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2nd Sunday of Advent, Year B – Homily

2nd Sunday of Advent, Year C
Baruch 5:1-9
Psalm 126:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6 (3)
Philippians 1:4-6, 8-11
Luke 3:1-6
December 9, 2018

Our gospel starts with a list of names, names that I don’t really know how to pronounce.  This is not a random list of names.  Rather, it is a list of names that help provide a cultural setting and time for when Jesus’ First Coming happened.

The names are all leaders of the secular government or the high priests.  These are people in positions of prestige and notoriety, hence using their names to provide a setting.  They were also people in positions of power.  So, one could speculate that the Lord would come through them.  Government leaders could have helped spread the word.  The high priests could have authenticated Jesus as the Messiah but it was not to them that the word of God came.

It was to a simple man, John the Baptist, that the word came to “prepare the way of the Lord.”  God doesn’t not pick the rich and the strong.  God chooses the humble.  It is through the ministry of John the Baptist that the Lord began to fulfill what He had prophesized through Isaiah, that “every lofty mountain be made low,” and “that the age-old depths and gorges be filled to level ground.”

We live in a world where there is “misery.”  We see it in people starving in third world countries.  We also see people who lack enough food in our own community who we assist through the Community Food Closet as well as our Poor Fund.

We see it in the mass shootings.  We blame some of those on people with mental illness but what do we do to help those with mental health issues.  Catholic Charities in Wayne County is providing services that we hope lead to better lives for these people to not get to the point of shootings.

We also blame some of the mass shootings on hatred that might be based on race, ethnicity, immigrate status, or religious affiliation.  Do we make sure that we always act and speak in a way that promotes love rather than hate?  It’s not that we mean to hate some group but how might our words or actions falsely feel someone else justified in their hatred.

It might seem easy to say, “I can’t fix it,” with regards to any or all misery that we see.  We feel it’s up to someone with more influence and power than us.  We feel powerless to make a difference by ourselves.

Here I go back to what I said about all those people in the gospel.  God could have chosen any of those leaders for their power and prestige.  He didn’t.  God choose to call John the Baptist to “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.

Just as God worked through John the Baptist, he can work through any one or all of us.  I’ve already mentioned some ways that we can help by making sure people can have food to eat or receive the mental health services they need.

Thinking of how the “lofty mountain be made low,” how much more do you have than you need?  Have you built up a big mountain for yourself?  Having some savings can be smart but do we hoard things in a way that keeps others from having enough?

On the other end, how might we be an instrument of God so “that the age-old depths be filled to level ground?”  By this I mean is there something we can do to help those with less have what they need?  This might be in simply making sure we don’t overconsume.  It can be in advocating for the less fortunate.

So far, the ways of helping I have described could lead to only helping those with less with material help, help that is important but not enough.

We need to make sure our motivation in helping the less fortunate is not to make ourselves look good.  We shouldn’t do it just to get ourselves into Heaven.  We need to do it out of love and to help the people to know that they are loved.  This means treating them with dignity.  It means treating them with respect.  It means treating them as a child of God.

It means showing the less fortunate that they are more important to us than the stuff we have.

It also means showing our faith in the way we respond to the “mourning and misery” in our own lives.  Do we respond in a way that says that this is all there is in the world and that it dictates how we feel or do we that we know God is present with us?  To put in the words of Isaiah, “take off your robe of mourning and misery, put on the splendor of glory from God forever.”  Do we look past the things of this world to see and enjoy what God offers us?

You might say you have tried doing this without success.  We think success should come in an instant.  God should just snap his fingers and everything will be fine.  It doesn’t work that way.  It comes in God’s time.

We are a work in progress.  Becoming Christian disciples is an ongoing process.  Remember Paul’s words, “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.

This is my prayer for you, for each and every one of you, that you let God into your life more and more each day, that you may know his love for you and that you share his love with others.  Let the Lord truly and fully into your lives.

 

Rich Food and Choice Wines

In today’s readings (Dec. 5th, Wednesday of the First Week of Advent, Year 1), we hear of the Lord providing for his people.  He provides the nourishment we need.

In the gospel today we again find Jesus going up on the mountain, a sign of moving closer to God.  The people gather around him, including “the lame, the blind, the deformed, the mute, and many others.”  He cured them.  After that, Jesus recognizes how all those people, numbered “four thousand men, not counting women and children” in Matthew 15:38, needed food.  Jesus knows what our physical bodies need.

So, he fed the whole crowd.  The first reading from Isaiah speaks of the Lord providing “rich food and choice wines” but it was not steak and lobster he provided.  It was not a fancy meal he provided.  It was simple bread.  Why bread?  Just as we use water in Baptism as a basic necessity of life, so too is bread seen as a basic staple of life.  Jesus provides what we need.

Jesus knows what our physical bodies need.  He also knows what our souls need.  Both require nourishment.  Jesus provides us with greatest meal to nourish us.  It truly is “rich food and choice wines” but it is not steak and lobster.  The food is nothing fancier and it’s probably not your favorite physical food.  The wine is not an expensive body of fine wine.  For this meal, Jesus starts with unleavened bread that looks not much different than a cracker and a simple bottle of wine, adds grace in the transubstantiation, as well as the sacrifice of Jesus to feed us with the greatest food there is, The Body and Blood of Christ.

Peace,

Fr. Jeff

1st Sunday of Advent, Year C – Homily

1st Sunday of Advent, Year C
Jeremiah 33:14-16
Psalm 25:4-5, 8-9, 10, 14 (1b)
1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2
Luke 21:25-28, 34-36
December 2, 2018

Today begins a new year, a new year in the church that is.  Jesus’ Incarnation that we celebrate at Christmas set in motion his public ministry of preaching, teaching, and doing miracles, culminating in his Crucifixion and Resurrection.  Since the Incarnation sets all this in motion, it is at this time of year that we begin our new liturgical year in our Church.  We will hear predominately from Luke’s Gospel this year.

Yet, it is not the exact date of Christmas that starts our new year.  The church calendar gives us a time of preparation to get ourselves ready.  Of course, the season we begin today is Advent, noted by the violet vestments and banners.

Advent always has four Sundays.  It is a time of waiting.  Secular society rushes to Christmas.  Christmas decorations outside are already up in many places but we know it is not Christmas yet.  We need to get ready.  We need to prepare.

Advent is a time of preparation for our celebration of the first coming of Jesus when he was born of the Virgin Mary, wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger.

Our first reading from Jeremiah is a prophesy about the first coming of Jesus.  It is a reminder to the Jews of God’s promise to send a messiah as a “just shoot” from David.  Thinking of the first coming of Jesus fills us with hope.  We need this hope.  The hope Jesus offers is offered to us everyday but Christmas really brings it alive for us.  We see it in how the attendance at our Christmas Masses often doubles that of a normal Sunday.

As Advent is a time of preparation to celebrate Christmas, it is also a time to prepare ourselves for the Second Coming.  Our gospel reading speaks of the Second Coming of Jesus.  Jesus tells us that “People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world.”  These images might seem scary but our fear of the Second Coming can also be rooted in the fact that we are not ready.

We don’t always stay vigilant.  When Jesus speaks, “do not become drowsy,” he is not speaking simply of physical tiredness.  He is speaking of growing weak in following his way and to not be consumed by “the anxieties of daily life.”  We need to “be vigilant at all times.”

We know this but we don’t always do it.  When we fall short, how often do we tell ourselves there is always tomorrow?  We have seen many tomorrows but when the Second Coming happens, there will be no tomorrows left in this world.

We need to change, we need the Lord to make us “increase and abound in love.”  So, in our opening prayer, we ask that the Lord grant us “the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ.”

In our psalm today, we hear repeated requests to the Lord to teach us and guide us, to show “sinners the way.”  We are sinners.  The only way we are going to change is to listen to the Lord.  So, in our responsorial verse, we cry out “To you, O Lord, I lift my soul.”

In his teaching and preaching, Jesus helps us understand the Lord’s ways, to help us understand that the Commandments are not just rules but a way of life that is good for us.

Jesus’ teaching is a great aid to us.  The Holy Spirit is vital to our following Jesus yet we know we remain sinners.  We try to “be vigilant at all times” but we remain weak.

Soon, we celebrate the Incarnation of Jesus.  As I already said, this gives us hope.  The birth of any baby can bring joy but the birth of Jesus brings us an everlasting joy.  In becoming incarnate, Jesus unites himself to us.  We have a high priest who knows what it is like to suffer.  Most of all, we have a savior who died so that our sins might be forgiven and he shows us the way to eternal life.

 

 

New Video Presentation – “Advent: Preparing for the Incarnation”

I just completed another presentation and put the video and handouts on my website at www.renewaloffaith.org/adventprep.  It’s something to reflect on as we start our season of Advent and prepare for the Incarnation.  This video is about 50 minutes.  The video will appear small on your screen.  If you double-click on it, it should go to full-screen.  Hope you enjoy!

Peace,

Fr. Jeff

Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, Year B – Homily

Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, Year B
Daniel 7:13-14
Psalm 93:1, 1-2, 5 (1a)
Revelation 1:5-8
John 18:33b-37
November 25, 2018

Daniel prophesized that a Son of Man will come who will given “dominion, glory, and kingship” and that it will be “an everlasting dominion…his kingship shall not be destroyed.”

What king last forever?  We all die, kings die, and earthly kingdoms do the same.  Who is Daniel referring to?  Here we look to the words from today’s psalm, “The LORD is king.

Jesus comes as the Son of Man and he is put on trial.  The accusation brought against him is that he is the King of the Jews.  If he is the King of the Jews, the promised Messiah, how could he be arrested and crucified?  This is not what the Jews expected.

What is a king?  How do we define kingdom today?

In our country we do not use the title “king.”  The founding of our country from the British kingdom happened in part because of a king overreaching his bounds.  So, our country was founded as a country where the leaders are elected and do not serve for life.  They can be ousted from office when they run for reelection.

We call our leaders President, Congress, Governors, etc.  No matter what we call them, they are our leaders.

Whatever name we call them, what do we expect of our “leaders?”  As elected leaders, I think the basic expectation is that they do what we want.  For many, this really becomes what I want.

Many elected leaders think they have all the answers and other elected representatives should just go along with them.  Everything gets caught up in partisan politics and personal ideologies when government activity should be based on what is good for the people as a whole.

Unfortunately, we see some of this in the church where leaders worry about the image of the church instead of focusing on God’s children.  We hear of the “left” and “right” divisions in the church when it should always be about doing God’s will.

For centuries the Israelites did not have a king.  God was their “king.”  God knew that if they had earthly “kings,” those kings would fall short of doing God’s will, instead choosing to do what brought them wealth and power.  God warned the people of this but they begged for a king.

Saul became the first king.  He was not good.  Then came King David.  He was a good king in many ways but he was also a sinner.

Ultimately, Jesus comes as our king but his kingdom is not a kingdom in earthly terms.  As Jesus told Pilate, “My kingdom does not belong to this world…my kingdom is not here.

Jesus’ kingdom is not defined by geographical boundaries.  It is not based on how much material wealth he has.  Jesus had no material wealth.  It is not based on how much land he has.  It is not based on how many troops he has.  His kingdom is not a “place” in this world.

Jesus’ kingdom transcends all these things.  Jesus’ throne is in the Kingdom of Heaven.  It is “a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace.”

Jesus came into our world to bring us truth, “For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.

Do we listen to the truth that Jesus’ brings or do we try to do everything our way?  The latter is becoming the normal, especially for those who don’t come to church but even for those who do.

Is Jesus our king or are we own king?

We call Jesus our king but do we live like he is the one in charge?  In some countries today that still have a king or a queen, that person is more a figurehead than a real ruler.  Is that what we want of Jesus?  Somebody we put on a pedestal but don’t really listen to?

We are completely free to choose whatever we want in this world.  In the Lord’s Prayer, we pray “thy kingdom come” but God does not force his kingdom on us.

While we are free to choose whatever we want in this world, we need to realize our actions in this world have consequences for eternity.  Where do you want to spend eternity, Heaven or Hell?

Heaven is God’s Kingdom.  It is his choice who he lets into Heaven.  The good news is that he wants everyone to get into Heaven.  Remember, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”

That’s why he sent Jesus “to testify to the truth.”  If we truly want Jesus to be our king, we need to listen to what he has to say.  Actually, listening is not enough.  If we truly want Jesus to be our king, we need to live according to his teaching which is the truth of God.

 

Remembering to Give Thanks

Thanksgiving 2018
First Reading at Ecumenical Service – Isaiah 63:7-9
First Reading at Mass – Sirach 50:22-24
Luke 17:11-19
November 22, 2018

We are here in recognition of our national Thanksgiving day holiday.  The story of the first Thanksgiving goes back to the early days of the European colonization and the Puritans.

They had survived a difficult voyage across the Atlantic Ocean only to face a difficult first year.  When they completed the first harvest, they gathered in thanksgiving, to celebrate with gratitude, the help they received from the natives and for God bringing forth that first harvest.

I had always figured that the Thanksgiving holiday quickly became a tradition but I just read this week that it did not become an official national holiday until Abraham Lincoln declared it as such during the Civil War.  The Civil War was a very trying time.  Many might have felt they had little to be thankful for, making it all the more important to celebrate Thanksgiving to encourage us to realize that even in trying times we can find something to be thankful for.

Today, most people get their food from the grocery store.  So, we are less attached to the harvest time.  Regardless of the season, the food is always available at the store.  Of course, living in a rural area, we have some awareness of the harvest time as we drive down the road, see the farmers at work in the field and the fruit and the vegetable stands open.

Of course, that was a couple of weeks ago, before the snow.  After last week’s snow, it might seem the harvest was some time ago.

I hope everyone takes some time during this holiday to think about the blessings that you have received this year.  Sometimes the greatest blessing in a difficult time might simply be being aware of God’s presence in the midst of whatever suffering we face.

We celebrate Thanksgiving holiday once a year but giving thanks to God should not be limited to a single day out of 365 days.  Giving thanks to God did not begin with the Puritans.  They just put into practice in a way that stuck with us.

What might we be thankful for?

Are we thankful, like the Puritans in the Massachusetts colony for the food we have or do we take it for granted that we will have food to eat?  Why should we take it for granted?  After all, how many people don’t have enough food to it as shown by those who come to our Community Food Closet and our individual churches looking for assistance with food?

The Puritans were grateful for the assistance of the natives.  Are we grateful for the help we receive from others?

Are we grateful for having a roof over our heads or do we take it for granted?  What about those who are homeless?  For them, some in our area have started a local chapter of Family Promise to provide a warm, dry place to sleep for homeless along with food to eat.

What about the medical care we receive when we are ill?  We just heard the story of the ten lepers.  They suffered physically from lepers and, to protect the health of others, suffered by being isolated from others.  Have you ever wondered which was worse, the physical suffering of leprosy or the isolation?

In their suffering, when they called out to Jesus to have pity on them.  He told them to go show themselves to the priests and they went.  On the way, they were healed.  Only one saw Jesus as the source of the healing and returned to him to give thanks.

When we are ill, we do two things.  We ask God to heal us and we seek medical treatment.  When we are healed we might be grateful to the medical people but do we give thanks to God?

In Isaiah 63:7 we read, “The favors of the LORD, I will recall, the glorious deeds of the LORD.”  When was the last time you stopped to reflect and recall the glorious deeds of the Lord?  As you do so, think not just of what God has done for you but for all his people.

Sometimes we lament that we don’t have anything to be thankful for.  Do we really not have anything to be thankful for or do we just get caught up in what we want that we don’t have and fail to appreciate what we do have?  It’s that old saying, do you see the cup as half-empty or half-full.

If we see it as half-empty, we feel like either God doesn’t care or that God doesn’t even exist.  If we see our cup as half-full (or more), we see the blessings that God has given us to lead us to living every day with an “attitude of gratitude.”  Then, our sufferings become easier because we know that God is with us.

How are we to change from seeing the cup as half-empty to half-full?

Here I encourage you to consider writing a daily journal about how each day goes from the perspective of faith.  Of course, that alone might lead you to write about the problems, the sufferings we face.  I know sometimes in my journal that I focus on the challenges of the day.

So, how do we come to see the blessings?

Have you ever made a point to journal daily by listing something from each day you are thankful for?

The first time I remember hearing about this was about four years after I was ordained.  I was at a parish meeting and we were talking about trying to stay positive in our faith journey.  A parishioner spoke up to say she journals by listing five things every day, that she is thankful for.  I have to admit that it seemed impossible to me to find five things every day to be thankful for.

I don’t do this anywhere near enough in my journal but when I do, it is a tremendous help to bring a better end to a difficult day.

You see, if we truly want to live as Christian disciples with an attitude of gratitude for our blessings, giving thanks once a year on Thanksgiving is not enough.  We need to remember to give thanks every day.  God will appreciate it and we will be blessed with joy.

The Presentation of Mary and Our Presentation of Ourselves

Today we celebrate the Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  It is celebrated on November 21st marking the dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary the New in Jerusalem in the year 543.  As with most of the Virgin’s Mary life, we know little about it.  The story of the presentation of Mary comes from a book not in the Bible known as the Protoevangelium of James.  It tells the story of Mary’s parents, Anne and Joachim, taking Mary to the temple when she was about three years old (see https://www.franciscanmedia.org/presentation-of-mary ).

We might use this memorial as an opportunity for us to think about how each of us is presented to our Lord.  For most Catholics, this first happens when we are infants and our parents bring us to church for the Sacrament of Baptism.  In Baptism, we become adopted children of God, and we (if adults or our parents if we are infants) pledge to live our lives in accord with God’s Will.

One should note that I said, “this first happens.”  Baptism is when we are first presented to the Lord.  Baptism is the first Sacrament we receive.  Hence it is known as the gateway to the Sacraments.

There are a total of seven sacraments.  They are broken down into three categories.  The latter two categories are Sacraments of Healing (Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick) and the Sacraments of Service (Marriage and Holy Orders).  In reflecting on how we are presented to our Lord, today I want to focus on the first category, Sacraments of Initiation.

It may seem rather obvious that the first Sacrament of Initiation is Baptism.  It is how we are first initiated into Christian life.  If you have been counting as I named the categories and sacraments above, you may note that I have only named five, including Baptism, so far.  There are two more sacraments that are Sacraments of Initiation.  They are Confirmation and Eucharist.

In these two sacraments, we are again presented to the Lord.  If we were baptized as infants, we were presented to the Lord by our parents.  As adolescents, in Confirmation we renew our baptismal promises ourselves and present ourselves (accompanied by our sponsor) for Confirmation.

Both Baptism and Confirmation are celebrated only once in a lifetime.  Our First Eucharist is celebrated as a special event but then we receive the Eucharist over and over in our lives to be feed with the Body of Christ.

I also see our coming forth to receive Communion as an act of presenting ourselves to our Lord.  Our act of coming forward for Communion at Mass signifies our desire to be faithful disciples.  We are saying that we desire to live as children of God.  I invite you to use the time you spend coming forth in the Communion procession as an opportunity to think about how you need to turn your life over to our Lord.  Is there some aspect of your life you are holding back or falling short on?  Then, present it to our Lord.  If you think you are doing well as a disciple, then turn what the Lord has given to you back to him in service.  This can be your way of presenting yourself to our Lord.

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B – Homily

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Daniel 12:1-3
Psalm 16:5, 8, 9-10, 11 (1)
Hebrews 10:11-14, 18
Mark 13:24-32
November 18, 2018

In two weeks, we will begin a new liturgical year in the church on the First Sunday of Advent but first we draw our current year to an “end.”  With that in mind our readings shift to images of the Second Coming, the end of the ages.

We hear Jesus speak of those days when “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light” and how we “will see the ‘Son of Man coming in the clouds.’”  In those days, the angels will gather up the elect.  Are you ready?

Scripture tells us that there will be earthquakes, famines, and wars before the Second Coming.  All these have happened.  In the first reading, Daniel speaks of “a time unsurpassed in distress.”  Is this what we see in our world today, shootings, clergy abuse scandal, famine, terrible divisions in the Middle east, and ideological rifts?

There is much evil in the world today.  That’s why we are now saying the St. Michael prayer at the end of Mass.  We are not the only parish in our diocese doing it.  In fact, there are whole dioceses in our nation bringing back the custom of saying the St. Michael prayer together.  We need help against evil.

When the Second Coming happens, “some shall live forever, others shall be an everlasting horror and disgrace.”  Where will you spend eternity?   Heaven or Hell?

When will the Second Coming happen?  Jesus provides an answer when he says, “But of that day or hour, no one knows.”  It might be tomorrow.  It might not be for thousand years or more.

If it is tomorrow, or whenever it is, will you be ready?  Of course, even if it doesn’t happen for a thousand years, we will each face our individual death before then.

Death is not something we like to talk about.  Sometimes it is because we fear where we will spend eternity.  Other times, we don’t like to talk about death because we see it as a loss of a loved one.  Our church rituals for a death are designed to bring us comfort by reminding us of eternal life.

Sometimes we think the funeral ritual is all about celebrating the life of the person in this world.  As such, funeral rituals include a time of sharing memories about the person.  We need to share the good memories.

However, as Catholics, the funeral Mass is not centered solely on remembering the person.  Certainly, this is important, but the funeral Mass is to offer the sacrifice of the Mass for our deceased loved one’s welcoming into Heaven.  We believe in faith that sins are forgiving in this world when we confess them in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Yet, we still need to be cleansed of the effects of our sins.  The “place” for that is Purgatory.

Purgatory is a good thing.  It is where God “refines” us to make it possible for us to enter Heaven.  We offer the sacrifice in the funeral Mass for our deceased loved one’s time in Purgatory to be swift.

The same is true for our tradition of having Masses said for people who have died.  Offering the Mass intention is not simply a way to honor them.  It is to pray for their time in Purgatory purifies them so they can be welcomed into the Kingdom of Heaven.

Traditionally, our Catholic funeral rites happen in three parts.  First come the calling hours.  Then, comes the funeral Mass followed by the burial rite.

The calling hours are often seen as a time of saying goodbye, offering our condolences, and sharing memories.  This is an important is an important part of the grieving process.  We can begin the calling hours with prayer.  Here, I think of the line in the Beatitudes, “blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.”  In expressing our sympathy, we offer the family comfort.

Next comes the funeral Mass.  As I alluded to before, this is not just a time of remembering our loved one.  It is a time to prayer for their welcoming into God’s kingdom.  The sacrifice we offer at the funeral Mass is the sacrifice of Jesus giving his life on the Cross so that our sins are forgiven.  Otherwise, Heaven is not possible for us.  Thus, the funeral Mass is about the hope we have of eternal life.  Life is not ended in eternal life but it is changed.

Then comes the burial.  You may have noticed that at the end of a funeral Mass, there is no blessing.  That’s because our prayers and rituals have not ended.  The burial, where we lay our loved one to their place of rest, is seen as an integral part of our funeral rites.  In taking our loved one to their grave, we are handing them over to God our Father while giving their earthly body a place of dignified rest.

Our Catholic faith used to forbid cremation.  This is because in cultures where cremation has been the normal custom, their beliefs around cremation rejected any idea of “resurrection.”  Now, many people choose cremation for simple space reasons.  Realizing this, our Catholic Church now allows cremation.

However, our faith still calls us to give the cremains a dignified place of burial just as we do for the body where the ashes are kept together.  By together, we should not divide them.  The ashes are what remains of our loved one.  We would not separate the parts of their body out of respect.  We are called to do the same with ashes.

I hope what I have said today helps you have a deeper appreciation of why our funeral rites are the way they are.  Death is not an easy thing to talk about but if we reflect on it, we can share with our family what it is we want at the time of our death and share that with our family so they know and are not burdened with trying to guess what their wishes are.  Also, by understanding our funeral rites a little better, we might be better aware of God’s presence with us when that moment comes.

 

Closeness to God – Holy Hour Homily

Homily for November 2018 Holy Hour
Jeremiah 1:4-9
Psalm 18:2-3, 3-4, 47, 51
1 John 4:7-16
John 15:1-17

We come here tonight not to be alone.  No, we come to be here with Jesus, Jesus who is Son of God, consubstantial with the Father.  It is Jesus who is present in the bread in the monstrance.

In Baptism, we become adopted children of God.  That means that Jesus is our brother and God is our Father.  We come here seeking to be close to God.  The Lord said to Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet for the nations I appointed you.

The same is true for us.  God knows each and every one of us before we are conceived in our mother’s womb.  God knows us better than we know ourselves.

While God knows us so well, we might struggle at times to be aware of his presence.  God is everywhere but, as humans, we are limited to in our ability to be able to perceive his presence.

This is why we have churches, to have special places dedicated to God where we might be free from the distractions work, school, or home.  Everything in a church building is designed to point us to God’s presence and activity in our lives.

We have stained glass windows and statues to remind us of sacred things and the saints who have gone before us.  We have a Crucifix to remind us that Jesus died so that our sins might be forgiven.  At the center of our church, we have an altar where we celebrate the sacrifice of Jesus at Mass.

Today we are not here to celebrate Mass but our being here is dependent on what happens at Mass, the consecration where God turns ordinary bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus.  It is from our belief of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist that we come to be here with Jesus.

We come to experience the love that Jesus shows us in the Crucifixion.  We come to embrace the Resurrection and eternal life.  We come here to be renewed in our relationship with our Lord and Savior.

It all starts with God’s love for us.  We are called to love God and to love our neighbor but it starts with God loving us first.  We do not initiate the relationship we have with God.  God does.  It is our choice of whether or not we accept and respond to that love.

We come here tonight to simply be in the presence of Jesus, to “remain in him.

We need Jesus.  He is the vine and we are the branches.  We cannot truly live, we cannot bear fruit unless we remain in the love of Jesus.

We need to let Jesus prune us.  Sometimes we drift away from Jesus, often without even being aware of it.  We don’t mean it but when it happens we know we need to get back to Jesus.  If we have strayed, then we need God to prune us of the extraneous things.

I think I have mentioned in the past that when my dad first brought the house he lives in there were grape vines on the property.  Those grape vines used to bear fruit every year as long as he pruned them.  If they were not pruned, all the nutrients went into sustaining the extra growth but pruned, pruned they bore wonderful grapes.

We are no different.  We might have a lot going on in our lives that really isn’t necessary or helpful to us.  Yet, we put a lot of energy into sustaining those things and we have little left for Jesus.

God knows we need grace.  That’s why He gives us Sacraments.  We have seven sacraments.  Some of the sacraments, namely Baptism and Confirmation, we receive only once in our lives but they are very important moments.  Baptism formally begins our life with God.  In Confirmation, we affirm that choice.

While we receive Baptism and Confirmation only once, there are two sacraments we receive over and over.  One is the Sacrament of Reconciliation where we confess our sins and receive God’s forgiveness as many times as we realize we have sinned and repent.  God loves us and forgives us.

Of course, the sacrament we receive the most is the Eucharist.  It is the source and summit of our Catholic faith.  We are called to come to church each and every Sunday unless we are sick or prohibited by weather.  This is not simply to please God.  This is for our own good because we need Jesus.  We need to hear God’s word and receive the Body and Blood of Jesus.

We need to come to Sunday Mass.  Yet, we do not have to be here tonight.  We choose to come tonight because we want to be close to God.  So now I am going to stop talking as we take time to simply sit in adoration of what is before us in the Blessed Sacrament.

 

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B – Homily

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
1 Kings 17:10-16
Psalm 146:7, 8-9, 9-10 (1b)
Hebrews 9:24-28
Mark 12:38-44
November 11, 2018

Today’s gospel portrays two types of people, the givers and the takers.

First Jesus speaks about the scribes who “go around in long robes..accept greetings…seats..and places of honor.”  They want to receive acclaim for their position.  They “take” all the recognition they can get.  They are full of pride.

They also “devour the houses of widows.”  They “devour” in the sense they force even the poor to give so that they (the scribes) can live a life of luxury.  They do nothing to help the widows.

Then Jesus speaks of the “givers,” those who give to the treasury and their generosity.  There are “rich people who put in large sums” yet it is poor widow that He praises for her giving.  Why?  Jesus answers why when He says the rich give from their surplus while the poor widow gave from all that she had.  The rich don’t need the money they put in the treasury.  They will never miss the money (except for their greed) but the widow will.  They give from their surplus.  She gives with her heart.

What motivates your giving?  Do you give out of obligation?  Do you give to look good to others (pride)?  Where is God in your priorities of what you do with your money?  Do you give from what is left over after you paid your bills and do the things you want or do you put God before your wants?

The parable speaks of money.  Financial giving is one way of way of being generous.  We count on your financial generosity to be able to pay our utilities, staff, and suppliers to be able to bring Christ to the world.  However, giving money (treasure) is not the only way to give.

Look at the generous woman in the first reading.  She has no money and only a little flour left.  She is from Zarephath, which means she is probably not an Israelite, yet she is willing to share what little she has with Elijah.  When you make a meal, are you willing to share with the neighbor who might be sick or infirmed and can’t cook much for themselves?

What is behind your giving?  Is it true generosity?  Is your giving motivated by your trust that God will always provide?  Or you giving something while expecting it to lead to you getting more?

I’ve heard some televangelists talk about “anticipatory giving.”  This means giving with the idea that God will bless you in the future with more.  I have literally heard them tell a story of a person who gave $200 that they needed for themselves.  A couple of weeks later they received $2,000 they didn’t expect.  The televangelist says this is God blessing them for their generosity and tells others they should give in the same way and God will bless them.

I’m not going to tell you to give so God will give you more but I will encourage you to be grateful for the blessings God has already given you.  The blessings God has already given us should lead us to trust that God will provide what we need in the future.  We are to give with an attitude of gratitude for what we have.

As I said before, financial giving is not the only way to give.  We can also give of our time and talents.  We can use the talents that God has given us to help other people, giving our time in service.

Normally I give examples of ways of helping our church or other non-profits when I speak of giving of time and talent but since today is Veteran’s Day, I will mention our veterans who give in military service.  War is not good, we need to pray that wars never need to be fought but we give thanks for the men and women who have served in our military.  Some come home safely while others give their lives in battle while still others are forever effected with PTSD from their experiences.

Last week we heard Jesus say that the greatest commandment is to love God and the second is to love our neighbor.  I believe that love can transform the world.

This week there was another mass shooting with twelve victims.  I haven’t heard a motive yet in this shooting but certainly life was not respected and in many shootings, “hate” for someone or some group of people is a significant factor.

God transforms bread and wine into Jesus’ Body and Blood as the Eucharist we receive.  Through his grace, God can take our generous love and use it to transform the world.  How many wars have happened throughout history because of someone’s greed?  Military power might stop a battle but only love can transform the world and bring true peace.

You have heard God’s Word here today.  Shortly, we will celebrate the Eucharist.  Let yourself be transformed by what you hear and receive today.  It comes to you from God’s love.  Then, take that love out to the world so that God’s kingdom may come.