Sunday, October 01, 2017

26th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year - A 2017

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 kid but in the end he goes back on his word and never does what his father asked of him

The son who eventually did what the father 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 thought they were lost causes but Jesus knew better and throughout the gospel he made a special effort to reach to sinners….  

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 who didn’t do what the father asked 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 pharisees 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

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 seem a disaster waiting to happen.

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 and final 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.

If we’ve made mistakes in the past it’s time to move on. If we lived good holy lives now is not the time to rest on our laurals

Good intentions are not enough Only good actions Count
Only God understands the human heart
God is concerned about now the past is the past.

Lucky for us God has a special place for sinners in His heart.

Have a great day everyone.

Sunday, July 02, 2017

13th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year A - 2017

Every engaged couple in the Archdiocese of Hartford takes a marriage readiness inventory to see if they know what they are getting into and make sure they are willing and able to enter into marriage.

It’s not a hard test.
They read a statement and answer agree disagree or unsure.

One the the questions that most couples get wrong goes something like this

“One of the most important things I can do for my children is to spend quality time with my spouse.”

Many if not most couples put disagreed because they reason they best thing they can do for their kids is spend time with them.

However the preferred answer to that statement is agree.

Experience has shown that the love which exists between a husband and wife is the most important bond in a marriage.

That love is the glue that holds the whole family together and relationship between a husband and wife needs special attention if it is going to survive and sustain the family.

It’s so easy to get lost in taking care of the kids and to have the bond which supports the whole family weaken.

I once had an old priest stop me in the hall of one of our High School friaries.  

He was a seasoned old teacher s wise man and the kids and all the friars loved and respected him.

I was surprised when he put his hands on my shoulders and kind of pinned me to the wall.

Then  look me in the eye and said “stop.”

“Just stop. You are too busy just too busy.”
He told me I was good at what I did but that he feared I would eventually burn out grow tired or become resentful.

He thanked me for my youth pastoral fervor but explained that the best thing I could do for the kids God had given me to serve was to be a holy man and a peace filled man.

We all know that priests are people and all the activity, busyness risks weakening our bond with God and with the very people.

Once upon a time there was a friar pastor who answered the phone during lunch one day and said “Mater Dolorsa” Lunch time and hung up without listening

Little did he know it was Father Provincial calling.
It was obvious to everyone that he needed a rest from the hectic pace of parish life and he got one.

Another guy I lived with would be joking and laughing at supper but when the phone rang his whole demeanor would change instantly and his end of the conversation went something like this.  Hello? What? No? Hang up.

It was only after I was pinned to the wall that I began to take a day or at the very least a morning off to clear my head or say my prayers and take a hike.

When we read the words of the in the Gospel today

Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me,
and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.

They probably  rub us the wrong way.
Aren’t supposed to love your father, mother, son, daughter etc.

What Jesus is really saying is if I want to be the best possible priest for you I have to be the holy priest a committed priest I have to put God first and let my relationship with Him guide me as I journey through life.

If you want to be the best possible husband, or best possible wife or best possible Mom or Best possible Dad then we have to put God first in our lives

When you think about it if we don’t put God first in our lives then we are not worthy of Him and we are not worthy of each other.

God Has to come first.
Only when we live as God would have us live and pray as God would have us pray
and love as God would have us love can we ever hope to be the men and women we were created to be.

Today’s Gospel is not suggesting that we love our loved ones less rather it challenges to love them more by taking our cue from God and  by being Men and women of faith..

Your kids deserve holy, generous, loving parents who base their decisions on how God loves.

Your spouse deserves the very best from you.

If you want to be worthy of that goofball God gave you for a husband or if you want to be worthy of that beautiful woman God gave you as your wife  be holy.

You deserve holy priests, men who are able and willing to pour out their lives in loving service of the Kingdom of God.

And I have come to understand that I can only pour my life for you, I can only love you as I should,  if I put God first.

Everything I do has to be guided and directed by God’s love and God’s purpose for my life.

So good people let us resolve to put God first in our lives and everything else will fall into  place that’s what the Gospel is telling us today.


Friday, June 23, 2017

12th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A - 2017

On the death of Pious XII after the tragedy of war the Cardinals of the Church could not decided who to elect as Pope.

They were hopelessly divided on the future direction of the Church.

There was simple no consensus so they decided to elect a place keeper someone who would maintain the status quo.

In the conclave they looked around the room and the chose Pope John the XXIII everyone loved him and the cardinals reasoned he’s old and heavy so he won’t last long and do any damage.

One thing they didn’t count on was the John XXIII was a holy man and listened to God.

To the surprise or shock of everyone, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit Pope John felt compelled to call an ecumenical council of the church only the 21st in the History of the Church.

There was lots of opposition and he suffered greatly because of it but he saw it through and the Second Vatican Council was held.

While there are still some people who think it was a mistake.
Most believe that it was an incredible gift to the church

He was followed by a man who never ever wanted to be a Pope.

Paul VI was very introverted. Crowds of people made him nervous and frightened him. In public he was often awkward.

Imagine what it was like for him to face all those crowds day in and day out.

He looked around the world and saw the chaos of the 60s and was particularly concerned by the trend of separating human sexuality from  responsibility and love.

He warned that this trend could lead to children not being cared for, an increase in divorce,, and women being treated as objects.

He wrote a document Called on Human Life which was prophetic and everything he foretold has happened but he was mocked as out of touch and many including priests publicly dissented from his teaching.

For a while it seemed like the Church was going come apart.

This very holy introverted theologian suffered greatly because he listened to God and proclaimed the truth. Some say he was relieved to go home to God.

Then the Church decided to chose another place taker. To the shock of everyone he chose the name John Paul I

A double name was never chosen before but what he was saying to the church was that he would have the gentleness of Pope John and the Theology of Pope Paul.

God was merciful to John Paul I he only lasted a couple of months as Pope and his heart gave out.

But by his choice of name he had made a bold statement to the church about the role of the Pope in the modern world.

So much so that when the Cardinals shocked the world and chose a Polish pope he chose the name John Paul II

We all know that John Paul II was instrumental in the fall of communism.

On his first trip to Poland 3 million poles turned out. There had never been that many Poles in one place before.

And when they looked around they saw how numerous they were and they dared to hope for change.

That’s when the Solidarity movement was formed and slowly but surely the iron curtain began to fall.

Eventually there were several attempts on his life and the attempt in St. Peter’s Square some attribute to the communist secret police.

Because of his teaching and travel many call him St. John Paul the Great.

At the end of his life though after Poland was free from communism and firmly in the Western sphere of influence. JPII lamented that the more Western and affluent the Poles became the more the churches and seminaries emptied out.

On his second to last trip he strongly expressed his heartbreak at the direction Poland was going a direction that he was instrumental in starting.

Benedict IV was also a older introverted gentleman. He loved his apartment his books, his cats and taking long walks around Rome.

For years he had been kind of the Papal doctrinal enforcer.

When he was elected some categorized him as an attack dog and called him the German Shepherd.

He did his best and he was more of a gentle old professor than an enforcer.  

He trusted everyone and under him the Vatican Bureaucracy became divided and out of control.  

He suffered greatly with the betrayal of some of his closest advisors who leaked private documents. He eventually pardoned all of them.

When he didn’t feel he could do it anymore to the shock of everyone he resigned in the interest of the church.

It was the first time it happened in 600 years and by doing so gave everyone who followed him permission to resign in the best interest in the church.

You all know about Pope Francis. His two main goals are to reform the central governance of the Church and He calls us to be more authentic followers of Christ.

He has many many critics and I am sure their comments hurt him but he remains faithful to his call.

The readings today speak about prophets.

In the first reading we hear how much the Prophet Jeremiah suffered in order to remain faithful God call.

In the Gospel Jesus calls on us to be faithful and not to worry about persecution or troubles arrive.

Each one of the Popes I mentioned was a prophet.

They listened to God and boldly proclaimed God’s truth and they suffered for it.

Two of them have already been declared saints and the others probably were too. Each man was sent at the right time for a specific purpose.

The role of a Prophet is not restricted to Popes or Priests or the leaders of the Church all of us are called to live prophetic lives no matter what the cost.

Some of your Moms and Dads were prophetic to you. That’s why you are still in these pews.

Today’s readings and the lives of the Popes I mentioned should cause us all to reflect on our own lives and ask ourselves have we been faithful to God’s call to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

Just looking around we all know in our hearts that the world is so in need of an authentic prophetic Church willing to proclaim the Gospel no matter what the cost.

Are we the prophets God so desperately needs us to be.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

The Feast of Corpus Christi - Year A - 2017

The words the priest says at the Consecration of the Mass,

The words which I will have the incredible privilege of saying in a few moments echo the words that Jesus himself spoke at the Last Supper.

“Take this all of you and eat of it for this is my body
This is the chalice of my blood”

And Catholics have always taken Jesus at his word.
From the very beginning of the Church we have always believed that If Jesus said this is my Body, it is…
If He said this is my blood it is.

We believe that Jesus intended the literal meaning of the words when he spoke them at the last supper.

If God can make the whole universe he can surely change a piece of bread into his body and a cup of wine into his blood even if they don’t change in appearance.

Many Christians simply don’t believe that Jesus literally meant what he said.

They take the bible literally in so many instances but just can’t take it literally in this one.

They think he was speaking symbolically or allegorically rather than literally and it’s easy to see how someone could come to that conclusion until you read today’s Gospel. John Chapter 6

It is called the bread of life discourse and in it we just heard Jesus say

“The bread that I will give
is my flesh for the life of the world."

When the people listening to Jesus began to complain that it didn’t make sense if you understood his words literally  he doubled down and said,

"Amen, amen”, Remember in the Gospels whenever you hear Amen Amen it’s important

“Amen Amen I say to you,
unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,
you do not have life within you. “

Then many people who were listening to Jesus who heard him speak said to themselves this is crazy he can’t mean it literally  and they walked away.

That day was a very sad day for our Lord because he lost many followers simply because they refused to take him at his word

When this happened Jesus didn’t run after them and saying wait I misspoke, I meant what I said  symbolically rather than literally.

He didn’t run after them and say wait you misunderstood, he sadly let them go and later on in the chapter he said to his Disciples are you going to leave me too?

Peter responded “Lord where could we go you have the words of everlasting life.”

Today is the feast of Corpus Christi or the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ.

Today the church asks us to reflect upon and be grateful for the mystery of the Eucharist through which Jesus is himself broken and shared among us.

With the Eucharist, Jesus wishes to be present to us and even more than simply being present to us, Jesus longs to be in communion with us.

That’s where the phrase “Holy Communion” comes from. We were made to be in relationship and Jesus desires to be intimately united with us.

With the Eucharist Jesus longs to satisfy our hunger with heavenly food.

All of us hunger for something and in the end only God can and will satisfy our hungers.

Every desire we have is in some way a reflection of our desire for God.

In the Eucharist we recall both the last supper and the suffering and death of our Lord on the cross.

The Eucharist is more than just a meal it is also a sacrifice and through the Sacrifice of the Mass Jesus offers up his Body and Blood to God in remission for our sins and the sins of the whole world.

And so every Sunday the Church gathers the People,
We listen and reflects on  the Word
We break and the bread, which becomes the body and blood of Christ
And we enter into holy communion with our Lord and Savior who longs to be a part of our lives.

We do this and have done this not because the church needs an excuse to gather but  simply because Jesus told us to when he said “Do this in Memory of Me” Those words were meant for the 12 and those words were meant for every follower of Christ for all time.

Finely,  with the Eucharist we are transformed, changed and become more and more like the image and likeness of God.

While this change may not be apparent to us and those we live with, when we receive the Eucharist worthily we are indeed changed.

In some small way we become more and more like Christ and we are better able to conform ourselves to his will.

Centuries ago St. Thomas Aquinas summed up the meaning and mystery of the Eucharist In the best possible way when he wrote this prayer…
Please repeat it after me.

O Holy Banquet
In which Christ is received
The memory of his passion is recalled
The soul is filled with grace
And the promise of future glory is given to us

He have given us bread from heaven
Containing in itself all delight.

May we never miss an opportunity to receive Our Lord in his Body and in his Blood.