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A Winter’s Rest – Holy Hour Homily

Homily for February 2019 Holy Hour
Jeremiah 29:1-15
Psalm 22:8-9, 17-18, 19-20, 23-24 (2a)
Philippians 3:17-21
Luke 23:44-53

If you look at the front of tonight’s program, the theme is “A Winter’s Rest.”  I picked this time almost two weeks ago on a cold winter day with snow on the ground.  So, a theme involving winter seemed appropriate.  However, I was concerned that it would warm up to 60 and the snow would be gone.

Alas, the high temperature today was around 30 degrees Fahrenheit and the ground is covered with snow.  Clearly, it is still winter.

We shouldn’t be surprised by it.  It happens every year.  The four seasons are a natural part of creation as God established it.  While we might not enjoy the extremes of hot and cold, we can enjoy in our area experiencing all four seasons.  The “bad weather” helps us appreciate the “good weather.”

However, in picking “A Winter’s Rest” as tonight’s theme, it is not so much the snow and the cold I was thinking about.  Rather, think about the trees, think about the gardens.  What do they look like right now?  The trees are barren.  The gardens are empty except maybe a bush. 

What about the squirrels and the birds?  We don’t see them much this time of year as they either migrate south or “huddle-in” for the winter.

Signs of life in the winter outdoors can be few and far between.  Yet, we know that the cycle of the seasons will continue.  Spring will come and the grass will grow, the leaves will come out, the gardens will grow, and the animals will come out.  This is the natural cycle of life in creation.

So it is with death.  Jesus died on the Cross.  In worldly terms, his life was over and his body was laid in the tomb.  If this was the end, it would be a terrible ending. 

However, we know it is not the end.  Jesus rose on Easter morning.

When Fall comes followed by Winter, so much of creation seems to die but it is not really dead but merely asleep.  In the same way, we know that Jesus’ life did not end at his Crucifixion.  Yes, his body was laid in the tomb but only for three days until He was raised up in the Resurrection.

As we sit inside on this winter night, we know spring will come.  In the same way we know in faith that the dead will rise and so we have hope.

Now, think of the Jews who were taken in exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.  Jerusalem was the center of Jewish life and they had been ripped from it.  For them, their existence, their life, as they knew it was over.

There were false prophets trying to appease the exiles by telling them God would rescue them from exile very soon.  I stress “false” prophets because we can see in our reading from Jeremiah who was a true prophet that was not God’s plan.

God’s plan was for the Exile to last seventy years.  Through Jeremiah, the Lord told them, “Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their fruits.  Take wives,….Increase there,…. Seek the welfare of the city…for upon its welfare your own depends.”  The Lord is telling them that they will be there for a long time. 

It wasn’t “home.”  It wasn’t the way life should be but it is God’s plan.  They are to make the best of it. 

Now, think of our society today.  We have not been taken away in physical exile but perhaps we can parallel the decline of faith in God in our society today with being in spiritual exile.

In exile, the Jews would not have been able to worship in the Temple.  In a foreign land, they would have been expected to worship the false gods of the local king. 

Many in our society expect us to worship false gods of money, power, and prestige.  These are the gods for those put these first in their lives. 

Perhaps the most distorted “false god” today is “freedom.”  To them freedom means we can do whatever we want.  They talk in terms of a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion but ignore the “freedom” due to the child in the womb.  They promote sexual freedom to live whatever sexual identity and behavior one chooses.

Yet, they restrict the free expression of our Christian values.  We aren’t supposed to speak out for what we believe.  Here lies the exile to which I refer.

Yes, we are free to choose.  However, we make the best use of our freedom when we choose to follow God’s values in the faith He has given us.

So, we withdrawn and might choose to hide our faith, living in spiritual exile.  Picture the empty trees, the empty gardens, and the lack of seeing outdoor wildlife.  We look at society today and it is hard to see God.  We might even feel abandoned.  Remember winter does not last forever and neither will the spiritual exile.

For now, we hold onto our faith.  We live in this world to the best of our ability but we remember what Paul wrote to the Philippians, “But our citizenship is in heaven.

6th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C – Homily

6th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Jeremiah 17:5-8
Psalm 1:1-2, 3, 4, 6 (40:5a)
1 Corinthians 15:12, 16-20
Luke 6:17, 20-26
February 17, 2019

In today’s gospel we hear Luke’s version of the Beatitudes. They may sound familiar but not quite what we are used to hearing. That is because, like many passages in the gospels, it is told in multiple gospels. In the case of the Beatitudes, Matthew’s version found in the first twelve verses of chapter five of Matthew’s Gospel are the commonly used version of the Beatitudes. (This is the version I used in my recent presentation, Are They Rules or a Way of Life?).

Matthew’s Beatitudes include, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven…Blessed are they who mourn for they will be comforted.” are two examples of the eight Beatitudes listed in Matthew’s Gospel.  Matthew’s Beatitudes are one of the more common gospels used for funerals.  We generally hear them once every three years in the Sunday lectionary cycle.

While Matthew’s version of the Beatitudes is the most common, Luke also provides a list of Beatitudes.  However, Luke does it a little differently.  Matthew lists eight beatitudes, all expressed in the positive (“blessed are they”).  Luke offers four Beatitudes in the positive that parallel Matthew’s but then Luke does something different.  He offers four woe’s (“woe to you”). 

This helps emphasize a recurring theme found through Luke’s Gospel known as “the reversal of fortune.”  God gives the wealth of the Kingdom of God to the poor while those who have made themselves rich may not receive the riches of the Kingdom of God.

Yet, in reality it is not about how rich or poor we are in material wealth that God is looking for.  As Luke sees it, the rich think they are self-made people and have done it on their own.  In their own eyes, they don’t need God’s or anyone else’s help. 

On the other hand, the poor learn to realize that material things are not the most important.  In “hungry”, they turn to God to “be satisfied.” 

Does this make it bad to be “rich”?  Not if the rich realize that they cannot really be satisfied by the earthly riches.  We are not created to be “rich.”  We are created to know God and to be loved by God.  Sometimes, the rich do come to realize that their wealth is not what is most important.  Then, they can use their wealth to help others because they no longer hoard it.

What about the poor?  Do all poor people know the love of God in their lives?  Unfortunately, no.  This can happen because of their lack of basic necessities in life leads them to think that no one cares about them, including God.  This is why it that for the work of evangelization to be successful, it is necessary to first meet them where they are at and provide them with the basic necessities of life.  Once they know that someone cares, that someone loves them, then we can talk to them about God’s Love for them.

I think our first reading can help us get at the just of what Jesus is trying to get at.  Jeremiah is not trying to provide us with a list of beatitudes or woes but he is trying to help us live with the right focus. 

When we focus on material things or in human effort, we should look at the verse where Jeremiah writes, “Cursed is the one who trusts in human beings, who seeks strength in flesh, whose heart turns away from the Lord.

We should be able to trust in human beings and to seek help for one another but not over God.  God is the one who determines what is good or evil.  It is the will of God that we should focus on, not what other humans think. 

Jeremiah reminds us that God is the one where we find “satisfaction” when he writes, “Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose hope is the Lord.”  I want to make a special note that it says, “whose hope is the Lord.”  It is the very nature of God that we find hope.

Perhaps one of the most important words in this passage from Jeremiah today is “trusts.”

Sometimes human beings lead us astray into sin.  God will never lead us astray if we truly listen to him.

Human beings may promise to do something for us but may not or they may only be interested in doing something for us as long as it is beneficial for them.  God receives no benefit from us.  God helps us not for his own benefit but for ours because He loves us.

We can trust in God because of his perfect sacrificial love for us.  When we see God’s love in Jesus on the Cross, we know Jesus is the one where we should place our roots.  God gives us living waters through the Holy Spirit.

So, let us heed the words of the psalm, “Blessed the man who follows not the counsel of the wicked, nor walks in the way of sinners.”  Instead, let us follow God, mediating “on his law day and night” to find our true joy in God whom we are created to know and is the place where we find true satisfaction.

They Ate and Were Satisfied.

You will find the title of this article, “They ate and were satisfied” as a line in the gospel reading for this morning’s Mass. It is the story of the feeding of the four thousand as told in Mark 8:1-10.

Jesus knows the needs of the people. He knows they need food to eat. He knew that disciples saw feeding the 4,000 as an impossible task. He knew there were 4,000 people there and just seven loaves of bread and a few fish. He also knew he would feed all of them and they will be satisfied.

We need physical food to sustain our physical bodies. That is the reality of human life. How much do we eat food to fulfill our real need and how much do we eat food for pleasure or out of habit?

I recently experienced a severe toothache. It began bad on Friday so it was Monday before I got into the dentist. So, I adjusted my eating patterns to minimize the toothache. This meant no cold beverages, no candy bars, and avoiding foods that took more effort to chew.

I’m happy to say the dentist immediately took care of the pain issue. It is not the pain that I want to talk about it. It is what the toothache helped me realize about my eating habits that is the point I want to discuss.

When I take my walk on a weekend, I like to stop at the store and get a couple of candy bars. In general, I also know I eat more than I should and there are certain foods I enjoy. While I had the toothache, I eat no candy, eat less, and didn’t have my favorite meals that are very routine for me on the weekend.

As I found myself lamenting not having these foods, I had been reading a book that talked about our need to let go of attachments to focus on God. Our attachments can get in the way of our relationship with God. This brought me to realize that what I was missing was not so much the food itself but the habit (patterns) of what I ate. I had become attached as much, if not more, to the idea of having these particular foods than the food itself. Food itself is not good or bad morally. However, our attachment to the food can be bad when it becomes too important.

I’m happy to say the toothache is over (the dentist does need to do further repair). It’s been five days now and I haven’t had any candy (to be honest – I did have pie once and cake once with a meal). I have also ate “less”. Will I eat candy bars again? I haven’t decided. I’m staying away from them, at least for now, to break my bad habits. I’m also trying to me more conscience about how much I eat to take care of the body that God has given me and to let go of the attachment to food as a source of “comfort” to appreciate God as my true comfort.

Going back to Jesus feeding the 4,000, Jesus fed them with bread. He feeds us with the Bread of Life that we know as the Eucharist.

So, God used the suffering of my toothache as an opportunity to make me realize my attachments so that I might let go of them to focus on him. Thank you God.

Peace,

Fr. Jeff

5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C – Homily

5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Isaiah 6:1-2a, 3-8
Psalm 138:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 7-8 (1c)
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Luke 5:1-11
February 10, 2019

We are all called to be disciples of Christ.  In Baptism we are called to be priest, prophet, and king.  We might not understand how this applies to everyone and we might not feel worthy.

First, as to how it applies to everyone, we are not all called to be ordained priests.  A priest is one who makes sacrifices.  We are all called to make sacrifices for others.  What sacrifices have you made for your family and friends? 

A prophet is one who proclaims God’s Word.  Not everyone is called to be a prophet in the same way the Old Testament prophets made it their whole livelihood but we can all share God’s Word in the way we life.  At work or school, hold to the values our faith teaches us like always be honest, don’t steal, and do not be prideful.  I recently read a story about a man who was studying math in college.  He felt a strong call to serve God.  Through prayer and discernment, he decided to continue his math studies in graduate school.  After finishing his graduate work, he found a job where he rose to a position of power and was able to influence those around him to be honest and caring people in the way they did business.  In doing so, he was a prophet.

We are all called to be kings, not as rules for power but in serving others as Jesus come to serve us.

Now I turn to the subject of not feeling worthy.  On our own, we are not worthy.  When we try to do everything on our own, we fall short. 

Look at the story of Simon Peter in today’s gospel.  He, along with his partners, was a professional fisherman.  They had been finishing all night but had “caught nothing.”  As they returned from their unsuccessful fishing, they encountered Jesus and listened to him teach. 

When Jesus finished teaching, he told Simon Peter to “put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.”  Simon Peter tells Jesus that they had been finishing but caught nothing but he will do what Jesus commands.  When they cast their nets at Jesus’ command, “they caught a great number of fish,” so many “that the boats were in danger of sinking.”

On their own, they caught nothing.  With Jesus, they were successful.  Seeing this, Simon Peter acknowledges his unworthiness to even be in the presence of Jesus.  Jesus calls him at that moment to be a fisher of men.  In acknowledging his unworthiness and submitting to Jesus’ command, Simon Peter becomes the first among the Apostles.

Peter is not the only biblical figure to feel unworthy to be the Lord’s Servant.  In fact, most prophets initially offered some denial of their calling based on a feeling of unworthiness and/or inadequacy.  We see in the call story of Isaiah that is our first reading today.

Isaiah begins this passage by telling of an incredible vision he had of God’s glory.  Seeing God, he said, “Woe is me, I am doomed!  For I am a man of unclean lips.”  He feels unworthy to see God.  In effect, he confesses his sins.

Responding to Isaiah’s admission of his unworthiness, God sends a seraphim with a burning ember to touch Isaiah’ lips to remove his wickedness and purge his sin much in the same way that God forgives our sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and removes any mark of our sins with the fire of Purgatory. 

Isaiah realizes that God has made him worthy and responds to the Lord’s call, “Whom shall I send” with “Here I am.”  Are you ready to offer yourself in service to the Lord? 

Our second reading offers us one more story of an acknowledgement of unworthiness.  Before his conversion, Paul had been a zealous Jew who denied Jesus, aggressively persecuting the first Christians, thinking they were following a false messiah until Jesus appeared to Paul. 

Paul became a devout Christian yet he felt who was he to be an apostle after his persecution of the first Christians.  However, when he felt called by the Lord to go out on missionary journeys to proclaim the gospel, he understood it as God’s call and knew that God would give him the grace to do what He asked of him.

We might feel that our own past sins discredit us from speaking up against the same behavior by others.  God can take our conversion from our sins, add his grace to it, and give us creditability that comes from having realized that our past behavior was wrong and that God has given the grace we need to overcome our sins. 

God is calling you to be his disciples.  Confess your sins and ask for God’s grace and guidance to let you to do his will.

Video Presentation – “Are They Rules or a Way of Life?”

I just uploaded the video and handouts of my latest presentation “Are They Rules or a Way of Life: A Look at the Ten Commandments and Beatitudes” to my website. You can view it at www.renewaloffaith.org/wayoflife.

Here’s a description of this presentation – The Ten Commandments are given to us by God.  They are often viewed as legal code to be followed.  They are more than that.  The Beatitudes speak of how we receive what we give to others.  In this presentation, Fr. Jeff speaks about both the Commandments and the Beatitudes are a way of life that helps be better Christian disciples. 

I hope you enjoy this presentation.

Peace,

Fr. Jeff

4th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C – Homily

4th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Jeremiah 1:4-5, 17-19
Psalm 71:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 15, 17
1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13
Luke 4:21-30
February 3, 2019

This passage from 1 Corinthians is one of the suggested readings for weddings.  I think couples pick it as their second reading in about half of the weddings I have done.  Do they pick it just because it talks about love?

When we first begin to discuss their wedding ceremony and what readings they might pick, I always try to point this reading out to them as one to think about what it is really saying.  It takes about “love” and “love” is certainly an important part of marriage but before they select it as their second reading, I just ask them to talk to each other and reflect on what it says about love to them.

Love can be a complicated thing.

Why?  Because we are imperfect beings.  In our imperfections, we don’t always do what we know we should.  When someone we love and who we think loves us does something that hurts us, it hurts all the more. 

Part of loving someone is not wanting to hurt them.  Rather, we should desire to be the ones who help them when they hurt.  Yet, again, we are not perfect.

What about God’s love?

How would you describe God’s love?

We tend to describe things in terms of our human experiences.  Our human experience of love is imperfect.  So, we might imagine God’s love in the same way.  We might think that it is possible for God to stop loving us.

We would be wrong to think that.

As God told Jeremiah, He knew us even before He formed us in the womb.  From the beginning of time, God already knew what we would do.  He knows what sins we commit.  It is because He loves us even when we sin that our Father sent Jesus to die for us on the Cross. 

How many times have I said that we see Jesus’ love for us when we look at him on the Cross?

God knows what adversity we will face.  Even before Jeremiah began his ministry, the Lord told him, “They will fight against you but not prevail over you for I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD.”

We like to think that having faith in Jesus means everything will be easy.  After all, Jesus himself says “my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”  The thing is, He doesn’t say we won’t have any problems, just that they are easier with him.

That’s why that Paul tells us that if we “do not have love,” we are “a resounding gong,” that without love we are “nothing.”  Love is what we are created for.

Love is what sustains us.  “It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”  It is God’s love for us that never fails. 

Turning back to marriage, it is to be a sacrament of love.  Does that mean it will be perfect, that there will be no problems?  We would like to think so but the reality is that marriage can come with its challenges. 

Here I think of couples that I see that aren’t afraid to admit that, shall we say, “they don’t always see eye to eye.”  Yet, you will see them do good things for their spouse, not simply to avoid a fight but because they want their spouse to be happy.  There is love in that.

I also think of when I see a couple where one of the spouses is dealing with a health issue.  The sick spouse is in the hospital.  That means the healthy spouse doesn’t have to be with them every moment to take care of them.  They could go and do their own thing.  Of course, at times, they do need to tend to those other things that always need to be done.  But they find time to simply sit with their sick spouse in the hospital.  They want to be there for them.  They want them to get better.  They want them to be around for years to come.  There is love in that.

It isn’t always easy to love.  It requires patience.  It means being kind when we don’t want to.  It means letting go of our own interests to be there for the other.

When our love seems weak, we can turn to God as our “refuge” and our “hope” that He will “rescue” and “deliver” us.  With God, “love never fails.

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C – Homily

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Nehemiah 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10
Psalm 19:8, 9, 10, 15 (see John 6:63c)
1 Corinthians 12:12-30
Luke 1:1-4, 4:14-21
January 27, 2019

Catholics have a reputation for not knowing the Bible.  In years long past, Catholics were sometimes told not to read the Bible on their own for fear they might misinterpret it.  That ended in 1943 when Pope Pius XII wrote a document called Divino Afflante Spiritu where he encouraged Catholics to read the Bible.  Yet even today, while families might have Bibles at home, they aren’t often read. 

Whether or not individual Catholics read the Bible on their own or not, the Bible is an important part of our faith and at Mass.  The first half of the Mass is centered on the Bible.  At Sunday Mass there is always a reading from one of the gospels, a reading from a New Testament Letter or Revelation, a psalm, and a reading from the Old Testament or Acts.  Daily Mass has one less reading.  When it comes to the Eucharistic prayers, portions of these prayers are direct quotes from the Bible.

So, the Bible is always read at our Sunday liturgy as well as daily Masses, funerals, and weddings.  At these liturgies the readings are followed by a homily to interpret the readings for us.

The way the readings are picked from the Bible for Masses changed some following the Second Vatican Council but there has always Bible readings at Mass.  It goes back to Jesus’ time.  We see how scripture was a regular part of the service when Jesus himself read from Isaiah in today’s gospel.

We see the scriptures held in high regard even in today’s first reading set around the 5th century B.C.  The Jews had returned home following the Babylon Exile only to find Jerusalem and the Temple destroyed.  These were important parts of their Jewish identity but one thing was not taken away, the scripture. 

We hear in this reading how they assembled the people and Ezra read from the Law “from daybreak till midday” and “the people were weeping as they heard the words of the law.”  In listening “attentively”, they realized how they had gone astray in sin and desired to turn back to the Lord.  (They listened attentively for an entire morning so I don’t want to hear any compliments when Mass goes for one hour.) 

Prior to Vatican II, people would often pray a rosary during Mass.  We don’t do that now because we realize we need to listen attentively to God’s Word. 

Do you listen?  Do you listen attentively?

In the first reading, we can see something of how we read scripture at Mass.  As Ezra read, he “stood on a wooden platform” that was “higher up than any of the people.”  Today, we have our ambo, sometimes called a pulpit, as a place of distinction, raised higher so all can see as God’s Word is read.

The first reading today tells us that Ezra also interpreted what he read “so all could understand what was read.”  This is what the homily is supposed to do today, to interpret, to break open the Word to be relevant in our lives today.

Even in today’s gospel reading we hear Jesus offer such an interpretation of the passage He read from Isaiah, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”  One sentence yet a powerful sentence for the Jewish who had waited centuries to see this passage fulfilled.

So, I hope you see the place the Bible has at Mass.  We come to Mass to be fed by the Eucharist but we are first fed with God’s Word.  It is a sacred time when the readings are proclaimed.

While we hear the Bible at Mass, we should also read it on our own.  Sometimes when people go to read the Bible they think they should read it from cover to cover in order.  That’s the way we read most books but the Bible is not like most books.

If you are just starting to read the Bible on your own, a good way to start is to read the same readings we use at Mass.  You can find them online or in books like the At Home With the Word books we give out.  Some people read it before coming to Mass as a way to open themselves to what they will hear at Mass.  Another option if you have a hard time reading on your own before Mass is to wait until after Mass when you hear the scriptures explained in the homily and then read it for yourself.  If you do this, I note that sometimes at Mass we don’t read every verse.  You might look at the verses in between that aren’t read at Mass.

Another good way to begin reading the Bible is to start with the gospels.  Just pick whatever Gospel you feel drawn to and begin reading it.  I’m not talking about reading in one sitting.  I suggest starting with five or ten minutes.  As you read, when a verse moves you, stop and mediate on it.  You might go back and reread the same verses a couple of times to further your mediation.  Somedays you might read a page or two, others you might only read a paragraph.  It is not about how much you read.  The point is to listen attentively to God’s Word, to open your heart to the Lord.

The Bible is important.  It is essential.  It is God’s Word to us.

2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C – Homily

2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Isaiah 62:1-5
Psalm 96:1-2, 2-3, 7-8, 9-10
1 Corinthians 12:4-11
John 2:1-11
January 20, 2019

Having brought our Christmas season to a close last weekend with our celebration of the Baptism of the Lord, we are now in Ordinary Time.

With the word “ordinary” in the name for this season, it might make it sound like nothing special or plain.  Throughout Ordinary Time, we hear from the gospel stories of Jesus’ public ministry including his preaching, miracle work, and calling disciples.  We should not see these as “ordinary.”

Besides Ordinary Time, there are four seasons in our liturgical year, Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter.  These are the most important times of the year for us.  Calling the rest of the year “ordinary” merely signifies that it is not one of those seasons.

In the sense of Ordinary Time not being “nothing special,” we start this season with one of seven great signs written about in John’s gospel.  Jesus changes water into wine and that is certainly something special!

These short eleven verses refer to important parts of our faith.  It reveals Jesus’ mother, Mary, as an intercessor.  They ran out of wine.  As soon as Mary learns of the problem, she takes it to Jesus.  She does the same for us when we seek her intercession, taking our prayers to Jesus.

It also shows Mary as model disciple for us.  She shows complete trust in Jesus when she tells the servers, “Do whatever he tells you.”  She does not know what He will do but she knows it will be good.  She is an example to us of trusting Jesus to do what is best.

Jesus changing the water into wine is vital as a sign to us of who He is and of God’s power at work in him.  The changing of the water into wine is a marvelous deed of the Lord.

We must also consider the occasion of the event at which He does this miracle.  He is at a wedding.  This shows weddings to be important events, events as which God is present.  This is foundational to our understanding of marriage as a sacrament.

Jesus’ presence at the wedding in Cana along with the first reading imagery of marriage leads us to the Church’s understanding of Jesus as the bridegroom and the Church as his bride. 

Isaiah wrote this at the end of the Babylonian Exile.  In Exile, many saw the Israelites as “forsaken” by God.  They were left “desolate.” 

Free from exile and returning to their homeland, Isaiah tells them, “As a young man marries a virgin, your Builder shall marry you; and as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride so shall your God rejoice in you.”

Jesus comes to give his life for the forgiveness of our sins and to reunite us in our relationship with him.  There is nothing Jesus won’t do for us.

When we recognize wedding anniversaries, I refer to marriage as a sign of God’s love for us.  In a world where there is more divorce than in the past, we might not make the connection.  Unfortunately, there are faulty marriages today. I’ve seen it in my own family with my parents among those divorcing.  Sometimes it is simply because of a lack of commitment by one or both spouses.  God’s commitment is perfect.  God is always committed to us.

When I refer to marriage as a sign of God’s love for us, I am referring to marriage as God intends, not the marriages that end in divorce.  God knows we are not perfect but He remains committed to us.

I fear that when marriage ends in divorce, people can lose faith.  When our relationships don’t work out, we might falter in our understanding of love.  Instead of looking to God’s perfect love for us as an example, we might make God out to be like us.  This could result in seeing his love as like our, imperfect.  Thus, one might lose faith.

If you want to know what God’s love is like, if you want to know what our love for God and others is supposed to be like, look at the Cross.  If Jesus’ love for us was not perfect, He would not have been willing to give his life for us.  The only reason Jesus became human is because He Loves us.  He gives his life because He loves us.  Jesus shows us what it means to love.  

Marriage requires sacrifice.

Praying For Those Who Lead – Holy Hour Homily

Homily for January 2019 Holy Hour
1 Samuel 8:1-22
Psalm 72:1-2, 7-8, 10-11, 12-13
Romans 13:1-6
Matthew 22:15-22

In much of the Old Testament period, people were led by “kings”.  Yet, before the time of Samuel, Israel did not have a king.  Ultimately God was their king.

They did have human leaders.  Moses was the one through whom God led the Israelites out of Egypt.  Joshua was his successor.  Then came a series of leaders who were known as “judges.”  They were not officials in the court room but leaders of the people.  Samuel was the last of the “judges” and he was also a great prophet.

The first reading we just heard is the story of what happened at the end of Samuel’s time as the Israelites’ leader.  He appointed his sons as judges to succeed him but they “did not follow his example, but looked to their own gain, accepting bribes and perverting justice.”

So, quite understandably, the Israelites asked for different leadership.  Rather than looking to God for guidance, they looked to other nations and saw they all had kings.  So, they asked Samuel to appoint a king over them.

At God’s direction, Samuel told them of the bad things kings would do, including selfish acts, taking their sons, and their “best fields, vineyards, and olive groves.”  They “refused to listen to Samuel’s warning” and insisted on a king.

God let them have what they wanted.  Saul became their first king.  Saul was a terrible king.  Then David succeeded Saul.  In many ways David was a great king but he was also a sinner.  His son Solomon was his successor but if you read the whole story you see how other sons of David tried to seize the throne for selfish gain.

From David and Solomon came a long line of kings, some good, many bad until Jesus came as the heir to David. 

Does this mean that should never be “kings”? 

We don’t have a king in our country today but we do have government leaders, some good and some bad.  Don’t worry, I am not going to talk about any specific politician today.  I’m not looking to give a commentary on the current state of affairs.

If you look at our second reading tonight, Paul speaks of being “subordinate to higher authorities.”  If you look at Pope St. John XXIII’s encyclical, Peace on Earth, you can read what he writes about the need for public authority.  Canon Law calls for us to follow civil law as long as it doesn’t conflict with our faith.  Someone has to be in charge.  However, their goal should never be selfish gain.  They must rule for the common good. 

We read in Paul’s Letter to the Romans on how true authority comes from God.  In our democratic view, many think that the authority of the elected comes from the vote of the people.  This in turn means for them that those in government must do whatever the people want.  This leads to thinking that whatever the majority wants determines right and wrong.

That is not true.

Of course, we need to apply what God teaches us to the circumstances in our lives but it is God who determines what is right and wrong.

So, what are we to do?

Pray!  For what?  Look at the first part of our psalm this evening. 

O God, with your judgment endow the king, and with your justice, the king’s son; he shall govern your people with justice and your afflicted ones with judgment.

It doesn’t matter whether we like our government leaders or not, we must pray for them.  However, we should not be praying that they do what we want. 

  • We need to pray that God give them good judgment. 
  • We need to pray that they open themselves to listen to God’s guidance. 
  • We need to pray that they understand that there is Truth and that it is God who determines the what is right and wrong.
  • We need to pray that they have the courage to speak up for what is right and just.
  • We need to pray that they have good judgment in how they vote.
  • We need to pray that they respect the dignity of all life from womb to tomb and all points in between.

We need to pray that God’s will be done.

Baptism of the Lord – Homily

The Baptism of the Lord
Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11
Psalm 104:1b-2, 3-4, 24-25, 27-28, 29-30 (1)
Titus 2:11-14; 3:4-7
Luke 3:15-16, 21-22
January 13, 2019

Throughout our Christmas season, I’ve talked about the connections between the feasts and solemnities we celebrate during this season.

With our celebration of the Baptism of the Lord today, our Christmas season will draw to a close.  Keeping with the connections throughout the season, I will note that the first half of today’s second reading is the same second reading that we began the Christmas season with when “The grace of God has appeared.”  Jesus was born on Christmas, God appearing visible in our world.

Jesus was baptized as an adult so why celebrate it as part of the Christmas season?  Christmas is about the birth of Jesus, God Incarnate.  It is about birth in human terms. 

We are first born in human terms.  Then comes baptism.  What is baptism?  The baptism by John was a baptism with water for the forgiveness of sins.  God cleanses the person through the waters.

John the Baptist himself tells the people that the baptism that Jesus inaugurates is more.  John tells the people that Jesus “will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”  Jesus’ baptism brings us “spiritual birth.”

Thus, we begin Christmas with the human birth of Jesus and conclude it with “spiritual birth” and divine confirmation of who Jesus is with the Holy Spirit coming down on him and the Father’s voice saying Jesus is his son with whom he is well pleased.

What does your baptism mean to you?

Most of us, myself included, were baptized as infants.  So, we have no memory of it.  We can’t attest to a difference before and after the baptism.  Does that mean nothing changed?

No.  While we don’t remember our own baptism, most of us, if not all, have seen someone else baptism.  Is it not a joyous occasion?  I think we like to see baptisms because we know in faith that it does make a difference.  The one baptized is “reborn” as a child of God.

As Paul writes, Baptism is a “bath of rebirth” and “renewal by the Holy Spirit.”  We do not receive grace “because of any righteous deeds” we do “but because of his mercy.

Jesus comes to “renew the face of the earth.”  He comes to fulfill what Isaiah said, “Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill shall be made low.”  Jesus comes to be a “herald of glad tidings” and we are called to follow his example.  Thus, we are all called to “give comfort” to the people while speaking tenderly the gospel.

Are we willing to proclaim the gospel or do we fear how people might respond?

Another way of looking at it is to ask ourselves, “do we embrace our faith to shape the world or does the world shape our faith?”

I’m afraid the latter is true for many.

For instance, what determines what is right and wrong for you?  Do you rely first on what God teaches us in our faith or do you follow what the world says and expect the church to go along with it? 

What shapes the priorities in your life?  If you need to choose between coming to Mass and something else, what choice do you make? There are some people who need to work on Sunday.  First on the list is hospital workers and emergency responders.  The work they do is important and necessary.  Of course, around here, two feet of snow on Sunday morning or the flu might keep us from Mass.  Those are valid reasons.  That doesn’t mean any reason is a good reason.

I realize it isn’t easy to change.  It isn’t easy to be the one to speak up for God’s truth or to try and get events changed so they don’t occur when it is time for Church.  Do you try?

Remember I didn’t go to church for a number of years.  That doesn’t make it okay.  In fact, with what I know now, it gives me the experience to say I should have been going.  When I felt like I wasn’t getting much out of it, instead of not going, what I should have done is have gone more often and put effort into learning about the Mass and our faith so I could get more out of it.

At the entrance of every Catholic Church, you will find holy water fonts.  As we enter, we dip our fingers in the holy water and bless ourselves with holy water.  How many times have you done that? 

Do you know why we do it?  It’s one of our Catholic customs that we do over and over.  How many times do we do it and never think about it at all?  It is to remind us of our own baptism when we became a child of God. 

Our baptismal promises call us to reject Satan and all his empty promises.  Do you reject Satan and the lures of the flesh to believe in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit?

Jesus chose to die on the Cross.  Do you live out your Baptism, choosing God over worldly things?