Saturday, December 15, 2018

3rd Sunday of Advent Year C - 2108

The scholars tell us that John the Baptist may have been a member of the Essene community.

They were a group of Jews who separated themselves from the rest of the Jews and tried to live a more ascetical and focused religious life. 

This may be why John the Baptist lived in the desert by himself and spent his energy preaching repentance and did not have a family and career.

When we read the Gospels it becomes clear that John 
was a man driven to proclaim the truth no matter what the cost.

We all know that in the end his prophetic witness would cost him his life.

When he preached John minced no words.
He said what he thought God wanted him to say without fear or hesitation.

Because he was authentic and practiced what he preached,
people were attracted to him.

They came to be baptized because they had broken God’s law,  were not happy or were looking for more.

They came to the Jordan because they wanted to be righteous in God’s sight.

They came to be baptized because no matter who they were or what they had done John accepted everyone.

Case in point the soldiers who came to John in today’s Gospel were probably Jewish soldiers working for the Romans.

No Jew would talk to them,  give them any notice, or show them any respect. In the eyes of their contemporaries they were traitors they were to be shunned every by their families and friends

Yet, John spoke with them and encouraged them.

It was the same with the tax collectors they were also Jews who worked for the Romans and were despised by the Jews.,

Yet, John spoke with them, saw their potential, and challenged them to live holy lives just like Jesus would do during his ministry.

You see in addition to being a prophet, John was also merciful man who accepted anyone who was repentant no matter what they had done.

During his papacy Pope Francis has preached about God’s mercy over and over again. He went so far as to declare an extraordinary Holy Year of Mercy.

Pope Francis wants the institutional Church to be more merciful, he wants all 1.2 billion members of the Church to be more merciful, and he wants us to be more welcoming toward sinners. 

All of us need to be more generous and more forgiving. 
All of us need to let go of past hurts and reach out to those who hurt us.

Our Holy Father proclaimed 
“The church is the home that accepts everyone and refuses no one … the greater the sin, the greater the love that the church should show toward those who [repent]” 

We the Church should always promote the reconciliation with adversaries Our Common life should be occasion to promote solidarity, hope and justice in the world. 

Catholics should be the hearlds of God’s limitless mercy and should engage in corporal works of mercy.

We must never forget that God’s mercy flows through the Church, 
the sacraments, and it also needs to flow through each and everyone of us.

Yes, God shares his mercy with us and through us.

In the Gospel of this Third Sunday of Advent, John the Baptist is asked by the people what they should do to prepare for the coming of the Messiah. 

John’s response starts out with what we call the “corporal works of mercy.” “Let the person with two coats give to the person who has none. 

The person who has food should do the same.” 
In other words, show mercy to those in need — without conditions.

This Advent is the perfect time for every Catholic to lovingly and gently help people seek God Mercy. (Mercy Monday Last Call)

And when someone seeks God’s mercy we need to grant it recklessly without reserve… for that’s how God loves.

On this gaudete Sunday or joyful sunday, we have reason to rejoice… for God’s limitless Mercy is ours for the taking and ours to share   


Saturday, December 01, 2018

1st Sunday of Advent Year - C 2018

May the peace of Christ Reign in our hearts.
Last summer was a summer of packing, finishing projects and goodbyes lots of goodbyes.

My nephew Matthew even flew in from Detroit to say good bye.. 

I’m not exactly sure where everyone thought I was going but that’s how the summer was and it was very touching.

Whenever Matt visits we like to hike  and in the past he was surprised at how well I could walk up those hills.

With all of the goodbyes last summer I did didn’t get my hiking in as often as I was used to

When Matt visited lask summer he wanted to go hiking again.

I decided to hike up Talcott Mountain.
It’s a short pretty steep climb

Usually I can make up without any problem
But this time it was really hard and I even had to stop once on my way up.

When we got to the top Matt (ever the tactful one) looked back at me and said wow Uncle Rob what happened to you, you’re really sucking wind. 

I was amazed at how much I have gotten out so shape in just a few weeks. My struggle up that hill was an eye opener.

In today’s gospel Jesus warns us about becoming drowsy, spiritually complacent or better yet, spiritually out of shape. 

He reminds us that unless we are vigilant,
unless we concentrate on being good, holy, generous, people all the time, our spiritual lives will suffer. 

Just like I learned that it doesn't take long time to get out of shape physically, it doesn't take long to fall out of shape spiritually either.

When we don’t make it a habit of giving God time it becomes harder and harder to give God time and to turn our lives around.

When we don't make it a habit of going to confession it becomes harder and harder to come back to the grace of the sacrament.

Some of you haven’t gone to confession in years and you know you should and many of you even want to go but the longer you are away the harder it is to get back. 

When we regularly don’t place the needs of others, before our own it becomes easier and easier to become self absorbed and even narcissistic.

Many people have simply grown used to seeing other people in need or suffering and feel absolutely no urgency to do anything about it. 

It is so easy for us to fool ourselves into thinking that we have lots of time to get our spiritual house in order or to get in shape spiritually

We reason, there's time for holiness, there’s time for God, it’s just not yet.

St. Augustine will always be remembered for his line… 
Give me Chastity O Lord but not yet.

We say things to ourselves like 
Lord help me be holy … just not yet.

The Gospel warns us that we know neither the day or the hour and that if we are not ready the day of the Lord’s coming will catch like a trap.

Remember getting in shape spiritually takes time like getting in shape physically. Only the practice of virtue over time will get us in shape spiritually.

If I want to make it to the top of Talcot Mountain without getting out of breath going up once won’t do it
Going up twice won’t do it.
I have to go up over and over and gradually I’ll get my stamina back and make it to the top without difficulty

It the same with getting in shape spiritually. 
One effort, one moment of prayer, one rosary will not make a difference

Because our Church understands our human condition.
she gives us the season of Advent in the hope that even with all the confusion that the Christmas brings we will make an extra effort to enter deeply into the mystery of God’s love for us. 

I don’t know about you but this is my 63th Advent. 
Let’s say Advents 1-18 don’t count because I was still growing up.

That means I’ve had 45 advents to amend my life a
nd grow closer to God.
And all I can say is that I know I could have done better.

I know that there have been and still are periods of spiritual drowsiness or hyper busyness even in my life as a priest.

We all can do better and deep in our hearts we want to do better.

This year on this first Sunday of Advent 

Let us commit ourselves to one concrete thing which will help us to be holier and more generous men and women.    

See you at Mercy Monday

Sunday, October 14, 2018

28th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year - B - 2018

May the Peace of Christ Reign in our hearts

You know sometimes, when I feel God’s loving call and I know there could be a major change coming my way,

On one hand my heart usually begins to beat quickly about the next adventure,

but on the other hand I fear what I will have to leave behind and I dread what the cost of discipleship might be.

There’s always an internal battle a struggle in my heart and in all of our hearts when God calls in big things and little things.

The rich young man had everything he needed.

And yet he was fascinated by the words and the life of a poor itinerant preacher.

He was drawn to Jesus and he just couldn’t stay away.

The rich young man must have followed Him at a distance for a long time and finally when he mustered up the courage to do so he ran up to Jesus and knelt down before him, in a sign of submission, and asked Jesus what he needed to do to enter the kingdom of heaven.

Now remember this young man was not a bad person.
He was attracted to what was good and holy

He  had kept the commandments…probably better than you or I  
This young man had lived a good life.

So Jesus looked at him with love and said you only lack one thing sell what you have and give to the poor and  come and follow me.

Sadly, tragically, all of a sudden the young man’s excitement was gone and the cost of discipleship was real and frightening and he walked away sad.

You see Jesus challenge showed him that he trusted his wealth, and his comfort, more than he trusted Our Lord.

This gospel has certainly my story on occasion and it has probably been the story of each and everyone of us in this Church.

At some moment or many moments in our lives Jesus has called us and we walked away sad.

All of us are a little like the rich young man.

In all of our lives there is an internal struggle between following God’s will, and holding onto what we think gives us comfort,

It’s so hard to let go of what we really trust and what we think makes us feel safe.

All of us here want to be holy, and  all of us believe in Jesus and want to follow him otherwise we wouldn’t be here.

But… for most of us it just hard so hard to give up that one last thing we hold on to and embrace our Lord.

We don’t really know how the story ends..
We know that the rich young man walked away sad.

But we don't’ know if he ever came back
Maybe in the end he was able to let go of his wealth and put his trust in God

Maybe in the end faith and hope won.

God never gives up on us and is always looking for away into our heart.

LIke all of us the rich young man had until his very last breath to utter his yes to God’s call.

Remember Jesus looked at him with love, knowing full well what was going to happen but loved him just the same.

Jesus also loves us even when we just can’t place all of our hope and trust in him.

So good people all of us have to ask ourselves
What is holding us back
or maybe better yet
what owns us, in what do we place our hope and our trust?

For the young man it was his comfortable life and wealth.

For some it might be just the same, for others it might be the seeds of bitterness and anger we just won't’ give up

For others it might be lust or gluttony or sloth or anyone of the seven deadly sins.

For many of us that one last thing is our pride and the desire or need to be the best and make sure everyone else knows it.

If we are honest with ourselves and we live thoughtful lives,
we all know that Jesus has had that very same conversation with each and everyone of us.

In some way all of us are like the rich young man.

This gospel challenges us to realize the cost of discipleship and to pay it freely and generously

It challenges us to to place our hope in Jesus Christ to trust him and give our lives to Him.

What holds us back
What keeps us from saying yes to our Lord
The answer to that question is very important.

For Jesus has said …. To each and every one of us Come follow me


Sorry for any and all of my grammar mistakes these are my unedited homily notes...

Saturday, September 29, 2018

26th Week Ordinary Time - Year B - 2018

May the Peace of Christ Reign in our Hearts.

In the fullness of time, when the Son of God walked the face of the earth he shared the  Gospel, the Good News with everyone he met.

When Jesus’ message was written on the hearts of those who followed Him it changed them just like it changes us.

No one, No one, who accepts the Gospel is ever the same...

After his ascension into heaven all that he said, and all that he did, was entrusted to this small band of followers or the twelve.

After Pentecost the disciples became the heralds and protectors of the Gospel, which was handed down from age to age.

To accomplish this the community of believers quickly formed a structure which developed into an institution whose only purpose was to protect and proclaim the revealed truth of God.

This institution we call the Church and it was founded by Christ on the rock of Peter who was its first leader.

Yes, throughout history our Church has been burdened by sin and distracted by the contemporary struggles.

We all know the challenges and sins which our Church bears right now and they are heart breakings.

We are not immue to the struggles of our time.

As the story goes in a fit of Rage Napolean screamed at Cardinal Consalvi I will destory your chuch…
The Cardinal calmly responded if the priests and bishops and popes haven’t been able to do it for 1800 years do you think you’ll be able to do it.

You see the Church which is both human and divine, broken and blessed, has been true to its mission. It has preserved the Gospel and proclaimed of the Good News all over the world

Soley Human institutions have come and gone but the Church has always survived...

Therefore the church, our church, with all it wounds still deserves our love and respect because it is also Christ’s Church. Broken and Holy at the same time

The first section of the Gospel reminds us Today.
The spirit is not limited to those formally commissioned by the Church

In the Gospel today we heard how the Apostles discovered others, people they didn’t know expelling demons in Jesus' name, they were not connected directly with the Apostles or his disciples

When they told Jesus they tried to stop the strangers because they did not know them. Jesus advised them not to so. "He who is not against us is for us" in other words leave them alone.

Throughout history there have been people who worked outside or on the fringe of the institutional church but were still instruments of God’s Spirit

The Desert Fathers left the community and fled to the desolation of the Desert to grow in holiness

St. Benedict the founder of Monasticism was suspect by some in the mainstream church as were...

St. Francis of Assisi until he won the heart of Pope Honorious

St. Teresa of Avila managed to frustrate so many in the church with her persistent call for reform

All of the above were on the fringe... some in the Church looked on them with suspicion.... as if they were strangers.

Many of them were persecuted and their ideas put to the test

In our own time there are tons of examples,
St. Maximilian Kolbe reformed our Conventual Franciscan Community but the friars in poland did not accept him and it was the friars in America who gave him the money for his first printing press and helped him begin his movement.

Mother Teresa left the comfort of her traditional convent to found a community to serve the poorest of the poor.

Pope John XXIII was supposed to be a caretaker Pope, or a do nothing Pope, he was elected because he was old he likes a lot of pasta and won’t last long. yet he called the Second Vatican Council.

And began a wonderful aggiornamento or reform of the Church.

So you see the first passage of the gospel speaks to all of us as members of the church.

It calls us to be open to the prompting of the spirit

It warns us not to dismiss those who seem to be living the gospel in a different way or calling us to do so

Even if we do not know, them they may still be instruments of the spirit and those who are not against us are for us...

The second part of the Gospel speaks to those who feel called to reform or challenge the Church.

Just as the institution must be cautious in dismissing them or stopping them

Those who feel called by the Spirit must be careful not to cause scandal or sin.

Their reforms, their charismatic teaching, can only be the result of prayer and a holy life lived...

If we took the last part of the Gospel literally we would all have major wounds. please don’t take it literally or cut anything off

Jesus simply used hyperbole to warns us  that we must be diligent and radical in our desire to separate ourselves from all that keeps us from faithfully living the gospel.

Brothers and Sisters,

Let us pray for a cautious discerning spirit so that we may be faithful to the Gospel which Christ preached and open to the ever changing promptings of the Holy Spirit


Sunday, September 16, 2018

24th Year of Ordinary Time Year B 2018

The other night I was driving as I was driving on 185.  I noticed that it was really getting dark but that people were not putting on their lights.

It puzzled me for a moment until I realized that I was wearing my sunglasses and when I took them off everything changed.

In today’s Gospel Jesus forces his disciples and all of us to take off our sunglasses and clearly see the demands of discipleship.

Jesus makes sure that everyone knows what it really means to follow Him.

Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.”

No honest Christian can say they didn’t know that they would have to carry the cross to follow him.

All of us who follow of Jesus should expect suffering and pain.
Jesus is very upfront about this.

Often human suffering is one of the greatest challenges a person can face.
Sometimes when we are faced with suffering, we ask ourselves questions like,
Why do I have to suffer? Why me?
Why do I have to watch someone I love suffer?
Why doesn’t God take away my pain or the pain of my loved one?

These are very human questions and we should not be afraid to ask them.

Sometimes if we are honest with ourselves, our suffering is the result of the choices we have made in our lives.

  • We all know that  if we live a poor lifestyle, we increase our chances for illness and suffering.

  • If we drive everyone in our life away because of our selfishness or our anger, we will probably suffer loneliness when we need people the most.

Sometimes it’s clear to see that our suffering is the result of the choices other people make.

  • Those who pollute our world or produce foods with ingredients that we can’t even pronounce so that they last a little longer on the shelf, increase our chances for cancer and sickness.

  • Sometimes other people’s sinfulness affects us. When we are in the wrong place at the wrong time and we are robbed or mugged, our suffering is caused by someone else’s sin.

Sometimes our suffering is just part and parcel of having a physical body the angels don’t have to worry about cholesterol.
  • It should be a surprise to no one that sometimes bodies simply wear out.
  • When we fall down, we risk breaking something. If we hit our thumb with a hammer instead of the nail (been there, done that), we are going to suffer.

Yes, suffering is often caused by how we, or someone else, chooses to use the free will that God has given us.

Sometimes suffering is really good waiting to happen. There have probably been moments in our lives when our suffering has molded us, stretched us and shaped us into being better people, more loving people, more compassionate people, holier people.  

A young father once told me… Kids stretch you Father. and so does marriage. (Truer words were never spoken)

The hardest type of suffering a human being can face is when someone who is innocent, someone who had done everything right, and nothing wrong has to carry the cross of suffering.

Our faith can easily be shaken by the sight of a child who was abused  or ill.

Sometimes it’s so hard to understand why a young Mom had to die of cancer or why a raging storm like Florence is permitted to take a innocent human life.

In difficult painful situations like these it is hard to find understanding or an answer that comforts. Words and theories just don’t cut it when we see an innocent person suffering

In moments like this, all we can do is take God at his word hold on to him
and trust that He loves us;

It seems that sometimes the loss of a loved one or the suffering of an innocent person is allowed to happen according to God’s plan. And it is just not possible for us to understand why.

God doesn’t cause the suffering, but sometimes he allows it to happen or refuses to stop it either.

Our hearts are often broken when we see suffering humanity on the evening news. Several years ago a the lifeless body of a Syrian boy washed ashore in greece. I looked around our friary rec room and there was not a dry eye among us.

When God doesn’t stop the suffering of an innocent person, we need to find some comfort or at least understanding that in the fact that Jesus, who was also an innocent person, had to carry the cross, suffer and die.

When humanity walked down the wrong road, when our sinfulness caused us pain and suffering, God didn’t run away. He did leave us to be victims of our own designs or our broken choices

God ran to us and became one of us and for us Jesus walked down the road of suffering and pain so that we might be reconciled with God forever.

Jesus, innocent though He was, bore the weight of our sin. His love was redemptive; in other words, His suffering love saved us.

I know that for some much of what I said is as worthless as straw. I know I haven’t answered the question of suffering or the cross. I know that there are people who are still hurt or still filled with doubt because of the crosses that they have, or someone they love, have had to carry in their lives.

I offer you these humble thoughts in the hope that they will help us see the connection between love and suffering.

Sometimes love calls us to suffering

And When someone suffers no matter who they are no matter where they come from we, all of us are called to run to them and love them more and help them carry the cross anyway we can.

Yes we need to take off our sunglasses and see clearly what it means be a disciple.

When, not if, our time of suffering comes, may we all have strength and courage and the faith to pick up the cross and follow Jesus on the road to Calvary without fear.

For Jesus said…, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.”

Saturday, September 08, 2018

23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time Year - B - 2018

I’m not a very artsy guy but this caught my eye in the Washington Post many years ago and I still remember it.

In 2007 Joshua Bell one of the world’s most renowned violinists was in Washington for a concert tour.

The Kennedy Center immediately sold out at $100 a seat.

But while he was there the Washington Post commissioned him to pay his 4 million dollar stradivarius in one of the subway stations in our nation’s Captial

The morning after the concert he played as people went to work and almost 2000 walked by him the subway without stopping to listen or even notice him and he got $37.19 in tips.

I mention this story because our lives are filled with sounds and words.
But many times it’s hard to notice what is of value and what is not.

It’s hard to discern what we should really listen to and what we should tune out.

In today’s Gospel Jesus healed a man who couldn’t hear or speak.

Most of the time when he performs a miracle all that Jesus does is speak and it happens.

Come out and Lazaraus came out,
Be still and the sea was calm,
Talithacum and the little girl got up.
This time Jesus did something different
He put his fingers in the man’s ears and touched the man’s tongue with saliva so that the man would know what was going on.

Jesus accepts each of us where we are

The scholars tell us that Jesus used these actions from contemporary medicine to put the man at ease as a whole new world would of sound would and communication would enter into his experience.

The scholars also tell us that this miracle is both real and symbolic.

It was real because yes there was a real man whose hearing was restored

It was symbolic because by giving the man back his hearing Jesus also connected him with the world in a new and more intimate way.

God gives us our senses, hearing, sight, touch and even smell so that we can connect with each other and nature.

Our sense give us  ability to communicate in a profound way and they make it possible for us to to be in communion.

All of our senses all of these God given gifts should be used for what is good and holy.

Our senses and ability to communicate  to bring us together rather than cause division.

Just like many people walked by Joshua Bell in the metro or Subway station so much of the world simply fails to notice or hear God’s word.

Quite often God’s Word just gets drowned out by all the other voices and noise competing for our attention.

So many people even life long believers fail to give God’s word its proper place in our lives.

We simply walk through life not knowing what we are missing or even really paying attention.

The Gospel today calls us to reflect on our relationship with God’s Word and our relationship with each other

It calls us to ask ourselves on whose word do we shape our thoughts and our opinions and our lives

On Whose word do we place our hope ?

Whose word directs our life and informs our actions ?

These are very important questions indeed.

The day that Joshua Bell played in the subway.
I was sitting at the  supper table in the Priest residence on campus and one of the priests who loves classical music had been to Joshua Bell concert the previous night at the Kennedy Center.

He told us at the table “I will never be able to listen to a violin in the same way again. From now on every time I hear a violin I will compare it to that concert last night.” It was beautiful somehow he could make that violin sing.

Good friends once we hear God’s word once we really hear God’s word

Our lives and the lives of those we love will never be the same.
The way we look at the world will never be the same

Everything will be seen in the Light of the loving Word of God which each of us is called to hear to follow and to share

Let us pray.
Lord help us to notice and listen to your Word
May it shape the way we think
may it inspire our hope
and may it move us all to love without counting the cost.