It ain’t all candy and roses: Homily for Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Readings for Today

Sometimes the Christian life is presented in such a way as to make it seem easy. Jesus is the kind teddy bear, and not only does he never demand anything of us, he makes all things feel good. While this type of feel good religion is tempting, Jesus never embraced such a religion. Persecution. Division. Not Peace. Conflict. Even Death. The life of one who follows the gospel is not automatically good. In fact, some would call the age we live in today the age of the martyrs, as Christians are being persecuted and killed all over the world.

The good news is that for people who have total trust in Jesus, like the widow a couple of days ago, the grace and love of God can see them through anything. Jesus mentions the difficulties so that we do not go into intentional discipleship blindly. Rather, he wants us to know that while it will not always be easy, we will also face whatever comes in the power of this relationship with Jesus.

Persistence: Homily for Wednesday, August 30, 2017

To listen to the entire homily, click here.

Readings for Today

It can be difficult to stick with something when it gets hard. We can feel like we want to give up.  The real test of value and importance is when we find a really hard challenge that seems impossible.  And yet, to confront evil, to provide justice, and to stand up for what is right does not come easy.  And what if things do not go well? It gets even harder.

When we think of Christian faith, it can feel like we are all alone in our beliefs.  The world has become secular. People do not value the things they used to value. There seems to be more and more a “live for the moment” mentality.  But as Saint Paul teaches us in their first reading today, hard work pays off.  Persistence is a value.  Staying with something means showing we are committed.  The greatest persistence comes from God’s love for each one of us.  And we can continue because God never gives up on us.

Manifest: Homily for the Memorial of Saint John Vianney, August 4, 2017

To listen to the entire homily, click here.

Readings for Today

Things are not always as they seem.  If the life of the saint we have today was only about his academic achievements, we might never have heard of him.  Due to the circumstances of his life, his education was spotty at best.  He spent years as a deserter for the army.  His ordination to the priesthood occurred only by intervention of another.  On the surface, one could be excused for writing off Saint John Vianney.

But, thanks be to God, things are not always as they appear.  For what the Cure D’Ars, as he was sometimes called did not have in academic prowess, he more than made up for in holiness.  The people of his day soon came to see his holiness.  Sixteen and eighteen hours a day he heard confessions.  He was constant attentive to his people’s needs.

who do we miss because we limit them?  Who is that person who is not who they appear to be?  Do we miss holiness because we focus on the wrong things? To be sure, things are not always as they appear.  So do your best today to pray for God’s presence in your life.

Homework: Homily for Thursday, July 13, 2017

To listen to the entire homily, click here.

Readings for Today

Consider the call in today’s gospel.  “Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, drive out demons.”  This is quite the homework.  Thank goodness that like any good teacher, Jesus gives help.  We are never on our own.  We live in the Spirit, we receive grace, we have God’s love.

What does this mean for us? That even if we face hardship, persecution, difficulty or suffering, we will never do so alone.  God is always with us.  And remember: nothing is impossible with God.

Patience and Suffering: Homily for Friday, January 27, 2017

Readings for Today

Patience.  Suffering.  These two words can both be words that remind us it is difficult to live life.  That is because we all know that life is hard.  Buddhism sees that as one of the Four Noble Truths.  It is the rare person that does not suffer.  Almost everyone suffers.  Almost everyone experiences pain and difficulty.  The life of faith means understanding that life is hard.

And yet people do not recognize this.  We can feel singled out for a difficult life.  It seems sometimes that we are the only ones who suffer.  We can become jealous, or envious of what we think others have.  Things seem to be easy for others.  It can feel difficult for us.  We need patience in our suffering.

At other times we can feel threatened by the suffering of others. We can think that they suffer because they are lazy.  They suffer because they do not want to work.  They suffer because they have defects in their character.  In fact, it has become quite fashionable to blame the poor for being poor.  It has become fashionable to blame addicts for being addicts.  It can become fashionable to believe that people endure hardships and suffering because they want to endure hardships.  Today’s first reading reminds us that being a follower of Jesus means patience in suffering, and accompanying those who suffer.

Listen to the entire homily be clicking the links above.

Homily for Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Readings for Today

Why me? I imagine that everyone has had a moment when they asked themselves this question. Those times when not only is it the case that nothing is going right, but even worse, when it appears to us that we have been singled out for particularly awful treatment. We can believe that we have been abandoned completely, even by God.

This is the feeling that could arise if we found ourselves in the situation described in the first reading. Consider Gideon’s question: “My Lord, if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us?” I have certainly felt times in my life where I feel like Gideon. If I am serving the Lord, why is it the case that such difficult things are happening to me? Why do I not seem to be getting some credit when I believe I am clearly following the path of the Lord?

Indeed, being delivered into the power of the enemy might be causing just these questions to be asked by the Christians in the Middle East who are being slaughtered and oppressed at the hands of ISIS. It is certainly understandable. There may be a special kind of suffering that comes for these persecuted Christians today because the world seems to take little or no notice.

Gideon is told by God that he is not alone, and that the suffering of today will not last forever. And isn’t it precisely that which helps us too? Isn’t it really important to know that we are not alone? Think about those most difficult moments. Is it that we wish that others would solve our problems, or is it rather that we want someone to accompany us as we face them?

It is for this reason, I believe, that of walking with each other, that we are called individually by God to be in community. Each one of us must say yes to God, but at the same time each one of us is also called to journey with the others in the Christian community. Moreover, each one of us is called to take responsibility for everyone in the world. We are, indeed, our brother’s keeper.

Another reminder from the first reading is that we are not helped by God only when we can fully trust God and his promises. Quite the opposite. Wherever we find ourselves in this life, with strong faith or strong doubt, we are loved by God. God wants for us to be open to seeking God’s presence regardless of what our past has been like.

Hopefully, you are not facing a situation that causes you to ask, “Why me?” But know that if you are, you are never alone, because God is there, ready to make great things happen.

Homily for Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Readings for Today

Christianity is not for wimps. When I taught high school students I often introduced the year with this phrase. What I was trying to impress upon the students was that while God loved them, it was not to mean that nothing is required of us. Too often I found that while they believed in God, they never had thought much about what this belief in God may mean. What I mean to say is, I was not sure how they were really living differently as those who believe in God, from those who had no faith at all. The point was that to live as a Christian was hard.

Jesus makes this point dramatically in the gospel. There is a cost to being a Christian. It will not be all easy and wonderful because God loves us. In fact, there will be moments where we might wonder why we even dedicated our lives to Jesus in the first place. People will tell us we are wrong, they will hate us for reminding them, in our lives and in our words, there is a standard that God sets for us, and yes, some things are wrong and some things are sin. The cost is high.

But the cost is not high because God wishes us to suffer. No, the cost is high because God knows what it is that we can become. God made us. He knows us better than we know ourselves. God knows deeply what it means for us to be our fullest, deepest and best self. And God will lead us there if we choose to follow.

But the cost is high. It means feeding the poor, visiting the sick, striving for ever greater generosity, making room in our hearts and lives for that prayerful relationship to which we are called. It means turning our back on our own sinfulness, and as gently and lovingly as possible to offer an example and witness to others. And it means, even when we are attentive to God and living the life of the gospel, sometimes people will get mad. Very mad.

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Homily for Monday, May 26, 2014 (Memorial Day)

Readings for Today

Today we celebrate St. Philip Neri, a 16th century saint from Florence.  Writes Catholic online about St. Philip Neri, “If one had to choose one saint who showed the humorous side of holiness that would Philip Neri.”  In yesterday’s homily I spoke about the importance of joy in our lives, if we are to be authentic witnesses to the life-giving change our relationship with Jesus gives us.

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Homily for Sunday, August 12, 2012

Readings for Today

Life is suffering.  This is the first great truth of Buddhism.  Other translations say that “to live is to suffer.”  Suffering is ingrained deeply into human existence.  We get sick, we die, we are evil to one another at times, we have accidents, and we make serious mistakes.  This does not count the suffering we experience for doing right.  Speaking out for justice, speaking for the truth can also lead to suffering.  Parents know that being parents can sometimes be really hard, and cause an initial period of disharmony.  We do not always like to hear the word “no,” even when it is good for us.

While Jesus tells us his yoke is easy and his burden light, he does not mean that we will never suffer.  What makes the burden light?  What makes the yoke easy?  In a world where we are surrounded by hardship, violence and suffering, and in a world where even those who believe the words of Jesus suffer, how is it possible to have an easy yoke or a light burden?

It is certainly something that Elijah found difficult.  He had done all that God asked of him (with success) and yet was still on the run for his life.  Despite the powerful signs God had given, Elijah was not accepted as a prophet of God.  Understandably he is depressed.  He simply wants to sit under a tree and die.

I do not know if you have ever found yourself in Elijah’s place.  It is a lonely place.  When despite your best efforts, you find that you are still unsuccessful, lonely, filled with heartache.  You might find that you are in despair, that things will never get better.  This is a hard place to be, and it can be quite hard to feel understood.

In some ways, the gospel picks up where the first reading leaves off.  The verses immediately following what we heard today in the first reading, are one of my favorite sections.  Elijah goes to a cave to wait for God.  And if you remember the encounter, it is not in the dramatic, the fire, the earthquake, those events that overwhelm us, but rather, it is in a tiny, whispering sound that God is found.

Jesus gives us the same clue about light burdens and easy yokes in the gospel.  He too has not had much success in the reception of his words.  He tells us that it is quite likely we will not be accepted where we are well known.  Especially as vehicles of God’s powerful grace.  Elijah, despite the miraculous display with the fire, and Jesus, with the miracle of the loaves, simply do not find the people to be impressed.

But the clue is in the Eucharist.  The clue is in finding that quiet time with the Son of God, that time to reflect upon our own lives and to find that great God that dwells within, the great God who knows the great things we can accomplish.  Put simply, the yoke is easy and the burden is light because if we choose, we do not have to bear these things alone.  We are with Jesus, the bread of life, the word that sustains, the Son of God like us and divine as well, who makes the difference.

Elijah learns this in the cave.  Jesus teaches this to the people.  We will eat bread and never die because it is his body.  We will not always be accepted, but we will always be accompanied if we open our hearts to God.

To be sure, finding the time to open ourselves to this relationship with God is challenging.  Those of you who have children, know the demands of being a holy mother or father.  Those of you who have demanding jobs, know that keeping a balance between the dignity of work and the domestic church that is our family is not easy.  But take heart — the responsorial psalm tells us to taste and see the goodness of the Lord.  While we need to find some time for silence and reflection, we also need to see our vocation as the very pathway to salvation.

That is to say, by being a good father, or a good mother, we move closer to the acceptance of salvation.  In fact, in living our vocation these things are made real — we are saved, because we are being the types of persons God wants us to be.

The start to this new life is to find some time to be alone with God.  You may need to be creative.  Maybe it is those moments in the shower where you can pray.  Maybe it is during the ride to work.  Maybe it is in those few moments before sleep that you can thank God for the blessings and ask God for the grace to meet the challenges.

It is true that our lives can be filled with a lot of suffering.  But with God and with each other, we can face this suffering together.