reversed the downward trend that I was so worried about.  

All I can ask you from a financial perspective is to keep doing what you’re doing.

If you maintain your current rate of support and make up when you miss, we’ll be fine for a while.

The report is full of facts and figures. This year we had 89 new families but registered active families decreased by around 300.

The reason for this is that with the approval of the Pastoral Council anyone receiving envelopes, who has not participated in a parish ministry, is under 75, and has not contributed anything for the last three years, was marked inactive.

That was about 300 families, and that’s where the decrease comes from.
We just can’t afford to send people envelopes if they don’t use them? This will save us over $2,000 in postage and fees

There are people marked active in our census who haven’t been involved in our parish for 20 years. We are slowly but surely making our census reflect who is really involved.

Everything else is pretty much self-explanatory and looks really good.

This is your church we have a lot to be grateful for and proud of.

Please take a long look at the information in this report. It’s pretty impressive.

What I really need to speak to you about this week is what I see as the most significant challenge we face as a parish and a church.

There has to be a better way for us to touch the hearts of our young people and be involved in their lives.
There has to be a better way for us to bring back those families that have left us and no longer come to church.
There has to be a better way.

We can all notice families or people on our street who used to come to church, but are no longer in the pews.

Many, if not most of us, have family members who have left the regular practice of our faith. I know I do.

There are so many, who, have stopped attending Mass and receiving our Lord in the Eucharist.

Many of our young people are convinced that confirmation means graduation.

Don’t get me wrong they are great kids, they come to class.  We have a great program.

We try our best but alas we seem to lose many of them.

We used to think when a kid stopped coming to church it was their  High School or College vacation from their faith; We consoled ourselves with the thought they’ll come back when they get married or baptize their children.

But study after study has shown that while some do come back, many don’t.

I don’t need any study. All I have to do is look at the Baptismal Records and see the very low number of people who are getting married in church.

One of the most significant moments in my life this year was when we celebrated the funeral Mass of Chris Labbadia. As some of you know, he was a 19 year old who died in a car accident. I wrote about it in the report.

At his funeral the whole church was packed, but the first two rows over there in the old wing were filled with kids who were simply heartbroken. Some of them just sobbed through the whole Mass. Our faith seemed little consolation to them.

I’m here long enough to remember when most of them were confirmed, and I know I have seen few if any after their confirmation and many of their families are not committed either.

I worry about everything in our parish: the heat, the cracks in the sidewalks, the enrollment in our kindergarten, the families who don't send their kids to Religious Education, the old people who have no one left in town to care for them.

The list goes on and on, but my biggest worry is that even with all that we do, I fear that we are not doing enough for our children and their families to help them understand the importance of living a life inspired and shaped by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I fear we just haven’t found a way to move hearts and inspire people’s faith.

Sometimes we console ourselves with thoughts like  
our Masses here at ST. Paul are still full and we even need more parking.

Sometimes we think, “If you think we’re bad you should see some of the other churches.” That’s just a cop out.

I believe that if we don’t act in the not too distant future, we will be just like those other churches - half empty.

Over and over in the church these days we hear the words “new evangelization.” Our Holy Father is always calling us to find new ways to share the gospel.

And I believe that’s exactly what we have to do. We have to find new ways to  share the Gospel beyond these walls.

We have to rediscover the missionary spirit, which should be in the heart of every faithful follower of Christ.

Since the time of Jesus our  faith has been handed down to each generation and it is the responsibility of each generation to pass it on to the next.

We can’t be the generation that drops the ball.

I believe that the first thing we have to do is hire a new youth minister and pay him or her a living wage.

Then We have to be willing to get involved in our youth ministry when it starts up.

THe second thing we have to do is form a new evanglization team

We have to put our heads together all of us and come up with idea after idea after idea to reach those who don't know Christ or no longer practice their Faith.

Just like you never give up on your kids, our parish can never give up on anyone who no longer comes to church.

I hope to form this new evangelization team with the Pastoral Council and begin exploring ideas.

If no one signs up then nothing will get done.

Some of you are thinking
Nice ideas Father, but I can’t get involved.  I don’t know what to do.

All we need is your good will.
All we need is your willingness to try.
Everyone in these pews has something to give
Everyone has a gift to share.

Ours is a holy mission.
God will tell us what to do and how to do it.

Our new evangelization effort is going to take time not days or months but years.
and it is going to take commitment.

The days of simply coming to church, tossing in our envelope and thinking we’ve done what we have to do have to end.

Like I said before this is your parish.
You or your parents or even grandparents built it.
You  maintain it.
The priests come and go.  

Pastors, Friars, Staff are but a blip in the history of a church here today and gone tomorrow.

In years to come some of you will say to each other who was that chubby priest with the white beard who was so loud? What was his name?.

St. Paul Church will be what you decide it will be, nothing more and nothing less, And all of us will be judged by God on what it will become.

Our buildings are in good shape, for now we are on a solid financial footing.
It’s time to take the next step and ramp up our pastoral life.

At the ends of the pews are little cards there are simply three questions.  Anyone in middle school and above can vote. Say a little prayer then vote as you believe God would have you vote.

If no one is willing so get involved then like I said nothing will get done and we will follow everyone else down the road to a half empty church.

Please put the cards in the collection basket when it comes around.

Thanks for listening and may God bless you and God Bless St. Paul Church