Discipleship Necessitates Evangelization

I recently read The Old Evangelization: How to Spread the Faith Like Jesus Did by Eric Sammons (El Cajon, CA: Catholic Answers Press. 2017). When I saw the title, I ordered it based on my continuing desire to evangelize. As I read it, I found it as much about discipleship, if not more, than evangelization. The bottom line is that if we are going to be disciples, we need to evangelize, we need to share our faith. If you are interested in understanding the importance of sharing our faith, I encourage you to read this book.

Evangelization is not limited to a parish program. Sammons writes, “This book isn’t intended to help you start a new evangelization program in your parish or diocese. It’s intended to be a practical guide for everyday use in your interactions with family, friends, coworkers, and fellow parishioners” (13). We are all aware of the long decline in attendance at Mass. What many are not aware of is how each parishioner has a part to play in reversing the decline.

Sammons offers the example of Claire who did her job and keep quiet about her faith until one day when her coworkers were talking in support of abortion. She felt compelled to speak up. Because she spoke up, one of her coworkers, Linda, admitted to her that she had had an abortion and felt God won’t forgive her. Claire led her to Project Rachel and forgiveness. If Claire hadn’t spoken up, where would Linda be today (18-21)?

Why might we not want to evangelize? Sammons answers with four simple words, “A fear of rejection” (23). When we are speaking with family and friends who we enjoy being with, we don’t want to hurt our relationship with them. So, when we see them living contrary to our faith, we remain silent rather than jeopardize our relationship with them. I have a question. If we are really their friend, shouldn’t we tell them the truth about what they are doing? We are not called to force the faith on others. We are called to offer it to them and let them decide (see Ezekiel 3:17-21 and Luke 9:51-56).

We might think it is the role of trained theologians to share the faith. Sammons reminds us that Jesus chose Mary Magdalene to share the good news of his Resurrection with the other disciples. She was not a trained scholar. She was a sinner. Yet, God called her to share the faith. God wants you to share the faith. In fact, the average parishioner can be in a better position to share how important their faith is than priests, religious, deacons, or scholars. People expect the “professionals” to speak well of the faith. When the ordinary parishioner does the same, it flows from the heart and serves as witness to what our faith really means to them.

We share our faith in our actions but our actions are only a first step. Sammons presents “the four “Ps” of evangelization: Practicing the Faith, Prayer, Penance, and Preaching” (25). Prayer helps us in our discipleship because it helps us know God’s will. It helps us be more attuned to God in our lives (remember what I said about “praying without ceasing” in my series, Giving Our Hearts to God:: What It Means to Pray), and it helps us increase our charity to others (Sammons, 25).

In our prayer, we come to realize our sins and confess them and willingly accept our penance. Then, we “preach,” sharing whatever words the Spirit gives us. We are not all called to give a homily at Mass. That is for the ordained, but we are all called to speak about our faith. You don’t have to give a long theological discussion. Tell others what you believe.

In chapter 3, Sammons talks about the importance of being “welcoming”. Welcoming is not limited to having friendly ushers and/or greeters at the door, a friendly priest, or a welcoming note in the bulletin (48). Nor does being “welcoming” call us to ignore people’s sins. Sammons writes on Marty Haugen’s song All are Welcome for its popularity as a welcoming song (47). It is a good song in that we are called to be welcoming to all people. However, that doesn’t mean we ignore their sins. We welcome them in to lead them to conversion from their sins. Jesus didn’t ignore the sins of people. He told the woman caught in adultery, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, [and] from now on do not sin any more” (John 8:11).

Sammons point out Jesus’ words of how He will cause division in Luke 12:51-53 (49). It is not our purpose to cause division but we need to be aware there will be division when we speak the truth of our faith.

Sammons speaks of the misguided concept that a priest who speaks of people ending up in Hell will be seen as unwelcoming (50). If we care about someone, we should want to tell them that there are consequences to our sins. Actually, in today’s age, we have to start by telling them that there is sin. Jesus’ goal is to save people from their sins (Sammons, 52). If we want to be true Christian disciples, we should make this goal our own.

Could this make people uncomfortable? Of course it could! Sometimes we need to feel uncomfortable to get us to be willing to change! Sammons is a convert. He tells us that part of what led him to become Catholic was his Catholic friends in the pro-life movement weren’t afraid to let him feel uncomfortable when they prayed the rosary in public (55).

Jesus says the second greatest commandment is to love our neighbor. To love our neighbor we need to be welcoming in the same way Jesus was and we need to tell them the truth about sin and Hell.

We pray that the Holy Spirit give us the gifts of knowledge, wisdom, understanding, and right judgment (counsel) to know what to say to others and the gift of courage (fortitude) to actually say it.


Fr. Jeff

Honoring Mary and Honoring Those Who Died in Service

A few years ago Pope Francis decreed that the Monday after Pentecost would be celebrated as the Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church. That’s today (5/29/23). Our first reading today comes from Genesis right after Adam and Eve commit the first sin, the original sin. It was the first sin but it was not the last sin. Sin continues today.

We deal with sins of greed, people who want more for themselves. The problem is that when we take more for ourselves than we should, then someone else has less.

We also face the sin of pride. Sometimes people are more concerned with how good they look rather than caring for the needs of others. They might even be consumed by a conquest for power.

Unfortunately both sins of greed and pride (power) can lead to war. This brings us to what we celebrate today as a national holiday, Memorial Day. For many Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer. Summer weather has arrived but today is not about summer weather. Memorial Day is a day in which we honor those who have given their lives in service to our country.

We must pray and work for the day when there are no wars.

Sometimes wars breakout in a locality because someone does not have enough food or water. We treat them with their proper dignity and overt war when we do what we can to make sure they have what they need.

Wars more often involve someone’s quest for power and wealth. Maybe they want to make a name for themselves. Maybe they feel they are a “superior race.” We are all equal before God. We are all children of God. We must work, with the help of God’s Grace, to sin no more.

War is Hell. People die. Today we honor those who died having answered the call to serve. War is never desirable. We must first seek peaceful resolution to conflicts. We should never start a war. It isn’t worth it. However, when another person/country starts a war, we need to ask ourselves how we are called to respond. Our Catholic faith acknowledges this is in just war theory (see my article, “Just War Theory”).

War is not good. We don’t understand it, or at least I don’t understand it. For example, Russia has been attacking the Ukraine for over a year now and I don’t understand why. Pride? Power? Greed? I do not know but I do know that it is not good. Innocent people are being killed and injured.

I wrote above of how sin can lead to war. Will sin ever be defeated? We continue to battle against sin but the ultimate victory over sin has already been won. Here, I point to our gospel reading for today. Jesus dies on the Cross. His death is victory over sin. Thank you Jesus.

So today we pray for those who those who have given their lives in service to our country and we ask Mary as Mother of the Church to watch over those presently serving and we pray to St. Michael the Archangel, patron saint of the military.

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.



Fr. Jeff

Pentecost – Homily

Acts 2:1-11
Psalm 104:1, 24, 29-30, 31, 34 (30)
1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13John 20:19-23
May 28, 2023

Our passage from Acts today begins, “When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled…”  We need to realize there are two meanings to this.  First, it was time for the Jewish Pentecost.  The Jewish feast of Pentecost had been a harvest festival and a time for celebrating the giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai.

The word “Pentecost” means 50 days.  It was now 50 days since Jesus had risen from the dead.  It was time for a new Christian Pentecost, the Descent of the Holy Spirit.

And suddenly there came from the sky…”  Why from the sky?  Because we visualize Heaven as being above us.  What comes is from Heaven.

A strong driving wind…”  Remember in the second story of creation how God breathed life into Adam.  The wind is like the breath of God.

Tongues of fire…”  Remember the fire of the Burning Bush in which God appeared to Moses.  Fire can be used to purify something.  Fire (heat) can transform us.  “Tongues” points to what the Holy Spirit who comes in the “strong driving wind” as “tongues of fire” enables the disciples to do.  The people each heard the disciples speak in their own language. 

What sin had done at the Tower of Babel (they started to speak different languages), the Holy Spirit undid as it purified them.

Paul writes, “No one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.”  To say “Jesus is Lord” is not simply speaking these three words.  Anyone can speak them but to truly mean and understand them requires the Holy Spirit.  The first disciples received that Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the same Holy Spirit we receive in Baptism.

The Holy Spirit enables us to complete the mission given to us by Christ, to proclaim the gospel to all nations.  We all share in the mission but in “different forms of service” having been given “different kinds of spiritual gifts.

At the time of the building of the Tower of Babel, the people were scattered by their sin when they began to speak different languages.  The Holy Spirit brought them back together as the people all heard the disciples speaking in their own language.

We are a divided world today.  We are becoming more and more polarized.  Part of this is because of those who think everyone gets to decide their own truth.  We are not united.

We are many parts but called to be one Body in Christ.

There is division over truth as people abandon what God has taught from the beginning and people think they can recreate themselves in their own image.  Our physical bodies that we receive at our conception are part of who God creates us to be.  We cannot recreate ourselves by denying who our bodies say we are.  We are created body and soul.  Our bodies say something about who we are as determined by God.

We did not create ourselves.  We cannot recreate ourselves.  Indeed, we go astray at times.  Going “astray” means we have drifted from God’s plan for us (Jeremiah 29:11).  How could we ever think we know better than God? Yet, at times that is precisely what we think.

God knew his people would stray.  That’s why God knew all along that He would send the Holy spirit to “renew the face of the earth.”  Are you willing to let God renew you, to recreate you, in being who He calls you to be?

It is not easy.  The devil is cunning in leading the world astray.  Are we afraid to speak up against the world?

Do you remember how the disciples were gathered behind locked doors after Jesus had been crucified?

Why did they lock the doors?  “…for fear of the Jews.”  They were afraid of the Jews who had Jesus crucified.  They were afraid the Jews who persecuted Jesus would do the same thing to them.

Fear can be very powerful.

What are you afraid of?

Who are you afraid of?

Does it/they keep you from following Jesus?

How do we overcome our fears?  With the Holy Spirit.  One of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit is courage (aka fortitude).  It is this gift of the Holy Spirit that makes it possible to overcome our fears.  The Holy Spirit also offers gifts of knowledge, wisdom, and understanding. 

When we accept these gifts, it leads us to “peace.”  The peace that Jesus offers when He says “Peace be with you” is not an earthly peace.  The Peace of Christ transcends earthly things to fill our heart and soul with real peace.  Our struggles against the false ways of the world will not instantly disappear when we allow the Holy Spirit to transform us.  However, our attitude about the struggles will change.  We realize earthly things are not really important.  It is God who brings us the peace and joy we seek.  “Peace” and “Joy” are fruits of the Spirit (see Galatians 5:16-26).

I end by stating the choice that each of us has to make.  Are you going to follow those in the world who, tricked by the devil, are abandoning the truth that comes from God, or are you going to let go of worldly ways and allow the Holy Spirit to renew you and to “renew the face of the earth?

Is Nothing Sacred?

Last Friday I read a news article, “Shooting at funeral home in Ecuador leaves four dead,” (by Diego Lopez Marina, Catholic News Agency, 5/19/23. Available online at https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/254364/shooting-at-funeral-home-in-ecuador-leaves-four-dead). It is not the first time I have heard of a shooting at a funeral. Reading the news, I asked myself, “Is nothing sacred?”

Even among the mafia didn’t there used to be an honor code that said you left people alone at times like funerals? I also think of people who protest in an aggressive way at military funerals. War is a terribly thing and should only be a last resort. During “the military intervention” in Afghanistan and Iraq people would protest at the funerals of active duty soldiers. Here, I do not want to be interpreted as saying people shouldn’t be allowed to protest against wars in peaceful ways. Just leave the families alone. They already know the pains of war in the loss of loved one. If one is going to protest in such situations, do it respectfully and not interfere with the family’s grieving.

I also think about the new techniques of what is done with human bodies after physical depth. The human body is no longer seen as part of the person (see my article “More on Respecting the Dead,” from March of this year.

My question, “is nothing sacred,” isn’t just about funerals. In my recent article, “Reverence Lost,” I spoke of reverence in terms of our attire. I could use the same title here. It is part of a much bigger loss of the sense of things being “sacred.”

I think of the escalation of vandalism in churches since Roe v. Wade was overturned. A search on www.catholicnewagency.com using the phrase “church vandalism” came up with almost 6,000 hits. Again, I do not want to take away someone’s right to protest. I seek only to ask them to do it in a respectful way. There is nothing respectful about breaking statues, windows, or spray painting “Jane’s revenge” on churches. Some of the vandalism doesn’t even indicate their issue. Breaking a statue says nothing about what they are objecting to. It does nothing to advance true dialogue on the issues (for more on dialogue, see my article, “Seeking Real Dialogue,” part of my series of articles, “Our Relationships with Others” on Pope Francis’ encyclical, Fratelli Tutti).

We can see the loss of the sense of the sacred on Sunday mornings. It used to be that stores were not open on Sunday mornings and there were not sports or other activities. Sunday was seen as a day for the Lord. Now, the stores are open (no one is forced to go shopping then but people are required to work) and sports and other activities are scheduled then. People who want to go to church are expected to give up church to participate in these activities. Sunday is no longer sacred (for more on Sunday as a day for the Lord see my article, “Keeping the Lord’s Day: What Does It Mean to Me?”).

It can be a slippery slope. When the birth control pill became acceptable to many, it was supposed to lead to less abortions. It hasn’t. In fact, search the internet and you can find stories that show the number of abortions is up. Why? Because of the loss of the sense of life as sacred. I believe in turn this has contributed to the increase in the number of mass shootings. If ending a life in the womb through abortion is okay, people begin to think shooting others they disagree with okay.

We need to look beyond the surface at these things (see my January 2023 article, “The Need for Depth”). We need to ask ourselves why people are doing these things? We need to ask ourselves how can we contribute to real dialogue on the issues.

Those who disagree with our church teaching say we need to be more tolerant but they want to silence us when we speak what we believe. They tolerant what they believe and what to cancel out anything else. In his encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis speaks of how we search social media for people and/or material that agree with us and shut out anything else. This is not tolerance. (For more on what tolerance is, see my article, “Tolerance, Hate Speech, and Dialogue” from January 2021).

As I write this, I find myself getting “a little fired up.” I think this has a good side in that it flows from my passion to know and share God’s Truth. However, I know being “fired up” must be kept in check so that we can engage in true dialogue. I have no intention of letting the fire become acts of violence. So, instead of getting too fired up, I am going to end this article with a prayer.

Dear Lord,
People are losing the sense of the sacred.
Help us to always keep you at the center of our lives
that we may recognize all that you have given us as a gift,
a gift to be cherished.
Help us to always respect others,
even when they have forgotten the truth,
the truth as you give it to us.
Help us to be calm and compassionate.
Help us to bear the name of Christian
in a way that shows us to be your disciples.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.


Fr. Jeff

The Time Between

After Jesus had been taken up to heaven the apostles returned to Jerusalem.” There, “they went to the upper room” (first reading for this 7th Sunday of Easter) The upper room is where they had gathered with Jesus after his Resurrection. It is a familiar place. Just before He ascended Jesus had told his disciples to “wait for the promise of the Father.” They were to wait for the Holy Spirit who would come at Pentecost.

What did they do for the ten days until Pentecost? They “devoted themselves with one accord to prayer.” Now, there will be other times after Pentecost when we hear of the disciples coming together in prayer. Communal prayer was a regular part of their lives. Think of how we come together every week for Mass.

While prayer was a regular part of their lives, I see this time between Jesus’ Ascension and Pentecost as a special time of prayer as they prepared themselves for the coming of the Holy Spirit. I see it as a time of retreat for them.

Those of us who are baptized have already received the Holy Spirit. In Confirmation we are sealed with the same Holy Spirit. As we sit between Ascension and Pentecost, perhaps it is a good time for us to spend some time reflecting on what gifts we have been given by God and how well we are using them.

It can also be a time for us to reflect on what it means to pray. Our gospel reading for this 7th Sunday of Easter begins with Jesus raising his eyes to Heaven. He is praying. Why is He praying at this particular moment? Because his “hour has come.

What are we trying to accomplish in prayer?

It is not simply to give God our lists of needs. We pray to “dwell in the house of the LORD.” We pray that we may “gaze of the loveliness of the LORD.” Jesus says, “Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God.” Ultimately, prayer should be an encounter with God, a time to simply sit in his presence, to contemplate his presence. Contemplate does not require words. In fact, to contemplate the Lord requires silence.

In prayer we ask God to help us in our needs. In prayer we ask God to help us accept any suffering that comes us as Christians and bear them well, We ask God for the gaze to bear them well so that we may glorify him. This is not easy. When I find myself in distress, I wonder if I am bringing the suffering upon myself or is it part of my calling as a disciple of Christ. If the former, I ask God to help me let go of the suffering. If the latter, I ask for the grace that my suffering may bear fruit in leading others to Christ.

It is not easy to know the difference. When I pray about the distinction, I often use the Serenity Prayer. When I do not have the written words of the Serenity Prayer in front of me, I use the first four lines of the Serenity Prayer that are known to many (and I have memorized). When I can, I use the full length version to help me realize that the world is not as God would like it and trust “that He will make all things right.” It’s not easy but, remember, nothing is impossible for God.

Prayer is important. God wants us to come to him with our needs. More than that, God wants us to come to him in conversation. For it to be a conversation, we can’t and shouldn’t do all the talking. Don’t control the conversation. After laying your needs before the Lord, let God be in charge of what is said. At times, prayer should be silent with neither God or us speaking. At this moment, it is about being present to God and aware that He is present with us. Don’t you ever spend time with people you are close to whether nobody is talking? You are just happy to be together.

Jesus prayed. Numerous times in the gospels that He went off to pray. All 26 verses of chapter 17 of John’s Gospel are one prayer. The hour of his Passion was beginning. What did He pray for? In that prayer, He says, “I pray for them.

Who is the “them”?

We are. Jesus is praying for us as those who believe in him.

So, take some time to pray in silence. Trust that Jesus is with us always.


Fr. Jeff

Knowing What the Truth Is

Throughout the Easter season the first reading for both daily and Sunday Mass (albeit on separate cycles) comes from the Acts of the Apostles. The Acts of the Apostles tells the story of the early church.

The Acts of the Apostles tells how the early church lived in community. In Acts 4:32-35 we read, “The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common.  With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all. There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need.

They faced repeated persecution. The disciples were arrested and placed in prison several times, only to be set free by God (for example see Acts 5:17-42). When they were told to stop preaching about Jesus, Peter replied, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29b).

The persecution of the early church would actually contribute to the spread of the faith. “On that day, there broke out a severe persecution of the church in Jerusalem, and all were scattered throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles” (Acts 8:1).

The way of Jesus was spread not just to the Jews but also to the Gentiles. Acts chapters 10 & 11 tells how Peter came to share the faith with Gentiles. Paul would become an “Apostle to the Gentiles.”

The spread of the faith to the Gentiles would raise questions. Did Gentile converts need to be circumcised? Did Gentile converts need to follow all of the Mosaic Law?

Paul said no but not all agreed. “Some who had come down from Judea were instructing the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the Mosaic practice, you cannot be saved” (Acts 15:1). They realized this question was too important for any one community to decide for themselves. “Because there arose no little dissension and debate by Paul and Barnabas with them, it was decided that Paul, Barnabas, and some of the others should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and presbyters about this question” (Acts 15:2). This led to the first council of the church. The story of this “Council of Jerusalem” is found in Acts 15 and was our first readings at daily Mass last week.

At this council, “The apostles and the presbyters met together to see about this matter” (Acts 15:6) and much debate took place.

How did they decide?

Acts 15:28 answers this question, “It is the decision of the holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities.” It was not merely a human decision. It was not decided by a democratic vote. First and foremost it was a decision of the Holy Spirit that the Gentile converts did not have to be circumcised and what parts of the Mosaic practice they had to follow. (Here I will note that circumcised was not simply eliminated and forgotten. Baptism became the way one became Christian. Baptism was not a human invention. Jesus himself was baptized and it was Jesus who said, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19).)

They realized their work was not done with the decisions made. They had to make sure the decisions were properly communicated. “Since we have heard that some of our number [who went out] without any mandate from us have upset you with their teachings and disturbed your peace of mind, we have with one accord decided to choose representatives and to send them to you along with our beloved Barnabas and Paul” (Acts 15:24-25).

Today there are many different voices tells us contradictory opinions. Even within the church, there are those who wish to change church teaching. For example, there are those who wish to abandon what the Bible says and what our Catholic faith has taught from the beginning about same-sex relationships. I have not read where any of them offer a justification for this that is consistent with what the Church has taught (for what the Church does teach on same-sex relationships, see my article “Towards Dignity and Truth: Compassionate Dialogue on Homosexuality”).

How is one to know what is right? The first question to ask is what they say consistent with what the Church has taught? Is it consistent with what we read in Bible? Do they speak with the authority of the magisterium of the Church (the Pope and the College of Bishops) or are they offering only an opinion? Having an academic degree does not make a person part of the magisterium. I am not part of the magisterium. I cannot and do not wish to offer new teachings. I merely seek to help people understand what our faith does teach. I do my best to cite the Bible and Church teaching so that you may not what I offer is not merely my own opinion and is consistent with Church teaching. Please pray that this is I do.

In today’s world, even when we hear something in the news that the Pope has spoken, we need to be careful of how we take it. In today’s world of mass media, genuine papal quotes can be taken out of context and/or misinterpreted. If you hear something the news reports the Pope said that seems contrary to our faith, do not rely solely on the news media. Check trusted Catholic news sources and when possible look for information directly from the Vatican. When official documents on church teaching are issued, they can generally be found in several languages on the Vatican website (www.vatican.va) the same day they are published.

There is one thing you must do to ensure that the true faith is always taught. Pray! Pray that the Holy Spirit is always guiding the Church and that this voice of truth is heard.


Fr. Jeff

A Reason For Your Hope

There is suffering in the world. We wish there wasn’t. We pray for an end to all suffering. We need to seek to do our part to alleviate suffering. Yet, we know the reality is that there is suffering. It might be from illness. It may be job-related. It may be as a consequence of our bad choices or the bad choices of another. Sometimes we have no reason for suffering.

Yet, with faith in God we have hope. Hope transcends suffering. Peter writes, “Always be ready to give an explanation for your hope but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear.” (Today’s second reading) Perhaps one of the greatest things we can do for others in sharing the faith is to share the reason we have hope.

Why do we have hope?

Because Jesus Christ willingly gave his life, dying for our sins. As Peter writes, “For Christ also suffering for sins once…that he might lead you to God.” We have hope because of Jesus.

Jesus said to his disciples: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” One might interpret this to mean that Jesus’ love is conditional based on our keeping of his commandments. It doesn’t say that. His love is not conditional. God’s love for us is absolute. As Jesus says, “No one has greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). Actually, Jesus doesn’t just say this. It is exactly what He does for us on the Cross. Jesus lays down his life for us on the Cross.

If our love for Jesus is true and pure, we will trust in him. Trusting him, means knowing that his commandments are good for us. Trusting him means keeping his commandments. Thus, loving Jesus means keeping his commandments.

In the Old Testament we heard of the tremendous works of God. In the gospels we hear of many signs done by Jesus that led people to believe in him. In the Acts of the Apostles we hear of the signs done by the Apostles that got the crowds to pay attention. All of these can be reasons for our hope.

Jesus willingly laying down his life for us should be at the top of the list.

Jesus does so much for us and it did not stop with his death. Before his death He tells us, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept.” Of course, He is speaking of the Holy Spirit.

He speaks of how the world cannot accept the Spirit of truth. Why not? Because many do not want to. If they accept what God gives as Truth, then they would have to change. They don’t want to. So, they reject it as false. Do you accept the Truth God gives us?

God will never abandon us. He will never leave us orphaned. Jesus assures us, “On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you.

You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).


Fr. Jeff

Reverence Lost

Gone are the days when men came to Sunday Mass in suits and women came in their nice dresses. We are offered something wonderful in the Mass (see my series The Greatest Gift: The Eucharist and Uncovering the Treasurers of the Mass). If we understand what God is offering us in the Mass, his Word in the readings, the sacrifice of Jesus in the Eucharist, and the very Body and Blood of Jesus, we should respond accordingly. We should respond with reverence.

Now, reverence does not require suits and nice dresses but our attire at Mass says something. Do people dress in their most casual clothes for Sunday Mass or do they dress like they know the Mass is something special? Daily Mass can be less formal as some people are going to or from work or other commitments requiring a certain dress. The point is to look respectable and show reverence for what we are celebrating.

Of course, I am not sure if people used to wear suits and nice dresses to Mass because of reverence or because that was what was expected. It is what people did. That wasn’t a bad thing but, if you are familiar with my writings and presentations, you know I like to talk about “depth.” For instance, people routinely pray the Rosary but how much do we think about the words. That was the point of my presentation, Praying the Rosary From the Heart.

It is only when we go deeper into what is going on at Mass that we begin to want to be reverent in our attire and in our gestures. From this depth, also comes genuine “active participation” in the Mass. Active participation is not centered on being a lector, altar server, or a musician at Mass. The term “active participation” was used at the Second Vatican Council to signify our engagement at Mass. Parishioners are not just spectators at Mass. Everyone present is to be attentive and engaged at Mass.

So, why has people’s attire at Mass become less formal? Before we rush to blame the Second Vatican Council, let’s look at society in general.

It used to be everyone came to a funeral dressed up. While many still do, it is not uncommon to see people dressed informally at funerals. Society in general has become less formal. There are men who don’t even own a suit. There are women who don’t own formal dresses.

The emphasis now often is comfort. Comfort is important but there must be more.

Casual everyday attire is fine for casual everyday events but not every event is a casual everyday event. I am not looking for everyone to dress formally. I am looking to help people understand that not all events are the same.

For those who do own formal attire, I invite you to ask yourself, when do you were it? What types of events call for formal attire? Does Sunday Mass qualify?

Does God impressed when we wear formal attire to Mass?

1 Samuel 16:7 helps provide the answer, “But the Lord said to Samuel: Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature, because I have rejected him. God does not see as a mortal, who sees the appearance. The Lord looks into the heart.” God is most interested in what is in our hearts, not our appearance.

That being said, our external actions say something about what we think on the inside. When we bow to the altar, we are recognizing the altar as the place where we offer the Sacrifice of Jesus in the Mass. The bow is to signify what we believe in our hearts. When we genuflect to the Eucharist in the Tabernacle, we are acknowledging the belief in our hearts that Jesus is present in the consecrated hosts in the Tabernacle.

Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist but here lies the problem. People don’t understand or believe it is Jesus. Now, we aren’t going to understand how the bread and wine are transubstantiated into the Body and Blood of Jesus. It is beyond us (see Job 38-40) to understand. We don’t have to understand to believe.

Unfortunately, many people do not believe in the Real Presence of Jesus. We have lost our sense of “mystery.”

(This slide is from my series, Sacraments: Channels of God’s Grace.)

I believe that two things are essential for proper reverence and active participation at Mass. It is a sense of mystery and a belief in the Real Presence of Jesus. To believe in the Real Presence of Jesus requires a sense of mystery. If the only things that we believe are the things we can touch, see, and explain in earthly terms, then we have lost “mystery.” To belief is to believe in what cannot be proven.

God gives us the gift of reason to use. When “reason” is not enough, God reveals himself to us in faith. In becoming incarnate in the flesh, Jesus becomes the visible face of our invisible Father.

From mystery, from faith, comes reverence. We are not just a soul. We are body and soul. When we believe the mysteries of our faith, the external actions of our body will express the faith we have in our soul.

As to the way you dress at Mass, let your soul determine it.


Fr. Jeff

5th Sunday of Easter, Year A – Homily

5th Sunday of Easter, Year A
Acts 6:1-7
Psalm 33:1-2, 4-5, 18-19 (22)
1 Peter 2:4-9
John 14:1-12
May 7, 2023

The first half of today’s gospel reading is probably the gospel reading most selected at funerals.  It makes sense.

Jesus tells us, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”  The death of a loved one is a difficult time for us.  To comfort us, Jesus tells us that He goes to prepare a place for us in his Father’s House.  Is this not exactly what we want to hear, what we need to hear when a loved one dies?  Jesus has a place ready for them in Heaven.

I think most people would be fine if the reading at funerals stopped there but it doesn’t.  If it stopped there, Heaven would seem guaranteed for everyone but Heaven is not a guarantee.

Yes, Jesus died so that our sins can be forgiven.  God wants every single person to be in Heaven but we have a choice to make.

Jesus says, “No one comes to the Father except through me.”  Certainly, to come to the Father, we need the forgiveness Jesus brings.  We also need to follow Jesus as “the way and the truth and the life.

Jesus does not say He is one way or that He is part of the truth.  He says He is the way and the truth and the life.   Remember what Jesus said last week, “I am the gate.” 

If you want to get into Heaven, Jesus is the way.  He is the gate through which we must pass.  You don’t get to do things your own way and then expect to stroll into Heaven.  Of course, Jesus stands ready to forgive us but we have to be repentant.  That means we must desire to follow Jesus as the way and the truth and the life.

We identify ourselves as Christian disciples but what does that mean?

A disciple is a student learning from a teacher.  Jesus is the teacher of God’s truth.  Do we make his Truth our own?

Jesus tells us, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.”  Jesus is the way to eternal life with the Father.  He and the Father are one.

Do we allowourselves to be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifice?”  Or do we think we are our own creator, that we can determine our own way?

We can determine our own way but there are consequences to our choice.  If we choose Jesus as our way, making him the cornerstone upon which we build our lives, our place in Heaven awaits us.  Choose otherwise…and Satan has a place for you.

I said discipleship involves being students learning from Jesus as our teacher.  There is another element to discipleship. 

It is not enough to learn our faith from Jesus. 

We must put our faith into action.

Here, we can turn to our first reading.  The Twelve Apostles were in charge of the church.  So, “the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected.

Did the Twelve say they would take care of this themselves?


They said, “It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table.”  This was not them saying they were too good to serve at table.  Rather, they realized that they were not called to do everything themselves.

They knew others were called to take care of the “daily distribution.”

They called for the selection of others to this task and then prayed over those selected as they appointed them to the task.

Having done so, “The word of God continued to spread, and the number of the disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly.”  I wonder if the Twelve had tried to handle the “daily distribution” themselves, would the number of disciples have continued to grow.  Maybe they would not have had time to tend to the “ministry of the word” and the spread of the faith would have stagnated.

If you have been reading the bulletin in recent weeks, you know we have asked for new volunteers for music, for altar servers, and to help with the flower and bake sale.

It is not my job to do everything.  It is not the job of the staff and deacons to do everything.  We cannot accomplish all that needs to be done without the help of our parishioners.

What is God calling you to do?  Maybe you don’t have the gift of music.  Maybe you can’t help with the flower sale because of allergies.  How about helping with our Community Table or stuffing envelopes or…

Maybe you want to volunteer but are waiting to be asked for the right opportunity?  Then, I suggest you let us know what type of gifts you have and then pray we can identify the right ministry for you.

So, as disciples, I invite everyone to think about what you do to learn more of the truth that Jesus’ teaches us and how God is calling you to put your faith into action.

A New Page on Renewal of Faith

Today I offer something a little different. I have not written anything new today. What I have done is create a new page on my website that focuses on spirituality.

There is no new material (yet) on the spirituality page. What this page tries to do is to put links to various articles together (mostly from my blog) that I have written on spirituality. If you have been a regular reader of my blog for several years, you may have already seen these materials. If you are a more recent reader, this will help you find articles on topics that might interest you.

So, I hope you will check out my new page at www.renewaloffaith.org/spirituality .


Fr. Jeff