Reflections

Homily for the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

Some of us that come to Mass every week have a – what could be considered a disparaging name for those Catholics that only appear at Christmas and Easter celebrations – C&E Catholics.  I suppose they come at Christmas to celebrate the birth of Jesus.  Who doesn’t love welcoming a child into the world.  Christmas is a celebration of not only Jesus’ birth but the birth of humanity – our earthly birth.

And I suppose they come at Easter to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection – our Heavenly birth.  So they celebrate the beginning of life and the end of life.  But unfortunately, they miss everything in between.  Life is not so simple.  Pain and Suffering.  It is something we all face.  Perhaps there are reasons that they do not wish to face this reality in the face of God.  But God did not make it so.  He created the world perfectly.  It was the fall of Adam and Eve that brought pain and suffering – sin – into the world.

There are 2 ways to handle this – The easy path consists of holding onto life at all costs, living exclusively for oneself – doing whatever we can to avoid being uncomfortable or facing painful situations.  Making the «I» the final reason and most important objective of our existence.  This manner of living – always seeking gain or advantage for myself – only lead to destruction.

But Jesus teaches us today of the second and harder path.  Knowing how to live as Jesus does, giving priority to God – knowing how to renounce our own security or profit, seeking not just my own welfare but more importantly that of others. This generous way of living leads us to our salvation.

A short story from my own life – when I decided to become a Deacon – I entered the formation program which involved attending classes two nights a week – for 5 years.  Well I can tell you, that was extremely difficult.  Trying to do school work with – at the time – 7 young kids at home – while working full time and doing everything else young families do.  There was a lot of sacrifice.  There were many times I felt just like Jeremiah does the first reading today.  “you duped me O Lord and I let myself be duped.”  How could I give up my “comfortable” life to follow your calling – why does it have to be so difficult?

Like Jeremiah – I felt the Lord triumphed.  As hard as it was, he led me through it.  Finally being ordained.  But I can tell you THAT just led to more trials.  Being a Deacon now may be even more difficult.  Being in public view, living a Christian life – balancing my Ministry with home life and work life – when at times I just want to do my own thing.

But Jesus tells us – following him is the way to salvation.  “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”

But how do we do that?  What does this command really mean?

It means that sometimes doing the will of God is hard, and involves suffering.

It means that sometimes following the example and teaching of Jesus is a real challenge.

It means that doing the right thing and loving our neighbor can be downright dangerous.

It means that sometimes loving – demands sacrifice.

So many of us here are already carrying crosses. You do not have to go looking for them. They find us.

And I think if we could see each other’s crosses we would be humbled and in awe at what each one of us does.

You have denied yourself a thousand times and have done the will of God by raising a family and all of the personal sacrifice that goes with that.

You have gone without so – that your kids could have advantages that you did not have.

You have endured the hardships of supporting that family member or friend in his or her personal struggles.

You have put up with the cycle of victory and defeats, ups and downs because of the command of Jesus to love.

You are determined to live a life of virtue and chastity when it seems to you that no one else is. And you think you may pay a price for that. You will sacrifice popularity and hanging with the crowd that calls themselves cool.

You have devoted what seems to be your life to caring for that physically or mentally challenged child or infirm, elderly parent because it is simply the right thing to do and you do it out of love.

You have lost a child or your spouse and not a day goes by that you do not think of that person you have lost, but you find the strength to stand up and carry on and continue being a giving person when you feel that everything in life has been taken from you.

You have carried around a hurt so deep and so stinging for years and even decades and you have never spoken about it to another soul and there have been times that you have wanted to act out in anger and revenge and rage, but you have resisted and turned the other cheek and responded with love.

How will your stories end? Where will carrying your cross lead you?

Maybe through more suffering. Maybe to death. But I know how this story ends (pointing to the cross).

Suffering is conquered by joy.

Death is conquered by life.

Darkness is conquered by light.

Crucifixion is conquered by resurrection.

Something that our C&E catholic friends miss hearing about regularly – our faith tells us that despite our suffering and sacrifices our stories will end with Jesus if we pick up our own crosses and follow HIM.

 Inspiration from Rev James Mazzone and José Antonio Pagola

Homily for the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

Readings:  Jer 20:10-13, Rom 5:12-15, Mat 10:26-33

donotbeafraid

Do not be afraid.  That is Jesus’ message to us today.  It is one we hear very often.  If you do a quick google search – some sources will say those words are in the Bible 365 times.  Well, I didn’t count them myself, but it is certainly a frequent message of Jesus.  In fact he uses it three times today.  And it is good for us to hear those words often.  Because, as we hear from St Paul in the Second reading – Adam brought sin into the world.  And it remains with us today.  There is a lot to be afraid of.

In the world today, we are more and more likely to encounter problems.  The values of Jesus, the teachings of Jesus and of the Church, are being called into question by everyone around us.

Our life can easily end up at the mercy of our fears. Sometimes it’s the fear of losing prestige, security, comfort or well-being that keeps us from making decisions. We don’t dare to risk our social position, our money or a small happiness.

Other times the fear of ending up alone, without friendship or people’s love terrorizes us. We don’t want to face life without anyone’s close company.

We’re afraid of being ridiculed, of confessing our true convictions, of giving testimony to our faith. We fear criticism, gossip and rejection by others. We don’t want to be categorized.

Other times the fear of the future seeps in. We don’t clearly see our next step. Facing tomorrow makes us afraid

Do not be afraid.

There have been many times in our life that we, Nissa and I, have put aside our own fears and followed the calling of the Holy Spirit.

We followed a calling to become a Deacon.  I can tell there was and still is a lot of fear in standing in front of you all and telling you what message the Holy Spirit want me to tell you.

We followed the church teaching about being open to life and received 9 wonderful children, even though we were concerned about how we would get a house big enough to raise them.

We chose to Home School them even though that meant giving up a second income that society tells us is required to be comfortable.

We chose to adopt children from another country, even though we had no idea how we would raise the funds to get them here.

Sometime we are still afraid.  Our public image, our calling to preach to others, our family lifestyle makes us targets in today’s society.  Like Jeremiah in the first reading, we are afraid of the persecutions – even from our own family and friends – who can’t understand how we can do it all.  How we can possibly care for all our children.  How we could possibly survive on a single income.  Who see an outward sign of trouble and immediately assume the worst must be happening.

The phrase I hear the most when someone learns about our family lifestyle is “I don’t know how you do it.” 

What I hear in those words … is fear.  I hear their own fear.  I hear their own struggle with choosing to follow Jesus.  I hear their own fear of doing what they think should versus what society is telling them they should do.

Many times in conversation, I can hear other’s fear.  The fear of acknowledging to their work collegues or schoolmates their Catholic faith.

The fear of declining to take certain work because though it may be legal, may be morally questionable.

The fear of leaving a job that may be with a company or an industry that has a reputation for harming humanity more than helping it.

The fear of employers choosing to treat employees with dignity and giving them fair wages.

Do not be afraid.

Jesus knows our fear, but tells us:

Do not be afraid of the future – even if Gods will is hidden and difficult to see now – it will be revealed.

Do not be afraid of those who would make you martyrs by killing you because even if they kill your body they cannot kill your soul – but be afraid of not doing God’s work.

Do not be afraid about acknowledging Jesus before others – he will acknowledge you before the heavenly Father.

Do not be afraid.

Jesus calls each of us, in our own way.

Listen to the Whispers of the Holy Spirit and proclaim it from the housetop.

In everything we say, and in everything we do.

Do not be afraid.

Inspiration from doctrinalhomilyoutlines.com, Fr. Tommy Lane, Abbott Philip – Monastery of Christ in the Desert, Jose Antonio Pagola, Holy Spirit.

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Homily Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Image result for bulgaria city buildings

Sofia, Bulgaria (shutterstock.com)

As you may or may not know, Nissa and I adopted two children from Bulgaria about a year ago.  As part of the adoption process, we visited with the children in Bulgaria two different times.  The first was in a very small village in the far distant region of the country.  And the second was in the capital city Sofia.  We got an opportunity to see much of the country.

Bulgaria is a former republic of the Soviet Union, who recently became an independent nation.  No matter where we were, the country looked like pictures you’ve probably seen, all the buildings are the same color, the same architecture.  Almost all are what we would consider run down, walls cracked, plaster and paint falling off.  Inside, they were not any better.  Even the national museums were obviously in disrepair.  The roads were terrible, torn up and patched together.

By our standards, Bulgaria is a third world country.  The thing that really stood out was within that environment of poverty, everyone was wearing designer clothes, everyone sported their own smart phone, everyone drove expensive cars. 

And there we were, traveling 5000 miles to rescue two children abandoned in an orphanage, minimally cared for, while everyone around them was more concerned with pretending to be wealthy than loving their neighbor.

Everyone was focused on the wrong thing.

And that is exactly what today’s Scripture readings are trying to save us from.  We must stop and reflect on what God is telling us!

The first reading is from the Prophet Zephaniah telling us how to follow the Lord:  do no wrong and tell no lies!  What a wonderful world this would be if everyone lived that way! 

Even when we fail, we need to keep striving to live that way.  The challenge of course is that our present world no longer knows what is good and what is wrong.  The world does not know truth from lies. 

We are surrounded on every side with values that are so different from the values given to us by Jesus that we can become confused.  Far too often, whatever the present cultures wants to call good is accepted as good and whatever it wants to call bad is accepted as bad. 

Yet, we who follow the Lord Jesus, have the Word of God to form us and to guide us into all truth.

The second reading is from a Letter from St Paul to the Corinthians.  This letter reminds us that if we actually do choose to follow the Word of God and to follow Jesus as our Savior, we will be considered fools.  And this is still true for us today. 

But we are told in this reading:  “God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise.”  It is our foolishness in following Jesus that can actually bring light to the world and perhaps even draw the world back to God. 

The early Christians knew that to live in Christ was to fight against the values of their world.  The early Christians even knew that they might have to die to proclaim the truth given to us in Christ Jesus.

Today, we like to be comfortable and to be well off.  There is nothing wrong with that by itself, but when we are willing to water down the Word of God in order to maintain a comfortable life style, then we must recognize that we are betraying Jesus as our Lord. 

We must be able to stand up for the truth of the teachings of Scripture and of our Catholic Church.  When we find ourselves compromising because we don’t want to bother others, then we are guilty of passing on the lies of our current culture.

Today’s Gospel reading gives us what is called the Beatitudes.  These are the all important teachings of Jesus that tell us how to follow the Lord:  poor in spirit, mourning, meek, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, merciful, clean of heart, peacemakers, persecuted for the sake of righteousness, insulted for Christ, persecuted for Christ, and evil spoken about us because of Christ.  This is a pretty strong list of characteristics for us!

The implication today is that we must give our whole being to God.  We must follow Jesus with all of our strength.  When we fail, we must get up and start again.  Compromising with anything less than Jesus simply means following the world and its values and not following our Lord.

Today we are invited us to renew our commitment to the follow the Lord.  We should walk in His ways and accept all the suffering that may bring us.  That way we can walk in His kingdom but now and forever.

Some content from Homily by Abbott Philip OSB

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Homily – Solemnity of Mary, Holy Mother of God, 2017

motherofgod

Mary has many titles.  We are familiar with a good number of them. The Immaculate Conception, Queen of the Holy Rosary, Our Lady of Perpetual Help and Our Lady of Mt. Carmel to name a few. 

There are probably hundreds if not thousands of others that have special meaning. However, the one title that surpasses all others, the one that we celebrate today is Mary, the Holy Mother of God.

This feast reminds us of a reality that is very easy for us to forget, that God came to us, became one of us, and he did so as a baby. He did not just appear, which God could have done, but He chose to come through a woman. We can lose sight of the fact that Mary conceived a child, though not in the usual way. She carried Him in her body, nourishing Him from within for nine months with all that entails.

This most blessed of all women was and is indeed, the Mother of the second person of the Trinity, a person, a baby that is consubstantial – of the same substance – as the Father, yet lying in her arms, dependent upon her. She is the Mother of God.

The important aspects of the life of Mary such as her own Immaculate Conception and her Perpetual Virginity are the direct consequences of God’s decision to make her the mother of his Son.

From an earthly perspective, from a human perspective, there is no title that can conjure up more feelings than that of “mother”. For most of us it is a name given to a person dear to us, one who embodies a type of love for us that words fail to describe.

The name Mother of God describes the Virgin Mary, who conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, the Person of Jesus Christ.

But why do we celebrate a day by that name in the Church?

We celebrate it because it confirms and solidifies something that we have just finished celebrating. The Solemnity of Mary, Holy Mother of God sets in our hearts the essential truth of Christmas.

The Title, the use of the words Mother of God speaks to the truth of the incarnation…..of God becoming completely united with our humanity. The very purpose of the title and for its celebration is to leave no doubt in our hearts and minds that Jesus was fully human and fully God.

It is not correct to think of Jesus as someone who is a split person, part God and part man. That maybe it was the God part of Him that worked miracles and the human part of Him that slept in the boat or even died on the cross.

By declaring Mary to be the Mother of God, it makes clear to us that Jesus did not simply put on human flesh. He is not God imitating a man, but both God and Man, like us in all things but sin.

This is essential since it is only because he is truly God that Jesus can be the source of forgiveness for us and only because he is truly man that our humanity can be redeemed.

The dignity Jesus bestows upon women and motherhood is also beyond compare. Jesus subjected himself, was obedient to His Mother Mary and to Joseph, His Earthy father.

Jesus, God, The Creator of the Universe willed to learn how to nail a board from Joseph. Jesus, God himself, learned to say His prayers from Mary. What does that say about the dignity of work, the value of learning, and the importance of prayer?

The One God that has been revealed to us as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, by a Mystery of Mercy, willed that the Second Person, the Son unite Himself with humanity not just for a little while, but for all eternity.

And while we do not diminish the role of Mary, today is really not about her, but about what God did through her obedient and willing heart.

Paul states this truth very eloquently in our second reading:

When the fullness of time had come,
(not the nick of time or the best time, or even the right time, but the fullness of time)
(God did what?) God sent his Son,
(how?) born of a woman, born under the law,
(why?) to ransom those under the law, (that’s us you and me),
(to what end?) so that we might receive adoption as sons and daughters
(of who?) the Father.

And if we are sons and daughters of God the Father, then we are heirs of that same God through the incarnation of God.  And to be an heir is to inherit everything!

So it is good to celebrate the name of Mary, because by a singular grace, she is indeed, the Mother of God. But we primarily celebrate what God did, through Mary.

And this day is our celebration as well, for through the incarnation, by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ we have been made heirs to the Kingdom of Heaven. That is our dignity, that is our destiny, that is our greatest hope and that is the source of our joy.

Content taken from Homily by Deacon Bill O’Donnell

On Being a Child of God

Pettiness is a luxury we cannot afford to indulge in.  There is too much to do that is of real import.  Small, everyday things that are radical and profound despite their smallness.  We need to hold a hand, smile at a stranger. Say “Hello” and “How are you today?” and really want to know the answer.  We need to teach our children to speak gently to each other, to apologize for wrongs.  We need to perform everyday acts of love.

©Nissa Gadbois
Life is too precious to squander even a passing thought on whether a designer ought to accept or refuse the commission of creating a dress for the new First Lady; or to be offended by what an actor said at the close of a performance.  Our world has become so vast that we too often fail to see the one right in our own homes.  And it is dying for lack of care.  And if the family dies, so goes the world.

When we do pay attention to things outside our own circles, we must listen with our whole hearts and minds, we must look through the eyes of love and mercy.  We must try to understand the sentiment and the true meaning of people’s words.  We must not instantly react because reacting before consideration leads us nowhere.  It doesn’t advance our understanding of each other.  It leads to two people (or two groups) reacting to each other – reacting to the other person’s reactions.  And that is a waste of time and energy that is much better spent giving hope, making peace, spreading joy, and loving.

Let this be our mantra: Hope, Peace, Joy, Love.  Next Sunday is the first in the season of Advent.  It is a time of reflection and renewal as we prepare to welcome the Christ Child.  May we recognize Him and serve Him in the least of His people.  The Poor, The Lonely, The Lost, The Sick.

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