Thursday, April 14, 2016

4th Sunday of Easter Year C - 2016

Jesus said:
“My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”

When I was growing up, our neighborhood was like a huge playground.
It was wonderful.

There were many young families with kids and the whole neighborhood was under watchful eye of stay at home moms. We thought they weren't watching but they were.
If someone fell off their bike a mom would be there.

If there was a fight or should I say when there was a fight, a mom or a couple of moms would appear and break it up.

The cool moms wouldn’t even tell your mom if you did something bad. My mom was a cool Mom

Until High School the rule on our street  was when the first street light came on the game stopped and you went home.

All of the families enforced it equally.

The problem was getting us in for supper. There there was even a system for that in our neighborhood.

The Cheektowaga moms would simply go out and scream.

“Rob / Greg supper time,” and we were supposed be listening for her, hear her and go home.

Mrs Bashnagle got so sick of yelling for her son Joey that she went out and got herself a bell.

Half of Cheektowaga heard when Joey had to go home. We all hoped that our Mothers wouldn’t get a bell.

“My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”

  • Speaking frankly sometimes we heard our moms call and we didn’t go home.

  • Sometimes we really didn't hear and one of the other moms  would come out and say Robert Schlageter you go home right now your mother has been calling you for 15 minutes.

  • Sometimes we heard and did what we were supposed to do.

It’s the same with our relationship with God.

  • Sometimes we just don’t hear God’s word and we need someone to help us hear it.
  • Sometimes we choose to ignore God’s word and refuse to follow.

  • Sometimes we hear God’s word and we integrate it into our lives and we follow it.

My sheep hear my word I know them, and they follow me.”
Yes sometimes people need our help and encouragement to understand God’s will and God’s Word.

There are so many people in our world who don’t know God.
They don’t know God’s Word  and they never have the opportunity to hear it.

They don’t go to Church.
They are not surrounded by people of faith.

It is very hard for them to change their hearts or the choices they make. It's very hard for them to come to faith.

We are called to help  others hear God’s word and live it.
Just like Mrs. Griebner used to come out and tell me that my Mother was calling me and I didn’t go.

Face it someone shared God’s word with us, someone brought us to faith.

We are in this church right now because someone important to us proclaimed God’s word to us in a way which really motivated us.

Maybe it was what they said,
most probably it was their example, whatever the case we are here.

Certainly sharing God’s word has to be done gently, humbly, tactfully, and above all compassionately.

If we are going to be arrogant or prideful or self righteous when we try to share God’s word we are doomed to fail.

If we are angry or fed up or disappointed in someone sometimes It is better to keep our mouth shut until we calm down.

However,  God’s will, and God’s word and God’s love must be share truthfully, and completely, without fear and without compromise.

If we see someone making a mistake which puts them or their spiritual lives at risk we have an obligation to reach out.   

Catholics are not good at this.

We see the shipwreck coming but we simply choose not to do or say anything.

Once I heard a man talking about his best friend’s marriage which had just ended horribly.

He said all of his friends didn’t think it would last. “They just weren’t good for each other.

I asked him, “did you pray for them... or fast for them, did you say anything to help them?

Did you try and stop the wreak?” He looked at me with absolute sincerely and said “Who am I to say anything ?”

Sometimes not only do we fail to share God’s word but we also just don’t listen ourselves

All of us have ignored God’s call on occasion.
There is a word for that, we call it sin.

We sin when we place ourselves above God’s word and God’s will.

As strange as it sounds when we sin somehow we convince ourselves that we know better than God.

The world is filled with people who have been given every opportunity to know God’s will but refuse to listen to it..

Just like we heard used to hear our parents’ call but refused to go home for supper.

You know the first time you sin, you feel guilty, but the more compromises we make, and the more sins we commit the easier it becomes.

There are lots of us who know what is right and wrong but still choose wrong.

Experience has shown that  only loneliness and sadness and bitterness, anger and even violence accompany us when we trust in ourselves rather than God.

Jesus said:
“My sheep hear my voice;
I know them, and they follow me.”

I am convinced
If we dare to hear God’s word and follow it,
if we chose to lovingly ,humbly,  reach out to those going the wrong way
if we willingly  follow in the footsteps of Christ and pick up our cross,

we might not be the richest,
or the most successful people in the eyes of world,
but we will have peace, and the world will be a better place
because we chose to follow the Good Shepherd.

For Jesus said, My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”


Saturday, April 09, 2016

3rd Sunday of Easter Year C - 2016

May the Peace of Christ Reign in our Hearts.

Sadly in 2015 there were 330 Mass Shootings in the United States and in these tragic events 367 people were killed and 1318 people were injured.

I believe that the tragedies like these  give us a glimpse of what
a world without Christ would look like.

It would be a world where people feel frightened, worthless, isolated.
It would be a world  where people are confused angry or sadly filled with rage.
A world with out Christ would be A world “out of control”
A world without Christ lacks justice, respect, or any real semblance of peace.
A world without Christ is a tragic world indeed.

As we remember the recent tragedies in San Bernardino or Brussels or Paris we see how even one person without Christ or a small group of people without Christ can make  the whole world cry.
Brothers and Sisters we are in the season of Easter
We have just celebrated with joy the resurrection of Christ.
There is no room for fear, or hate or isolation, or resentment in a world redeemed by our Jesus our Risen Lord…

In today’s Gospel, a post resurrection narrative,
there are three key components
  • the restoration of Peter
  • the command to feed and tend God’s flock
  • and the shadow of the cross.

We all know that Peter who was chosen by Jesus to lead the Church publicly denied Jesus three times.

On the night of Jesus’ trial, because he was afraid, Peter tried to convince the people standing around the fire that Jesus was never a part of his life.

He tried to convince them that his was a world without Christ.
Three times he denied him.
I don’t know him
I don’t know him
I tell you I don’t even know him,”

What sad words, fear has the power to make us do terrible things, and say terrible things indeed.

In Today’s Gospel Jesus doesn’t lecture Peter.
He doesn’t scold him or humiliate him.
Jesus simply asks him the same question three times

Once for each time of the times Peter denied him
Do you love me Peter - Feed My Sheep
Do you love me Peter - Tend my Sheep
Do you Love me Peter - Feed my Sheep

With those simple words Peter is forgiven, restored.
And he is forgiven publically so that there is not a shadow of a doubt where Peter stands with Jesus.

His forgiveness is complete.  
He is healed of his betrayal and Jesus refocuses Peter on his mission to shepherd God’s people.

Not only is he forgiven but Jesus reminds him that fulfilling God’s will, is going to cost him.
Jesus encourages Peter not to be consumed by fear when hefaces the cross

At the end of his life Peter was crucified… crucified upside down to be exact

But this time when Peter paid the final price of love there was no denial.
He was not afraid fear had no more power over him.

What does all of this have to do with us?

First of allAll of us like Peter need to be restored.
All of us like Peter need the forgiveness that only God can give.
All of us like Peter have denied Christ both by our words and by our actions.
And we haven’t done it just three times but over and over again all of us.

The secondly we also need to love and feed and tend God’s sheep, our brothers and sisters.

There is not a person alive now who doesn’t wish that someone could have reached into hearts all of the men and women who thought nothing of shooting innocent people.

We all wish that someone could have been able to pull them from their rage and isolation

How many chances were missed?
How many tries were made? What happened?
How did all of these people not come to know the error of their ways?
How did all of these shooters not understand the beauty and value of every human life. ?
We are all  needed to care for God's flock
When Jesus calls upon Peter to feed his sheep and tend his lambs
He calls upon us all to do the same

To reach out to the isolated
The awkward
The lonely
He called us all to be messengers of the power of love.

Finally today’s Gospel reminds us that love is never without cost
And that all of us will be called to pay the price of love

When Jesus reminds Peter that he will have to face the cross

Jesus reminds all of us that the same cross that awaited him will be shared in some way by anyone who loves,

Eveyrone who tries to heal,
Everyone all who build up and encourage, 
everyone who follows Christ, will have to face some kind of cross and Jesus begs us to face whatever cross we are given without fear.

Brothers and Sisters,
let us ponder all of these things in our hearts.

Let us live and love without fear and without counting the cost.
For world without Christ’s is a terrible world indeed.

And so Jesus asks us,

Do you love feed my sheep, tend my sheep


Friday, April 01, 2016

Second Sunday of Easter Year C - 2016

Our Holy Father goes to confession. 

I believe that the year of Mercy has been such a blessing for the Church.

Maybe there aren’t the huge crowds in Rome usually associated with a jubilee year, maybe the average person doesn’t think much about the year of Mercy as they go through their daily lives, but I assure you the Church and our little Church are receiving so much grace from the Year of Mercy.

Here at St. Paul’s Our Mercy Mondays have not drawn huge crowds most nights there are around 20 people in church, some people come and go.

At the end of the night for benediction there are usually about 10 people left.

However, almost every night all four of us are busy talking with and listening to people and some of the people we talk to have been away a long time.

They are people who for whatever reason have walked down bad road after bad road and made bad choice after bad choice.

They people who even with all their mistakes somehow found their way back.
And when they sit before us or kneel behind the screen and tell us their story our heart breaks for them.

Many of them are discouraged, tired, ashamed and embarrassed and yet they still come. Their desire to be loved and forgiven trumps all those other emotions.

And I assure you that when we listen to them there is not a priest who doesn’t think, but for the grace of God there go I. We all know that we could easily be sitting in their chair carrying the same sin and shame.

It’s very humbling and moving when a person trusts you with their heart and their weaknesses just because your are a priest.

Usually after a brief conversation they hear the words they came to hear.

“I absolve you of all your sins” and when they stand up again to leave they are completely reconciled with God.

Sometimes they look at you a little confused.
That’s it?
That’s all it takes?
Some even ask you don’t I have to do more?
Shouldn’t my penance be greater?
Didn’t you hear what I’ve done over and over again?

Yes, God’s mercy is always given that freely to anyone who asks for it.

There are those who question the whole sacrament of reconciliation or confession.

They say where does the priest a sinful man himself get the authority to forgive sins?

The answer can be found in today’s Gospel.
John 20:21 when Jesus tells his disciples.
“Receive the holy spirit whose sins you forgive are forgiven them whose sins you retain are retained.”

You see over and over again as our Lord walked the face of the earth he forgave sins.

Catholics believe when Jesus knew that he was going to ascend back to the Father he wanted to make sure that the Church continued to be an instrument of God’s mercy and healing.

He knew that men and women of every age would need healing and forgiveness.

So he gave his early disciples and those who would follow the power to forgive sins.

This year It is my sincere hope and the hope of the Church that all of us will be more merciful with those who sin and those who hurt us.

It is the hope of the Church that  all of us will rediscover the beauty of the sacrament of confession.

The Church was given this power to forgive sins because we all need it.

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,
“Receive the Holy Spirit.
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,
and whose sins you retain are retained.”

Thank You Lord for the gift and challenge of your Mercy - Amen

No matter how long it’s been Monday Nights from 7 to 8 see you there and bring a friend.    Amen