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Marriage and Society

In his book, The First Society: The Sacrament of Matrimony and the Restoration of the Social Order (Steubenville, OH: Emmaus Road Publishing. 2018), Scott Hahn discusses marriage as foundational to a strong society.

In the introduction he says, “There is a clear link between the crisis in faith and the crisis in marriage” (xiv). He stresses the importance of marriage with these words of Fr. Donald J. Keefe, “If Catholics would simply live the Sacrament of Matrimony for one generation, we would witness a transformation of society and have a Christian culture” (xiv).

Hahn says marriage is not meant to flow from society. Rather, “In marriage we find the primordial human community, from which all other communities emerge. If we get marriage right, we can not only transform our families and parishes, we can transform the world” (xv).

This might seem like an impossible task but nothing is impossible for God. There is hope! Hahn writes, “We can’t control the national or civilizational culture our children will inherit, but we can do do everything in our power to ensure our children will inherit the true faith. We can’t control the nature of the society our children will have to contend with, but we can influence the nature of Catholic children our society will have to contend with” (xvi-xvii).

Why is marriage important to society? Because marriage and family is where we learn to interact with people. Society is becoming centered on the individual. Hahn writes (describing liberalism in terms of political philosophy, not a political party), “Liberalism puts the rights and liberties of the individual at the center of the constellation of political values, displacing communal duties and pursuit of the common good. Liberalism therefore conceives of society not as an organic whole with various goods that are proper to that whole, but as a collection of autonomous individuals pursing their own goods” (footnote, xvii).

Hahn is not looking to simply to go back in time when marriage and family was seen differently (7). Yet, “just because we can’t recreate the past doesn’t mean we can’t learn from it” (10). He writes of what marriage is meant to be, what God created it to be.

In legal terms, marriage involves a contract. A couple make their marriage vows to each other. However, marriage is not meant to be simply a legal contract. Marriage is meant to be a covenant. Hahn offers the following distinction. “A contract generally sets the terms of giving, taking, or sharing certain aspects of ourselves – property, goods, labor, and son. A covenant, on the other hand, sets the terms of joining our entire selves with another. A covenant builds on a contract to such a degree that it becomes something truly and substantially different” (21). He goes on, “Contracts create temporary and contingent arrangements of property; covenants create permanent family bonds” (22).

To have a great product, one has to have a great foundation. Family is meant to be a foundation for society. As Hahn writes, “How well (or poorly) families do this job will determine the structure and the stability of the wider community” (27). He goes on to write, “One of the most important roles the family plays is as the first place where young people grow accustomed to considering the needs of other individuals and the community ahead of themselves” (27).

Family shapes who we are. It is part of our identity (see Hahn, 31). Of course, we are not perfect. Thus, our families are not perfect. That should not stop us from trying. Our imperfections are why we need God. To be a good family we need God’s help. For a marriage to be successful, it is not just a “civil institution” with God present when the wedding is in a church. A good marriage needs God. God makes marriage a Sacrament to give the grace the couple needs (see Hahn, 39).

I hope to write more on Hahn’s thoughts in The First Society. For now, let us pray for all marriages and families to be open to the grace that God offers.

Peace,

Fr. Jeff

Being Fed With Bread

In today’s first reading (17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B – 2 Kings 4:42-44) we hear the story of what I will call a “small” miracle. The event happens in a time of drought. So, water is scarce. That means the harvest would have been scarce. During this time a man brought twenty barley loaves to Elisha. There are a hundred people there. Could twenty loaves be enough to feed one hundred people? It would be enough to give everyone some but it won’t seem like anywhere near enough to satisfy them all, let alone have “some left over.” Yet, the Lord said there would be. The Lord did indeed fed his people that day and there was some left over. I call this a “small” miracle because twenty loaves would be enough to give one hundred people some but not enough. The hand of the Lord must have multiplied what was given.

In the gospel, we witness Jesus do what happened with Elisha on a much larger scale. The Lord fed one hundred people in Elisha’s day. Now, with Jesus, there are 5,000 men. That’s fifty times more not counting women and children. In Elisha’s day there were twenty barley loaves. In Jesus’ day there were just there were just five barley loaves (plus two fish).

This is the fourth of seven great signs as told in John’s Gospel. These signs show the power of God at work in Jesus so that the people will come to know him as the Son of God. How else could so many be fed with so little except through the power of God?

Jesus “knew what he was going to do” but He wanted to make sure his disciples realized the significance of it. Thus Jesus ‘said to Philip, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?”‘ Philip responded, “Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little.” Philip recognized that it would be impossible to feed so many? Or would it?

Remember, “Nothing is impossible for God.” Thus, there is hope. Andrew offered some hope when he said, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish.” Yet, even though he offers hope, Andrew questions “what good are these for so many?”.

What good? It is a beginning. The boy offers what little he has. From what the boy offers, Jesus does something amazing. Jesus multiples what the boy offered to make it so much more, so much more that there are twelves wicker baskets left over. They finish with more than they started with.

Do you ever feel like a task before you is impossible? Do you think that what you have to offer is not enough? Do not be afraid. God can take what you offer and multiply it according to his plan.

Peace,

Fr. Jeff

More From Peter Kreeft on Liberty

Earlier this week I posted an article, “Peter J. Kreefts “How to Destroy Western Civilization”, sharing some thoughts from Kreeft’s new book, How to Destroy Western Civilization and Other Ideas From the Cultural Abyss (San Francisco: Ignatius Press. 2021). In that article I said I hoped to write another article regarding what Kreeft says about sexual liberty in this book. Today I offer some of what Kreeft says about sexual liberty as well as my own thoughts.

Western Civilization has undergone a sexual revolution. Sexual intimacy went from being a private activity expressing love (see my articles on “Sexuality”, especially “Chastity and Sexuality”) to being an act of physical pleasure that may have nothing to do with love and intimacy. In doing so, sex loses its meaning. For many it is nothing more than something one does for physical pleasure.

Kreeft writes, “Our liberty is being denied because it threatens their liberty. Religious liberty threatens sexual liberty” (22). Our freedom of religion is being restricted because they don’t want us to be able to share our beliefs. Why? Because if they were to listen to what our faith teaches about sexuality, they would have to change their behavior. They don’t want to. This is nothing new. We can read stories in the Old Testament about people who persecuted the prophets to silence them because they didn’t like what they were saying.

Kreeft goes on to write, “They call us “judgmental” and “authoritarian”, but it’s because we are exactly the opposite, because we do not claim the authority to contradict our Creator and Commander, because we do not dare to be so judgmental as to judge His judgments to be mistaken, because we dare not erase or change the line He has drawn in the sand” (23). We leave the judging to God. It is God’s Commandments that we try to follow. We know we do not know better than God. We trust what God has taught us.

They talk about choice. For people to be free to make their own choice, they must know what their options are. As Kreeft writes, “We propose; we do not impose” (23). We want to help people have a well-formed conscience (see my article “Do We Listen to Our Conscience?”). Kreeft goes on, “But they seek to impose their sexual morality on us. They do not merely propose, they impose” (23). In saying they “impose”, I do not think he means that they literally force us to engage in sexual behavior that we do not approve of (although they do want to force medical professionals to do procedures against their beliefs like abortion). What they do want to impose on us is saying their sexual behavior is okay. They speak of tolerance of the belief of others but they do not tolerate our beliefs (see my article “Tolerance, Hate Speech, and Dialogue”).

Kreeft later writes, “Our society no longer thinks about the fundamental metaphysical question, the quest of what something is, the question of the “nature” of a thing. Instead, we think about how we feel about things, how we can use them, how they work, how we change them…” (60). People are turning away from how God has intended things to be (their “nature”) to seeing only how it affects them. Even when they think about how it affects them, people often only look at the immediate gratification they receive. In doing so, they not only objectify others, but may even objectify themselves. We are not created for physical pleasure. We are created to know God and to be loved by God.

All is not lost for nothing is impossible for God. And so we pray to our Father, “thy will be done“.

Peace,

Fr. Jeff

Peter J. Kreeft’s “How to Destroy Western Civilization”

I recently read Peter J. Kreeft’s new book, How to Destroy Western Civilization and Other Ideas From the Cultural Abyss (San Francisco: Ignatius Press. 2021). From the title alone one might think it is a “how-to” book giving ideas on how to destroy western civilization. I read it as more of an analysis of how we have already being destroying our civilization.

Kreeft starts with the following statement:

“The single most necessary thing we can possibly do to save our civilization – the single most necessary thing citizens can ever do to save their civilization, at all times and all places and in all cultures, whether they are good or evil, religious or irreligious, ancient or modern – is to have children” (7).

One might look at this and think it (“to have children”) is about birth control and having as many children as possible. This is not Kreeft’s point here. He goes on to say, “Having children is the most heroic thing we can do because nothing changes your life more than having children. Martyrdom is easy; it’s over quickly. Children are never over” (7). As we enter into adulthood, we may see ourselves as the center of our own world. We act for our own self-interest. Having children, when we understand parenthood not as something we do to continue our gene line but as a vocation, changes us. We move from being the center of our own world to making sacrifices for our children, building our lives around them.

When Kreeft speaks of having children, he does not simply mean the biological act of children. He is referring to “the act of self-giving” (8). Having children involves the way we raise them, forming their worldview as one based on our Catholic faith and morals.

When we see ourselves as the center of the world, we can become focused on the accumulation of wealth and a high standard of living. Those who seek a high standard of living think it is wrong to have several children because it stands in the way of that high standard of living (see Kreeft, 8-9). Our greatest joy, in fact the purpose of our existence is not found in material things but in living in faith and in God’s love.

Kreeft says, “As Aquinas said (also very simply), when a man is deprived of true, spiritual joy, he must become addicted to carnal pleasures to fill the vacuum” (14). I hope to write more about what Kreeft says about sexual liberty in another article in a few days. For now, I will simply say when we think happiness comes in carnal pleasures, we are looking for fulfillment in a way that misses the very purpose of our sexuality. It misses the meaning of our existence. Kreeft cites a study that shows “the percentage of Americans who thought getting rich was very important rose from 42 percent in 1967 to 75 percent in 2005, while the percentage who thought “developing a meaningful philosophy of life” was very important fell from 85 percent to 46 percent” (65). At the same time, we see more violence and division in the world. Why? Because people are losing sight of what is truly important.

Citing another poll, Kreeft writes, “only 15 percent of regular churchgoers, who themselves make up only about 50 percent of Americans, give their relation to God as their first priority, and only 35 percent of regular churchgoers believe that God expects people to be holy” (65). It is not easy to be holy. It requires sacrifice. However, I can’t help but wonder what people are looking for from God if not to be holy. Rather than see Jesus as the way and the truth and the life (John 14:6), do they seek their own way? They seem to expect to get into Heaven on their own terms.

Following God is not easy. Being holy is not easy. As Kreeft says, “Sanctity comes only by struggle” (71). It is worth the struggle. It is worth the effort. Part of the effort is to have a regular prayer life. Prayer is not something we do only when we need God’s help. Prayer is something we need to do without ceasing so that we might be in an ongoing relationship with God.

It is in a personal relationship with God that we find a purpose (see Kreeft, 115, on having a Tao). We need something to believe in. Kreeft writes about heroes in chapter 10 (111-121). Heroes are heroes in part because they believe in something. They stand for something. What do you stand for? Do you stand for Jesus?

We need to pray that we become not what we want but what God wants. We need to pray that we follow God’s Truth (see Kreeft, 153). We pray thy will be done.

Peace,

Fr. Jeff

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B – Homily

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Jeremiah 23:1-6
Psalm 23:1-3, 3-4, 5, 6 (1)
Ephesians 2:13-18
Mark 6:30-34
July 18, 2021

Jeremiah served as a prophet of the Lord in the time leading up to and including the start of the Babylonian Exile.  God allowed the Israelites to be defeated by their enemies.  Why?  Because they had sinned.  Some of this was because of their own choices.  Some of it was because there were bad shepherds.

Thus, the Lord says, “Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture.”  The shepherds were those appointed to be either secular leaders or religious leaders. 

How did they mislead the people?  The religious leaders have done this by distorting the Law.  This doesn’t necessarily mean they were deliberately misleading the people.  Perhaps they were misled themselves. 

The religious people might cause others to “scatter” by burdening the people with more strict laws that what God offered. 

Both the religious and secular leaders sometimes led others astray by their poor example.  Did they practice what they preached?  Or they drive people away with burdens and hypocrisy? 

Fortunately, God always has a plan.  God had a plan to bring those who were far from him back to him (something we need to do today).

God says to his people, “I will appoint shepherds for them who will shepherd them.”  When we think of God appointing shepherds, we probably think of church leaders, especially our bishops who carry a crozier, a shepherd’s staff.  We need to pray that all those called to be shepherds in our Catholic Church are those called by God.  For instance, I am not a priest because I want to be a priest.  I accept priesthood as a calling from God.

Likewise, we need to pray that those elected to secular government are those who God chooses. 

We also need to pray for both church and secular leaders already serving to always seek to follow God’s will.

If we let him, God will work through us but ultimately it is God who saves us.  It is God himself who “will gather the remnant.”

Yes, it is the Lord we need.  For as the 23rd Psalm says, “The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want.

We can count on the Lord to guide us.  If we fully and truly follow the Lord, we will not want.  However, that does not mean we get everything we want.  If we truly follow the Lord, we can find ourselves wanting less.  In giving our lives totally to God we often come to find some things that we wanted just aren’t that important. 

When we face great difficulties in life, we might fear what lies before us.  With the Lord at our side, we hand our fears over to him as He gives us comfort and hope leading us to have the courage we need to endure. 

How might the Lord be calling you to help shepherd his people?

For me, I serve our parishes as the religious leader.  I am the ordained priest but God has also called our deacons as well as our staff to help lead our parishes.  We also have parishioners who serve on councils who assist in the leadership.

Maybe you are not called to a leader (shepherd) in our parishes but God may still be calling you to serve in our parish.  God calls some to be lectors, others ushers or greeters, and musicians.  One of these days we will resume using altar servers and Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion.  Maybe you are called to help with faith formation, our Community Table, or special projects.  Maybe God is calling to a ministry of prayer.  God calls some to be shepherds.  God calls all of us to contribute in some way of our time, talent, and treasure.

Much of the same is true regarding service in our community outside the church.  Some are called to hold government office as leaders/shepherds.  Others can volunteer with organizations like Catholic Charities or the food pantry. 

Even in the home we have shepherds.  Parents are called to be shepherds of their children, leading them in following the Lord’s Way.

Last week we heard of the first time Jesus sent the Twelve out on a mission.  Before they were sent out they spent time learning from Jesus as their shepherd. 

Only then did they go out.  Did they go out and never return? 

Isn’t that what some people do?  They come to church and religion classes till they are confirmed.  Then they go out and don’t return.

The Twelve did return.  They came back to Jesus and “reported all they had done and taught.”  They had cured many people and drove out demons.  They also taught. 

They came back to Jesus to continue their learning from him.  They kept coming back to encounter Jesus.  We need to keep returning to Jesus.  The learning we do about our faith leading up to Confirmation is just the beginning. 

We come back to be fed with the Body and Blood of Jesus in the Eucharist.

We come back to be fed with the Word of God found in the Bible.

We back to be taught more about Jesus as the way and the truth and the life.

We should never lose sight of the desire to come closer to Jesus.  We are created to know and love God. 

Jesus was moved with pity for his people.  This will lead him to feed his people with bread in the multiplication of the loaves.  That comes after today’s gospel passage.

Today, He was moved with pity for the people “for they were like sheep without a shepherd.”  They needed guidance.  God wants to guide us.  Thus, moved with pity Jesus began to teach them, feeding them with his Word.

Let us pray that we allow God to be our shepherd, that He guides us and feeds us with his Word and the Eucharist.

Catching Up

Since I haven’t posted anything on my blog since Sunday, I thought those of you who are regular readers might be wondering if I am too busy in my new assignment to have time to write. I do find myself busier, more so as the only priest in the two parishes I serve than being the priest in charge. The former means I preside at all the Masses. I actually enjoy having more Masses to say. Currently, I say one daily Mass four days a week. On the weekend, I say one Mass Saturday evening for Sunday and then three on Sunday (there is currently an additional Mass to allow people space to practice social distancing). We also have First Friday Adoration all day here. I have presided at one wedding Mass and been at two funerals. This I enjoy.

Now to the latter, work associated with being the Parochial Administrator (in charge). Yes, this also means additional work. Some of it can seem like pure administration. However, it is part being the spiritual leader of the parish. Someone needs to be in charge and that is me. I favor a collaborative leadership style. This can mean more meetings but meetings, if done well, are important for me to the necessary information to make good decisions. The meetings can be two-way conversations where I take the time to listen to others. These conversations are also my opportunity to help others understand my perspective and decisions so that we can all work together.

So, yes, I am busier here than in my last assignment. However, that is not the direct reason I have not posted any new articles here in a few days. The basic reason that I haven’t written a new article is that I haven’t had an idea to write about.

While I was unpacking, I wasn’t reading much. As reading is one of my main sources of information, I wasn’t getting new ideas that way. Having finished unpacking, this week I have done more reading so maybe some ideas will come from there.

As I adjust to the new assignment, I haven’t had much time to work on what I will be doing for adult faith formation presentations in the fall. That work also sometimes provides me with inspiration for articles to write here. Incidentally, the ideas I am thinking about for the fall include a one-time presentation on the two saints for which the churches here are named for (St. Mary’s and St. Benedict’s), a presentation or short series on prayer, and something on Catholic vocabulary. The idea for the last is something that will help people understand what “church words” like “mystery”, “transubstantiation”, and “consubstantial” mean. Of course, the Holy Spirit may lead me in another direction. I welcome ideas.

So that’s where I am at. As I settle in I hope to resume my normal writing frequency here.

Peace,

Fr. Jeff

Chosen

One of the things that is different for me in my new assignment is that the parish has three deacons. They each have a turn in preaching on Sunday. Currently, I will be preaching every other weekend. They each take a turn on the other weekends. Today is the first time one of the deacons preached so I did not prepare a homily this week. However, I still spent some time this week reflecting on the readings. The following is not a fully developed homily but it does share a little of my thoughts this week in prayer.

Today’s gospel reading begins with Jesus summoning the Twelve and sending them out. This happens on Jesus’ initiative, not theirs. We might want to do things our way but we need to be followers, allowing Jesus to lead us.

The Twelve were Apostles. The word “apostle” means sent. The Twelve went sent in a particular role. They were not just “apostles” with a lowercase “a”. They were “Apostles” with an uppercase “A.” Today it is the bishops who serve as successors to the Apostles. They did not apply for the job. They were chosen by God.

We are all chosen. God has a role for each one of us to play in fulfilling his plan. However, we are not all called to the same role (see Ephesians 4:11, 1 Corinthians 12). In our prayer we need to ask God to lead us to the role He has for us. It might surprise us. Amos “was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores” when the Lord took him and made him a prophet. Since a prophet delivers God’s message, one might expect that a prophet should be a highly educated theologian. Certainly, such theologians are important in teaching about our faith. However, in Amos’ time God didn’t need a highly educated theologian who might deliver his/her own message. God wanted a prophet to deliver the message that God would give.

In Baptism we are all called to be priest, prophet, and king. How might you be a prophet? Maybe God does want to you teach others about our faith. For parents this starts with teaching your own children about our faith. God calls some to teach religion classes. You can also be a prophet by sharing with others why your faith is important to you. You can tell others that Jesus loves us so much that He willingly lays down his life for us.

You might feel unworthy. Don’t worry. If God is calling you to a task, He will make you worthy. You can trust him.

In the gospel today, Jesus instructs the Twelve to “take nothing for the journey but a walking stick, no food, no sack, no money in their belts.” This is poverty but it is more than that. It is trust. Do we trust God to provide what we need?

Do you trust God to lead you and to provide what you need to do his will?

Peace,

Fr. Jeff

Where Do you Go to Find God?

As I settle into a new rectory, I look to shape the space in which I will pray. This rectory has enough rooms that I am able to dedicate a whole room to prayer and God. Many people may not have that much space. If this is the case for you, I recommend finding a corner or an end of a room as a space for God. In the last rectory I lived in I created a little shrine depicted in the picture below.

Whether you are creating a prayer corner or a whole room, the basic elements are the same. It should certainly have a Crucifix to remind us of how Jesus willingly laid down his life so that our sins might be forgiven (see John 3:16-37, John 15:13). The Crucifix shows us how much Jesus loves us.

A prayer space should also have a Bible. It is God’s Word. We need to read the Bible for it is the story of God’s love for his people even when they sinned (If you need to get a new Bible, I recommend the New American Bible Revised Edition Catholic translation).

A candle can also be an important part of a prayer space. Candles can be used to provide light. In prayer, we also use candles to remind us that Jesus is the light of the world (see John 8:12).

Your prayer space can also include religious artwork with various images of our faith. It might be an image of Mary or another saint who inspires you to follow Jesus. It can include any spiritual writing you use for meditation in your prayer.

Of course, you might use similar religious items throughout your house to remind you that God is everyone. God is in every room in your house.

As God is everywhere, He is also anywhere you go outside. Yet, we might find it easier to be aware of his presence in certain types of places. Having lived almost all of my life (except my time in seminary) in rural areas, it is much easier for me to find God in the woods that downtown in a big city. That doesn’t mean God isn’t present in the big city. He is. In fact, when I was in seminary in Washington, DC, one of the places I would go for a walk to find God was at the national mall where the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, several veterans’ memorials, and some of the Smithsonian museums are located. It is a very busy place with lots of people. Yet, I could go there just to walk out outside and find God. For me, a walk is a great place to find God.

Different people have different styles and things that inspire them in prayer. I know some priests who take an annual retreat at retreat centers located on the ocean because that is where they find God. For me, I like a retreat in a place with woods and hiking trails. Others may find God in a flower garden. It is not a matter of right and wrong. It is for you to find what type of space helps you connect with God.

God is everywhere. Where are you most aware of God’s presence?

Peace,

Fr. Jeff

Seven Days In

I am now seven days into my new assignment at St. Mary’s of the Lake and St. Benedict’s. In my first article (“From an End to a Beginning”) after the move, I wrote about the people I was meeting and my first Mass as the Parochial Administrator here.

Since then, of course, there have been more firsts. On Friday, I presided at my first wedding here. I am grateful for the nice couple. It was also the first Friday of the month. Here, that means Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. I am so glad that we have Eucharistic Adoration here. I myself spent some time before the Blessed Sacrament in the evening (for more on Eucharistic Adoration see my article “Homily – Why are We Here for Adoration?”). `

I have most of my stuff unpacked. It is nice to have all 20 boxes of books unpacked in my office that I have room to move around, not to mention being able to settle in.

I met with some of the family for the funeral for a funeral I will do this week. Normally, when I begin a new assignment I know no one. That has been very different coming to my home parish. Meeting with this family is no exception. While I don’t know them well, I have met the deceased and her husband in the past. Funeral ministry is very important to me. When the funeral is for people I do know not, it can be a time to build a relationship with the family while giving them hope in eternal life. When I do know the family, it is a time of hope and the conversation involves an established relationship.

Then came my first weekend Masses here as the Parochial Administrator. The Saturday evening Mass is at St. Benedict’s (about six miles from the rectory). In other multi-site parishes I have served in, the first I do when going to one of the other churches is to program my GPS with the address so I know how to get there. This time I started down the road and realized I didn’t program my GPS and I didn’t need to. I have said Mass before at St. Benedict’s. In fact, it is the church where I lectored for the first time.

Does that mean the Mass was without emotional significance for me? No. In fact, just as I did at my first Mass assigned at St. Mary’s last Wednesday, (see my article last week “From an End to a Beginning”) I had goosebumps during the homily. So much so there were times during the homily where I almost had to use my notes.

I have met a lot of people, some who I immediately remember by name and others that look familiar that I need to relearn their names. Of course, there are many new faces to. While it makes the learning curve easier to know many of the people, I am grateful to see new faces. A good parish will always see new faces.

Yesterday brought another first as the Parochial Administrator, my first home visit. It was to a couple that I know of from the past but not real well. So, I am grateful for the time with them and to get to know them a little better.

It has been a busy week. I am grateful that it has been a good week.

Peace,

Fr. Jeff

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B – Homily

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Ezekiel 2:2-5
Psalm 123:1-2, 2, 3-4 (2cd)
2 Corinthians 12:7-10
Mark 5:7-10
July 4, 2021

Jesus said, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place.”

Hum…Either God has a sense of humor or I am in trouble!

Why?  For those who don’t know me, I am Fr. Jeff Tunnicliff (I go by Fr. Jeff) and this is my first weekend as the Parochial Administrator here.  Please note that I said “my first weekend as…”  This is my first weekend assigned here but it is not my first-time saying Mass here.  In fact, the very first Mass I presided at was here because this is my “native place.”

So, again, does God has a sense of humor in having this reading come up today or God is telling me I might be in for trouble as I try to minister in my native place?

When Jesus started to preach in his native place, the people were “astonished” but not in a good way.  They thought they knew who he was.  They didn’t believe he would know such things.

Some of you know me from the past.  I used to be an engineer.  After 14 years of priesthood, I have changed some.  Will you listen to what I say?

Jesus, as the son of Joseph, was a carpenter.  I am the son of a plumber, but I am not here to fix the plumbing.  I am here to help you grow in your relationship with God.

Speaking to the prophet Ezekiel, the Lord tells him, “I am sending you to the Israelites.”  God identifies the Israelites as “Hard of face and obstinate of heart.”  God has sent me to you.  I hope you are not “Hard of face and obstinate of heart.” 

How have you changed in 14 years?  I know some parishioners have died.  I even did some of their funerals.  Others have moved away or no longer able to come.  I remember some of your names but please help me to remember.  There are also new people (you’ll need to tell me your names several times as I am a slow learner when it comes to names).

What we have in common is faith in God. 

Jesus “was not able to perform any mighty deed” in his native place because of the people’s lack of faith in who He was.

I am not here to do what you want.  Hearing that you might think that I am one of those people who does what I want.  No.  I am not here to do what I want.

I know I have my weaknesses.  I am not good at everything.  For instance, I know Fr. Steve is a musician.  I am not.  He led the music at some of the Masses.  I will not be doing that.  It is not my strength.  I don’t have the gift of music and I’m not supposed to.  However, I know God has given others that gift.  I know we have some good musicians here already.  I am counting on more to come forth to lead the music that I cannot.  (If you have the gift of music and want to volunteer, please let me know).  God will provide.

If I am not here to do what you want and I am not here to do what I want, what am I here to do?

I am here to do what God wants.  I am here to help you know how God calls us to live not just as commandments but as a way of life. 

Is this easy?  No.  It can be hard.  There is plenty of temptation in the world.  The devil is cunning.  The good news is Jesus wants to save us.

Jesus provides us with the spiritual food we need in his Body and Blood that we receive in the Eucharist.  The Eucharist is God’s gift to us, a gift we very much need.  It is Jesus!  Presiding at the Eucharist is one of my three most favorite things to do as a priest.

How are we to know how God calls us to live?  It centers on God’s Word as revealed to us in scripture.  It also relates another of my three favorite things to do as a priest, to teach.  I love to write articles on my blog and to offer presentations on aspects of our faith.

Do we always succeed in doing what God asks of us?

No.

That brings us to the Sacrament of Reconciliation where we confess our sins and receive God’s forgiveness.  This is the third of my favorite things to do.  It is not that I want to hear your sins.  I truly believe God is at work in this Sacrament.  Jesus died for us on the Cross so that our sins can be forgiven. 

Today we celebrate the Fourth of July as a national holiday.  It is a day to celebrate freedom.  One might think that we are free to do whatever we want.  God gives us free will but what do we with it? 

Here, I offer a quote from Pope John Paul II in his 1995 visit to the United States, “Every generation of Americans needs to know that freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.”

Let us keep our eyes fixed on the Lord.