Without Sin: Homily for Assumption of Mary, August 15, 2017

To listen to the entire homily, click here.

Readings for Today (Vigil Mass)

Readings for Today (Mass during the day)

There are moments when we might wish to have lived in a different time.  How many have longed to be alive in the time of Jesus? How many seek to live during the time of our favorite saint? When we think this way, we forget that regardless of when we live, the mission is always to follow Jesus.  We must see how Jesus is alive.  We must seek God in all things. It does not matter when we live, but what we do.

Where is God in your life? How does God call you to holiness? What is it that gives life? We live during the present age because God wants us to.  And because God wants us to, God also gives us all the grace we need.  Becuase Mary knew this and remained close to God, she was rewarded by God with the immediate presence.  She did not have to wait for death but rather went right to God.

 

Immaculate Conception: Will you help me? It is going to be hard. (12-08-16)

Will you help me? How often have you heard this question? Parents certainly have.  I have.  The most difficult part is when the help needed is hard.  Who likes to help a friend move?  How about spending time with a person who makes us uncomfortable? These situations, and others like them, are hard.  It is not always easy to say yes to helping.

What is worse, sometimes we make excuses to avoid helping.  I’m busy.  I have to do this very important thing, like watching television.  I have to lie, so that I do not have to help.  We celebrate today two things. First, we celebrate the great gift of God to Mary to spare her from Original Sin.  Second, we celebrate her “yes” to following God, especially when it is hard.  Mary was aware of God’s grace.  Mary relied upon it.  And she also was aware of the people that God placed into her life.  Elizabeth.  And Joseph.

So, today, as every day, God gives you grace.  And today, as every day, God seeks your help.  What will you say?  Will you help God?

Readings for Today

Homily for Saturday, August 15, 2015 (Assumption Mass During the Day)

Readings for Today

Watch out! I use a GPS system that not only tells me the directions, but also warns me of obstacles to driving I might encounter. It warns me by saying “Watch out!” and then it indicates what the hazard or issue is. The first time I used this, when I heard “Watch out!” I was startled. But know I look forward to hearing it, because I find the verbal warnings to be helpful in keeping me safe.

I think of the Solemnity of the Assumption in a similar way. Only on this day, when we are encouraged to “Watch out!” it is not simply to avoid hazards, though that is part of what we do today. It is also to give us the path to follow. By reflecting on the way in which Mary lived her life, we are shown the way a disciple of Jesus is led to follow him and find in doing so, God himself.

To be sure, there are many things we can encounter on a daily basis that might cause us to proceed with caution. It can be quite difficult indeed to remember that every person is created in the dignity that God gives. When people cut us off in traffic, it is not easy to remember God given dignity. When we see someone begging for help, it can be quite the challenge to see them as person of Christ himself. Even with those we love greatly, we can be tempted to consider only our own needs and not the needs of those with whom we live.

When we consider eastern Church art, we can see that Mary is always pointing the way to Christ. It is not that Mary reflects the greatness of Mary, but of the Lord. Mary does not exalt her self, but God, her savior. God is the source for Mary, and it is God who fills her heart with joy when Mary considers what God has done.

Because of this, we celebrate then with Mary what glory awaits those who encounter God. And what is that? It is the most precious gift God enables for us, namely the gift of the eternal possibility of a relationship that fulfills us far beyond anything we can imagine.

Homily for Good Friday, April 3, 2015

Readings for Today

One challenge in life, it seems to me, is to be a person of balance. Centuries ago, Aristotle discussed the ideal location for virtue was in between two extremes. There can be a value to being generous. But real generosity lies between being foolhardy with the gifts we have been given on the one hand, and resisting the type of stinginess that never gives away anything.

How it is we view the human person requires this same ability to recognize the virtue that lies in the middle. There can be times in our own life when we fail to see any goodness in ourselves, when we beat ourselves up simply for existing. Yet at the same time, there are moments when we can justify almost anything we do, easily excusing our mistakes and sins.

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Homily for Holy Thursday, April 2, 2015

Readings for Today

The Body of Christ. Tonight provides us the powerful celebration that helps us to focus upon the beauty of the Body of Christ as presented to us in the Scriptures. The Body of Christ. It is the Eucharist. It is the people of God. Tonight’s readings put before us both profound truths. At the center of Catholic worship is the Eucharist. This is because it is true that the center of Catholic worship is Christ. It can be no other way.

The gospel reminds us though, that there is an essential relationship between the Eucharist, body and blood, soul and divinity of Christ, the the indwelling Christ in each person. When a person hungers, Christ hungers. When a person thirsts, Christ thirsts. When someone is in prison or in hospital, then Christ is there too. It matters that we make the connection between what we do here, or more specifically, what Christ does here, and what we do in worshiping Christ both here and in the world. Our lives become the constant attempt to take what Jesus does for us here and to live it out there.

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Homily for Thursday, January 1, 2015

Readings for Today

Peace. What is it that brings peace? This is a day that focuses on many things. In fact, it has been a day where we celebrate many things. But today I think of peace. And the thought of peace today means thinking about the Blessed Mother. Why? Because she shows us in how she lived her life how in the way that lead her to constantly experience true and lasting peace. “And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.

Think of the months Mary has experienced. There was the message of the angel, the trip to Elizabeth, and the challenge being pregnant without Joseph, and explaining what had happened would be difficulty enough. Then there is the travel while pregnant and the miraculous events of the shepherds. No wonder Mary feels the need to reflect and pray. She has experienced so many things, that it is only by taking the time to treasure them in her heart that she can remain focused on the meaning that God has brought forth in her life.

When we reflect on the blessings in our life as did Mary in hers, our eyes become more attuned to the blessings that await us in our life. We can even see in the difficulties and challenges how they can become blessings. In fact, this constant reflection lets us know that indeed we are never alone.

We spoke about this when we discussed the Incarnation. Today we learned that it is not just the awareness of the Incarnation, but that this beauty of God’s presence can come to us in so many ways. Think of how Mary will experience God’s presence. An angel. Joseph. Shepherds. Wise men. Miraculous signs. Jesus. And most importantly, Mary recognizes the presence of God that never leaves her heart. It is when she can treasure the events of her life in the perspective of God’s constant presence that Mary finds the true peace that lasts.

Our world certainly needs this peace, the peace that surpasses understanding and only God can bring. If we are to have this peace, we must change our hearts. We must see how the events of our life could be seen in the way God wants us to see the world. We need to be less selfish, and learn to share. We need to make sure the witness we provide by how we live our lives is indeed the way in which the gospel calls us to live.

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Homily for Christmas 2014

Readings for the Vigil Mass

Readings for the Mass at Night

Readings for Mass at Dawn

Readings for Mass During the Day

Over these past few weeks, I have had the powerful realization that I am not alone. My father died a little more than a week ago. Throughout his most recent illness, the result of a fall where he broke both hips, I spent a lot of time in a hospital and in a nursing home. Interestingly, these two locations can be places of loneliness and connection. I witnessed both. But I experienced connection. It was because I was not alone. First, and most important, I felt repeatedly the presence of God. But beyond that, my mother and brother were beside me. We were together. Second, thanks to my connection to the Dominicans in the Central Province, my relatives, and those with whom I am connected on Facebook, I felt a tremendous sense of being to connected to many people from aspects of my life.

But in the midst of these days I saw many who appeared to be alone. This was not a result of care. My father received amazing care. But as my father had dementia, there were many spouses visiting persons they loved who did not know who they were. My father over the past few years had his mind taken from him little by little. At the end of his life, I think he thought I was one of the nurses. Thinking not only about my father, as well as the others in the various care facilities, caused me to wonder what someone with dementia really felt and experienced.  I thought about a woman whose husband had been in the care facility for years. He did not recognize him. Even so, moved by what seemed to me to be loving care, she visited him every day for hours a day. I wonder if she felt alone in the midst of this horrible illness.

During the holidays, like Christmas, while for many are times when family and loved ones can make us feel connected, for others it can be a time of profound loneliness. As beautiful as Norman Rockwell Christmas paintings can be, they do not reflect for all the reality of the season. How is it we attempt to cope with this loneliness? There are a variety of ways. For some, it is the desire to get and to purchase lots and lots of material things in an attempt to fill up what we are missing. For some, it can be a time where there is a lot of drinking to numb the pain.

But the profound mystery we celebrate this Christmas is the reality we are not alone. God is with us. We have learned that in the name we sometimes us to refer to Jesus, “God with us.” And what can be more powerful than knowing that really, we are never alone. God is with us. For God could not bear for us to be alone, the result of sin. Sin breaks our relationships. Sin causes the connections we desire to form due to our social nature to be destroyed.

God desires nothing more than giving us every chance to experience salvation. Knowledge we are not alone helps us to face just about anything. While the awareness I was not alone did not keep my father from dying, it did remind me in a powerful way that life is beyond simply what I can see. I learned I was connected in ways I was not even aware of before my father’s death.

It can be easy in our world to question whether God exists, because there seems to be so much disconnection. There is such brutal and unbelievable suffering and death in places like Syria and Iraq. There are too many who go without the basics in life. Each day people starve not because we cannot produce enough food, but because we do not share it. The possibility of a person coming into the United States might have Ebola causes tremendous panic, even though we here can live with the reality that too many in the world have little or no health care structure at all.

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Homily for Monday, December 8, 2014

Readings for Today

The season of Advent presents us with a variety of characters. There is John the Baptist who presents us with the importance of being the messenger preparing the way. He reminds us of the importance of knowing who we are and not pretending we are something we are not. His message about repentance serves as an important reminder of the starting p0int of the gospel and of faith. Those who are concerned about growth as a person, are those persons who recognize their need for a Savior.

There are the words of the prophet Isaiah. Centuries before Christ, Isaiah describes in understandable terms the actions of God. So many of the themes we have come to associate with the season of Advent come from the prophet Isaiah. It is Isaiah that documents so powerfully and poetically the work of God. Isaiah reminds us that Advent is not really about us, bur is rather about God. It is God whose arrival we await in our lives.

But in many respects, the season of Advent is a season about Mary, the Mother of God. It is for many reasons that Mary occupies a great place during the season of Advent. Why? It is because Mary provides us an example of what it means to be a disciple. Even when she does not understand what God has in store for her, she is able to say yes. She is willing to put up with all kinds of hardships that would make even the strongest woman or man question whether or not they could stand it. By seeking out Elizabeth, she reminds us that faith is a community thing. Even in the midst of terrible suffering, Mary relied on the power of her relationship with God. And when there are moments when she clearly does not understand her son (like the gospel story where the family comes to get Jesus because they are convinced he is out of his mind) she knows enough of God to know her son will accomplish the will of God. And when all others run away, Mary remains by the side of her son as he dies on the cross.

And so, during this season of Advent when we focus on the coming of God into our lives, we are given the example of Mary. She is the one who has said yes so completely she helps us to know how to do the same. Even though she did not sin, when she and Joseph are looking for their son Jesus, they share an experience that is very much like us when we sin, because when we sin we too have lost Jesus. But perhaps most of all, Mary teaches us to have a heart and soul open to God.

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Homily for Saturday, November 1, 2014

Readings for Today

Sometimes there are homilies that stay with you. (Hopefully people say this about the homilies I give.) Once such homily for me was about the notion of the saints. The bishop who gave the homily was making the point that sometimes we see holiness as something that will only happen sometime way off into the future. But, he cautioned, if we always see holiness as something way off in the future, then we miss the point. Saints become saints be responding to God in their own lives while they are still alive on earth. It could be too late if we wait too long to answer the personal call to holiness that God gives to us.

Today we celebrate those saints who did not wait. They are those saints who answered the call to God’s holiness. They did not wait, but during their lifetimes responded to God’s grace in a way that led them to embrace the inviation to holiness that God gave them in creating them.

While we clearly celebrate saints that have been recognized as saints, we know there are others, many others, who are also saints but have not been officially recognized as such. Why have such a day as the one we celebrate today? Why does it matter that we celebrate these unknown saints?

The most important reason is that these unknown saints helped those people, in the time they lived, to recognize God more clearly because of their example of a holy life. Their holiness became a witness to call others to holiness. I know in my life I have experienced many examples of faith by watching the witness of others.

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Homily for Friday, August 15, 2014

Readings for Today

When it comes to vocations, there is a tendency in the Church to use this word only in terms of priesthood and religious life.  And while these types of vocations are important to the life of the Church, the majority of people are going to be married, and as a result, it is important for us to focus upon the importance of the universal call to holiness.  We all have a vocation, and we are all called to live this vocation fully.  Every person who responds wholeheartedly to God does something that is beyond measure in the eyes of God.

And so, given that we are celebrating today the Feast of the Assumption, I thought it appropriate to reflect a little upon the powerful vocation of motherhood.  The readings last night at the Vigil served to remind us that motherhood is more than the physical reality of giving birth to a child.  What is that greater reality?

At the core of any vocation is the will of God.  When we seek to find and discern God’s will in our lives, we learn the beauty of God’s will.  While God may lead us where we do not want to go, God always does those things which will ultimately lead us to our greatest fulfillment.  In the person of Mary, we learn that when someone finds this holiness of God’s will, they become radiant.  It is not simply a task that can be checked off a list, but rather it is a becoming where we learn who we are most completely.

We learn this because of the words of Mary, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord.” From the deepest recesses of Mary, in her very soul, her openness to God cannot help but shout out just how good God is.  This is not small thing.  “My spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”  Not only is there radiance, there is joy, as Mary cannot help but rejoice in God.  This is all because of God’s favor, God’s grace, which God has poured out not only on Mary, but indeed upon each one of us.

From the example of Mary, then, we learn that motherhood bears fruit when it is grounded in a deep and personal relationship with the Lord.  This relationship is not only a personal one, however, as the community of faith, and indeed the Church universal has a significant and necessary role in faith.

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