The lowly: Homily for Saturday, September 9, 2017

To listen to the entire homily, click here.

Readings for today

Saint Peter Claver was known for his tremendous care for the poor.  The office of readings today, part of the prayers priests and deacons pray each day comes from his description of his care for the slaves. He reminds us that before one can speak of faith, it is important to provide trust and care.  The description of his care and the later catechesis is beautiful.

In such a fractured country, we are reminded of the need to express care and concern for one another.  Without care and trust, not much else is possible.  And we do not trust each other.  We argue and we are divided. Perhaps we can heal and come together through the intercession of Saint Peter Claver.

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.

 

Journey: Homily for Sunday, July 2, 2017

To listen to the entire homily, click here.

Readings for Today

It has been said that life is a journey.  It is used as an analogy because we often know little of what lies ahead.  We can be surprised by wonderful happy moments or sudden tragic sadness.  Sometimes, in fact most of the time, life is ordinary.  Just like any trip.

The first reading focuses on seeing and recognizing the presence of God.  and because of our baptism, we can see the world in a way, because of God’s grace, where we never journey alone, since we are led by God. Through good and bad, thick and thin, happiness and sadness, and even the ordinary, God is always there.

Grace: Homily for Thursday, January 26, 2017

Readings for Today

Grace. I remember the old definition of a sacrament.  Especially that every sacrament gives grace.  And so I was reminded today of my ordination.  Saint Paul tells Timothy that he should be attentive to the flame that is burning in him because Paul has imposed hands upon him.  And as a result of this, Timothy is filled with courage.  Timothy can proclaim the gospel.  The grace given is powerful and has changed his life.

I thought of my own ordination because like Timothy, I too have received grace from the imposition of hands.  And so have you.  At our baptism, and again at Confirmation, we received grace from these sacraments.  At ordination, again, I received grace.  If you were married, you received grace.  And this grace is given, and hopefully received.

It can bring us the amazing courage to witness to the gospel.  It can help us to be those deeds God does through us that we are all called to receive. This grace is given to us so that we can be the light to the world.  This grace allows us to show others in our words and deeds the power of Jesus.

Homily for Sunday, February 7, 2016

It is easy to forget that so much of our relationship with God is not dependent upon us. All we need to do is to place ourselves in the presence of God. By doing so, we both lose those sins and shortcomings that keep us from being the person God has created us to be, and we are able to be sent forth for the mission that God gives to only us. As we move into the season of Lent this Wednesday, let us place ourselves in God’s presence to receive the powerful and life-changing love of God.

Homily for Sunday, September 6, 2015

Readings for Today

The American spirit seems to like things that are made strong and tough. Trucks are advertised this way, a popular vehicle in our country. People are often encouraged to be strong in the face of adversity. Little boys are wrongly told not to cry, to “toughen up”, in the face of difficulty. We are told there is “no crying” in any number of things.

But what is it that makes someone truly strong? Is it the false elements I just mentioned? Is it the house built on rock that Jesus uses as an example in the gospels? And how is it we reconcile this idea of strength with Saint Paul who says that when he is weak, it is then he is strong? When we hear the words in today’s first reading, “Be Strong, Fear Not!” what exactly does that mean, and how and in what ways is such a phrase intended for you and me?

As is often the case, as we explore this idea of strength, the world gets turned upside down a little bit. Bold words are expressed to those in the time of Isaiah, to be strong, because they feel anything but strong at the moment. The words are meant as an encouragement, because when they consider their current situation, they do not feel very strong. Weak knees, feeble hands are the way the people are described.

They are not unlike the poor who are shunned in the reading from James. It is not difficult to see how we might become subtly taken in by the lure of people who are rich. We see the challenges that come from those who are under this spell. Build walls to keep out the strangers! Beat away those lazy poor who just want to mooch off of the rest of us! Let us ridicule and blame the poor and weak for being poor and weak! How easy it can be to see the world in this way.

Fortunately, in the gospel, Jesus provides for us a way to become strong. Any priest or deacon who has performed baptisms has some familiarity with this gospel, as the Ephphatha! is a word used in the baptism rite. But how is it that the healing of a man hard of hearing and unable to speak can have anything to say to us today? Why is it that this specific word is used here? What is the point of the gospel today?

To find an answer, it is helpful to look at the rite of baptism, since today’s gospel is rightly about baptism. “The Lord Jesus made the deaf hear and the dumb speak.” That is the reminder we are given. The reality is that without the grace of God, without the movement and action of God, we remain in faith like people who are unable to hear God and to speak his word. We are in a bad place when it comes to faith.

For this reason, the reminder that Jesus can make the deaf hear and the mute speak is followed by a prayer that Jesus do just that. “May he soon touch your ears to receive his word, and your mouth to proclaim his faith, to the praise and glory of God the Father.” Through the grace of our own baptism, we are asking Jesus to prepare us to be witnesses to the gospel. How?

First, it is essential that we are able to hear the word of God. It is important to know that in today’s gospel, Jesus is in what we might call today a “secular” area of Israel, an area that is not largely Jewish. It may be for this reason there are explanations about Jewish customs.  And yet, in this area, the power of the message of Jesus is taking root. They are hearing, even though they might not seem to initially be those inclined to hear the word. They are ready to hear the word of God. It was not as true in the hometown of Jesus, where he grew up, as they walked him to the brow of the hill in anger. They were not able to hear the word.

And without hearing the word, it is harder to speak. What we hear inside our heads when we speak is not the same as what others here when we speak. You might experience this when you hear your own recorded voice. It may even sound strange to you. And so Jesus, by expending some effort to heal the man (making spit, which was considered a healing thing in the day of Jesus), he also makes clear to us that there is a relationship between hearing the word of God and speaking as a witness to what we hear.

This is what makes us strong. But ironically it is not in getting busier that we are disposed more to hearing Jesus. It is not in more programs, lessons or activities that are the primary way of hearing. It is in quiet. It is in silence. It is in seeking out that quiet time with Jesus, whether in adoration, or in the bible, or in simple requests for him to be present in prayer that we come to have our ears opened to hear the word.

The challenge, of course, is that our world is anything but disposed to hearing the word of Jesus. Greed, violence, lust, objectification of humans, especially women, even religious leaders who like the Pharisees, can lay heavy burdens on people without lifting a finger, these are all the noises that block the word of Jesus.

And so it is not in the typical way that we find ourselves strong as Christians. Saint Paul, who I referenced earlier, reminds us that true, lasting strength, comes when we trust the Lord Jesus to guide us in our lives. It is true strength when we can see the poor as our opportunity to serve Jesus, as our opportunity to be faithful to his voice in the gospel of Matthew that reminds us that serving others is serving Jesus.

As we stand at the beginning of an academic year, let us ask Jesus to open our ears, to loosen our tongues, that we my hear his word an share with others the good news of this unbelievable and fulfilling friendship with Jesus.

Homily for Saturday, August 29, 2015

Readings for Today

It might seem strange that the first reading today discusses remaining tranquil and to mind one’s own affairs on the day that we celebrate the beheading of Saint John the Baptist. First, tranquil is not the first word that comes to mind when thinking about him. Second, it also does not appear to be the case that Saint John the Baptist was one who could mind his own affairs, since it was his challenge to Herod that caused his ultimate death. He was able to take on Pharisees, Herodians, and others to make sure that the knew clearly that to follow Jesus required an absolute choice to live in a particular way. In describing Saint John the Baptist, it is easy to remember there is simply nothing halfway about living the life of faith.

On one level, this is coincidental since the first reading is the reading for today is the continuation of the Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians we have been reading over the past few days. But since they are together, it does raise the question about whether there is a way that Saint John the Baptist could be seen as one who is tranquil. I think there is.

To be sure, first, it must be considered that there is evidence the preaching of Saint John the Baptist had appeal to a wide number of people. Leaving the comfort of the the known to follow this odd preacher out into the desert and to be challenged to reform their lives does, on the one hand, seem to be a challenge. Yet, it happened. What is it that appealed to those who went out into the desert?

This is precisely a version of the question Jesus asks about John. What did you go out to see? Why is it the challenging message of John made such a difference in people’s lives, when it could be seen at the same time as very unsettling? Perhaps what was most appealing to the people was the authenticity that was readily apparent to those who came to hear John speak. Could they have witnessed in John’s life and message the authentic witness that does bring tranquility? Was that the case?

John was no hypocrite. He did not say one thing and do another. He gave his life for the faith, to remain true to the relationship he had with God. As a result, his example grew the faith. He prepared the way for Jesus not just be words, but by living a clear example of total commitment to God, which was to be evidenced in the self-gift of the suffering and death of Jesus.

It can be hard for me to see this as a pathway to tranquility, maybe because I do not allow myself to be challenged enough by God. Maybe I have become too comfortable in my faith. Perhaps what I am reminded about today is that the peace that surpasses understanding can only be found by allowing myself to be upset by God enough to see those things that really matter.

Homily for Monday, May 18, 2015

Readings for Today

In the early Church there was a problem with distinguishing the place and relationship between Jesus and John the Baptist, especially when considering the question of baptism. John moved into a baptism that was a sign and symbol of repentance. Yet he baptized Jesus, who was in no need of repentance. There were those who heard John preach and thought he might be the Messiah, the anointed sent be God for the Jewish people. And even today’s first reading shows the confusion between the baptism received by John, and the baptism celebrated by the early Church after the resurrection of Jesus. So just what is the difference?

First, it is important to know that there was a qualitative difference between the two. Those who were baptized by John that we read about today did not know of the Holy Spirit, and it can be presumed, of John’s clarification of his role and that of Jesus.The baptism of John was a concrete sign of the desire to repent and believe in Jesus, who was to come, whose sandal John is not worthy of untying. John even says to Jesus that he should be baptized by Jesus, and not the other way around.

The baptism of John was a necessary preparation for the preaching of Jesus, insofar as it prepared people to know of the mercy of God for those who are willing to repent. It was the outcasts, the marginalized who embraced the preaching of John and his call to repent with great enthusiasm. It is the baptism of Jesus that fully removes sin, and enables us to enter into the deep relationship that leads to eternal life.

When they are baptized in the sacrament, they are transformed. They receive the Spirit, they become deeply aware of God and their relationship with him. Today we see baptism and confirmation in the reading from Paul. Do you ever think of how you are called to be changed because of your baptism and confirmation? Ideally these are moments when we are profoundly committed to the following of Jesus. These are moments when we become deeply aware of our choice to leave everything and follow Jesus wherever he may lead us. Will you follow Jesus?

Homily for Saturday, May 16, 2015

Readings for Today

It is important to acknowledge great people of the faith. Each of us in our lives probably have a person or two (or maybe even more) who served as a great inspiration for us in the ways of the faith. For me I think of my grandmother, my parents, and other relatives, as well as priest and friends I have met along the way. From them I have learned much about how to live the faith, how to be a Christian. This is not to say I have always lived up to these examples, but it is to say that I have learned much from these people who believed so deeply in Jesus.

What is interesting when we consider those people who have influenced our faith, is that rarely can we say they were always right. There were times when they believed things that we came to see later, by grace and instruction were not true. Such is the case with a man that Paul mentions in his readings, a man named Apollos. He is an expert on Scripture, and can speak eloquently about the Scripture and how it verifies the person of Jesus. But his knowledge is not complete.

He only knows of the baptism of John, and thus has not experienced the full outpouring of the Spirit that comes from the baptism of Jesus through the early Church. Yet, this does not make him any less an expert, but rather serves as a reminder that we can never understand the mysteries of God completely. Our lives are a constant path of trying to learn more and more about the faith. Our lives are more and more about trying to know better and better this Jesus whom we seek to follow.

And so the invitation today is to pledge to continue to learn more and more about Jesus. We can never exhaust our quest for Jesus, but we can grow, even if only in little baby steps, we can grow into a more fulfilling relationship with our Lord.

 

Homily for Sunday, May 10, 2015

Readings for Today

Just who do you think you are? Usually when we are asked such a question it is not a good thing, at least in my experience. I find that too often I am being “put in my place” (usually rightly so). In these instances, when I hear such a question it is because I am thinking too much of myself, or I am not being kind, or I am not loving. Such a question is not usually seen as a compliment.

But it is a good question to think about. Just who do I think I am? How is it I view myself? What is my concept of my identity and purpose? In the process of the RCIA, the Easter season is seen as a time where we do all we can to embrace the love and new life that becomes possible when we “drink in” the resurrection. For those who came into the Church at the Easter Vigil, the newness of the faith is reinforced by the constant resurrected life of Jesus and the outpouring of the Spirit, most evident when we celebrate Pentecost.

But, for the rest of us, Easter can be seen as simply the period that ends Lent, thank God. I did not think I could survive another day without a piece of chocolate. But if we are to enter into the Good News that is embracing the resurrection of Jesus, then this time has to be precisely the time when we recognize that our baptism profoundly changes who we are. When we are baptized, we make bold claims when answering the question, “Just who do you think you are?” We are profoundly different because of our baptism. Our identity is changed completely. We are children of God. We are those with sins forgiven who are committed to following Jesus.

Think about this for a moment. We are a new creation in Christ. We are transformed. We are now imbued with grace, to realize the fullness of humanity in a way that is profoundly beautiful. Just imagine what could happen if we fully understood the implications of this new identity. Such is the purpose of the liturgical year. To profoundly meditate on the life of Christ so that we may find ourselves ever more transformed into His image and likeness by living like Him and eliminating the blight of sin that keeps the image of God from fully shining forth.

And if I can figure out just who I think I am, in relationship to Jesus, who is the Truth, imagine what could happen when each one of us, the body of Christ, realizes that all of us who are baptized are capable of far more than we could imagine when we do not think of the answer to the question, “Just who do you think you are?” in relationship to the Lord Jesus.

If we became aware of just what could happen when we, as a community, live and move out of this understanding, we might just scare ourselves. For we would then love the poor, welcome the stranger, visit those in hospital or in prison. We would find ourselves generously giving what we had, even from the depth of our need, to the poor and those in need. We would find ourselves longing to be with Jesus in prayer, longing to embrace the Word of God by reading the Bible, seeking out those times where we experience the presence of Christ.

Continue reading