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14th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B – Homily

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Ezekiel 2:2-5
Psalm 123:1-2, 2, 2-4 (2cd)
2 Corinthians 12:7-10
Mark 6:1-6
July 8, 2018

One might think that people from Jesus’ “native place” would welcome him with great fanfare as the hometown boy.  If somebody becomes famous today, their hometown often puts up a big welcome sign with the person’s name on it, give them a parade, or give them the key to the town.

Jesus gets none of that.  Instead we hear they are “astonished.”  They think they know him well as the carpenter and as Mary’s son.  Because they think they know him well, they are not open to his full identity or believing in his wisdom or power to do “mighty deeds.

For us, their disbelief might seem foolish because we know Jesus to be the Messiah.  Yet, do we not sometimes look at people in a similar way?  For example, if we know someone to be heavy drinker, do we believe them if they say they are now sober?  If we know someone to be a quiet person, are we open to them becoming a great public speaker?

What about ourselves?  If someone asks us to do something new, are we open to the possibility of it?  If someone asks us to do something outside our comfort zone, would we even consider it?

What if the someone asking is God?

We see it in Moses and prophets.  If you read the stories of many of the prophets, you will see that when they receive a calling from God, many, if not all of them, immediately offer a reason as to why they can’t do it.

Speaking to Ezekiel at his calling, God even tells Ezekiel how hard it will be because the people to whom he is sending Ezekiel are “hard of face and obstinate of heart.

When we are asked to do something new or more challenging, we might rush to come up with a list of weaknesses that keep us from being able to do.  Some of those weaknesses can be real.  For these, we must be honest with the person asking us to do it.

On the other hand, if it is God asking us, then we can trust that God will give us what we need.  God chooses to work through the weak that we might know it is by God’s grace that good things happen.  If the person is able to do it on their own, we might fail to see God’s presence in it.  On the other hand, if we see them do something we don’t think they are capable of, then we know it comes from God.

We might also think about what it means to succeed in doing what is asked of us.  If someone asks us to help them move something, success is achieved when the object is in its new place.  If the object ways 100 lbs., we might know it is too heavy for us to move.  Then success for our part might come not in moving it ourselves but in helping them find someone who can move it for them.

If God calls us to move an object, if we can move it ourselves, we do.  If we can’t move it ourselves, then we look for someone who can and the object gets moved.

What about if God asks us to share what he says to us with people who don’t come to church?  Here we might think that success is achieved when the person begins coming to church regularly.  That would signify success but is it the only way success is achieved?

What did I say God asked of us?  To share what he has said to us with others.  While the ultimate goal is to get them to belief, that wasn’t what I said God asked of us.

It is our role to tell them what God means for us in our lives.  It is our role to tell them anything God directs us to say to them but then we are to leave it in God’s hands.  If God asks us to do more, then we do more.

We are not to give up if people don’t start coming to church.  We share what we have to offer about our faith.  It is their free will to choose how to respond.

Some Insights on Our Catholic Understanding of Mary

Today, July 4th, I used my “independence” to do some spiritual reading.  The insights I am about to share are not my own but come from Dr. Edward Sri.  I had the opportunity to attend a presentation by him in March.  I enjoyed his presentation so I picked up two or three of his books.

I am currently reading his book Love Unveiled: The Catholic Faith Explained (Ignatius Press: San Francisco, 2015).  I just read chapter 8, which is entitled “Mary and the Saints.”  There are two areas in this chapter that gave me new insight into our Catholic beliefs about Mary.

The first is found on pages 138-141 in a section he entitled, “Treat her like a Queen?”.  We call Mary Queen of Heaven.  I have always accepted the title of “queen” for Mary without understanding why we would call her “Queen.”  I have always thought that the queen was the wife of the king.

Dr. Sri explains how in the culture of the Old Testament, it was not the wife of the king that was called Queen.  It was the king’s mother.  Dr. Sri first points to 2 Kings 24:12 and Jeremiah 13:18-20 to where we can find “mother as queen” in the Bible.  He also tells us about people going to the “queen mother” for her intercession.  Does this not point to Mary?  She is mother of Jesus our King so she is queen.  In her role as queen and mother we ask for her intercession.

To develop this identity of the mother of the king as queen and the authority that goes with it, Dr. Sri then points to the first and second chapter in the First Book of Kings.  In chapter 1, King David is still alive and Bathsheba is his wife.  The passage shows how, even as the king’s wife, Bathsheba has to bow and give homage to King David before approaching him.

In chapter 2, King David has died and his son Solomon is now king.  This means Bathsheba is now the mother of the king.  The passage goes on to explain the role and authority she has as queen.

Now, I turn to the second insight I received from Dr. Sri’s book today.  As Catholics, we call Mary the “Blessed Virgin.”  Our Catholic faith teaches that Mary was virgin before Jesus was born and after.  Many of our Protestant brothers and sisters agree that Mary was a virgin until Jesus’ birth but not after.  One of the places they turn to for this are the passages in the gospels that refer to Jesus’ brothers and sisters.

Dr. Sri addresses this on pages 150-151 in a section he entitled, “Jesus’ Brothers?”  He provides two answers to how Mary can be ever-virgin while Jesus’ has brothers and sisters.  Before presenting his two answers, I will offer briefly another response I have heard regarding Jesus having brothers and sisters.

Some speculate that it is a reference to step-siblings that Jesus had from a previous marriage of Joseph.  This is not in the Bible but both of Dr. Sri’s answers are biblical.  The first I learned in seminary.  The Greek word used for “brother” in these passages is not restricted to “brother” as having the same biological father and mother.  It is often used (he gives examples) for cousins and other extended relatives.

I fully accept these as valid responses to the question of Mary remaining a virgin while Jesus has brothers and sisters.  However, Protestants are not likely to embrace this alone.  How are we to know whether the relatives of Jesus are brothers or cousins or other relatives?

What Dr. Sri does next is a great answer to show that Jesus did not have brothers and sisters as we think of them (not extended family).  He turns to John 19:25-27 where Mary and the beloved disciple are at the foot of the Cross as Jesus is crucified.  It is there that Jesus says to the disciple, “Behold your mother.”  In doing so, he is telling the beloved disciple to care for Mary as his own mother.  If Jesus had had brothers and sisters, they would have been the ones responsible for caring for Mary.  Thus, Dr. Sri presents this as evidence that Jesus did not have brothers and sisters.

I am grateful for these insights.  It shows the importance of continuing to learn more about our faith.  I am at my best when I can find time to learn more about what our faith teaches to share it with others and to grow in my own faith.

Peace,

Fr. Jeff

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B – Homily

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Wisdom 1:13-15, 2:23-24
Psalm 30:2, 4, 5-6, 11, 12, 13 (2a)
2 Corinthians 8:7, 9, 13-15
Mark 5:21-43
July 1, 2018

Today we hear of Jesus doing two great healings.  One is for a twelve-year-old girl who, by the time Jesus’ arrives at the home, has “died”.  The other is for the woman suffering hemorrhaging for twelve years.

In both cases we see great faith.  In the case of the girl, her father, Jairus, has shown a great faith in coming to Jesus.  He is a synagogue official, many of whom have rejected Jesus but he went and fell at the feet of Jesus to plead for his help.  He believed if Jesus laid his hands on her, she would be healed.

Likewise, the woman has faith that if she just touched Jesus’ clothes, she would be healed.  They are both right.  In both cases, Jesus touches them at the time of their healing.

Touch is a powerful thing.  For the woman who had been hemorrhaging, she would have been considered unclean so it would not have been permitted to touch her.  Imagine being that way for twelve years.

Now, some people are very affectionate and love to hug.  Others are more shy or quiet and not eager to touch.  Yet, with people we know closely, most people like physical signs that show people care for them.

Jesus healed many people of physical ailments.  We hear of these miracles in the gospels.  I suspect most of us today have not experienced or witnessed a great physical healing but it does happen.  Whenever a saint is canonized two miracles (one when they are declared blessed and one for their canonization) must be attributed to their intercession.  Most of these miracles are physical healings that are carefully investigated to make sure they are not cured by medical treatment and, thus, truly are a miracle.

When we are seriously ill, our Catholic faith offers us a sacrament that includes touch.  It is the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.  For centuries it was known as Extreme Unction or Last Rites.  With that understanding, it was administered only when death was thought to be very near.

In the 20th century, even before the Second Vatican Council, archeology and recovering of ancient documents revealed that the early understanding was that this sacrament was not just for the dying but all those who were seriously ill.  We see this in James 5:14, “Is anyone among you sick?  He should summon the presbyters of the church, and they should pray over him and anoint [him] with the oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up.” (presbyters = priests).

So, the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick was again opened to those who are seriously ill.  (There are specific prayers that can still be done when death is near).  This includes any terminal diagnosis or serious surgeries, especially when there is risk for life or further serious complications.

The Sacrament includes the anointing with oil blessed by the bishop.  The oil serves as a sign of God strengthening the person.  It also involves the priest touching the person, reminding us of Jesus’ touch.

Every person anointed by the priest does not receive a physical healing but people have spoken to me about it easing their pain and/or given them a great sense of peace.  That’s God’s grace.  That’s the grace of the sacrament.

Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist – Homily

Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist
Vigil                                                                            Day
Jeremiah 1:4-10                                                          Isaiah 49:1-6
Psalm 71:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 15, 17 (6b)                             Psalm 139:1-3, 13-14, 14-15 (14a)
1 Peter 1:8-12                                                              Acts 13:22-26
Luke 1:5-17                                                                 Luke 1:57-66, 80
June 24, 2018

Today would normally be the 12th Sunday of Ordinary Time in Year B of our liturgical calendar.  Ordinary Time would be signified by green as the color of the vestments but you will note that I am wearing white vestments.

This is because June 24th is the Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist.  When a solemnity falls on a Sunday in Ordinary Time, it takes precedence over the Sunday.  So, white is the color for this solemnity and our readings are those of this solemnity.

It is the Nativity of the John the Baptist.  When you heard the word “nativity”, I suspect most of you immediately thought of Christmas.  When we use the word “nativity”, it is generally to refer to the birth of Jesus but “nativity” simply means “birth.”

Today’s solemnity commemorates the birth of John the Baptist.  We celebrate this recognizing John as a precursor to Jesus.

Generally, we hear most about John the Baptist in the readings of Advent as we prepare ourselves for the coming of Jesus.  John came to “prepare the way of the Lord.

So, why celebrate this solemnity on June 24th?  The answer is simple.  If you remember the story of the Annunciation when the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary to tell her she had been chosen to be the mother of Jesus, Gabriel also told her that her relative Elizabeth had also conceived “and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren.”  That would mean that John the Baptist was born sixth months before Jesus.  That brings us to June 24th.

We like to celebrate birthdays.  It is a way of recognizing the gift that the person is to us.  Births mark a beginning.

You may have noted that in our hymnal books that there are two sets of readings for this solemnity.  The first is a set for the vigil Mass to be used if this solemnity is celebrated on the evening on June 23rd.  The second set are the readings to be used on June 24th.

There are some commonalities between the two sets of readings.  In both sets, the first reading speaks of those called by God.  The first reading for the vigil tells the story of the calling of the prophet Jeremiah.  The first reading of the day speaks of the suffering servant.  In both cases, we hear of the mother’s womb, being called from birth, or in Jeremiah’s case, how the Lord knew him even before He formed him in the womb.

Both responsorial psalms continue with this theme of the time in the “mother’s womb.”

Looking at the two gospels we can see that the gospel of the day continues the story begun in the gospel reading for the vigil.  The vigil reading tells of the time when John the Baptist was conceived in the womb of his mother Elizabeth’s womb.  The gospel for the day tells of the time when John the Baptist was born.

Generally, when we think about the beginning of a person’s life, we think of it in terms of the day they were born, meaning the day they emerged from their mother’s womb.

I think this is because this is when we can first see them with our physical eyes as a unique individual apart from their mother’s womb.  We can put an exact date to it.  It is the date that is put on their birth certificate.

But is it really the beginning of their life?  In terms of their life separate from their mother’s womb, yes, it is.

However, all those references I mentioned in the readings to the time spent in our mother’s womb should tell us something.  The readings do not refer to the “thing” in the woman’s womb.  Please note that this time, I said “woman’s womb.”  Note the readings say, “mother’s womb.”

“Mother” signifies that there is a child, a child “formed in the womb” by God.  A child “wonderfully made” by the Lord.  It is the Lord who forms our “inmost being.”

Yes, we celebrate birth dates as the day we know we came forth from our mother’s womb.  It is a good day to celebrate but to think back to life in the womb.

Think of the story of Mary’s visitation to Elizabeth.  After the Annunciation, Mary goes to celebrate with Elizabeth the news that they both conceived.  When Mary arrived at Elizabeth’s house, John the Baptist leapt for joy in his own mother’s womb at the presence of Jesus in Mary’s womb.  One child in the womb reacting, filled with the Holy Spirit, to life of the other in the womb.

One last thought – when did the angel Gabriel appear in the stories of John and Jesus?  Was it at their births?  No, in both cases it was at their conceptions.  We do well to celebrate birthdays as a way of celebrating the gift that the person is to us, the gift of their life that begins in the womb.

St. John Fisher, Patron of Our Diocese

Homily for June 2018 Holy Hour
Jeremiah 1:4-10
Psalm 91:1-2, 10-11, 12-13, 14-15
1 Peter 4:12-19
Matthew 10:34-39

On the general saints’ calendar, June 22nd, which is this Friday, is an optional memorial of Sts. John Fisher and Thomas More who were both beheaded in 1535 by King Henry VIII.  St. John Fisher was beheaded on June 22nd and St. Thomas More a few days later on July 6th.

St. John Fisher is the patron saint of our diocese.  So, June 22nd is raised from being an optional memorial for us to a feast.  (Tonight’s second reading and gospel are the ones used for the feast day.)  One might want to ask why St. John Fisher was chosen to be the patron saint of our diocese.  To answer this here’s a little history lesson.

He was born in 1469 and became an intellectual.  He became a bishop at the age of 35.  He was named the Bishop of Rochester in England.  Hence, when our diocese was formed in 1868 and named the Diocese of Rochester, the choice was made to name Fisher as the patron saint of our diocese.

As a bishop, St. John Fisher was asked to study the validity of King Henry VIII’s marriage to Catharine of Aragon.  You might remember from English history that Henry VIII was married several times but never had a male heir to succeed him on the throne.

He had some of his wives killed for not giving him a son.  In Catherine’s case, he sought an annulment.  St. John Fisher found the marriage to be valid and, hence, the Catholic Church denied Henry VIII’s request for an annulment.

From this, Henry VIII would ultimately split the church in England from the Catholic Church and declared himself to be the head of the church in England so he could give himself an annulment.

All the bishops and government officials were ordered to sign an “Act of Succession” supporting Henry VIII’s splitting of the church and accepting him as the head of the church in England along with recognizing the annulment.

St. John Fisher and Thomas More both refused to sign it.  St. John Fisher was arrested on false charges and imprisoned for months without a trial.  When Henry VIII learned that Fisher had been named a cardinal, he had him tried and executed for treason.

St. John Fisher (and St. Thomas More) were given multiple chances to change their stance and support the Act of Succession by Henry VIII.  They did not.

Why?  Because their faith was more important to them than what the king wanted.  St. Thomas More was a friend of the king and hand-picked by the king as chancellor of England.  Still St. Thomas More chose his faith over his friendship and allegiance to the king.

St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More are official martyrs of our Catholic Church.  The original meaning of the word “martyr” is “witness.”  Without a doubt, Sts. John Fisher and Thomas More truly witnessed to how important the Catholic faith was to them.

Our responsorial psalm tonight says in the second stanza, “No evil shall snare you, no harm come upon your home.”  One can readily say that earthly harm came to Sts. John Fisher and Sts. Thomas More.  Bad things were done to them but instead of leaving it as something evil, God turned it into a powerful witness.

They faced a “trial by fire.”  They were free to choose to face the fire or to run away, giving into what the king wanted.  They took the Lord as their shelter and refuge.  Rather than run, they chose to accept martyr to share in the sufferings of Christ.  For this, they know the joy of Heaven rather than the evil of Hell.

In our country we are not likely to be martyred for our faith but living our faith does not come without its difficulties.  One would want to think that the faith should bring peace but instead it can bring the sword.  As Jesus says, it can even bring division within families, just as it brought division to the friendship between St. Thomas More and King Henry VIII.

Do we proudly embrace our faith or do we hide our faith?  Do we choose to keep the peace among our family and friends by remaining silent about our faith or do we take up our Cross, speaking openly and boldly about faith?

This is not an easy decision.  If all we do is make our family and friends mad and drive them away, then we have done nothing to evangelize them.  On the other hand, if we simply keep silent, we still have done nothing to bear witness to our faith.

Confusing, isn’t it?

Each situation is different.  If we are being coerced into doing something that goes against our faith, we must say no and let them know our decision is based on our faith.  There might be other times when we are called to speak up for our faith but then to leave it in God’s hands without causing a “war.”

What we need to do is to allow God to place his words in our mouths.  So, let us now take some time in silence to listen to the Lord to allow him to know when to speak up, how to act, and that the Lord give us the words we are to speak.

 

 

Reflection for Baccalaureate

Tonight I have the honor of offering a reflection during the Newark High School Baccalaureate. It is addressed to this year’s graduating class. Here is my reflection for them:

To our graduating seniors, you are about to celebrate a milestone in your lives, graduation. At graduation, you will receive a diploma that signifies you have satisfactorily completed all the requirements to be called a high school graduate. You have been working towards this moment for at least the last 13 years.

When you started school, you were very dependent on others, primarily your parents and teachers. In more recent years, you have been becoming more independent and not so reliant on your parents. Yet, your parents are still here for you just as God is always with you.

Much of what you studied in school so far has focused on general requirements. As you graduate, you make what likely to date is the biggest decision of your lives so far. Some of you will find full-time jobs right away. Others will be going to college for more education but get a little more freedom to choose what you study. Still others will be entering the military. Lastly, perhaps there are some of you who just want to take some time to sort things out as you move to the next stage of your life. As long as you let him, God will guide you to use the gifts you have been given to make our world a better place.

Each of you have your reasons for your choice. It might be long-time dream. On the other hand, it might not be a profound decision. Thirty-one years ago, I graduated high school (which makes me older than some of your parents). I went to college to study engineering. I chose engineering because I loved math and science.

Since then, I made a career shift to ministry. What you think you want to do for the rest of your life may or may not change. I invite you to do two things. The first is to realize you never stop learning. The classroom studies might end but new things will always come your way. Secondly, never stop believing.

I don’t know what your relationship with God is. I know some of you are in church every week, even if it is just because your parents make you. Others may not go to church much.

I will admit to you that when I was your age, I didn’t go to church. Before you all start thinking that means it is okay to skip church, don’t! It might sound cliché but I can honestly say that if I knew then what I know now I would never have stopped going to church. It feeds me. I need my faith.

The world can be a difficult place. There are all kinds of people in the world. For some, they are only interested in their own wealth and notoriety. Many reject that there is a god. They choose to be atheists. Others choose to be agnostic, meaning they don’t reject but doubt God exists.

The poem “Do It Anyway” by Mother Teresa that we heard a few minutes ago, when you are kind, people may accuse of ulterior motives, “be kind anyway.” If you are honest, they make take advantage of your honesty. No matter what others do, be kind, be honest. Be who God calls you to be.

Think not of yourself first. It’s okay to have fun but not at the expense of others. In the gospel that we just heard, Jesus tells us “Blessed are the poor in spirit…blessed are the meek.” This is not a call to cower. It is a call to love, to love God and to love our neighbor.

It is the love that Jesus speaks of when he says that no one has a greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friend (John 15:13). Jesus is Son of God but he humbled himself to come and lay down his life for us.

I encourage you to be people who “hunger and thirst for righteousness.” If the conflict in the world is to end, we need people who are willing to be peacemakers. Somebody has to be the first to be merciful.

Right now, some of you might feel on top of the world. Others might feel small and insignificant. Let me tell you that God has a place for each and every one of you, of us, in his plan.

Whatever God’s plan for you is, he will always give you what you need to be the best person you can be. Pray that you come to see the world as God sees it. You see, it isn’t just about what you “do”. It is about what you choose to be on the inside. It is the attitude you live with.

Do your best. Everyone matters. We need people to perform all sorts of tasks. As I said before, I studied engineering in college based on my love for math and science. I spent seven years designing and building roads and bridges. I believe that it was important work. After all, where would we be if the bridges all fell down?

What about the people who clean our buildings? If they did a lousy job and left dirt and germs behind, we would all be sick. We count on them.

We need accountants to help manage our resources well. We need secretaries and administrative assistants to keep things running well. We need medical people to care for our physical health. We need people in police work, firefighters, and the military to keep us safe.

In a moment, we will hear “A New Beginning” by Joanna Fuchs. As you face this new beginning in your life, think about your faith. Think about God. Know that God loves you. God will help you in whatever comes your way as long as you open your heart to him.

Baccalaureate Blessing

Let us pray:

Lord, as these seniors prepare to celebrate their graduation
And embark on the next stage of their lives,
We ask your blessing upon them.
Help them to find your direction in their lives,
To know that you have a plan for each and every one of them
As you love each and every one of them.
Help them to look beyond themselves,
To be poor in spirit and meek,
setting aside any selfish desire,
that they may also hunger and thirst for what is good in your eyes.
Help them to be peacemakers,
To find an end to the conflict in our world.
Help them to bring forth a brighter future,
where acts of violence are no longer common.
We ask that you always watch over and protect them.
Help them to know your presence and your love.
Give them hope,
Give them a loving heart,
Fill them with gladness
And a life filled with joy.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Our Ancestral Heritage

Today’s first reading (June 18, 2018) 1 Kings 21:1-16, begins with two people wanting the same property. The first, Naboth, is the owner of the property. The second is King Ahab. Ahab wants the property to be his “vegetable garden, since it is close by.” Ahab is willing to give Naboth a “better vineyard in exchange” or “its value in money.” There is nothing wrong in this so far. Ahab is interested in a piece of property and makes a fair offer.

Naboth will not sell Ahab the property because it is his “ancestral heritage.” Ahab is upset by this, lies down on his bed, and refuses to eat. He is consumed by his desire for the property. Is this greed, envy, or pride (in thinking because he is king he should have want he wants)? When his wife Jezebel hears of this, she has Naboth stoned to death based on false accusations simply so Ahab could obtain the property. Clearly, her sin is based in power.

The topic I want to turn to is “ancestral heritage.” Naboth refused to sell the property because it was his “ancestral heritage.” This would mean that it had been in his family for some generations.

Think about a family who has lived in the same home for generations. What gives the property its real value to the family? Is it the land? How about the house? Perhaps, but not in the material value. If the property has been in the family for generations is it not often the stories and the memories that are more valuable than the material value?

Where do we find the stories of God’s family? Is it not in the Bible? The Bible tells the story of Salvation History. The Bible tells the story of life between God and his people. It tells the story of God’s relationship with his people. However, it is not just their story. It is our story. We are all God’s people. The Bible tells the story of our ancestral heritage. How well do you know our heritage?

Peace,

Fr. Jeff

11th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B – Homily

11th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Ezekiel 17:22-24
Psalm 92:2-3, 13-14, 15-16 (2a)
2 Corinthians 5:6-10
Mark 4:26-34
June 17, 2018

Using a parable, Jesus speaks to the crowds about the farmer scattering seed on the land and then waiting for it to grow without knowing how it grows.  The farmer knew to plant the seed in good soil.  He knew to water and fertilize it.  He didn’t know how but he knew if he did these things, the seed would bear a good crop.

He understood this as happening by God’s will.  It was the beauty of nature.

Today, through science, we know more about the biology of how the seed becomes a plant, grows, and bears the crop.  Relying only on the science, many have lost the sense of God in it.  For me, God is still very much at the heart of it.  It is not some random scientific occurrence.  God brings order to creation.

If we were to look at the average seed without having any idea what it is, we would consider it small and insignificant.  Some seed would be seen as nothing but dust and thrown out but in even the smallest of seeds lies the origin of so much more than what is seen in the seed.

God has planted a great seed within us.  Do we allow the seed to flourish?  God is the source of not just our faith but all that is within us.  It is God who knows what fruit we are to bear.  It is in relying on God that we become, as described in the psalm, “vigorous and sturdy”.

Becoming the “largest” as Jesus speaks of is not simply a matter of making lots of money or gaining great notoriety.  To be a great “person” involves body and soul.  We need physical food to nourish our bodies and we need spiritual food (God’s Word and the Eucharist) to nourish our souls.

Do we seek nourishment for our souls?

Becoming all that God calls to be does not require us to do everything alone.  It means working together, pooling our gifts, to make God’s kingdom known.  In this way, God takes what we do and multiplies it with the work of others and with his grace.

We can look at the seed within ourselves.  We can also think about the seed in others.

Today is Father’s Day.  What does it mean to be a “father”?

Does it not mean to take the child that begins in its mother’s womb as a tiny cell, the smallest of all, and help the child grow to reach its potential?

This can include being a provider for the child, providing a home, food to eat, and caring for the child.  This goes beyond physical care to help your children become all that they are meant to be?  Faith must be part of this.  A person can only reach their full potential when they learn to look beyond themselves to see their place in God’s plan.

Fathers and mothers are to help their children be all they are meant to be.  This can be a challenge.  Children don’t always listen.  Parents aren’t perfect either.

Parents also don’t want to let go.  It’s graduation season.  For the graduates, it can be both exciting and scary in the unknown.  The same is true for parents as their children move to the next stage of life.  Be thankful for the joy of seeing the growth and rely on God to always watch over them.

May we be all that God means for us to be.

10th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B – Homily

10th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Genesis 3:9-15
Psalm 130:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8 (7bc)
2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1
Mark 3:20-25
June 10, 2018

As Jesus came home, a crowd once again gathered.  How we long to see great crowds come to church!  We see large crowds at Christmas and Easter.  If something terrible happens in the world, we might see more people here but, if it’s just an ordinary Sunday, our churches are not very full anymore.  Why?

Some people have abandoned any notion of faith and God.  They think we might be out of our minds for believing.  Sometimes they say it doesn’t make any sense to them to believe.  I would ask if they have ever really opened themselves to believe.

Perhaps the “serpent tricked” them just as with Adam and Eve.  I think today the serpent likes to spread confusion by telling us that no one believes everything that our faith teaches us.  So, the serpent says it’s okay for us to pick and choose what we believe.

This leads to relativism where people think it is okay to believe whatever one wants as long as you don’t hurt anyone.  They say this but then if we want to speak up for what our faith teaches, they tell us to be quiet.  They promote tolerance but they don’t tolerate what our faith teaches.  Thinking of what Jesus says in the gospel, Satan tries to tie us up so he can plunder our house.

I might point out here that if the relativists and atheists are so sure that we are not right, what reason do they have to not let us speak?  Do they know they cannot prove us wrong?  Do they know what our faith teaches is true?

What are some other ways that the serpent tries to trick us to not come to church?

Satan can use shame to make us feel unworthy to come to church just as Adam hid himself from God after the Original Sin.  Yet, it is exactly when we are discouraged and shamed by our sins that we need to cry out to God for forgiveness.  Knowing that Jesus laid down his life for us on the Cross gives us the perfect reason to trust that God will forgive us.

On other hand, Satan at times tries to mask our sins so we don’t see them.  This way we think we are good and that we don’t need to come to church every week.  Satan wants us to think it doesn’t matter if we miss church once in a while.

Next, while Satan likes to mask our sins so we don’t see our own sins, he likes us to the see the sins of those who do promote the faith to make them look like hypocrites.  The sex abuse scandal comes to mind.  Nothing excuses these past sins but we are all sinners in need of redemption who need to admit our need for God’s help.

Along with this, Satan likes to make sure we are busy with other things and that we think those other things are more important than getting to church every week.  Satan says who needs to go every week.

Then missing one week becomes two weeks.  Two weeks becomes three.  Then, it becomes I’ll go once this other stuff is done.  Then, we think we are doing okay (that’s what the serpent says anyway) and we find it has been a while since we have even acknowledged God.

Then, something bad happens and we have troubling finding God because we don’t have a relationship with Jesus.  We become distant from God.

This is why the serpent wants us to think it is okay not to go to church on a regular basis.  He knows the best way to lead us from God can be in little steps so we don’t even notice.

Satan knows that if we come to church every week to hear God’s Word, to be strengthened by receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus, and pray throughout the week, that we will develop a relationship with Jesus.  Satan wants to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Jesus laid down his life to save us.  Satan leads us astray not for our good but to win souls for himself.

We need to come to church to help build our relationship with God.  Choosing to come to church over other things says we put God first in our lives.

Are there reasons to miss Mass?  The Church says we can miss for serious illness of ourselves (or something we provide care for).  If there is three feet of fresh snow, that can keep us from getting to church.  If we can’t drive or walk to church or get a ride, God understands.  Otherwise, we need to come to know Jesus.

 

The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, Year B – Homily

The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, Year B
Exodus 24:3-8
Psalm 116:12-13, 15-16, 17-18 (13)
Hebrews 9:11-15
Mark 14:12-16, 22-26
June 3, 2018

As we celebrate today’s Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, our diocesan Year of the Eucharist draws to a close.

When Bishop Matano proclaimed this Year of the Eucharist, his pastoral letter called us to a deeper understanding of the Mass and the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.  Whether we are celebrating a Year of the Eucharist or not, the Eucharist is always the source and summit of who we are as a Catholic Church.

To celebrate the Eucharist is to celebrate the Crucifixion of Jesus for our sins.  To receive the Eucharist is to become more like Jesus.

Our gospel passage today comes from Mark’s telling of the Passion of Jesus which we heard on Palm Sunday earlier this year.  The passage as read today ends with Jesus’ words at the Last Supper instituting the Eucharist as he proclaims the bread and wine to be his Body and Blood.  Prior to that we hear of the disciples making preparation for the Passover.

How do we prepare ourselves to celebrate the Eucharist?  One thing we do is to fast for an hour before receiving Communion.  This is to be a witness of us saying what we are about to receive is important.

We are also called to think about our worthiness to receive the Eucharist.  Have we committed any mortal sins that need to be confessed in the Sacrament of Reconciliation?

Do we think about why we call it “Communion”?  In receiving Communion, we are saying that we want to be part of the Body of Christ.  We desire to live as Jesus teaches us.  Think of the first reading where it says Moses “related all the words and ordinances of the LORD” and they answered, “We will do everything that the LORD has told us.

Do we live as the Lord tells us?  Do we desire to become what we receive, the Body of Christ?

What does it mean to be a member of the Body of Christ?

For us individually, it begins with Baptism.  It continues with our reception of the Eucharist (and the other sacraments).  It calls us to live as Christ taught us.

Being a member of the Body of Christ is not just a matter for us as individuals.  Being part of the Body of Christ is to be part of the community of believers in our Church.  The Church is the Body of Christ.

This means coming together, each with our different gifts, working together as one body for the building up of God’s Kingdom (think of the words we say in the Lord’s Prayer, thy kingdom come).

How do we experience the Church as the Body of Christ?  Our most tangible way of experiencing “church” is in our parish building.  Yet, being “Church” is not solely about a building.  The building is important and needs to be a very reverent space to grow deeper with Christ.  The Church also involves the people but not just the people who come to St. Michael’s.

To speak of The Church is think universally, including every child of God.  As I said, the parish can be the tangible way in which we think of church but we need to think more broadly.  To discern what this means, we need to ask ourselves what is the best way to make God’s kingdom known in this world.

We have just celebrated the 150th anniversary of the establishment of our diocese.  When our diocese was established in 1868, it was a growing Church.  It continued to grow, establishing new parishes and building Catholic schools for several decades.  Now, we are a shrinking church.

In light of this, how are we called to be the Body of Christ to the world today?  To do this, Bishop Matano has called for increasing collaboration among parishes.  Near the end of February, we had an article in the bulletin to announce that he has called all of the Catholic parishes in Wayne County to be in dialogue to talk about our future.

In today’s bulletin you will find both an insert and an article about our planning process (Click here for more information).  There is information there to direct parishioners to a survey that we are asking all parishioners to do to help us assess what we are doing well and where we can be doing better.  You can take the survey online or we have paper copies in church.  Your opinion is important as we work to be the Body of Christ.

In the insert, you will also find some possible scenarios about how we can collaborate with one less priest in Wayne County.  I’m sure there’s going to be questions.  The article in the bulletin itself has the names of our parish representatives for this process.  Please feel free to ask questions and offer constructive comments always remembering that our goal is to be the Body of Christ as we work to make God’s kingdom known in this world.