The Church of St. Timothy

There are no strangers here, only friends we have not met yet.

Homilies

January 29, 2017   4th Sunday, Ordinary Time – A 

Matthew 5:1-12a

Today’s Gospel is probably one of the most familiar readings in Scripture, the Beatitudes, also known as the Sermon on the Mount.

It begins with “Jesus went up the mountain.” This is a symbolic way of implying that He and the crowds would meet God there, as Moses did in the Hebrew Scriptures.

Then Jesus speaks of “Blessed are they . . . :  the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the clean of heart, the peacemakers, and those persecuted for the sake of righteousness. . . .”

My faith teaches, and I truly believe, that each of these individuals who has faced prejudice, who has been ostracized, who has felt pain and sorrow, will be blessed and find comfort in heaven.

But what about today?  What about the here and now?  What about their time on earth?

Archbishop Leonard Blair and the Connecticut Council on Interreligious Understanding ask you and me to consider those questions.

“In recent months, hatred and bigotry, Islamophobia and racism, and the demeaning and marginalization of minorities, immigrants and women has been spoken aloud and acted out in this country —  and it still continues.”[1]

How do you, and I, and this Church, welcome, offer hospitality, assure dignity, and promise blessings to those “on the margins” of our acquaintances, our families, our workplaces, our neighborhoods, and our world?

Blessed are they. . . ,  but we must do it in the here and now.

Archbishop Blair and the Connecticut Council on Interreligious Understanding invite us to a program entitled “An Interreligious Call – To Love Thy Neighbor and Act for All Americans.” tomorrow night/tonight , at 7:00 p.m., at the Cathedral of St. Joseph on Farmington Avenue.

In the announcement of the program, the Archbishop and the Connecticut Council say, and I quote, “We believe that all of us must stand up — to make a clear statement of how we are to behave toward one another, to express active support for every American, and to act on what we believe.”[2]   End of quote.

An interreligious call to action by  —  and for —  all men. women and children in these great United States.

Abraham Lincoln once wrote, “To sin by silence, when we should protest, makes cowards of us all.”

Blessed are they . . . , not just those in heaven, but — as importantly — today those in America, for we must do it in the here and now!

[1]           CCIU letter announcing program dated 18 January 2017.

[2]           Ibid.  Emphasis in original

December 18, 2016-4th Sunday of Advent-A

Matthew 1:18-24

About 15 years ago, I was sitting in the back of the Mercyknoll Chapel, which was the former retirement facility for the Sisters of Mercy located over on Steele Road, for Sunday Mass on this the 4th Sunday in Advent.  Father John Cook was the Chaplain at Mercyknoll, and in his homily, he speculated about what Mary and Joseph would be doing about a week before Christ was born.  He drew this wonderful image of the two of them on the road to Bethlehem, lying in bed, cuddling close, holding each other, and Joseph wondering what his son would be like: would he be successful, would he be happy, would he be healthy, what would he do as an adult, would he be a carpenter like his dad?

From the back of the chapel, I could see all these wonderful, elderly, retired nuns, nodding their heads in agreement.

I said to Fr. Cook after Mass, “That was a wonderful homily, but obviously, you have never been married. If your wife is 9 months pregnant and has spent 10 hours sitting on the back of a donkey, the last thing she wants to do is cuddle with you. More likely, her comment would have been, “Joseph, shut up please, don’t touch me, let me try to get comfortable and go to sleep!” Fr. Cook just laughed, and said, “Well, at least you were listening to my homily.”  I not only listened, I learned.

Fr. John Cook was a dear friend, a canon lawyer and a wonderful priest.  He was one of the ten concelebrants at my first mass as a deacon, and while he died in 2008, I smile and think of him, our friendship and that homily every Christmas season.

While Fr. Cook may have gotten the conversation wrong between Joseph and Mary, his point was right on the money: two young adults filled with joy, anxiety and anticipation of the birth of their first child.  Ordinary people in ordinary places, but having an extraordinary effect.

Bethlehem reminds us that we are a part of a sacred history. Bethlehem reminds us that God is with us.  The very word Emmanuel means, “God with us.”

In a few minutes, we will exchange the sign of peace.  As you turn to a stranger next to you, that person may be experiencing the pain, rather than the joy, of this season.  All the happiness of this season can mask the desperate hurt that so many people feel.  Perhaps that stranger’s life is filled with conflict, unhappiness, emotional pain this Christmas season because of the loss of a job, the death of a loved one, economic stress, physical pain or a loved one in prison. You may be the ordinary person, in an ordinary place, whom God uses to do extraordinary things.

You may be the person who today, brings light into the darkness of this Christmas season for that other person.

For all of us, may the Christ child be born anew in my heart and your heart today.

To all the college kids back for the Christmas break, welcome home; I’ve missed you; and if this was your semester abroad, know that your mothers can stop praying now that you’ve made it home, safe and sound.

And for those families who are going to be away and not be with us this Christmas, on behalf of Fr. George, Fr. Frascadore, the staff and all of the ministries here at St. Timothy’s, I wish you, your family and loved ones a Blessed and Merry Christmas  —  and safe travels.

To all of us, again, may the Christ child be born anew in our hearts today.

November 19, 2016- Feast of Christ the King-C

Homilist:  Fr. Henry Frascadore

Lk: 23

On the cross

next to Jesus

was a criminal.

 

What he did

to deserve a cross

we’ll never know.

 

All we know

is that

he was dying painfully

 

That’s what

crosses

were all about.

 

And above the head

of the man beside him a sign:

“This is the king of the Jews”

 

and

the crowd

called him that

 

so the criminal said

to the man beside him—

“remember me in your kingdom”

 

Jesus replied;

“How could I

forget you?

 

“I saw your face

so many times,—

and my memory is ever new.”

 

“I saw you

when you didn’t know

I was at your side

 

the time

you took the young gird’s hand

and said” arise”

 

or touched the man’s eyes

shut from birth

and said “behold”

 

and the smile that broke

when the man looked up and saw

a sky full of clouds

 

Oh, there

are so many times

I was at your side

 

when you did

what I would do

because you are good.

 

and because

you and I are one

it will always be the same.

 

yes, always

in the kingdom

where we will be together.

 

As we close this Year of Mercy

we remind ourselves

to let the mercy of God

 

sound in our voices

shine in our eyes

and be felt in the touch of our hands

November 6, 2016- 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time-C

Homilist:  Deacon Dennis Ferguson

Luke 20: 27, 34-38

 

Tucked into the middle of the second reading today is a phrase that might be the key to understanding what our readings today are pointing to: “the Lord is faithful.” This is the conviction that sustains the brothers in our rather grisly first reading from Second Maccabees. This is the conviction that prompts the psalmist to pray, “Keep me as the apple of your eye, hide me in the shelter of your wings.” This is the point that Jesus makes in the gospel. God “is not the God of the dead, but of the living.”

Through the years there has been a lot of speculation about what life after death and our resurrected bodies might be like.  I once had a client for whom I was preparing her will and advanced directives, refuse to be an organ donor because she wanted to make sure she had all her body parts at the resurrection.  We just don’t know for sure. Homilies at funerals often try to console the deceased’s loved ones with images of parents, friends, and relatives happily receiving him or her on the other side. Indeed, several accounts of people who have had near-death experiences talk about that experience in this same way — a grand reunion with friends and loved ones. Contemporary theologians sometimes speak of resurrected life as a new consciousness and unfettered unity with all peoples and all things. In this way, God is all in all.

The truth is, though, that we don’t really know. What we know in faith, however, is that God is faithful.  What we know in faith is that God is the God of the living, not of the dead. What we know in faith is that when we pass beyond this life, we pass into the arms of a loving God.

This is the kind of faith that gives people like the young men in our First Reading the courage to endure death rather than compromise their principles. This is the kind of faith that offers us “everlasting encouragement and good hope,” so that we can live our lives in joy and contentment. This is the kind of faith that gave Archbishop Oscar Romero the faith that, if he would be killed, he would rise in the Salvadoran people. This is the kind of faith that allowed a dying Pope John XXIII to say simply: “My bags are packed and I’m ready to go.”

November is the month when Catholics remember and pray for their loved ones who have “fallen asleep in the hope of the resurrection,” and for all who have died in God’s mercy, as Eucharistic Prayer II expresses it.

As long as we can say a person’s name, that individual remains alive in our hearts. For so long as we live, they too shall live, for they are now a part of us.

We do not know what happens after death, but we do believe that God is faithful. We do believe that God is not the God of the dead but of the living, and that all who have been born are alive to God.

Our readings today give us a chance to renew that faith. God is faithful.[1]

[1]    Catholic Theological Union, Sunday Scripture Reflections, “God is Faithful”, Stephen Bevans, SVD, 11/2/16

 

November 6, 2016- 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time-C

Children’s Mass–Sunday Vigil

Homilist:  Deacon Dennis Ferguson

Wag Your Tail If You’re Happy

Probably everyone here this afternoon has sung the song, “If You’re Happy.” You know the one I’m talking about – Rochelle:  “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands. If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands. If you’re happy and you know it, then your face will surely show it. If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands.”

            I need the Second graders, all the saints, and the children’s choir, to stand up for this, please.

Ms. Rochelle, how do you think the song would go if it were sung by a bunch of birds? Rochelle:, “If you’re happy and you know it, flap your wings. (flap, flap) “   And I bet if a dog was happy and he sang it he would wag his tail – so everybody sing along with Ms. Rochelle:  “If you’re happy and you know it, wag your tail. (swish-swish) If you’re happy and you know it wag your tail. (swish-swish) If you’re happy and you know it, then your tail will surely show it.  If you’re happy and you know it, wag your tail. (swish-swish)”

OK everybody, thanks, and you can sit down, because I heard a story about a little puppy that noticed that whenever he was happy, his tail wagged, so he thought he had found the secret to happiness. One day he shared the secret of happiness with an older dog. He said, “I have learned that the best thing for a dog is happiness, and that happiness is in my tail. So I am going to chase my tail; and when I catch it, I shall have happiness!” The old dog replied, “I too, believe that happiness is a marvelous thing for a dog, and that happiness is in my tail. But I have noticed that when I chase it, my tail keeps running away from me; but when I just do what I’m supposed to do at home and school, my tail follows me wherever I go.”

Many of us are like that little puppy chasing his tail — trying to find true happiness that is always just out of our reach.  The Bible has a lot to say about being happy. It doesn’t say, “Happy are people who have a lot of money” or “Happy are those who live in big houses and drive fancy cars.” What the Bible does say is, “Happy are people who are kind, happy are those who make good friends, and happy are those who obey their parents and respect their teachers.”

Every one of the saints that you chose learned that lesson when they were your age. To be a saint you don’t have to be old, you don’t have to be dead.  You kids, right now, are saints.  Unlike the little puppy, you are not chasing your tail to find happiness and goodness; you know it is part of you.  Think about what you have done.  You wrote notes to people who are sad because they had a family member or friend who died last year.  You did that because you wanted to be kind.  You don’t bully kids in school and if you see someone being bullied, or you are being bullied, you tell a teacher or safe adult.  You don’t talk back to your parents, you don’t pick on or fight with your brothers or sisters, you pay attention in school and at mass, and most importantly, you talk to Jesus; whether in a regular prayer or just by saying “Hello, Jesus” every morning and when you go to bed at night, say, “Goodnight, Jesus.”

You are all saints, right now.  The little puppy thought he had to chase his tail to find happiness and be good.  You know it is part of you, but you can still wag it.

I made up a special song. it is called the St. Timothy 2nd Grade Class Song, and Mrs. Barnes, it is their special song.  So all you saints, the Second graders, stand-up again, and sing along with Ms. Rochelle.  Your special song goes like this, “If you are a saint, and you know it, wag your tail.”

Rochelle:  “If you’re a saint and you know it, wag your tail. If you’re a saint and you know it, wag your tail. If you’re a saint and you know it, then your face will surely show it. If you’re a saint and you know it, wag your tail.”

Thank you, saints, you set an example for all of the adults here to follow.  Keep up the good work.

October 30, 2016- 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time

Homilist:  Fr. Henry Frascadore

Luke 19: 1-10

Lord, I am older than you

Lord,

I am older now than you were

when you died,

 

fifty years older,

as a matter of fact,

and I have a lot of questions,

 

questions,

because you died so young,

you never had a chance to ask yourself.

 

So, I’m glad

you came

looking for me,

 

happier

than you

can ever imagine

 

and found me here

at St. Tim’s

looking for you,

 

a meeting

of

mutual delight,

 

so,

let’s sit here

by the pulpit

 

and

talk a while,

a question and an answer,

 

and, by the way,

you look

as I imagined you’d look

 

and your voice, too,

is

familiar.

If it’s all right with you,

Jesus,

let me ask a question you never had.

 

“At my age

more time has passed me by

than is yet to come,

 

so how do I spend

the remaining time

of my life?”

 

Attentively, Henry,

more attentively,

than you have so far,

 

for moments passed

are memories now—

moments yet to come… are creations.

 

So pay attention

to what you see

and feel,

 

see and

feel them all

as revelations,

 

rise early

and behold

the ocean’s birth of sun,

 

listen

to the original jazz

of waterfalls,

 

observe

the imaginative architecture

of trees.

 

“Yes, live

attentively,

see and feel newly,

 

explore the parts of your life

you were too busy

to explore before,

 

and you’ll

be amazed

at what you find,

 

the “self”

you didn’t

know you were

 

asserts itself

no approval

needed—

 

what you love to do

and what you do

become one.

 

What I am saying

shouldn’t come

as a surprise.

 

It’s what I asked

of you long ago

“Be true to yourself,

 

for it is in doing so

you become

a new creation,

 

and the world around you

becomes new

as well.”

 

Thank you, Jesus,

I will live

attentively

 

and look forward

to our next meeting

when you will

 

get to ask the question

and I will try

to come up with a sensible answer.

 

September 25, 2016 – 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Deacon Dennis Ferguson, Homilist

Luke 16:  19-31

Some of you may recall having heard the first part of this homily before.

It was the perfect pre-Christmas scene.  Light snow swirling through the canyons of New York City, the tree decorated at Rockefeller Center, every store window filled with presents for the holiday, all of the trees on Fifth Avenue decked out with white lights, and The Little Drummer Boy playing from the speakers above the store doorways.

As the 25 year-old young man rushed into FAO Schwartz for last minute gifts, he had to step around the homeless woman sitting on the subway grate trying to stay warm, even though she was bundled in three coats.

He murmured to himself as he averted his eyes from her, “God, how could you let this happen”, and never gave her another thought.

I thought of that homily, which I wrote three years ago, when I read today’s gospel early this week.

As you might remember, I was that 25 year old, I was the one who stepped around that woman; and the question was not, “God, how could you let this happen”  —  rather it should have been “Dennis how could you let this happen.”  She was my Lazarus  —  the Lazarus of today’s gospel.

Our Outreach Committee does an amazing job  —  no, YOU do an amazing job  —  in reaching out to the Lazaruses of the world:  soup cans  for the food pantry; socks for homeless men; money for school uniforms; diapers for Haiti and newborn babies; sandwiches for the shelter.  Every month you look at that list of corporal acts of mercy on the sanctuary wall and respond.  The issue, for me this afternoon/morning is that you and I respond to Lazarus  —  out there!

But Lazarus may also be in the pew behind you, or in front of you, or at the end of the aisle you are sitting in today.

That man, a couple of pews back, has been married for 23 years with a daughter in college, a son at Hall High School and another daughter at St. Timothy Middle School.             His wife just told him that she no longer loves him.  She doesn’t know when she stopped loving him, but she wants a divorce.

Or that woman a couple of pews ahead of you — she always looks so angry.  My friends, she is angry:  angry at herself and angry at her husband who is home.  She comes to church to get away from him; to get a one-hour respite.  They been married for 67 years, and as he slips into the ravages of Alzheimer’s Disease, he keeps asking the same questions over and over and over, again and again.  She gets angry at him; and then angry at herself for feeling that way  —  where did her love for him go?

See the woman at the far end of the aisle you’re in.  You don’t know her, but she noticed a lump in her breast when she was in the shower this morning, and she knows breast cancer runs in her family.

Or maybe it is as simple as that gentleman whose birthday is next week, and he’ll celebrate it for the first time since his wife died — his wife of 64 years.

God comes to us through other people.

If you see tears in another’s eyes this week, wipe them away.  If you see loneliness, dare to hold that person close to you.  If you hear anger, listen.

There is no greater joy than to bend down so as to lift up another person who has fallen.  There is no greater peace than to give another person a reason for living and hoping.  There is no greater miracle than to heal another’s pain.

Indeed, we are on this journey called life  —  together.

In a few minutes I’m going to invite you to share the peace of Christ.  Think about what we are capable of doing   —  really think about it,  —  NO!  —  stop and really think about it  —  to be able to give Christ’s peace  —  to another person.

They might just be  —  they might truly just be,  your Lazarus today.

September 18, 2016 – 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Fr. Henry Frascadore, Homilist

Lk: 14:25-33

 

Have I thought enough?

 

Between sunrise

and sunset

our days become yesterdays.

Tucked into night

our words and deeds

become memories.

And many dawns later

we try desperately

to resurrect them,

by joining faces to words

dates to places

and feelings to moments.

And of those many yesterdays

we’ll ask ourselves

oh, so many questions:

Did we live enough?

Did we love enough ?

Did we Care enough?

And when we

pause to reconstruct

our past

more questions

rise

on the steps of our yesterdays.

Did we  embrace

the surrounding universe

as gift?

Did we thank the soil

beneath my feet

for feeding us?

Did we smile enough

at the billion bursts

of beauty everywhere?

Have we done enough

to replant

God’s original garden?

When the Lord

walked with us

he said ,“Behold many times and in many ways”,

For when we behold

we enter

the now,

not yesterday,

not tomorrow,

but now.

Now is all

that we can do

anything about.

September 4, 2016 – 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Deacon Dennis Ferguson, Homilist

St. Luke throws some pretty heavy, controversial, provocative stuff at us in today’s gospel.

The first is that if you want to be a disciple of Christ, you have to hate your mother and father; hate your wife and kids; hate your brothers and sisters.

Did Christ really use the word hate?

Remember, Luke’s gospel was written by somebody trying to write down direct quotes of Jesus, a hundred and fifty years after Christ died.  HATE!

I don’t know if that is an accurate quote, but I do know that peace and love were Jesus’ middle names.  So I’ll leave it to the biblical scholars if Christ used the word, Hate, but for me what he was saying was that as followers of Jesus, our responsibility extends beyond our flesh-and-blood family to the entire human family.  That if we want to follow Christ we must follow him not only into church on Sunday morning, but also into our schools and places of work on Monday, and Tuesday and the weeks ahead.

The second point in today’s gospel is that it is not enough to say you are going to take it into the marketplace on Monday, but you have to do it, despite the costs.

If you are planning on building a tower, you first sit down and figure out the cost, then determine if you have enough money to complete the job.  We have to be committed to finishing the job.

They say that there are three stages of commitment.

First, there is the fun stage.  That’s when we go out and say, “I love doing this.  Why didn’t I get involved sooner?’’

Second, there is the intolerant stage.  That’s when say, “Anyone who doesn’t get involved like me is a lazy slug.’’

Finally, there is the reality stage.  That’s when we suddenly realize that our involvement is going to make only a microscopic dent in the problems of our world.  But, despite that realization, we keep doing it.

That’s the stage at which saints are made.

The message in the gospel is clear: Take what you have at this very moment; and put it into practice out there, in the weeks ahead.

St. Luke uses provocative words to get that message across:

I’ll phrase it differently, you and I have to get to the third stage of commitment, and go become a saint.

August 21, 2016 – 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

Luke 13:  22-30

Deacon Dennis Ferguson, Homilist

Three weeks ago, St. Luke’s gospel told about the farmer who had such a successful year with his crops that he was going to tear down his old barns and build new ones.  This egotistical, narcissistic fool was so caught up with himself and his self-centered success that he forgot how short life is and that he might just die that evening.

In that homily I said that money is not the root of all evil, but only becomes a problem if money becomes the be all, and the end all.  If making money, having the biggest house, the most possessions, the best toys becomes the most important thing in your life, to the exclusion of family, friends and faith; then that farmer is us.  How many flat screen TVs, cars, or Manolo Blahnik’s heels and Gucci loafers do you and I need?

I don’t know if the farmer put his name on all those new barns, but the final, ultimate piece of property we’ll own is measured 4 feet by 8 feet by 6 feet deep  —   it’s called Mount St. Benedict’s, and our names will be on that piece of real estate.

In today’s gospel, St. Luke returns to that same theme.  Jesus says that to enter heaven we have to pass through a very narrow door – and if we are loaded down with material possessions like the farmer – if that is what has been important in our lives – then we aren’t going to fit through that door.

But Jesus says something equally important in this gospel,  “And people will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and will recline at table in the kingdom of God.  For behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.

The poor, the marginalized, the immigrant, people we have looked down upon, Jesus is saying may pass through that door before you and me.

This past week, Fr. George and I attended a conference with the leaders of faith communities here in West Hartford and the senior staff along with the Chief of the West Hartford Police Department.  We learned about what an outstanding police force we have in this town and we spoke about building better relations.  A fact that truly impressed me was that 95% of the applicants to the West Hartford Police Department do not make the force – 95%.

Only 5% of those who apply are hired!  That is how rigorous the screening process is.

One of the training modules that the Chief discussed that current officers and new recruits are exposed to is the concept of Implicit bias.

Implicit biases are subconscious negative reactions that all of us have towards other people based on characteristics such as race, ethnicity, age and appearance.  These biases can be changed, but first they have to be recognized.  And that is one of the goals of the training for our police force.

But it is a goal that we, you and I, should also be aware of; because when Christ says “some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last” he is talking about the people whom you and I have been prejudiced against – whether implicit or explicit.

What is your reaction when you see an extremely fat man or woman; how does your gut feel when you see two men holding hands and then kiss?  Would it be different if they were women?  Ladies, when you and a teenager get into the elevator at West Farms Mall, who makes you more nervous, a white kid in a Polo shirt, or a Black kid in a hoodie?

“Some of the last shall be first.”  Gentlemen, when you and your wife are walking back to your car after dinner in downtown Hartford, what causes you to put your hand over your wallet, three white kids walking and joking behind you, or three kids of color?

“People will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and will recline at table in the kingdom of God.”  Are you comfortable with the Muslim woman, the cashier at the gas station, who wears a headscarf called a hijab?  Do you have a gut reaction when you see the Orthodox Jew with his long coat, floppy black hat and strings hanging off his pants on a Saturday morning, or the teenage kid with purple hair and piercings in his nose and ear.

Implicit bias.  We all have it.  Ask yourself those questions, but be honest.

The door is very narrow, and I, I for one, have a lot to get rid of before I can fit through it.

August 14, 2016 – 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time 

Fr. George Mukuka, Homilist

Brothers and sisters in Christ, it is my great pleasure to finally join you in worship. My vacation went very well, and my family and friends send their warmest regards and prayers to all of us here at St. Timothy Parish. Once again, I would like to extend my sincere gratitude for your kind understanding of my absence.  Thank you very much!

The common and crucial theme of all of today’s readings is that we should strive to ensure that our religious convictions and principles are lived with the same courage Jeremiah, Paul, and Jesus Christ lived theirs. And although the cost of courage may be steep—a world turned upside down, even martyrdom—as it was for these three messengers of God, truly living the Good News of Jesus our Lord means shining so fiercely with his fire that others cannot but know that Christ’s passion burns within us.

In our first reading, the Prophet Jeremiah paid the price for preaching the burning word, the fire of God within him. With the courage of his prophetic conviction, Jeremiah preached God’s truth, relaying to King Zedekiah the Lord God’s demand that the King  surrender to the colossal army of the Babylonian empire to save the kingdom of Israel. Jeremiah’s words divided the city, inflaming such opposition that Jeremiah was thrown into a deep, muddy cistern and left to die; for  Jeremiah was accused of disregarding the welfare of the people and seeking their ruin through treason.

In our second reading, Paul stands in the same prophetic tradition as Jeremiah, challenging the Judeo-Christians to remain strong in their Faith in Jesus despite their being shunned by their own Jewish community. Paul implores his people: “Brothers and Sisters… persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith.”

In the Gospel passage, Jesus too preached the word of God, the word which continues to divide families and friends. For Jesus knew that his words would ultimately lead to his death on the cross. He proclaims, “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” The fire which Jesus Christ ignited is the fire of love and the fire of hope.  The disruption, division and revolution Jesus and his true followers effect in our society through the fire of sacrificial love and the fire of justice are the necessary means to reverse what is broken, put right what is dislocated, and cleanse what is unclean.

In other words, the therapeutic pain which was caused by Jesus’ ideas and ideals is absolutely necessary for the establishment of the real peace of God.  Though Jesus wielded a sword, cleaving divisions, he is also the bearer of a true and everlasting peace.  In carrying out his mission, Jesus Christ divides because, as history has shown, some people will follow him and others oppose him. Brothers and Sisters in Christ, we too should strive daily to follow Christ, to share his “baptism” and the burden of the cross. If we do so, Christ’s fire cannot but eternally burn within us.

So how do these readings challenge us today?   Like the prophets and Jesus Christ, we are challenged to fan the fire in our hearts: On the day of our Baptism, we received the light of Christ and were instructed to keep that torch burning brightly until the return of Christ Jesus. And on the day of our Confirmation, the Holy Spirit was sent into our hearts to rekindle that flame.

The old proverb should be applicable to all baptized and confirmed Christians: “One who is on fire cannot sit on a chair.” Our Lord Jesus continues to cast fire on the earth, the fire of the Spirit, through the ministry of Word and our Seven Sacraments. As Christians, we should burn to inflame our fellow parishioners and all others to care, to serve, and to bless one another with all the gifts of Faith. We should welcome the fire of the Holy Spirit to burn off our impurities and to bring forth the unadulterated silver and gold within us. We need Divine fire to inflame our hearts with the love of God and love for His children. Again, let us remember that “One who is on fire cannot sit on a chair,” so carry the fire of the Holy Spirit wherever you go.

A mature, “adult” Faith is not a Faith that bends and twists with the trends and fashions of the world, but rather one that is deeply rooted in friendship with Jesus Christ. As Pope Benedict said, “Our friendship with Christ opens us up to all that is good and gives us a criterion by which to distinguish the true from the false, and deceit from truth” (Benedict XVI, April 18, 2005). Such a Faith will fuel the fire of the Holy Spirit burning in us and bestow on us the courage of our Christian convictions.

June 26, 2016 – 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Fr. Henry P. Cody’s final sermon for us as Pastor of the Church of St Timothy:

As I take to this pulpit for my last weekend, I think of the first time I spoke to the parish. Some things have changed. I’m 28 years older and clean shaven. My brother Dick had warned me, “If you go into West Hartford with a beard, you’re dead!” I said if they judge me by that, the heck with them.” It never seemed to be an issue. One parishioner in fact, encountering me barefaced for the first time, said, “Please, Father, grow it again.”

Very conscious that I was succeeding Fr. O’Neill who had built St. Timothy’s from the ground up, I started my 1988 homily by comparing myself to the ballplayer, whoever he was, who trotted out to right field in Yankee Stadium to replace the great Babe Ruth. Actually, I knew who that ballplayer was. His name was George “Twinkle toes” Selkirk.  I didn’t want to name him because I was afraid if I did, I’d always be known around here as Twinkle toes. If you ever witnessed my few forays onto the dance floor, you would know that name was not an apt description of my footwork.

In that first homily, I mentioned a George Will column about Mikhail Gorbachev, the new head of the Soviet Union. Referring to Gorbachev’s relative youth, Will wrote, “He is likely to be around for a long time. And it is likely to seem like a long time.” I not only outlasted Gorbachev; I outlasted the Soviet Union. I never expected that I would be around here for such a long time. I thank God for the gift of these 28 years, which didn’t seem like a very long time to me because you have made me so happy here. You have had two pastors; Fr. O’Neill for 30 years; me for 28. Something about St. Timothy’s makes priests want to stay here. This is a very special place.

If I could pick one moment that sums up St. Tim’s for me, it would be one night at parish council. I voiced a real concern of mine. It seemed as if there was always a bucket at the door. We were constantly asking parishioners to donate for coats to keep kids warm during Hartford winters, to build a St. Timothy House in Haiti after the great earthquake, to provide a new boat, the SS Timothy for a Sri Lankan fisherman who had lost his skiff in the tsunami—that’s when I tried to get my title changed from father to admiral—We had collections to bring clean drinking water to a school in Uganda to send Hartford kids to summer camp, to fund shelters and soup kitchens. And I asked the Parish council is this too much? And one by one they answered let’s keep on doing what we’re doing, and one of them summed it up, “This is what we’re all about.”

There are resemblances between the first reading and our present situation. Elijah, who is last seen riding a chariot into the sky, handed on his mantle, the symbol of office, to his successor just as Fr. O’Neill handed it onto me, just as I am handing it on to Fr. Mukuka. To be sure there are differences: Elijah was a great prophet which I certainly am not. He was headed for heaven. I am going to Naugatuck I hope you will give Fr. Mukuka the same kind of acceptance, cooperation and love you gave me. If you do, he will have the greatest job in the world. He’s a fine man, and I’m sure in a short time he will win your hearts. He’s already won at least one heart. The other day, one of the women in the rectory said to me, “Are you still here?” They’ll get a chance to retaliate at the concert!

Don’t feel sorry for me. I’m not joining the ranks of the unemployed. I think I’ve got a job. If you’re ever in the pretty little town of Middlebury, right next to Naugatuck, and you go to the church of St. John of the Cross when the new weekend man is presiding, you might be moved to think, “He sounds like old Twinkle toes.”

Thanks for putting up with me for 28 years. God bless you always.

June 12, 2016 – 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time

If I were in Jesus place, how would I have felt? Embarrassed? She’s at my feet, weeping for her sins. Wouldn’t a good act of contrition be enough? She’s kissing my feet. I hope I don’t catch anything. Everybody’s watching us. What do I do? Now she’s pulling out all the stops, going way over the top, bathing my feet with tears and ointment.

Obviously, Jesus wasn’t embarrassed. Why should he be? His reaction is: “She gets it.” She appreciates the wonder of God’s mercy. She is floored—literally floored by the thought of how deep God has reached down to save her.  If the rest of these people really understood how they have been touched by God’s mercy, they’d all be doing the same thing. God’s awesome forgiveness deserves to be celebrated by a dramatic, extravagant gesture. Maybe the reason why we don’t imitate her is because we don’t get it, we don’t appreciate how far down God has bent to love and forgive us.

Let’s switch now to another dinner later on, to Jesus’s Last Supper. Some in the Church, mostly to justify the exclusion of women from the Priesthood, make much of the fact that no females are mentioned at that meal, the first Mass. But she was there in His mind and heart.

At the Last Supper he transformed bread and wine into Himself. But He did something else. He washed His Apostles’ feet. In doing that, how could he not have remembered tears and kisses and ointment on his own feet?

After the bread and wine, he said, “Do this in memory of me.” After the foot washing, He could have said, “Do this in memory of her.”

 

June 5, 2016 – 10th Sunday in Ordinary Time  

Deacon Dennis Ferguson

Luke 7:  11-17

 

And Jesus said, “Young man, I tell you, arise!”  A wonderful act of compassion, but Jesus didn’t call him by name; just “young man”.  Juliet asks of Shakespeare’s Romeo, “What’s in a name?”

One name we have heard this week is Harambe.  He is the 450-pound silver-backed gorilla who was shot and killed in the Cincinnati zoo after a 3-year old boy fell into the gorilla enclosure.

Harambe is a name from the Swahili language, coming out of eastern Africa, and it means to “pull or come together”.  Which is ironic, given how controversial the killing of that gorilla has been.  For a solid week there has been international news coverage concerning this story; every day there has been something in the printed press; and social media has gone haywire over this story.  This past Thursday there was a memorial service and vigil held outside the zoo for Harambe in protest over his killing.  Hundreds of protesters showed up for the service.

In addition, a petition has been started on-line by individuals concerned about the safety of the little boy who fell into the gorilla enclosure.  499,000 people have signed it  —  actually 499,530 concerned individuals as of 10:20 this morning.  It just keeps growing.  Let me read you a portion of the petition.  And I quote:

“We the undersigned want the parents to be held accountable for the lack of supervision and negligence that caused Harambe to lose his life. We the undersigned feel the child’s safety is paramount in this situation. We believe that this negligence may be reflective of the child’s home situation. We the undersigned actively encourage an investigation of the child’s home environment in the interests of protecting the child and his siblings from further incidents of parental negligence that may result in serious bodily harm or even death. Please sign this petition to encourage the Cincinnati Zoo, Hamilton County Child Protection Services, and Cincinnati Police Department hold the parents responsible.” [1]

This week’s Gospel is about compassion; so let’s assume that almost half-million signatories to this petition are either folks who have never had a child or if they are parents their child has never fallen in the playground, cut themselves unexpectedly or God-forbid, broken an arm or leg, like my three kids have.

The other name to go with Harambe is of course the name of the little 3-year old who fell into the gorilla enclosure.  His name is Isaiah.  It has not been carried in any of the television or newspaper stories.  The only way I found it out was to listen to the recording of his mother’s voice as she urged him to remain calm, while she frantically called 911.  Isaiah, it is a beautiful biblical name meaning “Yahweh is salvation”.  Isaiah’s mother, has refused to give their last name, but she did post a note saying that Isaiah was doing fine, with only a few cuts and bruises and a mild concussion.  She thanked all who had expressed support for the family and asked that those who sought to donate money to the family, to donate it to the zoo.

The other story has no name,  —  at least not just a single name.  It also occurred last week; during the same seven days that we were concentrating on the death of a gorilla.

1082 men, women and children fleeing the conflicts in the Middle East and Africa drowned in the Mediterranean in one, single day.  Because eastern Europe has closed the land route to refugees seeking to escape those war-ravaged parts of the world, they are now forced to place their lives in the hands of smuggling gangs in Libya to take them across the Mediterranean Sea to Italy and to the safety and economic promise of Europe.  1082 men, women and children – and that’s just the count of capsizings and shipwrecks that are known to authorities on that one day.  It is anyone’s guess as to how many people are being jammed into unsuitable vessels or towed behind other unseaworthy boats that are swallowed up by the vast waters of the southern Mediterranean.

There were no protest vigils, no petitions with almost a half-million signatures demanding an investigation or action by Congress; the TV evening news told the story in less than a minute and there was a one-inch long article in the Hartford Courant about the drowning deaths of more than one thousand people in a single day.  Yes, I know, the Hartford Courant and the Associated Press carried a bigger story yesterday; but that’s only because 117 bodies washed ashore.

Today’s gospel is about compassion.  Hundreds of children from the war-torn regions of the Middle East and Africa drowned in the Mediterranean Sea last week while the world anguished over a 450-pound gorilla.  Compassion:  thousands more will drown this summer.

On the boats that sank last week perhaps there was a three-year old from the Middle East whose name was Isaiah.   Or perhaps, there was a three-year old fleeing the conflicts in Africa named Harambe.

“Harambe”, it means to pull together or come together.

Last week we certainly didn’t live up to it.

[1]   Change.org, Sheila Hurt originator, Cincinnati, OH, 5/2016

May 22, 2016 – Holy Trinity Sunday

Fr. Henry Frascadore

John. 16: 12-15

 

Sit with me by the sea

and watch the waves

push and pull

roll and crest

and crash upon the shore

and learn from watching

what learning is all about.

 

It is about attending

to the presentations

of the universe,

the presentations,

which Jesus told us

to behold

as he walked with us

Behold

or others words like it—

is the word he used

to alert us to the mountains

and the streams,

the fields and the flowers

the oceans and the trees.

 

He wanted us

to pause and look and listen

to all

that we could see and hear

and interpret those experiences

imaginatively.

 

He knew

that learning was more than

the memory of letters, numbers, sounds

and their innumerable combinations

invaluable, of course, as they are— for the building of buildings,

writing of novels,

and designing crafts of sea and sky.

 

But Jesus wanted us to know

that there was something more important

yes, even more important than learning

how to do things with the knowledge

we had gained during the last thirty centuries:

it was learning

how to become who we were meant to be.

 

Come back to the seashore with me for a moment

follow a wave going from shore to shore

changing with each push and roll

changing but remaining ever the same

as it travels from

one side of the sea

to the other.

 

As you sit by the sea in silence

release your imagination

identify with what you see and hear—

the wave upon the sea

is you moving from one moment of your life to the next

changing you

but miraculously keeping you the same.

 

Eventually you reach the distant shore

and rush up upon the sand

to stand to behold a sane and fearless  world

imaginatively built by you

who  was driven

by who you were meant to be:

a wise and loving and trustful human being.

 

As you bless yourself today, say carefully,

Father, fill my mind with wisdom,

Son, my heart with love,

Spirit, my soul with trust;

for there is nothing more frightful to fear

than one who has become

who he or she was meant to be.

 

May 15, 2016 – Pentecost

Deacon Dennis Ferguson

John 20: 19-23

Peace be with you.

These are troubling times here at St. Timothy’s.  We are losing a beloved pastor who has been with us for 28 years.  And while we are saddened, we are also grateful that he can stop carrying the heavy physical burden of managing this parish:  happy that he can sit back and enjoy the days of retirement he has earned.

For us, however, it is scary.  Any major change in our lives is always a difficult transition, even painful at times.

At the end of Mass, Fr. Cody will announce who the new priest will be who will assume responsibility for St. Timothy Church.

The decision by the Chancery was made this past week, and so the announcement this Sunday: Pentecost Sunday. I don’t think the Chancery chose this date on purpose; it was pure happenstance, but I see Divine Providence involved.  If ever a faith community needed to hear the reassuring words of Christ; Pentecost is the day:  the Holy Spirit is with us and Christ has said to each of us, “Peace be with you.”

I came to this faith community five years ago because of Henry P. Cody and the ministries of the St. Timothy faith community.  It is a reputation known throughout the Archdiocese.  Any priest wishing to come to this parish is also aware of it.

And while Fr. Cody retires, his legacy of the music and choirs, lectors, RCIA, Partners in Prayer, the Deaf Ministry, the Environment Committee, Faith Formation, Altar Servers, Greeters, Parish Council, Finance Committee, the Knitting Ministry, Pastoral Care, Eucharistic Ministers, the Outreach Committee, and the Youth Ministry remain.  We are known for our ministry to the convalescent homes, our blood drives and work on Homefront; the warmth and friendship between our Jewish neighbors, and our support to the Catholic Worker House.  Our middle school is not only the envy of the Archdiocese, but of the West Hartford public schools and its Board of Education as well.

And that is just the established ministries and outreach; the real lifeblood of this parish is you:  the willingness to give so much of yourselves.

I’m encouraged, I’m optimistic as to what the future holds, because the Holy Spirit is with us and you and I have each been told:  “Peace be with you.”

 

May 8, 2016 – Seventh  Sunday of Eastertide

Fr. Henry P. Cody

John 17: 20-26

We pay special attention to the farewell addresses of great men and women. George Washington told us to avoid entangling foreign alliances.  Dwight Eisenhower warned us against the power of the military-industrial complex.

We just listened to Jesus’ farewell address He gave it at the end of his last supper with his apostles. He had one major theme: Make God known. He had come into the world to do this, and he was handing on the responsibility to his disciples and to those, like us, who would come to believe through them. In his last words Jesus talks a lot about “glory”, and it becomes clear that glory means love: “I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one, I in them and them in me. I have made known to them your name, and will make it known that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them.

Jesus wanted us to be as close to each other as he is to His Father. That means his disciples would have to think in a new way. Instead of competing for the best places, the highest standing, they would defer to each other, serve each other. Instead of lashing back at those who offended them, they would be patient with them, forgive them. This is contrary to human inclinations, but Jesus made it plain that we are called to something beyond the human. Through his coming Spirit, Jesus is in us as He is in the Father, enabling us to practice supernatural virtues.

Look at Stephen in the first reading. He made his God known by his care for the needy. He made his God known by his boldness in proclaiming faith in the crucified and risen one. He made his God known because even as he died at the hands of Christ’s enemies, he prayed, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them,” echoing Jesus on the cross: “Father, forgive them; they know not what they do.”  May we be perfected in unity that the world may know God has loved us even as God has loved his only-begotten Son. Amen.

May 1, 2016 – Sixth Sunday of Eastertide

Fr. Henry Frascadore

Jn. 14: 23-29

The Spirit will remind you

The mirror above my sink

in the bathroom

is splattered with post-it notes—

 

a multitude of

sticky square reminders

designed for a slippery memory

 

each note

is pithy

and precise

 

dog food for Mason

charcoal for the grill

sweaters at the cleaners

 

But I am sure that John the Evangelist

didn’t have post-its in mind

when he mentioned reminders today.

 

Not that

dog food, charcoal and sweaters aren’t important

but living our life as it should be lived tops them all.

 

It’s here that John tells us in the gospel to call upon the Holy Spirit

to remind us of the things

that are  really important in life:

 

things like:

 

*telling the ones we love-why

and those who love us- thanks;

and saying it when they least expect it,

 

*pausing to express our amazement

at the artistry of a tree

even though we have seen it a hundred times,

 

*asking ourselves

what we can  give to the world

which has yet to be given,

 

*living alertly

taking nothing for granted

not even the moment which has just begun,

 

*setting authenticity

as our life’s

chief goal,

 

*wondering

what question we’ll ask

when we finally get the chance.

 

Post-its on the mirror

may remind us

to pick up our sweaters,

 

but it takes the Holy Spirit

to remind us

to mirror the One we promised to follow.

 

24 April 2016 – Fifth Sunday of Easter        

Deacon Dennis Ferguson

John 13:  31-35

“I give you a new commandment: love one another.  As I have loved you, so you also should love one another..”

Love in action — that’s what we are talking about this afternoon/morning. Love which finds expression in kindness, courtesy, tolerance, and acceptance of those around us.  Jesus calls us to love one another and to bring that love to light in the way that we treat those around us.  It’s easy to love people in general.  But it’s another thing altogether to put that love into action, to make love concrete in our attitudes and actions toward others.  Someone once said, “We are judged by our actions, not our intentions.  We may have a heart of gold, but then, so does a hard-boiled egg.”  Love one another. As a congregation of God’s people, we are called to care for one another, to set aside our preconceived notions of who is and who is not acceptable to God.

Robert Coles is a psychiatrist, Professor Emeritus at Harvard University, prolific writer and commentator on social ethics.  He has written on social issues from the first black child to integrate the New Orleans school systems in the 1960s to Anna Freud, Robert Kennedy and Bruce Springsteen.

Writing about his days as a worker in Dorothy Day’s Catholic Worker soup kitchen, he recalled his encounter with a “Bowery bum” a wino.  Dorothy Day, as you know, was that great Catholic activist in 20th century who devoted her life to working among the poor.  Pope Francis quoted her during his visit to the United States.  Every year, Chris Douçot, of Hartford’s Catholic Worker House, comes to St. Timothy’s and we support their summer camp for children from Hartford’s inner city.

Going back to Dr. Coles’ story of his encounter with this “gentleman” at the soup kitchen, Coles describes him as being an angry, cursing, truculent man of fifty or so, with long gray hair, a full scraggly beard, a huge scar on his right cheek, a mouth with virtually no teeth and bloodshot eyes.  When Coles and others in the soup kitchen hesitated to serve this man, Dorothy Day said, “For all we know, he might be God . . . so (let’s) treat him as an honored guest and look at his face as if it is the most beautiful one we can imagine.”

As I look out at this congregation this afternoon/morning I don’t see any winos, but I do see many faces of God:  a daughter, born into the sandwich-generation, who struggles to balance her own family’s needs while also now lovingly supporting her mother with Alzheimer’s disease; a husband, who remembers the wedding vows he made 50 years ago, and now cares for his infirm wife; oh yes, I can see the face of God; I see it when I look at parents whose faces show the stress of worry for children with life-threatening illnesses; but also on the faces of young parents who joyfully hold their new-born babies whom I will soon baptize.  I see it every time you reach out to the marginalized in society.

I give you a new commandment: love one another.

I see it here before me every week.  And for this, I am so grateful to have the privilege to serve as your deacon.

April 17, 2016

Fr. Cody

Acts 13:14, 43-52

The first reading today ends with a riot. The Acts of the Apostles tells us that in Antioch, Syria the local synagogue was filled with people waiting to hear about this so-called Messiah named Jesus. Many of them didn’t like what they heard and ran St. Paul and his companion Barnabas out of town. This was a story repeated over and over again in early Christianity.

Judaism and Christianity have long been mysteries to each other. Christians have found it very hard to understand how Our Lord’s own people by and large rejected Him. I’m not sure what Jews make of the phenomenon called Christianity. One definite mystery about it must be how a religion supposedly founded on love could have been responsible for so much persecution of the Jews, so much anti-Semitism.

In the last 50 years or so, Christian bodies, notably the Second Vatican Council have issued statements on the Jews.  The drift of these statements is that the Jews are not to be considered Christ-killers, but Our Lord’s beloved people. The Old Testament is not old in the sense of be obsolete and replaced, but ancient and venerable. The divine covenant with Israel remains in force because, in the words of St. Paul, “God does not repent of His choices.” Rom. 12. All these statements deplored persecution of the Jews and anti-Semitism.

I am proud to have been the pastor of what I call the most Jewish parish in the Archdiocese of Hartford. We have engaged in several activities with Emmanuel Synagogue. I wish we had done more. I still get a little choked up when I remember the beautiful bouquet and message our Jewish neighbors sent us on the death of Pope John Paul II.

I think God expects us to bear fruit where God plants us. God has planted us in the Church of St. Timothy. That’s not an accident. I believe God is calling us to take special responsibility for our Jewish brothers and sisters; to defend them whenever anti-Semitism raises its ugly head. And make no mistake about it, it’s still around. Think of the anti-Semitic demonstrations at Hall High School football games and the defacing and vandalism of synagogues—this happening not even a hundred years from Hitler’s murderous holocaust. We at St. Timothy’s would be false to our patron saint (Timothy may sound like an Irish lad, but he was a mid-eastern Jew), and even worse false to the Lord we profess to follow, when we cooperate in any way with prejudice against His own people.

It’s significant, I think, that the first and second readings go from a riot to a dream of heaven in which the prophet John sees a great, peaceful, loving multitude which no one could count, from every nation, race people and tongue. Everywhere, may the riot give way to the dream!

April 10, 2016

John 21:1-19

STRUCK BY DETAILS – Fr. Frascadore

I am struck

by the details highlighted

in today’s gospel.

 

On Friday Jesus is nailed to the cross—

on Monday

the disciples go fishing.

 

They spend the night

on the Sea

tending to business as usual.

 

At dawn they pull

into shore with

a pile of empty nets.

 

There’s a “stranger” there

who tells them to go back out

and cast to the right.

 

Unaskingly

they do as told

and sure enough the nets fill fast.

 

It dawns on them

the stranger

might be Jesus.

 

Peter gets so excited

he jumps into the sea

but not before tucking in his shirt.

 

The other six fishermen

stay on board

and ride the last hundred yards to shore.

 

Everyone is ecstatic at the mere thought of Jesus

but not too excited

to stop to count the fish

 

One hundred and fifty three

not two not four

but one hundred and three flip flopping Tilapia

 

But in spite of

the heavy load

the nets remarkably don’t t tear.

 

Then a calm and steady voice calls

them all

to breakfast.

 

Once everyone is

seated

the stranger serves them bread and fish.

 

It is in the serving

that it dawns on the disciples

that the stranger is the risen Jesus.

 

In your life and in mine

there are many details daily

that appear to be so unrelated

 

But if we pause for a moment

and put them all together

they too will lead us to the Lord Jesus.

 

March 27, 2016 – EASTER

– Fr. Henry P. Cody

 

The author of the New Testament Letter to the Hebrews writes “Here we have no lasting city, but we look for one in the life to come.” Heb 13-14. I’ve been confronted with the truth of these words lately. I’ve been throwing things away and wishing I had never accumulated so much in the first place.

Moving is one of my least favorite activities. It gives you a different perspective on things. Take my books, for example. Please take them! Once I treasured them for the wisdom they contained or the pleasure they gave.. Now I measure them by how much they weigh and how much space they’ll take up.

When the author of the letter to the Hebrews wrote that we have no lasting home, he wasn’t talking about a change of address—-or rather he was thinking about the ultimate change of address, when we have to pull up stakes and leave this world.

But St. Paul reminds us we are not like those who have no hope because we believe God raised Jesus from the dead, and he will share his risen life with us. That risen life will be glorious, beyond our wildest imaginings.  It will be exciting, exhilarating and ecstatic! Reunion with our loved ones who have gone before us will be so consoling.  St. Paul says “The sorrows of the present age will be nothing in comparison with the happiness waiting for us.” Rom 8-18

The author of the letter to the Hebrews gives excellent advice when he says, “Let us keep our eyes on Jesus who inspires and perfects our faith. For the sake of the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross.” Let us never forget the joy that lay before us.

The Easter parade that counts is not modeling new clothes. It’s about following Jesus on the road to our lasting home in heaven.

 

First Sunday of Lent 2/14/16

Luke 4:1-13

TEMPTATION IN DESERT

The desert

dry and barren

is the stage

On which the devil

plans to seal a deal

with Jesus

You are hungry

so change this stone

to bread

**

There is a hunger

not met by bread—Jesus says—

honesty is it

The kingdoms

of this world are yours—Satan says—

if you but bend your knee to me

Who will know

just you and me out here

whispering

**

But whispers

are thunders

on haughty lips—Jesus says—

Failing

the devil leads Jesus to

the temple’s peak

Taunting him

that angels’ hands

will catch your leap

If indeed

you are the child

of divinity

**

They let you fall

didn’t they

that’s why you are testing me—Jesus simply said

Satan departed angrily

for a time

vowing to return

Power and riches

will always hold their sway

he shouted as he left the barren land

**

But you and I ignore his shout

for faith has led us here

today

To hear

  that if temptation topples us

the hand of Jesus quickly raises us

For in the prayer we stand to say

forgiveness

is our promised gift.

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time     Cy cycle       Feb. 7, 2016

In Pope Francis’ new book The Name of God is Mercy, a journalist asks the Pope his opinion of a story in Bruce Marshall’s novel To Every Man a Penny: A priest wants to offer absolution to a soldier sentenced to death. When the soldier says he is not sorry for his sins, the priest asks, “But are you sorry you’re not sorry?” The soldier shrugs and says, “Well, yes.” And the priest absolves him.

I think the journalist may have been expecting the Pope to say, “Mercy doesn’t go that far as to grant forgiveness for such flimsy, grudging contrition.” But the Pope’s face lit up. “Yes,” he said, “that’s how it is. It’s a good example of the lengths to which God goes to enter our hearts, to find that small opening that will permit him to give grace. He doesn’t want anyone to be lost. His mercy is infinitely greater than our sins, His medicine is infinitely stronger than our illnesses. God waits, He waits for us to concede him only the smallest glimmer of space so that He can enact his forgiveness and his love within us.

According to a great old hymn, “There is a wideness in God’s mercy/ like the wideness of the sea.” In God’s net of salvation, there’s plenty of room for all of us sinners. Asked whether there is an opposition between mercy and doctrine, the Pope responds, “Mercy is doctrine. We must go back to the Gospels, to the story of the prodigal son, to Luke’s description of the joy in heaven over one sinner who repents.” And God practices what Jesus preached. Jesus told Peter he must forgive his brothers and sisters not 7 times but 70 times 7 times. God never tires of forgiving us. Jesus met opposition from “scholars of the law” who thought his message was too soft, too easy, too good to be true. Sometimes we think that way. As another stanza of the old hymn tells us: “But we make God’s love too narrow/By false limits of our own. And we magnify God’s strictness/ With a zeal God will not own.”—as if we were holier than God. The first attribute of God is not strictness, but mercy. But won’t thinking of God that way lead to laxity and sin? More likely it will make us love God more and provide stronger motivation to do God’s will.

In the end, love always beats fear.

4th Sunday – C 31 January 2016

Luke 4:21-30

Maybe it is the mid-winter blues, the upside down weather pattern, the lack of snow:  but I’m finding myself to be in a really down mood these days.  I know homilies are supposed to be inspiring, to uplift everyone, to send us out of this building at the end of Mass to bring the Good News as beacons of light to the world. 

It’s been a difficult week for me:  a family member has started hospice care; another member is back in court having to fight for visitation rights for his children; another has just gotten arrested; and still another is facing surgery in a couple of weeks.  So I’m sorry if I bring you down today, but maybe I’m not alone.  Maybe one of you out there is also fighting the demons of the night.  Probably the issues you are facing are different than those I’m dealing with —  but I know your pain is just as real, nonetheless. 

Now maybe this has been a good week for you – if so, God bless, and I’m happy for you. 

But if it hasn’t been a good week, or month, or year; if you are struggling with dark shadows, with pain or loss in your life: if you try to take the words St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians two thousand years ago and put them into today’s context — believe me, they do fit. 

Of course, some of Paul’s phrases can be taken to the absurd. The daily TV and news reports are getting to many of us.  Talk about ”resounding gongs and clashing cymbals”: how about the Iowa and New Hampshire debates.

But in terms of something serious and important, Paul writes that “Love never fails”.

At times, the response when someone is hurting is “I’ll pray for you.”  I sometimes feel, that when I say that, it is just an easy, facile, knee-jerk response.

Rather, on the other hand, the Little Prince, in Saint-Exupéry’s book, says that if you want to be a true friend, all you have to do is sit quietly next to the other person.

So, if you are hurting today, know that I shall sit next to you, quietly in the stillness of your heart and mind.  And there, in the peace of Christ, together, we  —  shall    get through the darkness.

Be not afraid, for as Paul writes in another letter, “If God is for us, who can be against us.”

1.17.16  John 2: 1-11

With a touch of the hand

When the headwaiter

Got home that night

He told his children about the wedding

The hall was full

The music loud

And the dance everlasting

Then

The wine ran out

And the music and dancing stopped

Suddenly

The smiles of the bride and groom

Disappeared

And a man

Appeared from nowhere

And asked for jugs of water

When they came

He touched their brims

And the water turned to deep red wine

The smiles returned

As did the music and dance

And laughter filled the hall

The children

Listened

And one said

“I Wish

That I could touch

Water into wine”

You can

The Father said

“Give me your hands”

Holding them gently said

“With these hands

You can turn sadness to joy

“With but a touch

You can turn sadness

Into joy.”

The Baptism of the Lord 10 January 2016

Luke 3: 15-16, 21-22

It is the Year of Mercy.  Several weeks ago, I spoke about the Old Testament Prophet Micah who was asked, “What does the Lord require of me?”  His answer was simple, “Do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.”

Micah pairs justice with the word mercy.  Our word mercy comes from the Hebrew word Chessed.   It is difficult to translate Chessed into a single English word.  It is a relationship word. God shows mercy to us, so we should show mercy to others.  Pass it on.  It has the connotation of “look at the situation through the other person’s eyes,” or “to walk in somebody else’s shoes.”

The Mayo Clinic has just published a book entitled, Handbook for Happiness.  Its author, a Doctor Amit Sood, suggests that if we follow Pope Francis, if we have Chessed, it will not only be good for our souls, it will be good for our health.

Let me set up the scenario.

You are standing in the bank, it is not even your bank, all you want to do is cash a check.  There are six people in front of you, three behind you, two tellers, but one of the tellers, the head teller, has a “CLOSED” sign on her window, and she seems to be just shuffling papers around. 

The one teller who is dealing with the customers is slower than molasses!  She has already made one mistake, so the head teller had to come over to correct the error.

But even when there is no problem, she still can’t seem to move beyond a snail’s pace; chatting up each customer as if nobody is waiting.

You can feel your blood pressure rising — you are getting a headache —  your jaw is getting tight —  your breathing is off —  and there is a rumbling in your lower intestines.

We’ve all been there.

The cynics among us will say that she is either just plain stupid or she partied too much last night.  Chessed and the Mayo Clinic suggest that you step back and at least consider maybe there is another reason.

Maybe she is a new mother and her baby is colicky and she hasn’t had more than a couple of hours sleep any night this past week.  Maybe her husband has lost his job, and how will they make the mortgage payments on one salary.  Maybe she lives at home with her mother who has Alzheimer’s and she wanders at night; so the teller sleeps with one eye open in fear her mom will walk outside with the temperatures in the single digits.  And is it really the teller’s fault that she is the only one open?  What about the head teller and the two characters sitting in their offices, there aren’t any customers with them right now; and don’t even get me started on the joker by the front door, whose job is to smile and say, “Good morning and Welcome.”

You get the picture.  Pause for a moment, and instead of concentrating on your impatience, think about why the teller may be slow today, and when you do —  your blood pressure drops —  your breathing goes back to normal —  your body physically relaxes.

Mayo Clinic calls it happiness; others call it wellness; the ancient Israelites called it Chessed. I call it mercy.

It is good for the soul; it is good for the body.  In fact, it is better than chicken soup.

Mercy.

Epiphany Jan 3, 2016

On Christmas we celebrate God’s coming close. Today we praise God for taking us far. The magi, the wise men made a long journey. They were gentiles-non Jews. Jews didn’t feel comfortable with gentiles: they had to fight them to take over the Promised Land. Down the centuries they had suffered much at the hands of gentiles: Assyrians and Babylonians, Greeks and Romans.

The Jews looked down on gentiles. They laughed at their imaginary gods. They considered them morally inferior and unclean. The Jews, like anybody else, were most comfortable with “their own”, so it’s amazing that gentiles should be among the first visitors to the stable at Bethlehem. What is God trying to teach us here?

Maybe what young Jorge Bergoglio, whom we know as Pope Francis, learned as a boy from his grandmother Rosa. A recent biography of the Pope tells us: “She was a wonderful faith transmitter. Her faith recognized human goodness beyond the boundaries of religion. At home with his parents the Catholicism was rather puritanical—‘If someone close to the family divorced or separated, they could not enter our house,’ he recalled, ‘and they believed all Protestants were going to hell.’ He learned a different message from Rosa. Once, some Salvation Army women visited her house. Young Jorge asked Rosa if they were nuns because “they wore these little hats”. She said “No, but they are good people who do good things.”

We need such teachers of loving tolerance in a world terrorized by fanatics out to kill anybody who does not share their perverted version of Islam. They dishonor the true God of mercy. I had a teacher like Rosa this Christmas in North Haven. My sister-in-law Lois is the kind of big-hearted person who creates family wherever she goes. She invited some special guests this year: a Jewish woman from her caregivers support group, the Uzbek aide who had taken care of her late mother and the aide’s husband. Both are Muslims from Russia. It was one of the best Christmases I remember. Reflecting on these three guests from afar and the gifts of friendship they brought and received, I realized we had experienced our own epiphany.

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