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The Eucharist as the Source of Summit of Our Faith – Homily for October 2017 Holy Hour

Homily for October 2017 – Year of the Eucharist
1 Kings 19:9-13a
Psalm 116:12-13, 15-16bc, 17-18
Romans 12:1-8
John 15:1-17

One of the phrases that Bishop Matano used in his pastoral letter proclaiming our Year of the Eucharist was to describe the Eucharist as “the source and summit of the Christian life.”

The quote as Bishop Matano wrote it comes from the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 1324.  You can find the entire quote on the inside front page of tonight’s program.

We have seven sacraments, all of which are very important ways of receiving God’s grace.  Baptism is the first sacrament we receive.  In baptism, we become children of God and receive the Holy Spirit.

Baptism is received just once in a lifetime.  The Eucharist is to be received over and over to repeatedly give us strength.  It is through what we receive in the Eucharist that we receive over and over the grace we need to live as Christian disciples.  Thus, the Eucharist is the source of what we do from the strength it gives us.  It is the summit as they most important thing we do.

We consume physical food in many different forms but it the Eucharist as the Body and Blood of Jesus that “satisfies the hungers of the human family” (quote from opening prayer, Order for the Solemn Exposition of the Holy Eucharist, paragraph 109).

When we talk about “receiving” the Eucharist, we are generally referring to “eating” the Body of Christ and “drinking” the Blood of Christ as we do at Mass.  This is the same way we receive nourishment for our bodies.  Eating and drinking is a normal part of human life.

Tonight, we will not receive the Eucharist in the form of eating and drinking but tonight is still about receiving Jesus.  Tonight, we receive by what is called “ocular Communion.”

Ocular refers to what is perceived by the eye.  We see Jesus in the form of the Blessed Sacrament in the monstrance.  In placing ourselves before the Blessed Sacrament we allow ourselves, as Paul writes to the Romans, to “be transformed by the renewal of your mind.

We do this so that we “may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.”  To aid in this, our holy hour includes readings from the Bible as the Word of God to provide us guidance but this hour also will include quiet time as a way of letting God provide direction in our lives.

Our lives can be filled with many different activities.  It can be work or attending events that your children are involved it.  Even in retirement people often find themselves busier than they expected in activities ranging from their grandchildren’s lives to church or simply being with friends.  When we get busy, sometimes we forget Jesus.

When we forget Jesus, we forget that the gifts that we have been given, our talents, are not giving to us for selfish gain but to be used as a living sacrifice for the building up of God’s kingdom.

Sometimes we feel like the little that we can do doesn’t really make a difference.  That’s because we aren’t meant to do it all ourselves.  As Paul wrote, we are many parts meant to come together as one body in Christ.  It is only in working together that we accomplish what God asks of us.

To do this we need to remain in Jesus because without Jesus we can do nothing.  God is the vine grower.  Jesus is the vine.  We are the branches.  We need to be pruned.  Sometimes pruning means going to the Sacrament of Reconciliation to have our sins removed.  Pruning can also be removing unnecessary parts of our lives that keep us from knowing Jesus.  Here you might think of what you gave up to be here tonight.  In choosing to be here tonight you gave that up because you knew you needed Jesus.

Our first reading tonight picks up at a point where Elijah is fleeing for his life.  By God’s grace he had just defeated the 450 prophets of the false god Baal and people are trying to kill him.  He goes to a cave to find shelter.

Hopefully, no one is trying to literally kill us but we do come tonight with our struggles and our fears.  We come to find shelter in the Lord.

God chose to come to Elijah in that moment.  At Pentecost, God, as the Holy Spirit comes down as a “strong driving wind” (Acts 2:2) but for Elijah was not in the “strong and violent wind.

At the time of Jesus’ death and resurrection there were earthquakes but at the time for Elijah, God was not in the earthquake.

God appeared to Moses as a burning bush (Exodus 3) but to Elijah God was not in the fire.

For Elijah, God came as a “light silent sound,” a tiny whisper.  Now let us spend a few minutes listening to the silence.

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A – Homily on the Eucharist

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Isaiah 25:6-10a
Psalm 23;1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6
Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20
Matthew 22:1-14

Throughout our readings today we hear of feasts “of rich food and choice wines,” how the Lord will spread the table before us, and supply whatever we need.

Isaiah speaks of “God to whom we looked to save us!  This is the Lord for whom we looked.”

Jesus speaks in the context of a wedding feast.  The context of the wedding goes with the image of Christ as the bridegroom who marries his bride, the church.

Going back to what Isaiah said about the “Lord to whom we looked,” the Israelites were waiting for a messiah.  Jesus is the Messiah and the bridegroom.  Now is the time for the wedding feastbut not all accept Jesus.  Some of the Israelites simply seem to “ignore” Jesus while others attack him.

So, in turn, God invites “whomever” his servants can find to the feast (but we still need to be ready).

The Book of Revelation provides imagery of a great banquet in Heaven.  One day we will share in that banquet but we do not have to wait for Heaven to receive “rich food and choice wines.”  The Lord provides a feast for us right now, a feast that strengthens us with the Bread of Life.

This feast is, of course, the Eucharist!  It is the gift we celebrate in our Year of the Eucharist.  It is the bread and wine that become for us the Body and Blood of Jesus.  As a little piece of bread, it offers little earthly nourishment.  As a sip of wine, it does little to quench our earthly thirst.  Yet, as the Body and Blood of Jesus it gives us grace in abundance.

We can’t see the bread and wine change but we know it to be so because of the words of Jesus at the Last Supper that we hear every time we celebrate the Eucharist, “THIS IS MY BODY, THIS IS THE CHALICE OF MY BLOOD.”

What we celebrate in the Eucharist is not just a play that remembers a historical event nor is it a new event.  It is God making present today in a way only he can, what Jesus did for us 2,000 years ago as he celebrated the Passover together with the sacrifice of his life on the Cross for us.

Recognizing the sacredness of what is going on, we celebrate the Eucharist with a reverence that shows our recognition of the sacredness of what we celebrate in the Eucharist.

We kneel throughout the Eucharistic Prayer to show our recognition of the sacredness of the sacrifice we celebrate as the bread and wine are transubstantiated into the Body and Blood of Jesus.

We stand during the Lamb of God as a sign of how we are raised up by the sacrifice that Jesus makes on the Cross for us.

Then we again kneel to show our humility and surrender before God as we say “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

Then we stand to come forward for Communion.  Our physical action of coming forward indicates our desire to come to Jesus.

Then, we bow just before we receive Jesus as one final sign that we recognize it is Jesus our King that we receive.

The minister holds up the consecrated host and says, “The Body of Christ.”  We reply “amen.”  The word “amen” means “I believe” so we are professing that we believe it is the Body of Christ.

To receive we hold our hands one over the other to make a throne to receive Jesus.  Receiving on the hand was not new with the changes of the Second Vatican Council.  It is the way the early church offered Communion.  The symbolism of making a throne with our hands to receive Jesus is found in the writings of St. Cyril of Jerusalem in the fourth century.

If one chooses to receive on the tongue, one shouldn’t just open their mouth a little like one might to receive medicine that we can’t stand the taste of.  One is to open their mouth wide to welcome Jesus in.

Whether we receive on the hand or the tongue, we consume the consecrated host immediately without taking any steps to help ensure we don’t drop the host or any crumbs.

Then, the Blood of Christ is offered in the chalice.  The minister says, “The Blood of Christ” to which one receiving says “Amen” again signifying belief that it truly is the Blood of Christ.  We do so carefully so as not to spill any of the Precious Blood.  The cup minister wipes the cup after each person with a purificator, a cloth that is used for this alone and no other purpose (again recognizing the sacredness).

Recognizing our desire to avoid dropping any of the Precious Blood is why we do NOT intinct.  Intinction is to lower the consecrated host into the consecrated wine.  This can result in spillage of the wine.  There are Eastern Rite churches that receive by intinction but it is the priest who does the intinction and then gives Communion on a spoon in the mouth.  (Incidentally, it would also mean anyone who can’t receive the gluten in the host would not be able to receive the wine for fear of a small piece of the host remaining.)

Then, we return to our pews and kneel, humbly offering a prayer of thanksgiving.  It is important for us to take this time (avoiding the temptation to leave immediately to rush off somewhere else) to offer our gratitude for what God gives us in the Eucharist.

Then, we sit after the distribution of Communion before standing (rising) for the final prayer, recognizing how God lifts us up in what we receive in the Eucharist.  Then, we have the final blessing as we are sent out into the world to glorify the Lord by our lives.

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A – Homily

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Isaiah 5:1-7
Psalm 80:9, 12, 13-14, 15-16, 19-20
Philippians 4:6-9
Matthew 21:33-43

For the Israelites, the use of the image of the vineyard in relation to God was a familiar one.  Isaiah speaks of the vineyard owner who planted his vines “on a fertile hillside; he spaded it, cleared it of stones, and planted his choicest vines; within it he built a watchtower, and hewed out a wine press.”  The vineyard owner did everything expected of an owner and he did it well.  What did it get him?  Wild grapes.

Of course, the point is to see God as the vineyard owner.  God is the creator of the world.  He set the universe as we know it in motion.  He brought order to chaos.  He has provided his people with everything needed.

At the time Isaiah wrote the first reading, (c. 8th Century B.C.) the Israelites would have seen the vineyard as the kingdom of Israel.  The problem was that many of the people had fallen away from the one true God and were worshipping either no god at all or false gods.  They had in effect become wild grapes that bore no fruit.

This is where things are at when Isaiah writes as a prophet of the Lord, “What more was there to do for my vineyard that I had not done?”  God had done everything needed but the people had not done their part.

So, the Lord says he will let the vineyard become a ruin.  Why should God do all the work that goes into a vineyard, if the people are not going to do their part?

So, God withdraw his divine protection and allowed the Israelites to be defeated by their enemies.  God didn’t switch sides.  He just let the Israelites make their own choice and suffer the consequences.

Those who had fallen away failed to realize that they continually needed God’s care.  They wanted complete freedom.  God gave it to them but if they wanted to live a life that ignored God’s ways, they were on their own.

Yet, God never really completely abandoned them.  He kept sending prophets and religious leaders.  How did many of the people respond?  We see it in today’s gospel.  They “seized the servants and one they beat, another they killed, and a third they stoned.

The people in the parable became greedy.  The vineyard owner had down everything expected of him to establish a vineyard before leasing it to tenants.  As was standard business of the day, in payment for their use of the vineyard, he was to receive a fair portion of the produce.  There is no mention that he wanted more than his due but the tenants got greedy and wanted it all for themselves.

God has given us this awesome world with the light and the dark, the plants, the trees, and the animals.  He made it all ordered and beautiful.  He has given us, as humans, dominion over it all.

Have we made good with what we have been given or are we wild grapes?

There definitely are wild grapes today.  There are people who do not do as God asks of us.  In a violent way, we see a wild grape in the shooting in Las Vegas this week.  58 people killed and over 400 injured.  What happened is not what God wanted but the assailant was a child of God, one who had gone astray, but still a child of God.  His behavior made him a wild grape.

We don’t know why he shot all those people.  We may never know.  Maybe he was mentally ill.  Maybe he was misguided.  Maybe he was harboring a grudge that filled his heart with anger that kept him feeling God in his heart.

The same can be true in any other mass shooting, stabbing, bombing, or vehicular attacks.  Nothing justifies what these assailants do.  What we need to work on is to do what God asks of us.  What is God’s will for us?

What is it that God asks of us?  God has given us the scriptures and the prophets to help us know what he asks of us.  Are we listening or are we like our ancestors who beat and killed the prophets?

Ultimately, the vineyard owner sent his son thinking “they will respect my son” but they did not.  They killed him too.  They crucified him.  His name was Jesus.

I really wish I had some answers as to why these attacks happen but I don’t.  The shooting in Las Vegas was the worst shooting ever in the United States and we have no idea why it happened.

So, what are we supposed to do now?

The same thing we should have always been doing.  Live as Jesus teaches us.

This means following the two greatest commandments, to love God and to love our neighbor.

In the midst of what happened in Las Vegas (and any other violent attack), we can experience a range of emotions.  For the people in the crowd that night, fear was probably the most powerful emotion at the time and rightly so.  They feared for their lives.

Now there is sadness at the loss of life and for the wounded.  And it is not just those struck by bullets.  Those present in the crowd but not shot may live with post-traumatic stress.  They might even feel guilt, asking themselves why they were not injured when so many others were.

There are also the families of the victims, forever effected by this.  What about the people working security at the concert or the hotel staff wondering if they missed something.

Even people who were nowhere near the concert may experience fear when they go to similar events in the future.

What can we do to try and make sure violent attacks like this happen?  We need to live like Jesus and we need show Jesus to others.  Hate won’t help here.  We need to love like Jesus.  We need to forgive like Jesus.  When there is hurt in our hearts, rather than to respond to the anger, we need to bring Jesus to the world.

The Bible is the Word of God

In today’s (Thursday, 26th Week in Ordinary Time, Year 1 – Oct. 5, 2017) first reading from the Book of Nehemiah we hear how Ezra read to the people from the book of the law of Moses from daybreak to midday.  A great crowd had gathered there.

What it refers to as the “book of the law of Moses” may be the Book of Deuteronomy but it could be more from the beginning of the Hebrew Scriptures that, as Christians today, we call the Old Testament.  We see them hold it in high regard.  They both rose in praise to the word and prostrated themselves in response to what it told them.  Even the fact that they listened from daybreak to midday shows a great reverence for the Word of God.

Where is reverence for the scriptures today?

Many people today do not read the Word of God.  As Catholics, we don’t have a good reputation for knowing the Bible yet we have multiple readings from it at every Mass and several of our prayers at Mass are composed of quotes from the Bible.

Some people today see the Bible as a “guide” book on good behavior at best.  It is not simply a guide book.  It is God’s Word.  They will reject what they don’t agree with as outdated.  Sometimes, they use modern psychology as their justification.  Psychology can help explain human behavior but it does not make it right or wrong.  God determines what is right and good.

Do we still do everything in the Bible as Christians today?  No, for instance there are the animal sacrifices prescribed in the Book of Leviticus.  However, we don’t omit these sacrifices today by human decision.  No, those sacrifices have been replaced by the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross (see chapter 10 of the Letter to the Hebrews).  Likewise, the Old Testament forbid certain foods like pork which we eat today because Jesus declared all foods clean (Mark 7:19).

We may not understand every word of the Bible but we can revere it as the Word of God.

Peace,

Fr. Jeff

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A – Homily

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Ezekiel 18:25-28
Psalm 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9
Philippians 2:1-11
Matthew 21:28-32

The man says to his two sons, “Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.”  The statement is clear and simple.  It probably came as no surprise to them.

The first son says he will not.  No reason is given but his response is as clear and simple as his father’s directive.  However, later this son changes his mind and does what his father directed.

On the other hand, the second son says he will do as directed by the father but he doesn’t.

Do we do as God directs or don’t we?

Jesus offers this situation as a teaching lesson to the chief priests and elders.  He equates them to the second son who says he will do his father’s will but doesn’t.  They profess to be God’s disciples but they fall short.

On the other hand, Jesus says the tax collectors and prostitutes, who the priests and elders know to be sinners, have realized the error of their ways and turned to Jesus.

So, who gets into Heaven?

The scene that Jesus described today is offered in the context of a specific day when the father gave his directive.  To think in terms of God’s directive, how do we evaluate a lifetime of decisions in light of our faith?

We would like to be evaluated based on the good we have done and have the bad overlooked.  Or perhaps our judgment could at least be done on the basis that we have done more good than bad.

Through the prophet Ezekiel, the Lord warns us that even if we do good most of our lives but then turn away from virtue, we will die.  On the other hand, if we have been living in wickedness but turn to what is “right and just,” we will live.  To live is to be with God.  To die is eternal separation from God.

The reality is that we probably have all done something that we regret.  We are sinners.  Hopefully, we have all also done something that is good but doing good is not always easy.  The choice between good and evil is just that, a choice.

We would like it to be easy to always choose good but we know that what is evil can be pretty tempting.  It can bring short term pleasure or immediate gratification that we seek.

We might say what’s wrong with having a little fun or pleasure.  We can become selfish in the moment and not see the bigger picture.  If we do this often, we look not just the little things in selfish ways but the big decisions too.

But to be selfish can lead to not loving our neighbor as Jesus teaches.  It can lead to not loving God because we think we know what is best.

“What’s in it for me” is not a Christian question.  It might seem natural.  It can be the question that society tells us to ask but Jesus shows us another way.

Jesus was with God in Heaven.  He “was in the formed of God” but “did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.  Rather, he emptied himself…he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Jesus could have chosen to be selfish and said, “I have nothing to gain for myself by becoming human.”  He had nothing to gain for himself but he didn’t become human for himself.  He became human for us.  He was obedient to God our Father for our sake, not his.

Are we willing to be obedient (like Jesus) to God?

We don’t like to be obedient.  When we are teenagers and our parents tell us to do something we don’t want to, instead of being obedient, we sometimes say to them that you just don’t want me to have any fun, even when what our parents are saying is what it is best.

We do the same thing with God.  We just want to have a little fun, right?  It can’t be that bad.  Then we journey down the slippery slope away from God to sin.

How often do we involve God in the choices we make?  I’m willing to bet that many make a lot of choices without any consideration to what God would want us to do.  We think that we generally have the answers and we only turn to God when we are stumped.

Then, do we ever ask God what to do?  Or we turn to him only when we are in trouble and can’t fix it ourselves?

Now, we can’t always stop and have a long conversation with God about what we are supposed to do in every situation that comes up.  That’s why we need to be in regular conversation with God.

Here I want to say that by “regular conversation” with God, “regular” begins with being at Mass every week but it doesn’t end there.  We need to need to humble ourselves like Jesus did in becoming human and pray in the context of the first stanza of today’s psalm, “Your ways, O LORD, make know to me; teach me your paths, guide me in your truth and teach me for you are God my savior.

It starts with Mass and the homily but we need to read the Bible, attend opportunities to learn more about our faith, listen to CDs like the ones we have available in back of church, or do some spiritual reading.

I hope most of us could list the Ten Commandments but can you go deeper and talk about how they fit with how Jesus calls us to live today?  Jesus doesn’t just want us to follow rules.  Yes, God desires our “obedience” but not as a legal code but from what is in our hearts.

Homily for the Feast of Sts. Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael at St. Michael’s

Feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, Archangels
Revelation 12:7-12a
Psalm 138:1-2ab, 2cde-3, 4-5
John 1:47-51
September 29, 2016

Today is officially called the Feast of Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, Archangels.  They are the three angels found by name in the Bible.

Raphael appears in the Book of Tobit, one of the seven books in our Catholic Bible that are not part of the Protestant Bible.  In the story of Tobit, Raphael appears as a travelling companion to Tobit’s son, Tobiah.  After the journey is over, Raphael is the instrument of the healing of Tobit’s eyesight.  The name “Raphael” means “God heals.”

Gabriel is best known to us as the angel who appeared to Mary at the Annunciation to tell Mary she had been chosen to be the mother of Jesus.  Before that, Gabriel appeared to Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist to tell him that his wife Elizabeth was pregnant.  Both of these stories are found in the Gospel of Luke.  Gabriel is also mentioned in the Book of Daniel.  Gabriel means “man of God.”

Both Gabriel and Raphael serve important roles as servants of God but now I want to focus on Michael, the third archangel, who is the patron saint of our parish.

Michael is named in the Bible in the Book of Daniel, the Letter of Jude, and the Book of Revelation.  The last one is probably the most familiar one to people.  It is the story that we heard in the first reading today.  Michael, by the power of God, is the one who led the other angels in the triumphant victory against Satan.  “Michael” means “who is like unto God.”

With this in mind, Michael is often depicted as a warrior.  If you look at the statue to your right, you see Michael depicted with a sword.  If you look at the statue of St. Michael out in our garden behind the rectory, you see him standing on the serpent, symbolizing the defeat of Satan.  This is also the role focused on in the traditional Prayer of St. Michael.

I think this image of Michael is very important to us today as we struggle against the increasing temptations of our world.  We need St. Michael’s intercession and protection if we are to win the battle against temptation.

In recognition of his role in protecting us, St. Michael is the patron saint of soldiers and police officers.

While this role of St. Michael as warrior against evil is his most well-known role, it is not his only role.  There are stories of St. Michael serving in miraculous healings.  Following these healings, he is also known as a patron saint for doctors and for those facing sickness.

He is also known as one who leads the soul of the deceased to judgment.

There is one more role of St. Michael I would like to include here.  He is also known as the Guardian of the Blessed Sacrament.

The Blessed Sacrament, of course, is one of the names given to the Eucharist, the Body and Blood Jesus.

We know St. Michael as an archangel.  We tend to view angels as beings who always do the work of God and this would be true for Michael but we need to understand it as a choice he made.  Not all angels do the work of God.  Satan is a fallen angel who rebelled against God and had other angels follow him.

The choice between good and evil is always just that, a choice.  While Satan turned against God, Michael always remained loyal to God and serves as his warrior.  St. Michael has seen God in the heavenly kingdom.

We won’t experience God as St. Michael has until we pass from this life to the next.  That doesn’t mean God isn’t present in our world.  Ultimately, we know God is everywhere but there is a special way in which God becomes present to us that we see with our human eyes.

This is, of course, the Eucharist.

So, going back to what I said about St. Michael as the guardian of the Blessed Sacrament, I think is fitting that he serves in this role.  St. Michael is the protector of God’s kingdom and he protects Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

We come here on the Feast of St. Michael and the archangels but we do so during our diocesan Year of the Eucharist and the approach of the 150th anniversary of the beginning of our diocese.

On this, our parish feast, we come together as a community hearing God’s Word and strengthened by the Eucharist as the source and summit of our faith and we are as a Church.

Let us know come together to say the St. Michael prayer together, always asking for his aid against evil.

St. Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray,
and do thou,
O Prince of the heavenly hosts,
by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan,
and all the evil spirits,
who prowl about the world
seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

 

 

Bearing Light to the World

Today’s gospel begins with Jesus saying, “No one who lights a lamp conceals it with a vessel or sets it under a bed; rather, he places it on a lampstand
so that those who enter may see the light.”

If we buy a lamp, we do not hide it under the bed.  That would be contrary to the purpose of the lamp.  Likewise, if we have a small lamp, we don’t put it on the floor.  We put it on a lampstand to lift the light up to where it can be seen and bring light to the world.

On Sunday, the Book of the Gospels is carried in the opening procession for Mass.  It is not carried under the arm and hanging down the side of the deacon or lector carrying it.  Rather, they hold it up to be seen by all.  It contains the words of Jesus and the story of his life on the world.  Jesus is the light of the world and his word must be held up and revered.

How do you carry the Word of God in your life?  When I say “carry” I don’t literally mean how do you carry a Bible.  Although, if you do carry a Bible with you, how you carry it might say something about how you look at the Word of God.  Rather, when I refer to carrying the Word of God in your life, I am referring to how you show your faith in public.

For instance, when you are in a restaurant for a meal, do you say grace before eating?  Some people say they feel uncomfortable praying then because people are looking at them.  That is the best time to pray!  Let others see you pray.  To go a step further, I think of the people who go out for coffee or breakfast after Mass.  What do you talk about?  Do you ever talk about what your heard at church?  Again, people might fear others are listening and they don’t want to be divisive.

Our nation is showing it divisiveness more since our last election.  Notice, I put emphasis on “showing.”  I’m not sure that our nation is becoming any more divided.  We are just showing it more because people feel more free to speak up.  We need to speak up for our faith.  The world is looking darker.  I think part of this has happened as people say that we need to allow for all types of lifestyle except that we aren’t supposed to talk about faith.  They say that’s a private matter.  So what has happened since people speak less about their faith.  The world has gotten darker.

The world needs the light of Christ.

Peace,

Fr. Jeff

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A – Homily

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Isaiah 55:6-9
Psalm 145:2-3, 8-9, 17-18
Philippians 1:20c-24, 27a
Matthew 20:1-16a

Paul says to the Philippians, “Christ will be magnified in my body” and “Only, conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ.

To do so begins with, as stated in our opening prayer, by keeping the precepts of the Lord.  Do we live according to what Jesus teaches?  This begins with keeping the Ten Commandments but not just because they are commandments.

We must live remembering what Jesus tells us the two greatest commandments are, to love God and to love our neighbor.

Loving God calls us to show our love in the way we praise God.  This can be centered in what goes on at Mass.  We all come together to praise God.  As I have said multiple times before, we count on many people to help at Mass.  We have lectors, Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, altar servers, ushers, and musicians.  We are grateful for those who help us in these roles to glorify God.

But your generosity in helping our parish doesn’t end there.  Some of you help in other ways.  We are thankful for those who help with our Martha Ministry for funeral luncheons.  We are thankful for the volunteers for our rummage sale and our Rosary and Altar Society.  We are thankful for our catechists who volunteer to help with our faith formation program.  There are the people who make our festival possible.  The list could go on.  While we are thankful for those who do help, for some things, like our festival and those who count our collections as well as musicians we do need some new volunteers.

All these people “glorify the Lord by their lives.”  I use this specific phrase because it mirrors the dismissal formula that I generally use at the end of Mass, “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.”  We are to take what we receive at Mass, grace, and go out the world.

I am also aware that we have numerous parishioners who volunteers in our community from our men who lead a weekly Bible study at the Wayne County Jail to those who take Communion to the hospitals, nursing homes, and homebound.  There are numerous parishioners who volunteer with groups like Catholic Charities, Habitat for Humanity, and Laurel House.  In all these our volunteers follow Jesus’ commandment to love our neighbor.

You are also generous with your financial contributions.  We recently raised $4,000 in an emergency collection for the victims of Hurricane Harvey (with another collection coming for Hurricane Irma and potentially Hurricane Maria).

You responded last year with great generosity to our diocesan Catholic Ministries Appeal (CMA).  All this on top of your weekly giving to our regular weekly collection.

In all of this, we are “Glorifying the Lord by Our Lives.”

It is time to start our CMA for this year.  The theme for this year is what I have been talking about, “Glorifying the Lord by Our Lives.”  As we begin this year’s appeal, I am happy to be able to say our goal for this year is up just $445 (1%) while the goal for the diocese as a whole is up 3%.

So, the good news is that after you responded so generously last year, I don’t have to ask for big increases this year.  That doesn’t mean we don’t need some to contribute more.  Among last year’s donors are people who have passed away or moved, or maybe their income has changed and they can’t contribute as much.  Increases by some who can or contributions from new donors will help offset this.

Here, I want to take the opportunity to speak about our own parish finances.  Hopefully you have read our annual report that we sent out at the end of August.  In the report, we told you about the $48,000 deficit for this year.  We need to receive more in the regular collections if we are to continue our ministries as they are now.

I know nobody likes to hear the priest talk about money.  I don’t like to talk about money but it is your parish and you need to know what is going on and what our needs are.

So, I just encourage you to think prayerfully about what you contribute to the CMA and to the parish.  You will find an insert in today’s bulletin as well as large poster boards in church that talk about how your CMA contributions are used.  Please remember that if we don’t make our CMA goal, the parish has to make up the difference.  Thus, it doesn’t do us any good to decrease your CMA contribution to put it in the Sunday collection.

It is your money and you are, in the spirit of the landowner in the gospel, ‘you are free to do as you wish with your own money.’  Here is what I suggest for the average parishioners.  For the CMA, please contribute the same amount as last year (perhaps a little more if you can).

As to your contribution to our regular collection please pray about being able to contribute more.  Going back to what I wrote in the annual report, we need about $2/person more per week.  Some will not be able to do that.  Others can do more.  Please give according to your means.

Thank you for giving of your time, your talent, and your treasure so that we may all be “Glorifying the Lord by Our Lives.”

 

Homily – Why are We Here for Adoration?

Homily for September 2017 – Year of the Eucharist
Joshua 3:1-13
Psalm 63:2, 3-4, 7-8, 8-9
1 Corinthians 11:23-29
Matthew 26:36-46

In encouraging people to come, I have been saying that tonight would include Exposition.  We have Jesus present in the Blessed Sacrament in the Monstrance on the altar.  I said this hour would include scripture.  We just listened to readings from scripture.  We began with music and will have more.

I have also been saying our holy hours would include a talk by me on the Eucharist and here it is.  In one sense this might seem simple to do.  In another, there is so much to the Eucharist where does one begin.  After all, as Bishop Matano said in his pastoral letter, and can be found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Code of Canon Law, and the documents of the Second Vatican Council, specifically Lumen Gentium,  the Eucharist is the source and summit of our Catholic faith.

In selecting a starting point I would like to look at the title I have given to tonight.  On the front cover of the program you will see the title “Why Are We Here for Adoration?”

Why are we here?

I suspect this might be the first time some of you have ever attended a holy hour with Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.  Maybe you are just curious.  After all, we have our diocesan Year of the Eucharist going on and maybe you want to see what it is all about.

If you are thinking this way, you might think we are having these holy hours because of the Year of the Eucharist.  While the timing is related, this is something I have been thinking about since I came last year.

I’ve been thinking about it for two reasons.  First, a couple of parishioners have asked about having holy hours.  They have experienced it before and desire it again.

Secondly, my own experience with holy hours prior to coming here is somewhat extended.  I want to share my experience with you to help you understand why holy hours are important to me.

The last parish I was in had a long tradition of monthly holy hours and I was happy to keep the tradition going.  The holy hours included readings, psalms, a reflection, and quiet time.

Prior to that the other parishes I served in did not have holy hours but in seminary I attended a weekly holy hour but even that was not my first experience with holy hours.

The parish I attended almost twenty years ago had a long tradition of monthly exposition ending with a communal holy hour.  I was intrigued by the thought of sitting before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.  I found the holy hours “packed with prayers.”  By packed, I mean they said prayers continuously for an hour and said them quickly.  That was great for them but it wasn’t affecting me the way I expected.

I was seeking God for as our psalm response says, “My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.”  There’s also the words in our opening prayer that come from the writings of St. Augustine, “our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”

I was looking for the presence of God in my life.  We have many forms of prayer.  After trying the communal holy hour, I tried some private time before the Blessed Sacrament where I could pray in a way that suited me.  Quite honestly, I sat there expecting to be “overcome with grace” but nothing seemed to happen.

When I went to seminary and found out there was the opportunity to go to a weekly hour, I found myself skeptical based on my prior experiences.  The last fifteen minutes of the hour was Evening Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours but the first 45 minutes was mostly quiet time.  The first time or two I went, I continued expecting to be “overcome.”

I wasn’t.  I knew my soul was thirsting for God.  Jesus was right there in the Blessed Sacrament.  Why didn’t something amazing happen?

So, I went one more time.  I say to God this was my last try.  If nothing happened, I won’t go again.  I went not expecting anything.  That meant I relaxed and opened myself to God in a new way.  I let God be God.

It ended up being the best prayer experience I had in months.  I had always gone with my expectations instead of just being open to God.

We can find God in many different forms of prayers and devotion.  That’s why tonight includes readings from the Bible, music,  and a reflection.  To give us different opportunities to let God in, to be aware of God’s presence in his Word, in me as the preacher, in our music, and in the Eucharist present on the altar.

Tonight is about being in the presence of God.

We know God is present everywhere.  We also know that sometimes it is very hard to be aware of his presence in the ordinary moments of our lives.  This is nothing new.  This is why we have churches as places dedicated to the presence of God.

As Moses led the Israelites through the desert for forty years, there were no “churches.”  For them, the central point of experiencing God’s presence among them was the Ark of the Covenant.  The Ark contained the two stone tablets with the Ten Commandments inscribed on them.  The Commandments were the basis of the covenant between God and the Israelites.  The Ark was a very holy object symbolizing God’s presence.

The first reading I selected tonight symbolizes what the Ark of the Covenant meant to them.  Moses has died and the Israelites are preparing to enter the Promised Land with Joshua as their leader.

To enter they had to cross the Jordan River.  That meant crossing the water.  God gave Joshua very specific instructions how this would happen.  Priests were to lead the way carrying the Ark of the Covenant.  As soon as their feet touched the waters it ceased to flow, halting in a single heap.  This signified God’s presence and that he was the one who halted the waters.

Over time, the Israelites fell away from the practice of their faith and the Ark of the Covenant was lost.  Only God knows where it is today.

The Ark is lost but we continue to feel, as we sang in our first song, “Our foes press on from every side.”  Where do we turn to receive God’s aid and strength?

What did I say was the source and summit of our faith?

What is before us in the monstrance on the altar?

The Eucharist.

It exists in the form of bread but it is not just bread.  It is Jesus.

How can this be?  It looks like bread.  It certainly doesn’t look like a person.  From our statues, our crucifixes, and paintings, we know Jesus was a human being like us.  How could it be Jesus in the monstrance?

Not all Christians believe it is Jesus.  Those who don’t think that Catholics have corrupted the faith.  Those who are Christian but do NOT believe that Jesus is present in the Eucharist often stress the importance of the Bible.  They will tell you that you must read the Bible.

They are right about the Bible.  YOU MUST READ THE BIBLE.  It is God’s Word.  It is what we call “Salvation History,” the story of how God has been present to his people.

You have to read the Bible because it is in the Bible that we learn the bread and wine become the Body of Blood of Jesus.  Our second reading this evening comes from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians where Paul tells them that the Eucharist is a tradition he received from Jesus.

Jesus said, “This is my body…This cup is the new covenant in my blood.”  He doesn’t refer to it as bread and wine.  We don’t know how it is changed but it is.

As we will sing in a song later (“Tantum Ergo”), “Faith declares what none dare fathom; Faith reveals what none may see.”  We cannot fathom how the bread and wine are changed into the Body and Blood of Jesus but we can believe from the Bible, not just here in Paul’s letter but also in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke as they recall what Jesus did at the Last Supper.  There’s also the Bread of Life discourse in John’s Gospel identifies himself as the Bread of Life.

Jesus also said, “Do this in remembrance of me.”  We celebrate the Eucharist over and over because Jesus tells us to.  Remember, it’s in the Bible.  We come to pray before the Eucharist tonight because Jesus tells us it is his Body.

It is Jesus.  It is the Lord for whom our souls thirst.  It is Jesus who we are created for.  We keep watch for this one hour with Jesus.

Wow!  It is a lot to reflect on.

In a moment (but not yet) I will stop talking and allow for some quiet time.  The quiet time is intentional for each of you to be able to pray in your own way.  I could have added more that we would all do together but I didn’t.

Honestly, this is partially because I am being selfish with the quiet time.  By “selfish” I mean that I want the quiet time for myself.  Yet, I also do it realizing that we each have a favorite way of praying.  I plan to use the quiet time for myself to simply to try and be quiet to hear what God wants to say to me.

You might choose to do the same or you can choose to read over the Bible readings we heard earlier.  They are writing down for you in the program.  You might choose to pray a rosary.  You might choose to open up a hymnal to your favorite song and think about what the words mean for you.  You might think about what the Eucharist means to you. It is your choice.

Then, at about quarter of, I will invite us to all stand for our intentions.  Then, we will say the Lord’s Prayer together followed by Benediction.  The high point of that is when I will lift up the Blessed Sacrament in the monstrance and bless you, making the Sign of the Cross to which you make the Sign of the Cross as you would at Mass.

We will end with a hymn and then everyone is invited downstairs for a light reception.  At the reception I encourage you to share your experiences of tonight or the Eucharist in general and I will be there if you want to ask me questions.

For now, we quietly pray on our own.

 

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A – Homily

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Sirach 27:30-28:7
Psalm 103:1-2, 3-4, 9-10, 11-12
Romans 14:7-9
Matthew 18:21-35

Jesus came to offer us “forgiveness” but forgiveness wasn’t “new” with Jesus.

We see it in what Sirach writes, “Forgive you neighbor’s injustice.”  He speaks of “wrath and anger” as “hateful things yet the sinner hugs them tight.”  We must not hold onto our anger or we deny ourselves “healing from the LORD.

Today’s psalm also puts together pardon and healing.  If we refuse to forgive others, we deny the healing we need inside ourselves from the hurt.  If we hold onto our anger, we lock out love and that means not being open to God’s love.

Peter knows what the scriptures taught about forgiveness.  Some read verses from the Old Testament as saying we must forgive three times.  With this in mind, Peter probably felt pretty talking about forgiving seven times.  Surely that was more than enough.  Surely Jesus would praise him but Jesus doesn’t.

Instead of praising Peter, Jesus tells him, “not seven times but seventy-seven times.”  Jesus is telling us that no matter how generous we have been with our forgiveness we need to continue to be generous in forgiving.

Why must we forgive so many times?

First, ask yourselves how many times you have needed to be forgiven by others in your lifetime.  How many times have you needed to be forgiven by God?

Secondly, we need to think about what it means to forgive.  Sometimes we think forgiveness means forgetting and remaining best friends.

I think with the little things forgiveness does include forgetting.  It just isn’t worth remember.  But what about the big things?

We hear about a lot of violence in the world in general, including in schools.  I want to go back to an incident in 2006 when a man in Pennsylvania went into an Amish school and shot several students.  A few were killed and others seriously wounded.  I refer to this incident not for the details of the shooting itself but what followed, forgiveness.

A few years ago I read the book, Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy.  You can read the book to find out more about the shooting but more important as a lesson in forgiveness.

The preface states, “Whereas in forgiveness the victim forgoes the right to vengeance, pardon releases an offender from punishment altogether… Reconciliation is the restoration of a relationship.”  (xiv)

I think when we think about God’s forgiveness we put all three, forgiveness, pardon, and reconciliation, together because if we confess our sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation that is what God does for us.  He forgives, pardons, and reconciles.

The Amish are very good at forgiven.  They don’t hold onto grudges but they do believe in consequences.  While they believe in consequences, they do not let this lead them to seek revenge (77).

The book provides the following quote from philosopher Joanna North, “When unjustly hurt by another, we forgive when we overcome the resentment toward the offender, not by denying our right to the resentment, but instead by trying to offer the wrongdoer compassion, benevolence, and love” (126).

We can choose to hold onto our anger or we can choose to offer mercy.  Holding onto the anger accomplishes nothing.  Mercy is our Christian response.  We might have good reason to be angry, just like God has good reason to be anger with us for our sins.

It’s that time of year when our faith formation programs start up.  Just this week our middle and high school youth groups had their first meetings.  Today our K-5 students gather for the first time.  At our 10:30 Mass we will offer a special blessing for our parishioners who volunteer as catechists.  Today is called “Catechetical Sunday” by our conference of Bishops.  Each year they pick a theme.  This year’s theme is “Living as Missionary Disciples.”

To live as missionary disciples includes showing mercy to the world.  It means telling people about God’s mercy but it also means that we need to show mercy ourselves to those who have wronged us.  It doesn’t mean we forget the hurt but it does mean we don’t let it control us.

There is a key element in forgiveness.  We cannot let the sinful act continue to control us.

As we talk about God’s forgiveness, we need to show our own need to his mercy.  We need to show that we believe that God wants to forgive us.  He does!  Why else would Jesus have died on the Cross for us?

If we want to admit our need for God’s mercy, we do so by confessing our sins, seeking his forgiveness.  I just went to confession myself a couple of days ago.  Some of you are old enough to remember when people went to confession weekly.  The pendulum has swung and I can get pretty lonely in the confessional sometimes.

What changed?

It started with a better understanding of sin and grace but the pendulum went from thinking we must have done something wrong to seeing little as sin.

Others say that they confess directly to God.  God does listen but there is something therapeutic about saying our sins out loud to the priest.  There is grace that we receive when we admit our sins.  It can be anguishing for us to hide our sins inside.  Offering them to God can be a great release with God’s grace.  We need to forgive others and we need to be forgiven.