The Church of St. Timothy

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Past Homilies

33rd Sunday – B cycle 15 November 2015

Mark 13: 24-32

I was recently going through some old stuff and ran across information about the TV series called the Twilight Zone.  This was a half-hour show featuring a psychological thriller that always ended with an unexpected twist.  It aired on CBS from 1959 to 1964 on Friday nights from 9:30 to 10, and as high schoolers, we never went out until 10:00, or the party stopped and we gathered around the TV to watch the Twilight Zone.  You didn’t want to be the only one at school on Monday who didn’t know the latest episode.  One of those episodes was entitled the Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.  I urge you to Google it and still see the YouTube version, because my story-telling doesn’t do the film justice.  The actual film won the 1962 Cannes Film Festival Award.

The story is of a Confederate sympathizer who has been convicted of attempting to set fire to a railroad bridge.  The punishment for such crimes is hanging.  It is the end of the Civil War and soldiers march him out to the bridge across Owl Creek.  They take a board and place it so that ⅔ rests on the bridge and the other ⅓ extends over the edge of the bridge.  One of the Union soldiers stands on the part that rests on the bridge, and the condemned man is made to walk out and stand on the portion that extends over the river.

Next, the man’s hands and legs are tied, and a rope is tied to the bridge and put around the man’s neck.  When everything is ready, the commanding officer barks the order.  The soldier steps off the board and the condemned man plunges downward with the rope around his neck.

But something strange happens.  The rope breaks, and the condemned man goes plummeting into the river far below.  Down, down into the water he sinks.  As he does, he’s aware that he’s alive and struggles to free his hands and feet.  Miraculously, he manages to untie himself.

Realizing he has a second chance at life, the man begins to swim down the river.  As he does, he passes a tree branch on the shore.  He is struck by the beauty of the leaves on the branch.  He marvels at the intricate pattern of veins in the leaves.  He sees a spider spinning a web.  Again he is in awe of the beauty of the web, and the tiny drops of water clinging to it like sparkling diamonds.  He feels the wetness of the water on his body.  He looks up and sees the blueness of the sky.  Never has the world looked so beautiful to him.

Suddenly the soldiers on the bridge begin to fire at him.  He fights his way through a hail of bullets, past a water snake, and goes over a waterfall.  Finally, he swims ashore totally exhausted.  He drops to the sand and rolls over and over.  He looks up and sees a flower.  He crawls over and smells it.  Everything is so beautiful; it’s so great to be alive.  Then a bullet whistles through the trees, and the man leaps to his feet and begins to run.  He runs and runs through what seems like an endless forest until he comes to massive gates that swing open mysteriously. 

The man can’t believe his eyes.  He is back home safe. He calls his wife’s name, and she comes running out of the house, arms outstretched to greet him.  Just as they embrace, there is the sound of a loud crack, and his head snaps back.

We can’t believe our eyes.  The image on the screen is the man hanging from the Owl Creek Bridge.  The man is dead, and the soldiers have begun to depart.  We are left stunned.  All the effort, the running, the second chance were pure make-believe.

In the nanosecond from the edge of the bridge to the end of the rope, flashed the vision of a life of what should have been, could have been, would have been, might have been.

  As Rod Sterling put it, “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge in two forms:   as it was dreamed and as it was lived and died.  This is the stuff of fantasy, the thread of imagination, the ingredients of    The Twilight Zone.”

Perhaps for television the twilight zone, but for us a parable of so much of the message in the Gospel.  For us it is reality.

For the first time, the man saw the world for what it is—a place rich in God’s wonder, beauty we so often take for granted.  For the first time, the man saw life for what it is—a precious gift from God to be shared with those we love. 

Today’s gospel invites us to reflect on the moment when we will meet Jesus face to face.  It invites us to ask ourselves:  How satisfied will we be at that moment with the quality of our lives:  of what we have done and how we have loved? 

Unlike the man in the story, we have a second chance to prepare for that hour—beginning right now.  What will we do with our second chance?  Will we stop to see, to marvel at the veins of a leaf, the droplets of water on a spider web, to protect the beauty and environment that surrounds us?  Will we tell those whom we love that we love them, will we caress the hands that lovingly touch us, will we sincerely try to make an effort to love ourselves?  Will we truly try to make an effort to serve, rather than expect to be served?

We are not in the Twilight Zone.  We have a choice, a second chance.  But it depends on how you and I answer those questions. 

33rd Sunday – B cycle 15 November 2015

Mark 13: 24-32

I was recently going through some old stuff and ran across information about the TV series called the Twilight Zone.  This was a half-hour show featuring a psychological thriller that always ended with an unexpected twist.  It aired on CBS from 1959 to 1964 on Friday nights from 9:30 to 10, and as high schoolers, we never went out until 10:00, or the party stopped and we gathered around the TV to watch the Twilight Zone.  You didn’t want to be the only one at school on Monday who didn’t know the latest episode.  One of those episodes was entitled the Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.  I urge you to Google it and still see the YouTube version, because my story-telling doesn’t do the film justice.  The actual film won the 1962 Cannes Film Festival Award.

The story is of a Confederate sympathizer who has been convicted of attempting to set fire to a railroad bridge.  The punishment for such crimes is hanging.  It is the end of the Civil War and soldiers march him out to the bridge across Owl Creek.  They take a board and place it so that ⅔ rests on the bridge and the other ⅓ extends over the edge of the bridge.  One of the Union soldiers stands on the part that rests on the bridge, and the condemned man is made to walk out and stand on the portion that extends over the river.

Next, the man’s hands and legs are tied, and a rope is tied to the bridge and put around the man’s neck.  When everything is ready, the commanding officer barks the order.  The soldier steps off the board and the condemned man plunges downward with the rope around his neck.

But something strange happens.  The rope breaks, and the condemned man goes plummeting into the river far below.  Down, down into the water he sinks.  As he does, he’s aware that he’s alive and struggles to free his hands and feet.  Miraculously, he manages to untie himself.

Realizing he has a second chance at life, the man begins to swim down the river.  As he does, he passes a tree branch on the shore.  He is struck by the beauty of the leaves on the branch.  He marvels at the intricate pattern of veins in the leaves.  He sees a spider spinning a web.  Again he is in awe of the beauty of the web, and the tiny drops of water clinging to it like sparkling diamonds.  He feels the wetness of the water on his body.  He looks up and sees the blueness of the sky.  Never has the world looked so beautiful to him.

Suddenly the soldiers on the bridge begin to fire at him.  He fights his way through a hail of bullets, past a water snake, and goes over a waterfall.  Finally, he swims ashore totally exhausted.  He drops to the sand and rolls over and over.  He looks up and sees a flower.  He crawls over and smells it.  Everything is so beautiful; it’s so great to be alive.  Then a bullet whistles through the trees, and the man leaps to his feet and begins to run.  He runs and runs through what seems like an endless forest until he comes to massive gates that swing open mysteriously. 

The man can’t believe his eyes.  He is back home safe. He calls his wife’s name, and she comes running out of the house, arms outstretched to greet him.  Just as they embrace, there is the sound of a loud crack, and his head snaps back.

We can’t believe our eyes.  The image on the screen is the man hanging from the Owl Creek Bridge.  The man is dead, and the soldiers have begun to depart.  We are left stunned.  All the effort, the running, the second chance were pure make-believe.

In the nanosecond from the edge of the bridge to the end of the rope, flashed the vision of a life of what should have been, could have been, would have been, might have been.

  As Rod Sterling put it, “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge in two forms:   as it was dreamed and as it was lived and died.  This is the stuff of fantasy, the thread of imagination, the ingredients of    The Twilight Zone.”

Perhaps for television the twilight zone, but for us a parable of so much of the message in the Gospel.  For us it is reality.

For the first time, the man saw the world for what it is—a place rich in God’s wonder, beauty we so often take for granted.  For the first time, the man saw life for what it is—a precious gift from God to be shared with those we love. 

Today’s gospel invites us to reflect on the moment when we will meet Jesus face to face.  It invites us to ask ourselves:  How satisfied will we be at that moment with the quality of our lives:  of what we have done and how we have loved? 

Unlike the man in the story, we have a second chance to prepare for that hour—beginning right now.  What will we do with our second chance?  Will we stop to see, to marvel at the veins of a leaf, the droplets of water on a spider web, to protect the beauty and environment that surrounds us?  Will we tell those whom we love that we love them, will we caress the hands that lovingly touch us, will we sincerely try to make an effort to love ourselves?  Will we truly try to make an effort to serve, rather than expect to be served?

We are not in the Twilight Zone.  We have a choice, a second chance.  But it depends on how you and I answer those questions. 

 30th Sunday – cycle A 25 October 2015

Mark 10:46-52

So they called the blind man, Bartimaeus, saying to him, “Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.”

The Synod of Bishops on the Family ended today/yesterday in Rome, and the final report was submitted to Pope Francis who can accept, reject or modify the recommendations it contains.  So the question remains did the world’s gathering of bishops walk-the-walk or just talk-the-talk?

October is Respect for Life month, and Pope Francis has been stressing mercy in his speeches while here in Washington, New York and Philadelphia, as well as declaring a Jubilee Year of Mercy beginning December 8th 2015.  Are the bishops of the world on the same page?

Parts of this homily will sound familiar, because I used sections four years ago, shortly after I joined St. Timothy’s parish as your new deacon.  The issues raised are as pertinent and timely today as they were when I first spoke them, but hopefully with the Synod of Bishops ending and the endearing spirit of Pope Francis we will have clearer direction.

The Old Testament prophet Micah was asked, “What does the Lord require of me?”  His answer was simple, “Do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.”

In its strictest sense, justice means fair play.   It means making sure that all of God’s children inherit their fair share of God’s good gifts.  It is not enough to wish for justice or to complain because it is lacking.  “Do Justice. ”

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.  It has the connotation of “getting inside someone’s skin.  ” We might say “look at it through my eyes.”  To the Hebrews it was a special word because it is one of the principal attributes of God.  God has always acted toward the people with loving-kindness, so too, God expects us to act in the same way toward one another.  If we are to be just, we must do even more – we are to give where no giving is deserved, to act when no action is required.  It is not only an activity, it is an attitude.  Chessed.  Loving-kindness, mercy.

We think of ourselves as kind people:  we are gentle with animals; we say we do not permit the mistreatment of prisoners of war; we give billions to charity. . . but the same indictments could be laid at our doorstep as those for ancient Israel.  We think of our judicial system as fair, but we know it is much more “fair” with those who have money and power.  There are laws on the books to protect people from the shady business practices that can bankrupt good families, but thousands lose their homes and millions of dollars every year because there are so many loopholes in the laws.  Yes, we give money for the relief of suffering, but we give out of our surpluses.  In short, we are a kind nation. . . whenever it is convenient.  Safe to say, Micah would object.

While many of us immediately think of “anti-abortion” when we hear the term “Respect for life”, for us Catholics pro-life is so much more.  You cannot be a cafeteria Catholic.  You cannot pick and choose the tenets of your faith.  Respect for life is Micah’s call for justice and mercy combined.

You cannot respect life, be pro-life, pro-justice and pro-mercy, and support the death penalty.  You cannot be pro-life and not support fair trade.  Many of those fair trade items will be on sale next weekend at our annual charity craft bazaar in O’Connell Hall – please support those charities.

It is wonderful that you help prepare food at a soup kitchen in Hartford, but being pro-life  – having Chessed  – is sitting down with that homeless man, finding out his name and eating a meal with him. 

You cannot be pro-justice and pro-mercy and ignore the genocide in Palestine and Syria.  If you respect life, you support fair wages and a humane immigration policy.

Pope Francis has called our attention to the rape of the environment.  You cannot be pro-life and support the devastation of our rain forests.

Our church leaders cannot respect life, be pro-justice and have Chessed if they continue to hide behind the offensive terms of “homosexual tendencies” or “people with same-sex attraction”, or “intrinsically disordered”.  Words have power.  Men are gay, women are lesbian, and as my friends proudly proclaim, they are homosexual.  We are all created in the image and likeness of God.  When we accept it is not a life-style choice, then we also realize that God doesn’t make mistakes.

If 3,000 abortions each day in the United States is a tragedy, then 30,000 children around the world dying each day because of poverty is a sin.   

You cannot have respect for life and do nothing.  It is the violence of silence. 

Justice and chessed, mercy, loving-kindness. . . critical to the living of lives that are pleasing to God.  But Micah says there is one more element in what my God requires of me.  That is to walk humbly with my God.  Listen to those words, “Walk humbly with your God.”  Flip that around and what it says is the your God is walking with you.  Be assured, that God is walking with you in every step you take in life’s journey.

It is the daily walk with God that energizes the commitment to do justice and go even beyond to treat people, even the undeserving, with loving-kindness.  Walking humbly with God allows our hearts to be broken, by the same things that break God’s heart.  Walking with God becomes synonymous with having a heart for justice and mercy.  The three cannot be separated, for walking humbly with God, living all of life in relationship to God, will result in a synergy with justice and mercy.

That is the essence of our faith.  That is the call in today’s gospel.  As the people said to the blind man, Bartimaeus, “Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you    and me.”

Click here for a special Homily by Rev. Tom Coughlin, OP Miss. 8/22/15 St. Timothy Church Mass in sign language


 

28th Sunday B Cycle

WISDOM FREEDOM AND LOVE

Wisdom

How is it

that we can stand

in the center of the park

on a clear morning

and look at a crescent moon

followed by Venus

and know that this

is the most exciting place in the world

to be.

Is it that Jesus says

wisdom more precious than

diamonds gold or silver

reveals

in a moment

what is important

and what is not.

Freedom

An acorn

has no alternative

but to become an oak tree

On the other hand

we are bound by nothing

but imagination

How we use it

between birth and forever

determines who we shall be

…to the fullest

we become a portrait

worthy of creation’s corridor.

Love

Self love

is our reflection

on a store-front window

True love

is our reflection

on  the surface of a well

a well

with a bucket

at the end of long rope

drawing fresh water

from deep below

every day

and the smile

which breaks across

our face with every sip

is the smile

we wish

for everyone.

Good teacher what must we do

to inherit eternal life:

live wisely, creatively, and generously…now.

    

27th Sunday – B cycle 4 October 2015

Mark 10: 2-12

Many preachers dread giving a homily on this gospel because with divorce rates as high as they are, there are men and women sitting in this church who have gone through the pain of divorce.  As the only member of the clergy in this parish who is married, I guess I drew the short straw.

I want to speak about the Sacrament of Marriage, but I also want to talk about divorce.

The Church recognizes in every wedding, whether faith based or not:  a civil or legal bond is established.  In a Catholic marriage a sacramental bond is also established.

It is the sacramental bond that Christ is speaking of in today’s gospel.  As a Sacrament, it cannot be undone, just as you can’t undo a Baptism or undo a Confirmation.

The Church is painfully aware of the reality that in our modern society some marriages deteriorate so badly that sincere prayer and counseling fail to revive it.  In those cases, the Church recognizes the sad reality and accepts the civil process of divorce.  Remarriage, however, because the sacramental bond is considered still valid, is only possible when one’s former spouse dies or an annulment is granted.

It has been said the divorce is more painful than the death of a spouse: with death there is closure, with divorce, particularly if there are children, there is no finality, there always remains some lingering, after-connection.

When a couple begins planning for a Catholic marriage there is a preparation process they go through.  It is an extensive program in which the facilitator guides the couple to look at the gravity of what they are considering.  Love is blind, but marriage is not only for the good times, but also in the bad and difficult times.

“I promise to take you, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.”  That is the essence of the marriage contract.  A covenant, a binding contract and informed consent.

Thus there are parallels between Canon Law (the law of the Church) and civil law (the law of the state).  One such, is this concept of consent and contract.

In civil law, if I offer to build you a house, and you agree to pay me to do the job, then we have a contract.  If you are 15 years old, however, you don’t have the legal right to consent and the contract is void.  If you are mentally ill you may be incapable of consenting and the contract is void.  If you lied, and don’t own the land where I am to build the house, the contract is void.

Those same concepts apply to Canon Law and are the most frequent grounds for the Church to grant an annulment, or as we now say, a Declaration of Invalidity of Marriage.

If you, or the spouse, could not fully and properly consent because of immaturity, undue influence, mental incapacity, fraud or the like, then you did not willingly and knowingly enter into the irrevocable covenant, and the Sacrament of Marriage did not occur.  The civil marriage may have occurred, but the sacramental bond did not.

If you think you have the grounds for an annulment, don’t go it alone.  There are priests and psychologists in this town who are skilled in what the Church is looking for to make a determination as to the validity of the Sacrament of Marriage.  Don’t go it alone.

There are those of you who have not gotten an annulment, but did obtain a divorce, and then had the wonderful good fortune to meet and marry a loving spouse.  I cannot, I will not be limited to holding your hand and simply saying, “I’ll pray for you.”  My God mandates that I do more for you.

800 years ago, St. Francis knelt in the chapel of San Damiano, and the voice of God said to him, “Francis rebuild my Church.”  Today the call to you and me is, “Build my Church”.

Eight hundred years after the call to St. Francis, Pope Francis has said to the Bishops of the world, “We must bring mercy to divorced Catholics who have found love again.”  My prayer is that they listen.

At the Kiss of Peace, turn to the person you love, and tell them:  “Because God sent you into my life, I am a better person.”  For that truly is: “The peace of the Lord.”  I want every loving couple in this room tonight/this morning to know that you are a blessing  — a blessing    to this faith community of St. Timothy’s, because love makes a family. 

The peace of the Lord be with each of us.

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time             B  Cycle                       Sept. 27, 2015

There are a lot of things I love about Pope Francis. One of them is how much he resembles Jesus, as revealed in today’s gospel. “Whoever is not against us is with us.”  How wonderfully broad minded and large hearted Our Lord is! When people do good, they should get credit for it, even if they haven’t been one of his followers.

The Pope is like that. For example, when he spoke to Congress, he praised four great Americans. Two of them, martyred in the cause of civil rights, were not Catholic. Abraham Lincoln was at least nominally Protestant; Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Baptist minister. When he mentioned Dr. King’s name, the TV camera did a close-up of old Congressman John Lewis of Georgia. He was overwhelmed that his old friend and companion in the freedom marches should be lauded at the Capitol in Washington by the Pope of Rome. The two Catholics, Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton were models of inclusiveness, too.  Merton, a Trappist monk, died in Asia where he was attending a conference for better understanding between eastern and western religions. Dorothy Day ministered first to drunks in the Bowery and then to the poor of every persuasion all over the globe as she founded the Catholic Worker Houses. During her lifetime, she was regarded with suspicion by some eminent bishops and cardinals. But Francis praised her before Congress, even though in her early years she was divorced and had an abortion, which she deeply regretted. But that’s the way Francis is. He really believes in forgiveness and mercy.

In another magnificent ecumenical gesture, our Holy Father addressed the world Islamic community and expressed his sorrow for the death of more than 700 Muslims in a stampede on their pilgrimage to Mecca. “We are with you in your sorrow”, he said.

He shared our sorrow at Ground Zero in New York, taking part in an ecumenical ceremony along with Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs. He looked comfortable doing it.

Spiritual writer Kathleen Norris tells of being in an airport waiting area in which the line passed by a mother holding an infant.  The baby smiled with absolute delight at every face that came her way. Norris reflected that God looks at us that way because each of us is a beloved of God.  In the words of the psalmist, “The Lord takes delight in his people” That’s the way Francis  seems to look at everyone., this man who after addressing Congress  could lunch with homeless people, who after speaking to the United Nations could spend the afternoon chatting with parochial school children in East Harlem. I still can’t believe I have a bigger car than the Pope. (Don’t tell him that.) Lord, keep him safe and bring him back soon to us. Amen.

25th Sunday – B cycle 9.20.15

Mark 9:30-37

A  child such as this

On their way to Capernaum

Jesus told his disciples

that he was going to be captured and killed

At the first chance they had

they huddled secretly to discuss

who would take his place

When finally in Capernaum

Jesus asked what they had been talking about

back on the road

It’s here we see

the genius

of Jesus

He takes a small child into his arms and says

whoever wishes to be the greatest

in the kingdom

must become a child

who is open to everything and everyone

everywhere

who wonders

if the sun sizzles

when it sets in the sea

who gives each

singing robin

a private audience

who never misses

a chance  to applaud

the imagination of clouds

who gives morning hugs

and night hugs

the credit they deserve

who talks to cherry trees

and oak trees and spruce trees

as to little friends next door

who prays that freedom will fall

like rain on all

as the song promised it would

Peter whose words

were always chasing his thoughts

interrupted

Lord to find a successor

with charm like this

may take a long,  long time

Jesus said…

I know.

23rd Sunday  – B cycle 6 September 2015

Mark 7: 31-37

The passage that is so important, significant to and emblematic of the deaf community is the gospel of Mark 7.  It recalls the encounter of Jesus with the deaf man.  Jesus says to the man, Ephphatha, that is, “Be Open”.

For generations of deaf Christians, Jesus’ call to be open serves as a particular invitation to the deaf to their full participation in discipleship.

Ephphatha! Mark’s gospel adds the detail that Jesus “groaned” as he prepared to say this word, revealing his total concentration and engagement as he sought to heal the deaf man. It is unusual for the gospels to record a word in Aramaic, which suggests that the teller actually heard Jesus speak this word and felt its power in a way that impressed the author of the gospel deeply.

Mark 7, Ephphatha is an invitation to full participation in discipleship to not only the deaf, but to the hearing community as well.

How many of us, hearing and deaf, are closed to the full flow of life and love?  Closed with deep-seated reactions such as fear, resentment, ignorance, or distaste?  These may arise in relationships to people or situations very close to us, or in relation to more public issues like immigration, gay marriage, gun control, racial or ethnic prejudices. Being “open” in the gospel sense does not necessarily mean agreeing with and affirming everything that happens; rather, it means being genuinely open to building relationships and love, even with those who hold positions different than ours.

Will it be easy for you and me to be opened — no — but we all know that anything worthwhile is difficult, costly, and requires a lot of effort.  Remember, even Jesus groaned.

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time      B Cycle     August 30, 2015

I am proud to be the pastor of the most Jewish parish in the Archdiocese of Hartford. We have six synagogues within our parish boundaries. No other parish can make that statement!  And a lot of good Jewish neighbors. The Gospel today is about a bunch of Jews arguing. One of them is named Jesus. I’m always a little scared when certain gospels are read because they can lead to anti-Semitism, and this is one of them. I don’t think it will have that effect if we give a little background.

First, the Pharisees were by and large very good people. They believed God could be worshipped not only in the Temple or synagogues, but also in the routines of daily life. Now the Jews for a long time had purity rules like washing hands and table implements before eating. This was for hygiene and also to give them a sense of cohesion and identity, which they needed as a small nation in a hostile world. The Pharisees gave these practices an extra spiritual dimension. For them a meal done with care and devotion could be a religious experience. And that’s true. That’s why it’s important for families to gather around the table for dinner. When we were growing up, maybe we would have preferred to eat alone in front of the TV, but looking back, I think a lot of us cherish those bygone family meals.

Another thing to consider is that Middle Eastern people look on arguments differently than we do. They love to argue, and part of the fun is insulting one another. And Jesus, by the way, was very good at that. He calls the Pharisees “hypocrites”.  That would be a terrible thing for us to call anyone, but not necessarily in the Middle Eastern context of Jesus’ day. If you put an “old” before hypocrite—you old hypocrite, you old fox, you old devil—maybe you’ll get the flavor of Jesus’ words. The rabbis were always arguing over interpretation of the religious laws, and Jesus fits quite comfortably into that setting.

This is not a gospel passage in which Jews who believe only in external laws are contrasted with Jesus who thought that what counts is what’s in the heart. The Jews knew that, especially the Pharisees. Read the Old Testament and you’ll find all kinds of passages extolling love and brotherhood and giving to the poor—and condemning legalism.

In arguing that the distinguishing mark of a true servant of God is not strictness but kindness, compassion, love and mercy, Jesus was not telling them anything they didn’t know. He was reminding them of what was best in their own noble, sacred Jewish tradition.

This might be a good time for reminding ourselves that the Second Vatican Council stated emphatically there is no place for anti-Semitism in the Catholic Church, especially in our post-Holocaust world.

August 21, 2015

 Matthew 22:34-40

You shall love your neighbor as yourself

I am alone in the park this morning.

A light rain

dapples the pond

and delights the ducks sitting on the wall.

It is quiet here,

I  keep my own company,

hoping to know myself better,

I am the only one who can.

Jesus says

that this is the beginning of wisdom,

discover yourself

and love what you discover

and others because of that.

20th Sunday – B cycle 16 August 2015

John 6:51-58

The difference between the Bread of Life that Jesus gives us and ordinary bread is beyond comparison.  When we eat other bread, that bread becomes a part of us.  It enters our body and changes into us. Advertising tells us, “Wonder Bread builds strong bodies 8 ways.”  That is just Madison Avenue fluff.

But when we eat the Bread of Life, just the opposite happens.  It doesn’t change into us; we change into it.  It transforms us into what it is: the Body of Christ.  And this is why, if we eat it, Jesus Christ tells us, we will live forever.  By eating the Body of Christ, we become one with Christ.

When you pause to ponder this great mystery, you can’t help but marvel at what an incredible gift it is. 

In last week’s homily, Fr. Cody told the story of a family who ate cheese sandwiches for breakfast, lunch and dinner as they emigrated to the United States because they didn’t know that the sumptuous meals served onboard the ship were included in the price of the tickets.

The world is filled with people like that family on that ship.  They journey through life totally unaware of the incredible Banquet of Life that God spreads before them each day.  The banquet of Holy Communion and its include in the ticket of life.  Yet, my friends, there is something infinitely more tragic.

For many of us, we become so accustomed to receiving the Eucharist that we take it for granted.  We fail to appreciate it.  Fail to appreciate what it has done to us.  That’s the real tragedy. 

In a few minutes Fr. Frascadore/Cody will extend his hands over the bread and wine, call down the Holy Spirit and the bread and wine will be transformed into the Body and Blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ. 

Are you and I transformed after we consume the Body and Blood of our Lord?  When we walk out that door tonight/today are we a better person than when we walked in?  Are we the type of person our dog thinks we are? Can strangers recognize us as Christians?  Do we appreciate what the Bread of Life has done to us?  And for us?

Or has it become so routine that we just take it for granted;  that we have become just more Madison Avenue fluff?

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time      B Cycle      July 19, 2015

“When he saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them.” These words are precious. The Gospels tell us a lot about what Jesus did and said, but little about how he felt. I don’t like the translator’s  word “pity” because that suggests he is looking down on them—and us—whereas one of the central messages of the New Testament is that Jesus walks alongside us as our brother and friend. On second thought, I can think of a worse word than “pity” and that is “pitiless”. Our Lord is anything but that.

I was wondering what to do with all this when I got an e-mail from Bobbi Moran. It was a column by Nicholas Kristoff, the New York Times columnist with a heart.  He begins, “If you subscribe to the caricature of devout religious believers as mostly sanctimonious hypocrites, the kind who rake in cash and care about human life only when it is unborn, visit the doctor here.

“Dr. Tom Catena, 51, a Catholic missionary from Amsterdam, New York is the only doctor at the 435-bed Mother of Mercy Hospital nestled in the Nuba Mountains in the far south of Sudan (Africa). For that matter, he’s the only doctor permanently based in the Nuba mountains for a population of more than half a million people.

“Just about every day, the Sudanese government drops bombs or shells on civilians there, part of a scorched earth policy to defeat an armed rebellion. ‘We’re in a place where the government is not trying to help us; it’s trying to kill us,’ Dr. Tom says. The United States and  other major powers have averted their eyes, so it is left to Dr. Tom to pry out shrapnel from women’s flesh and amputate limbs of children, even as he also delivers babies and removes appendixes.

“He sees all this off the electrical grid without running water, a telephone or so much as an x-ray machine—while under threat from constant bombing, for Sudan has dropped 11 bombs on hospital grounds.

“Given the shortage of resources, Dr. Tom relies disproportionately on makeshift treatments from decades ago. ‘This is a civil war-era treatment’, (the American civil war era that is),´he says, as he points to a bag of sand he’s using as a weight for a broken leg.

“Dr. Tom has worked in the Nuba  Mountains for eight years, living in the hospital, on call 24-7 (the only exception being when he’s unconscious with malaria once or twice a year). He acknowledges missing pretzels and ice cream and, more seriously, a family. He parted from his serious girlfriend when he moved to Africa, and this is not the best place to date.

“For his risks and sacrifices, Dr. Tom earns $350 a month, with no retirement plan or regular health insurance. He is driven, he says, by his Catholic faith. ‘I’ve been given benefits from the day I was born’, he says, ‘a loving family, a great education. So I see it as an obligation, as a Christian and as a human being, to help.’ There are also many, many secular aid workers doing heroic work. But the people I’ve encountered over the years in the most impossible places—like Nuba where anyone reasonable has fled—are disproportionately unreasonable (in the best sense) because of their faith.”

The English writer G.K. Chesterton once wrote, “Christianity hasn’t failed; It’s just never been tried.” He exaggerates. It’s been tried, not nearly enough, but when it’s been tried, really tried, when people like Dr. Tom imitate Christ by pitying the vast crowds, it is a great and glorious thing, an inspiration to us all.

Thanks , Bobbi!

15th Sunday – B Cycle 12 July 2015 

Mark 6: 7-13

two by two

The disciples liked walking with Jesus

through the villages and towns of Palestine.

Every day

was an adventure.

They would never forget the day

the blind man opened his eyes

and saw clouds for the first time

or the playmate’s embrace

of her young friend thought dead.

It was happenings like these

and many more

that made their journey with Jesus

unmatchable.

So today

when Jesus told them

that they were going to go

two by two to the villages and towns without him

they were crushed.

They couldn’t imagine

such a day,

he was their life

their energy

their inspiration.

Take nothing

but a walking stick

no food, no sack, no money,  a pair of sandals

as though to say  you need to take nothing

but the thought of me.

So set out on your journey,

be open to those who enter your life—

wherever and whenever.

Let my voice be yours

my ears be yours

my spirit be yours

from now on

it is up to you

to make the journey exciting

and take my word for it

it will be

if you trust that I am always at your side.

You will open eyes

closed to the future of acorns

and ears to words they’ve heard a thousand times

but never caught their meaning.

Are you afraid

that you cannot do

what I have done

know that fear is a timid enemy

which runs  when faced with trust.

I did not come

to leave undone

what I came to do

I came to give that task to you.

So match your faith

with mine a bit,

a grain of wheat

is what I said,

and you will do amazing things,

causing you to wonder,

is it I, or him within me,

living as he said he would.

14th Sunday – B cycle 5 July 2015

Mark 6:1-6a

“Where did he get all this?  What kind of wisdom has been given to him?  Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary . . .?”  And so they rejected him.

Prejudice!  Which so easily slides into bigotry!

Two weeks ago we witnessed the ugliest manifestation of prejudice in a church in Charleston, South Carolina with the deaths of nine people of God.

Last week, the US Supreme Court issued two decisions that have evoked the full range of emotions of the human condition.  Those two decisions:  one concerning the Affordable Care Act, better known as ObamaCare, and the second on the rights of same-sex marriage.

For some, those decisions were cause for celebration, after long hard-fought battles in our legal system.  For others, equally long, hard fought battles, but now in defeat, a painful loss. 

The question is how will that loss manifest itself.  Will there be a reasoned, rational acceptance with moderated dissent, or the irrational, inflammatory rhetoric that so often stokes the fires of prejudice and bigotry?  I pray never to the level of Charleston, South Carolina, but one never knows.  There have been 5 suspicious fires set in Black churches since Charleston.

Unfortunately, since those two decisions have come down from the Supreme Court, I have heard commentary at both ends of the spectrum.

With regard to the Affordable Care Act, ObamaCare, certainly there are aspects that remain at odds with Catholic teaching.  I believe we can work to resolve those issues and still support the Court’s 6-3 decision.  I choose to stand with Archbishop Blase Cupich of Chicago who said, and I quote, “We have issues with provisions of that legislation and will continue to advocate to preserve our religious freedom.  However, we understand that for millions of individuals and families, most of them the working poor, this decision preserves access to health care and the promise it offers of a healthier, longer life.”  End of quote

Mercy and compassion will trump prejudice every time.

Now let’s turn to the other decision that came down from the Supreme Court.

There are those on the fringes who are claiming that now that there is marriage equity with straight and gay couples, the flood gates will open:  why can’t a brother marry his sister; or a man marry two or three wives; or a man marry his horse?  You laugh, but who knows the absurdity of some minds.

It is so easy to dismiss, to belittle people, particularly when we don’t personally know them.  It is so easy to be prejudiced    “who is he, he is only a carpenter, the son of Mary”. 

The brilliant Jesuit priest and author, Fr. James Martin, wrote on his Facebook page, “God wants us to love (gays).  And not a twisted, crabbed, narrow tolerance, which often comes in the guise of condemnations, instructions and admonitions that try to masquerade as love.”

Instead, I’ll join Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego who said that while the Church will continue to honor traditional marriage as a gift from God, the Church, and I quote, “will do so in a manner which profoundly respects at every moment the loving and familial relationships which enrich the lives of so many gay men and women who are our sons and daughters, our sisters and brothers, and ultimately our fellow pilgrims on this earthly journey of life.”  End of quote

For as someone else said, “Who am I to judge”.

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time                               B Cycle        June 28, 2015

Two women share the gospel spotlight with Jesus. One weakened by a 12-year irregular menstrual flow dares to touch his cloak. Perhaps she is afraid to confront him directly. Women in her condition are considered polluted and polluting. They are barred from worship in the Temple and the synagogues. Whomever they touch are also excluded, temporarily, from the worshipping community. She may think he is angry when he says, “Who touched me?”  Instead he offers her peace and healing. “Daughter”, he calls her. How wonderfully porous are the family boundaries of Jesus! Those who do the will of his father are mother and brother and sister to him. This legally unclean woman who touches him with faith is his daughter. Her natural womanliness is no barrier between them. It only brings them closer.

The other female is a girl who appears to be dead. Touching a corpse also creates legal impurity and exclusion from Temple and synagogues. Jesus takes her by the hand. “Talitha koum”. Little girl, I say to you arise. “The words are kept in their original Aramaic because they are so important. Jesus, the life-giver will someday say “koum: “rise” to all those who are faithful in him. Mark tells us she is 12 years old. This is not an irrelevant detail. He lets us know she is on the brink of womanhood.  He brings her back to life, enabling her to cross the threshold.

Women are very important to Jesus. His mother became his perfect disciple. Women accompanied him on his journeys. Women, unlike the 12 apostles who fled, stood by him during his passion and death. A woman, Mary Magdalen. was the first witness to his resurrection. Jesus treated women as equals. Sexism, treating women as inferior and unclean, is a sin against him as well as them. Systems that foster female dependency,  that keep women uneducated and powerless and upwardly immobile are to be condemned like other ugly structures built on racial and ethnic discrimination.  “Rise”, Jesus tells a woman. That word echoes today as we ask God to help us realize its full implications.

6.23.15   “Be Quiet”

Be Quiet!Jesus said

Let us cross the sea to the other side.

I need to look at my life from a distance.

Have I done what the Father expected me to do?

Or when my time is done, will things here be the same as when I came?

Will the poor still be begging

will the soldiers still be dying

will thieves still be stealing?

Have I made a difference

or have my words and deeds been in vain?

The waves deepened

and the winds screamed more loudly than before.

Jesus stood in the stern of the boat

stared at the wind and waves

and said simply, “Be quiet.”

With a word

a simple word

the sea went still.

Why didn’t he do the same for our outrageous world?

Unlike the wind and water

we of the world

have wills of our own.

We are authors of our own story,

not God.

If we wish a peaceful world

Jesus’ words must be ours:

“Love others as I have loved you.”

If in our prayer this week we find

that we are thinking of others

and not ourselves,

we’ll know that

we are fulfilling the expectations of Jesus

and are moving the world toward peace.

At times it doesn’t seem so

but we need to remember as Jesus did

that we are on God’s time not ours.

Feast of the Most Holy Body & Blood of Christ 6/7/15

Mark 14:12-16, 22-26

Nine years ago, I knelt before Archbishop Mansell, and as he placed his hands on my head, he called forth the Holy Spirit. I am the few members of this faith community who has received all seven sacraments.  Like Fr. Frascadore/Cody, I received the Sacrament of Holy Orders that day.  Within the sacrament of Holy Orders there are three ranks:  bishop, priest and deacon.  Fr. Frascadore/Cody was first ordained a deacon, and he elected to go on to the next rank, the priesthood.  I elected to remain at the rank of deacon because, I, like many of you, also have received the benefit of the Sacrament of Marriage – although there are days, I’m sure, when my wife questions how much of a benefit it is.

The theme of my first homily nine years ago was a line from the play, Les Misérables, “To love another person is to see the face of God.”  And I have seen that love hundreds and hundreds of times as your deacon.  I’ve seen it in times of great joy and in times of great sorrow.  When you welcomed new members at baptisms and when you stood together to say goodbye to family and friends at funerals.  I’ve seen it when you reached out in all our social ministries, when you shared your time, your talents and your treasure.  “To love another person is to see the face of God.”

Today’s gospel tells us of the first Eucharist, as the apostles gathered around the table, in the breaking of the bread and the sharing of the cup.  In a few minutes, Fr. Frascadore/Cody will say those very same words as we, brothers and sisters of Christ, gather around the table and share in this life-giving meal.

The Book of Genesis tells us that God rested on the seventh day of Creation.  I don’t think God got tired or needed to take a break.  Rather, I think God purposefully stopped short of completing Creation, and it is now our task to finish the job with Him.

The lesson in today’s gospel is WHAT, WHAT the living Christ continues to do, year after year, century after century: He takes whatever we can offer Him, blesses it, and makes it a blessing for others, because God comes to people through other people.

That is what this feast of the Body and Blood of Christ is all about.

My friends, no one eats alone.  Even in our darkest days, no one eats alone.  While we may be alone in our homes, here in this room, around this altar we share this life-giving meal with each other and with Christ.

Expect God to be your strength, when you are weak. Expect God to be your voice, when you cannot speak for yourself! Expect God to be your eyes, when you see nothing but the darkness of the night! Expect God to see the best that is in you, especially when you no longer believe in yourself.

Fully expect God and know that he is there!

Expect this, especially when the visions of your heart clash with the realities of life, especially when the realities of life seen to suggest that God is absent. Dare to look at the ugliness and the pain, he is there — He is there — He is there in the midst of it all!

There is a wonderful parable found in a piece of 5th century literature about a monk who was kneeling in prayer when three people past him: one was physically handicapped, the second was a homeless, starving beggar and the third had been beaten and abused.  At seeing them, the monk raised his head and in a more fervent prayer he cried out, “Great God, how is it that a loving Creator can see such things and yet do nothing about them?”

After a long silence, God said, “I did do something about them    I made you.”

Pentecost Sunday                              B Cycle          May 24, 2015                     

We have just heard a wonderful demonstration of the diversity of our parish. The many languages spoken by the people of St. Timothy’s bring us back to that glorious day when the Spirit came upon the infant church and drove the first Christians into the streets of Jerusalem to proclaim the message of the resurrection. Reversing the dynamics of the catastrophe when the Tower of Babel came tumbling down, leaving its builders unable to communicate with one another, the Spirit enabled Jews from all over the world to understand the first preachers in their own languages.

But notice, the Spirit did not eliminate diversity in favor of some new world language like Esperanto. At the time of Christ, Jews were scattered all over the world, in what we call the diaspora. They spoke the languages of the countries in which they lived and had only rudimentary knowledge of Hebrew and Aramaic, the languages of Israel. But in the preaching of the Spirit- filled apostles, each heard the message of Christ in his or her own tongue. The Spirit stands not for uniformity, but communication.

I remember a moving Australian film “Rabbit-Proof Fence” which dramatized the woeful consequences of the spirit of uniformity and the drastic lengths to which human beings will go to implement it. The movie is about three half-caste girls—their fathers were whites, their mothers, aborigines. In the early part of the last century, the Australian government instituted a policy designed to eliminate or at least control persons of color. To achieve this end, half-caste girls were taken away from their families and put in government schools where they would be trained for domestic service and allowed to marry only whites. The thinking was that in three generations all blackness would disappear. The movie is the story of the three girls’ escape from the school and their journey of 1,200 miles back to their homes, following a rabbit-proof fence dividing much of Australia which had been put up to encourage farming. Two of the girls make it home and marry within their own culture. We are told that the eldest had a daughter who was taken from her at the age of three, whom she never saw again. The government continued this policy until 1970.

We may be tempted to think, “That couldn’t happen here.” .Sadly it did. We have our own horror story of a government attempt to kill a culture.  in this case native American culture. State schools and government –subsidized church schools were set up with the good intention of integrating native Americans into the mainstream of national life. But to achieve this end, native customs and languages were suppressed, sometimes brutally. For too long, the philosophy was “Kill the Indian, save the man.”

Pentecost is a celebration of diversity—and that was only the beginning. Soon the Spirit would lead the church to include gentiles as well as Jews and to bring the message of Christ to the ends of the earth. We Catholics should be the greatest supporters of diversity. Our church by definition is catholic—universal, transcending national boundaries. It includes persons of every race language and way of life. When the Irish author James Joyce wrote his book “Finnegan’s Wake,” he used the abbreviation HCE for the Catholic Church. The author explained it stood for “Here Comes Everybody!” I remember a few years ago, an Ivy League official admitted his school had put a ceiling on the number of Asiatics it would admit because it wanted the student body to “look American”. What does an American look like? What does a Catholic look like? The only correct answer to both questions is: A human being. In the 21st century the American Catholic will most likely look Hispanic because that group will soon constitute a majority Worldwide, the fastest growing Catholic churches are in Africa and Asia and Latin America. May the Holy Spirit enlighten us to not only accept our diversity, but to rejoice in it.

Seventh Sunday Easter – B 17 May 2015

Act 1: 1-11

Usually I use the Gospel as the basis of my homilies, but today, I was fascinated by how the Apostles chose a replacement for Judas, as told in the first reading.  St. Luke’s story of how St. Matthias became the second twelfth Apostle.

Numerology, or the study of numbers, has always been an important aspect of Jewish tradition.  For example, if you ever see checks given as gifts at the birth of a Jewish baby, weddings or at Bar/Bat Mitzvah, you will find that they are written in multiples of 18.  The words for “to life” in Hebrew is “chai”.  The numeric value of the two letters that make up that word are 10 and 8, so together, 18.  The number 7 indicates “perfection”: 7 days of the week, 7 sacraments. And finally, the number 12.  There were 12 tribes that founded Israel, John tells us in Revelation that there are 12 gates made of pearl in Heaven, and in Hebrew language the number 12 denotes that something is complete.  Of course, Jesus chose 12 Apostles.

After the treachery and death of Judas Iscariot, Peter, in the first reading today, states that for the Scripture to be fulfilled, someone was needed to take his place. Two candidates were selected, Justus and Matthias.  The eleven prayed over the two, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this apostolic ministry.”  Then lots were drawn to see which of them should be made one of the Twelve: and the choice was Matthias.

I’ve often wondered what happened to Justus.  Did he accept God’s will, and remain a faithful follower?  Or like many of us, did he become angry at not being chosen, did he take his ball and go home?  But that’s a homily for another day.

Drawing lots to select a candidate for an office sounds strange to us, but it was a recognized Jewish custom: for example, the priest who was to enter the Temple sanctuary and burn incense was not chosen by some rotation or seniority, but by lot.  Random events, independent of any obvious natural or human cause, were seen as a direct expression of God’s will. Drawing lots was not a substitute for human decision – human beings, the eleven Apostles, had chosen Matthias and Justus as candidates, but by drawing lots it was a way of putting the final choice into the hands of God.

When we attain some high or responsible position, we may be tempted to congratulate ourselves on being the best candidate for the job. We would do well to remember that we have gotten there because of the people we have met and the things we have found ourselves doing.  So be grateful for the teachers, and mentors, and probably even more so, to the roadblocks, the failures, and ironically even the people who interfered with our past successes.  Because all of these:  the people, the good and the bad, is what has shaped who we are today.

Pope Francis recently said that the Son of God, by becoming flesh, calls us to a “revolution of tenderness” towards others.  Use the gifts and talents that God has given us, shaped by a lifetime of encounters with others to pay it forward. It is what you have been chosen for:  it is your lot in life.

5.8.15  

I chose you

after this morning’s gospel i asked

why was i chosen-

not randomly

but deliberately

and not by

just anyone

but by Jesus

i am baffled by the choice

i’ve reviewed my history

and haven’t come up with a good reason

i was in a school play

when i was ten

but messed up the lines

i didn’t know which end

of a basketball

to pick up

and flat

was the only key

i could sing in

high school and college

weren’t much better—

Einstein’s the legacy was secure

so why was

i chosen

i’ve searched for a reason

with ball point pen

and pad

i’ve gone back over eighty-two years

and the only comforting thing

i’ve found is that

the lord’s ways are not our ways

with his eyes and ears

he picks ups

what we miss

maybe this year

the heavenly choir

will be looking for someone who sings flat

but i am not going

to worry about it

i’ll keep plugging along

and when i get

to see Jesus

face to face

and i’ll ask him

why of all the talented and gifted ones—

me

he’ll say

do you remember

the day

you sat with an old man

you thought a beggar

in the Newcastle train station

yes i do

i remember

it clearly

well the only thing you got right

was Newcastle—-

he was neither old nor a beggar

5th Sunday of Easter 3 May 2015

John 15: 1-5

“Those who remain in me, and I in them, will bear much fruit; for you can do nothing without me.”

Kim Chi Ha is a South Korean poet.  In the 1970s he was tortured and sentenced to life in prison by a repressive Korean regime.  What was his crime?  It was writing a series of poems protesting Korea’s treatment of the poor.  In the midst of his ordeal, Kim never lost his Christian joy or his sense of humor.  When an angry judge added seven years to his life sentence, he joked, “I have to stay in prison seven more years    after I die.”

One of Kim’s most famous works is a play entitled The Gold-Crowned Jesus written in 1978.  In it a leper, the most despised outcasts in Korea, discovers the risen Jesus sick and suffering in a Korean state prison.  When the leper recovers from shock, he asks Jesus:  “Why do you stay in prison?  Why don’t you use your divine power to free yourself and destroy evil in the world?”  Jesus surprises him, saying:  “My power alone can neither free myself nor destroy evil in the world.  There is only one way I can do these things: It is people like you.  With people like you, I can do all things.  Without people like you, I can do nothing.” 

These words of Jesus remind us that when he walked on earth, he taught and healed people with his earthly body; his own hands, arms, and mouth.

But in these modern times, Jesus teaches and heals not through his physical body, but through ours.  We are the hands, arms, and mouth of Jesus’ mystical body.

This prompted Saint Teresa of Avila to say to the Christians of her time:  “Yours are the only hands with which Jesus can do his work. . . . Yours are the only eyes through which the compassion of Jesus can shine upon a troubled world.”

The words of Jesus in Kim’s play and Saint Teresa’s writings fit in beautifully with today’s Gospel.

Jesus tells us:  “I am the vine, and you are the branches.  Those who remain in me, and I in them, will bear much fruit; for you can do nothing without me. . . . “My Father’s glory is shown by your bearing much fruit; and this is the way you become my disciples.” How do we remain in union with Jesus in order that we may bear much fruit?

Ironically, the movie La Dolce Vita serves as a good example.  It opens with a statue of Jesus being towed across the Italian sky by a helicopter.  Behind it is a second helicopter carrying a writer named Marcello.  Marcello grew up in a religious family in a small Italian village.  As a young man he moved to the city, where he abandoned his faith.  Instead of finding fulfillment, however, he found only emptiness.  After 7 days of debauchery, the movie ends with Marcello standing on a beach, looking down at a decaying fish and studying it.  Cut off from the sea, the fish has died.  The message for Marcello is clear:  He is dying also.  He is dying the worst kind of death, a spiritual death, cut off from Jesus.

And that brings us back to each one of us here this afternoon/morning.  Unless we remain united to Jesus, we are also doomed to die, like the fish, cut off from the sea.  We are doomed to die, like Marcello, cut off from Jesus.  We are doomed to die, like a branch, cut off from the vine.

If we remain in union with Jesus, we will fulfill the purpose for which we were created. “My Father’s glory is shown by your bearing much fruit.”

Fourth Sunday of Easter          B Cycle     April 26, 2015

Why is Jesus the GOOD Shepherd? Because he is totally dedicated to the welfare of his flock. He  never  deserts us. He accompanies us, no matter how far we may stray..  In the midst of our greatest temptations our most shattering heartbreaks, he is there for us, bringing strength, inspiration , comfort and hope.

There’s an old saying “Everybody dies alone.”. You can’t take it with you. You can’t take anybody else with you, but even in death we have a

travelling companion.. He’s there, too. “Even though I walk in the valley of the shadow of death,  I fear no evil, for you are at my side, with your rod and your staff that give me courage. 

The ultimate test of a shepherd’s goodness is his willingness to lay down his life for his sheep. Jesus knows us and loves us. That is why he died for us. Our salvation meant more to him than his own life The Good Shepherd’s staff is the cross on which he offered his supreme sacrifice to save us from our sins and keep us always in his company  in the perfect happiness of his resurrected life.

4.19.15 

Lk. 24:35-48

Do you have you anything to eat?

The last time the disciples

saw Jesus alive

was when Pilate sentenced him to die.

The only disciple who saw

him die on the cross

was John.

The other disciples gathered

fearfully in a room

asking— “What do we do now?”

For two days they asked the same question,

“What do we do now that

Jesus has gone?”

Then as though in answer to their question,

Jesus appears standing in their midst

fully alive.

He shows them his hands and feet

signed by the piercing of

nails.

Nothing makes sense to them.

He was crucified and buried

now he’s here asking, “Have you anything to eat?”

Could it be

that it was all a terrible nightmare

from which we’ve just awakened

and tomorrow morning

we’ll be back on the road with crowds

following us from town to town

and synagogues going silent

when he speaks

and the blind smiling at the sight of a tree.

“No,” Jesus said, “ it has not been a dream.

I had to suffer, die and be buried,

that you and all would be saved.”

Now it is up to you

gathered in this room

to go and preach this message of salvation

that the Father so loves us

that he gave his only son

that we may have life and have it everlastingly.

2nd Sunday, Easter 12 April 2015

John 20:  19-31

I have a friend, a parishioner here at St. Timothy’s who, with his family, is struggling this weekend with the ultimate medical decision:  authorizing the removal of life support from a dying loved one.  I, also, have had to make that decision to remove life support.  What struck me was a homily I gave several years ago.  While I don’t normally repeat old homilies, today I am using parts of that previous homily; in the hope that it speaks to my friend and his family, and any one else who is experiencing the dark days of doubt.

While John’s gospel is the only one with the story of the Doubting Thomas, even then there are only 155 words about Thomas.  And yet, there is so much more we can learn from St, Thomas.

After Jesus’ death on the Cross, the apostles thought that it would be certain death for all of them.  Surprisingly, it was Thomas who said: “Then let us go so that we may die with him.”  It was a courageous statement, yet we don’t remember him for that.  It is interesting, that the story that gives Thomas his infamous nickname, is the same story that has Thomas making an earth shattering confession of faith:  where Christ’s Divinity is bluntly and unequivocally stated.  Look at his confession, “My Lord, and my God.” Not teacher or Rabbi.  Not Messiah.  But God!  It is the only place in the gospels where Jesus is called God without qualification of any kind.  It is uttered with conviction as if Thomas was simply recognizing a fact, just as 2 + 2 = 4, and the sun is in the sky.  You are my Lord and my God!  These are certainly not the words of a doubter.

Faith is not the absence of doubt; it is the overcoming of doubt.  I have had doubts.  I have been standing with the parents, staring at that tiny, little white casket as we bury their infant son, and I have thought silently to myself: Why, Lord?  Is it all true?  Is resurrection reality?  Are the scoffers correct?  Is it all simply ancient myth designed to get us through the night?

Jesus said, “Thomas, you have believed because you have seen.  Blessed are those who have not seen yet still believe.”  That should be a great comfort to all of us.  Jesus is talking about you and  me.  You and I will never see Jesus in this life.  Jesus understands it’s harder for you and me to believe than for Thomas, and he says we are blessed because of our belief.  So much of what is good in life, also requires this leap of faith.

How can you conclusively prove the qualities of love and friendship?  How can you establish beyond a shadow of a doubt your devotion to your children?  We can’t:  we trust; we believe; and because we do, we again    are blessed.

When we come to Mass on Sunday we come to see further, to see into the heart of God, to feel his presence.  Fortunately, and maybe not as often as we wish, It is in those moments of spiritual light, when we have felt the presence of love and strength when God shows us true reality.  I say to both you and me; there are times in our lives when we face grief, or disappointment, or pain, or depression.  There are times when our hold on God, falters.  When these moments of true, deep doubt come, let me urge something upon you.  If you remember nothing else about this homily, please remember this:  NEVER DOUBT IN THE DARK, WHAT GOD HAS TOLD YOU IN THE LIGHT.

Those moments of spiritual light when we felt the presence of God are so very important, because they allow us to get through the many dark nights of doubt and despair.

In moments of light, God has told you that he has numbered every hair on our heads.  Don’t ever doubt that.

In moments of light, God has told you that resurrection is reality.  Don’t ever let the darkness cause you to doubt that.

In moments of light, God has told you that he will never desert you.  In those days of silence and despair, don’t ever doubt that.

And so my friend, and anyone else in need today:

NEVER DOUBT IN THE DARK,

WHAT GOD HAS TOLD YOU IN THE LIGHT.

Easter 2015

The resurrection is not wishful thinking tacked on to the end of the Gospels. It is the reason why we have Gospels at all. It is because Jesus was raised from the dead and was seen by many eyewitnesses that the early Christian community wanted to preserve his story and bring it to us.  The word Gospel means “Good News” and the best news of all is that Jesus is risen and is only the first to rise, to be followed by all who are faithful to God. We don’t have any account of the actual moment of the resurrection. Artists over the centuries have imagined it, have tried to fill in the gap and portray Christ as he bursts from the tomb. Usually they show him carrying a flag, as if to say he is our standard bearer, leading us in the parade to salvation.

Resurrection starts even before death. St. Paul says, “If you ARE risen with Christ, seek the things that are above.” What would we expect resurrected people to be like? Your list is as good as mine, but I think they would be positive and hopeful, joyful because God has given them victory over sin and death, because God has loved them into an unlimited future. I would expect them to be light on grudges and strong on love for God and neighbor I would expect them to rise above all pettiness and be quick to forgive. In short I would expect them to be brimming with Christ’s life and bringing that life to the world.. The resurrection is the great antidote to despair. Even in our most painful sufferings, our most humiliating rejections, we should hold our heads high and never lose sight of our standard bearer.

5th Sunday – Cycle B 22 March 2015

John 12:20-33

Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.”

We have all had beautiful dreams that died:  dreams of doing great things; of being successful; of having the perfect marriage or the perfect family.

Sometimes things just don’t quite work out or they don’t pan out as we had hoped.  Perhaps some have even turned into nightmares.

Often around middle age, we become aware that many of our dreams are never going to be realized the way that we had hoped.

When that time comes, we can respond by blaming other people for the loss.  Or we can blame bad breaks for interfering with the realization of those dreams.

What is this message that Jesus is trying to tell us in this Gospel:  wheat has to die to produce fruit; if you love your life, you lose it, if you hate it, you preserve it?

When we blame others, or bad breaks, or whatever the excuse, we are like the grain of wheat that refuses to die.  We allow regret, or anger or depression to take over our lives.

Suppose our marriage is falling apart and we need outside help but are too proud to ask for it.  Dying to our own will means dying to our pride and asking for help.

Or suppose close friends tell us we are developing a drinking problem, but we keep denying it, in spite of mounting evidence.  Dying to our will means admitting our problem and seeking counseling.

Suppose a friend or a family member has hurt us in some way and we are holding a grudge against him or her.  Dying to our will means forgiving that person from the heart and treating him or her with love once again.

Dying to our will is not easy, no one said it was.

Jesus didn’t find it easy to agree to do whatever his Father wanted him to do.  But he trusted God, put himself in his hands.  He died to himself, and as a result, bore much fruit for God and us.

My youngest sister is an amazing woman.  Before she was 35 she buried her first husband due to cancer, and she herself is a breast cancer survivor:  her favorite expression, her mantra, the lesson she has taught her older brothers and sisters is, “Let go, let God.”

Malcolm Muggeridge, the British TV celebrity who had such a powerful influence in making Mother Teresa’s ministry known to the world, had this to say about the cross and its blessing.  He wrote:

“I can say with complete truthfulness that everything I have learned in my seventy-five years in this world, everything that has truly enhanced and enlightened my experience, has been through affliction and not through happiness.”

When we allow regret or anger or depression to take over our lives; when we let sorrow and heartbreak push us further away from Christ, we overlook one of the beautiful mysteries of the Gospel.

As our Lenten season draws to a close, as we begin to walk the passion of Jesus Christ himself renewed, look back over your own personal life, to those nights of darkness and what we feared would be a heavy cross    in the coming week, I ask that you consider    how often did that cross turn into a great blessing.

3.8.16

We have nothing in common

This is a story

that begins simply

gets complicated

and then simplifies.

Jesus meets a Samaritan woman

on a mountain

drawing water from a well.

Jesus asks her

for a cup of water.

She says she can’t give him water

for she is a Samaritan

and he a Jew

and Samaritans and Jews share nothing in common.

We worship God on this mountain

she says

and you worship God

in the Temple of Jerusalem.

We share nothing in common.

But we do

Jesus says

I am thirsty

and water will quench my thirst

and in need

it will quench your thirst

as well.

We have water in common.

It is what binds all living beings together

no matter who they are

or where they live.

And in sharing water with one another freely

we worship God

no matter where the place

for God is everywhere.

I told you

that it was a simple story

that got complicated

but eventually simplified.

The next time we stand by the sink

to draw a cup of water

pause- the heart of prayer-

and as soon as the fresh water touches our tongue

we will beg God

that all be happy

at peace

and free from suffering.

6th Sunday Ordinary Time – B 2/15/15

Mark 1: 40-45

He shall cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean!’  And he shall dwell apart, making his abode outside the camp.”

Next week we begin, again, our 40 day journey through Lent to Easter, and we will ask ourselves the question that was posed to the Prophet Micah thousands of years ago:  “What must I do to please God.”

The answer remains the same:  Love mercy, do justice and walk humbly with our God.

Today the scourge of leprosy is not what it was in the time of Moses and Christ.  But, unfortunately, my friends, there are modern-day lepers who are forced to dwell apart, to live outside the camp because society has called them unclean:  the poor, the illiterate, the hungry, the downtrodden and the marginalized.

One of the most effective answers to Micah’s call to do justice has been the Catholic Relief Services.  In the past 40 years alone, it has distributed $250 million dollars to fight hunger and poverty in Third World countries and in the United States itself.

As we begin our Lenten journey, the faith community of St. Timothy will join more than 13,000 other US parishes in Catholic Relief Services’ Operation Rice Bowl.

Seventy-five percent of the money raised through Operation Rice Bowl helps feed tens of thousands of hungry people in more than 40 countries. The remaining 25 percent goes to alleviate hunger and poverty in dioceses across the United States.

Operation Rice Bowl invites each of us to make deeper connections with the poor and vulnerable.  Operation Rice Bowl helps us reach out to our brothers and sisters in need around the world through the traditional Lenten practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, while learning about their lives and cultures.

Each week in Lent we will focus on one of 5 different themes in the Church’s call to Social Justice:  The Sacredness and Dignity of the Human Person, the Environment, the Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers, the Empowerment of the Poor, the Call to Us to be One Community, and finally, the Common Good.

Fr. Cody has written a letter in today’s bulletin outlining ways in which Operation Rice Bowl can truly be a faith-in-action Lenten experience for each of us.   His letter explains the possible ways to donate, the calendar, which is enclosed in the Rice Bowl with stories of hope and suggested daily activities, the website link and an app for your mobile devices.  Each week, focusing on one of the five themes of Social Justice, Catholic Relief Services will highlight a different country and how it has benefited from Operation Rice Bowl.  At the beginning of our Mass each week, the colors of that country will be draped over our Lenten cross, and rice will be added to our celebratory basin to remind us of our brothers and sisters in faith from that country.  

As you come up to receive Communion today, we invite one member of each family, one member per family, to take home a Rice Bowl.  They will be returned after Easter.

What must I do to please God?  Love mercy, do justice and walk humbly with your God.  But this year, none of us will walk alone. This year we walk humbly, but in solidarity, with all who benefit from the Catholic Relief Services Operation Rice Bowl.

Now I shall bless the Rice Bowls.

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time      B Cycle          Feb. 8, 2015

Jesus was a busy healer. “When it was evening, after sunset,” Mark tells us,” they brought to him all who were ill.” Broken hearts need healing just as physically injured body parts.do. Pope Francis has indicated this in his comparison of the Church to a field hospital binding up the wounds of life’s casualties. In a recent interview, he showed himself once more to be a true holy father, concerned about his wounded children. We are blessed to have a leader of such warm humanity..

This is what he said in the interview:  “In our synod, our meeting with bishops from around the world, we posed this question regarding divorced people who have remarried: What do we do with them? What doors can we open for them? This was a pastoral concern: will we allow them to go to communion? Communion alone is no solution. The solution is integration of these people in the parish. They have not been excommunicated, true. But they cannot be godparents at baptism, they cannot read the Scripture at Mass, they cannot distribute communion, they cannot be catechists, teaching our young. There are about seven things they cannot do!  I have the list over there someplace. Come on! It certainly seems like excommunication to me!

“So let us open the doors a bit more! Why can’t they be godparents?  “No, no, no, some will say, what testimony will they be giving their godchild?” What they will be giving is the testimony of a man or a woman saying, “My dear child, I made a mistake, I was wrong here, but I believe our Lord loves me. I want to follow God, sin will not have victory over me. I want to move on.” Is there any more Christian witness than that? And what if one of the political crooks among us, corrupt people, is chosen to be somebody’s godfather? If he is properly wedded in church, would we accept him as a godfather? What kind of testimony will he give to his godchild? A testimony of corruption! We must change things a little! Our standards need to change!”

People don’t get divorced as a kind of lark. Marital split-ups leave broken hearts, fractured spirits. Divorce is one of the most traumatic human experiences.. The Church’s treatment of its divorced members has often added insult to injury. Wouldn’t Christ want us to change that?  But shouldn’t we exercise some caution here? Sure, we must never forget the Christian ideal is: marriage for life. Jesus was quite clear about that But it doesn’t always work out that way. I’ve been stationed in several parishes and in each one, for what it’s worth, I have thought that some of our best parishioners were divorced and remarried persons. I can’t tell you how much hope it gives me that a very important fellow in a white cassock seems to feel the same way.

3rd Sunday- Ordinary Time 25 January 2015

Mark 1: 14-20

“Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.”

  That quote is from Dr. Martin Luther King and it was on a card distributed at a funeral at which I had the privilege of giving the homily.

The funeral was for a young woman, Mary, who died at age 30.  I had known Mary for 10 years and during that time a strange disease, that the doctors were never able to fully identify, destroyed her hands and feet, her ability to walk and stand, and finally her internal organs.

Mary knew Dr. King’s quote and often told it to people when asked how she could remain so cheerful and upbeat despite the pain, the hospitalizations and the surgeries.  What also impressed me about Mary was the group of friends she had.  These were 20 year-old young adults.  Most of us, when confronted with a friend or colleague experiencing devastating illnesses tend to pull back and distance ourselves    not these kids    they pushed closer to Mary.

I’m a member of a Scholarship Board and Mary was one of our recipients of an educational scholarship when I first met her.

As Mary’s disease began to take its toll on her body she had to drop out of college, which of course would have normally ended her scholarship.  But not in the eyes of her friends.

A couple of these young adults had just graduated from law school, and they scoured the bylaws of the Scholarship.  They convinced a group of us stodgy old men who sat on the Board of Directors that there was enough flexibility in the bylaws, that combined with the almost $7,000.00 they raised on their own, that the Scholarship could help cover the costs of the hospital bed when Mary needed it, the costs of a wheelchair, the cost of sending her to California for cutting-edge medical treatment, and finally    finally even the costs of her funeral, complete with bagpipes.

On the weekends these friends would pick up Mary in her wheelchair, and bring her to the bars, the concerts, the sporting events.  And at the end, all twelve of them were with her in the Intensive Care Unit at the hospital. 

Notice the number:  12    coincidence?  I don’t know, but certainly prophetic, and profound.

They had all been in CCD  — Faith Formation    with Mary, they had made their Confirmation together at St. Mary’s in Unionville, but like my own children, none of them went to church any more.  Oh yes, Christmas when they came home for the holidays, or for a wedding or a funeral, but not on Sundays.  And yet, they knew and acted on the words in today’s Gospel:  “Come follow me.”

The day before Mary died, with her mother and her 12 friends in the ICU, she said she was afraid to fall asleep.  The next day, however, as they again were gathered around her hospital bed, one of the twelve    to this day,  nobody remembers who it was    began to say the Lord’s Prayer out loud.  As the other’s joined in, Mary’s breathing slowed, her heartbeat declined, and at the exact moment    the very exact moment that the Amen was said, all the machines in that ICU room went flatline.  Mary was finally at peace.  With the love of these friends and God, she climbed that staircase.

“Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.”

Baptism of the Lord        B Cycle Jan 11, 2015

I’ve always resented this feast a little. It’s because I love Christmas. I look at the baby in the nativity scene, and I’m floored that this is God. But today on this feast, presto, he’s an adult male, standing before John the Baptist at the Jordan River. I guess I want him to stay in the manger, to remain that adorable infant.

Treating people like children long after they’ve outgrown that category is a weakness easy to succumb to. Some parents still see a newborn when they look at their teenager or 20- or 30- something. Society has treated certain groups as perpetual kiddies, incapable of mature thought. Women. For example, were not allowed to vote until 1920,, and that was not in Afghanistan but in the United States of America. A new Hollywood blockbuster “Selma” reminds us of the sad, outrageous fact that only 2 per cent of that city’s black citizens were able to vote as late as the 1960s, a pattern common throughout the South.

Older persons are sometimes dismissed as living in their second childhoods. Last Sunday I read this in The New York Times: “When a large sample of Facebook groups, created by 20-29-year olds was examined by the Yale School of Public Health, three quarters of the group were found to denigrate old people. More than a third advocated banning old people from public activities like shopping.”

All of us have to be allowed to grow up— and stay grown up., to take our places as adults alongside Jesus at the Jordan. We are all God’s beloved sons and daughters, empowered to live out what that relationship entails.

One of the things that makes me sad is the pattern I’ve witnessed in some families: The parents are very conscientious about bringing their children to church, seeing that they attend religious instruction, and that’s great, but when the kids leave home, the parents leave church. The unfortunate message they convey is that religion is for children, something you outgrow.

At the Jordan, Jesus committed himself to acting as son of God, to doing what God wants. And what does God want? Isaiah sums it up nicely in the first reading: “I have called you for the victory of justice!” — we are called to do our best to make this a world where the poor are blessed, where no one is victimized, discriminated against on the basis of race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or age. That’s an adult mission, a grownup agenda, and our own baptism gives us all the power we need to carry it out.

Excuse me, I think I’m gonna go shopping.

The Epiphany of the Lord 1/4/2015

Matthew 2: 1-12

A family was driving through Kansas on vacation when the five-year-old in the back seat said, “Boy, it’s so flat out there, you can look farther than you can see.”

What a great phrase — “you can look farther than you can see.”  You wonder if that five-year-old grew up to be Yogi Berra.

To see a new vision.  If we could but rewrite the headlines in the newspapers and on television, to change the world around us, the pain, the suffering, the things that scare us.  All of us look at the threat of terrorism and long for a vision, a cure for this deadly scourge.  Scientists look at the troubling signs of rising global temperatures and hope for a new vision of how to stave off a crisis.  Many of us long for a vision that will again unite us as one people.  How do we look at each other without seeing the color of people’s skin, how do we stop racial profiling, how do we support the men and women—the thin blue line—our police officers who serve and protect.  Pope Francis is urging us and the Church to look farther than we can see.  The vision thing.  It’s so important.

Many of us need a new vision for our personal lives.  If only we could see something that we haven’t seen before.

How we look at our world and how we look at ourselves will determine to a great extent what we will contribute to the world and how great we will feel about our lives.

That’s the power of vision.  Nothing happens without it. The world hungers for people with vision—for people who look farther than they can see.

In the year 7 B.C. the planets Jupiter and Saturn appeared very close together in the night sky, casting a bright glow similar to that of a single large star. The following year, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn were also closely aligned.  Some scholars believe one of these two events produced the bright light in the sky the wise men followed when they came to Bethlehem two thousand years ago. You know the story. What fascinates me is this: hundreds of thousands of other people living in that part of the world saw the same bright light in the sky, but they didn’t leave their homes to go find the newborn king.  What was different about these Magi?  They not only had Vision, they chose to act on it.

First of all, the Magi were searching for something that was real–something that would transform their lives.  God loves searchers.

This Sunday is called Epiphany on the church calendar, and it is a celebration of the coming of the Magi.  In our secular language, an epiphany is a new way of seeing or understanding.  It is so appropriate that we should begin a new year with an epiphany, a new way of seeing, an image of what our world can be, of what our lives can yet be.  Like the Magi of old, we need to open our minds, stretch our imaginations.

The German statesman Konrad Adenauer put it this way, “We all live under the same sky, but we don’t all have the same horizon.” Today is a day for expanding our horizons, to scan the skies, to become searchers.  Of course, there’s danger.  The world hates “The misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers.  The round pegs in the square holes.  The ones who see things differently.”  Be forewarned.  Sometimes they crucify such persons.

Epiphany. Seeing life with new eyes. Seeing in the world new possibilities. That is what I wish for each of us this day. Seeing in the world new possibilities. The Magi came searching. Their search took them on a journey of faith. When they found the newborn king they offered him gifts, gifts that represented the best that was in them.  This is the kind of vision we need as we begin this New Year—a vision to build new lives and a new world.  To offer the gifts each of us has.  To look farther than we can see.

12.28.14  homily

He listened and asked questions

After Bethlehem

Mary, Joseph and Jesus

settled in Nazareth

a small town in the Galilean hills.

Jesus lived there with them for thirty years.

Other than that

we hardly know anything

about his years from childhood to adulthood.

The only story we have

is about their family’s annual trip

to Jerusalem

to celebrate the Passover.

Jesus was twelve years old

and when the festival was over

Mary and Joseph left for Nazareth

thinking Jesus was behind them with relatives.

He wasn’t.

He stayed in the temple

with the rabbis

listening to them and asking them questions.

This is the one insight we get

into the life of the boy

who grew to become

the most significant person in history.

To listen and ask questions

skills learned in his home

are the skills

that would define his public life.

At thirty years old

he left the rural town of Nazareth

and entered the crowded cities

and market places of Palestine.

He listened to the blind beggar on main street

who called his name, “Jesus”

and asked

“What is it you wish?“

“I wish to see, to see as you see.”

Jesus knew then

that it was more than the shape of a tree

the man wanted to see.

“I wish to look at each tree”

the blind man said

“as the only one in the forest

the color of its leaves

the reach of its branches

the way it sketches the sky

and what dance it dances in the wind

and what it tells me about me.”

And to the little girl

he told to “Arise.”

Jesus asked

“What do you wish to be?”

Without pause

she said

“A story teller

telling stories that children will love to hear

that will make them laugh

or maybe even cry for a bit

but will have them get up each day

with  “Arise” sounding in their ears.”

Jesus learned to listen and ask questions

skills not learned from written texts

but from the book of witness

written by the example of those who care.

Christmas 2014

Our second reading exclaims, “The grace of God has appeared!”—that is, has been made visible. In the Old Testament God said, “My face you cannot see, for no one sees me and still lives.” Ex 33-20. Now God invites us to come close without penalty. He has not come to scare us or overpower us. Who would have thought that when the world finally was ready to see God, it would look into the face of a baby?

The two ideas—God and baby—are so opposed , so hard to reconcile that in the end we can only burst into a litany  of astonishment that almost seems sacrilegious:

O helpless God, we adore you. We depend on you to save us.

O God incapable of rational thought or speech, we ask you to guide us by your wisdom.

O insignificant God, we believe you are the Lord of heaven and earth.

He, though divine “emptied himself, taking on the form of a slave, being born in the likeness of human beings..” Phil 2-6 O emptied God, of your fullness we have all received.

Spend some time looking into the face of Jesus in the Christmas crib. For prayer you don’t need words. Just bask in the wonder of how far God has gone to bring us near, to draw us into that perfect love that drives out fear.

4th Sunday Advent B 21 December 2014

Luke 1: 26-38

Four weeks ago, I spoke to you on the First Sunday of Advent and we talked about how God comes to us through other people.  The theme then, as it is again today, is how God uses ordinary people in ordinary places to do extraordinary things.  Four weeks ago, it was homeless men and women in Manhattan and Washington, DC.

Today, on the fourth Sunday of Advent, the last Sunday in this period as we await Christmas, the ordinary person is a young teenage woman named Mary and the ordinary place is Bethlehem:  ordinary people and places that God uses to change the course of all humanity:  our salvation.

The message of Christmas would be just as powerful if Christ had been born in a great city, to a wealthy queen, but somehow this tiny village and this poor young woman seem to capture the essence of the Christ event.

Maybe your family will gather around the television this Christmas season to watch, for one more time, the classic motion picture It’s a Wonderful Life. Today, almost 70 years after it was released, it still resonates that an ordinary man, George Bailey, in the ordinary town of Bedford Falls, New York, can discover that living each day honorably, with faith in God and a selfless concern for others, can make for a truly wonderful life.

For many of us, watching this movie is just one more part of our Christmas tradition.  The word tradition comes from the Latin word traditio, which means the “action of handing over.” Over the centuries Christian people have been “handing over” from one generation to the next the songs, the stories, the rituals that have come to mean Christmas to us. That is a vital part of our lives. We treasure that which has been handed down.

In each of these traditions, be it Nathan telling King David; or the Angel Gabriel telling Mary, or even the Angel Clarence telling George Bailey; the message is the same:  “Do not be afraid, “God is with you.”

You and I are the ordinary people, who live in the ordinary places through whom God can do extraordinary things.  There are people this Christmas season, because of the loss of a job, the death of a loved one, economic stress, or illness are filled with sorrow and not joy this holiday season. You may be the person who today, brings light into the darkness.  For them to understand the message, “Do not be afraid, God is with you.:

Still there are others, who may not be hurting at this time of year, but still need a word of encouragement; to the military personnel you see at the airport say, “Thank you for your service.”  Tell the policeman you see in downtown Hartford, “Be safe today, Officer.”  To the harried store clerk say, “Thank you for your smile and patience.”

Simple, ordinary words  — with the potential for a profound, extraordinary impact.

That ability to bring light to someone is the gift, the traditio, that God gives us.

Mary and Bethlehem remind us that we are a part of a sacred history.

May the Christ child be born anew in my heart and your heart today.  Be born in us, be born in our world.  For blessed are those who give and do not remember, and receive and do not forget

If you are going to be away and not with us this Christmas, then on behalf of Fr. Cody, Fr. Frascadore, the staff and all of the ministries here at St. Timothy’s, I wish you and loved ones, a Blessed and Merry Christmas and safe travels. 

1st Sunday in Advent, cycle B 30 November 2014- Deacon Dennis Ferguson

Mark 13: 33-37

Be watchful!  Be Alert!

Little Drummer Boy on piano begins in background

As the story goes, the young man was walking down a crowded avenue in New York City at this time of year.  If you have ever been to midtown Manhattan at Christmas time, you know what a spectacular scene it is.

Rockefeller Center with hundreds of tiny white lights, a 40-foot Christmas tree and the skaters on the ice rink.  The store windows are filled with glittering gifts and decorations; the crowds and the Christmas music coming from every store and loud speakers on the street.  Perhaps if you are lucky    a light dusting of new snow on the ground, swirled around by a soft wind blowing through the canyons of Manhattan.

She was there; sitting on the pavement in front of Macy’s.  Her clothes were rags; three different coats, one over the other; her hair matted, her face covered with dirt and sores.  In her hands she held a cup, asking for the price of a meal.  She had to be in her sixties.

As the young man heard the song “The Little Drummer Boy” and its pa rum – pum pum coming from the store, he stepped around her, and thought, “God, how could you let this happen?”

He entered the store, never saw her again and put all thought of her out of his mind.

Music stops

Some of you have heard that story before, and know that I was the young man who stepped around that lady in front of Macy’s.  I told that story in a homily back in 2011, but I needed to tell it, and more importantly, I needed to hear it again.  I was 25 years old at the time, and next Sunday is my birthday, I will be 70.  In the 45 years since that day in New York, I would like to think that when I see loneliness and despair I think about that woman and what I did and didn’t do.  That I learned that the question is not, “God, how did you let this happen, but rather, Dennis, how did you let this happen.”

I would like to think I learned that lesson in those 45 years – but my friends, to be honest – I have forgotten that lesson all to often.

So I write this homily, having just celebrated Thanksgiving surrounded by my family and looking forward to my birthday next week, I write it probably more for myself, than for the faith community of St. Timothy’s. 

The very first lesson I recall my dad teaching me was when we dropped off a box of used clothing from my family to a family of Lithuanian refugees, made up of three sisters and their 5 children.  One of the kids was my friend, we were in the third grade together.  The women didn’t know if they were widows, as their husbands had been imprisoned by the Soviets when Lithuania was invaded, and the women and children had fled to America.

We dropped off the box of clothing at their back door, and as I went up to ring the doorbell, my Dad, grabbed my arm, and pulled me back into the car.  As we drove away, I said to him, “They won’t know who left the clothes.”  And my Dad replied,  “You don’t want them to ever know!”

That was in the third grade.  If there is a single thought I hope you take away with you from today’s readings, from Isaiah, Paul and Mark, it is the thought    Be watchful!  Be alert!  You never know when we will come face to face with the Master.  God comes to us through other people, sometimes through Lithuanian widows.  Be watchful, be alert!

A couple of weeks ago, I was in Washington, DC with two friends from high school, one of whom, Tony, is now the sportscaster for the Seattle Seahawks.  They were playing the Washington Redskins that night.  So killing time before the game we were just walking around the city.  We had walked past the White House and were on our way back to the hotel, when Tony stopped to speak with a homeless person.  We watched Tony speak to this gentleman for a few minutes and then give him some money.  After Tony rejoined us, we asked what he had said.  It seems Tony told the gentleman that he was looking for a cab to get to the White House, (remember we had just walked past the White House) and the gentleman explained that the White House was only 4 blocks away, that we could easily walk it, so Tony gave him the money he saved in cab fare.  I saw Tony do that same thing two other times that weekend, asking homeless people how to get a cab to places he had just been to; and then giving the cab fare that lady or gentleman had saved Tony.

God comes to us through other people, sometimes through street people in Washington or in front of Macy’s.  Be watchful, be alert!

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.

Little Drummer Boy begins again in background

Today, as we begin Advent, that great period of waiting in the church’s calendar, the message in the three readings is    “Be watchful!  Be alert!”  Don’t delay, do it now, love someone today.

“God, how could you let this happen?”

No, I hope after all these years I remember that the correct question is, “Dennis, how could you let this happen.”

Little Drummer Boy solo for one verse

11/16.14 Fr. Frascadore

Don’t let fear get in the way

fear is the garden-kiss of trust

tyrant fear

keeps you from flying

taking risks

writing verse

speaking before an audience

it shackles your feet to a stake

lest you go in search of

the person

you want to become

and ultimately be

but you break those shackles

the day you know that

you need no other

to define your life

but yourself

then you are free

to climb to the highest ledge

journey as far as your legs will go

write as you wish

and say what your spirit prompts

the secret to your existence

is trust

that which fear fears most

fearing that someday you will awake

and fearlessly be who you wanted to be

30th Sunday – A 26 October 2014

Matthew 22: 34-40

Many of us have been caught up in the controversy that swirled around the Vatican synod over the past couple of weeks.  First with the release of the preliminary document that called for embracing the notion about homosexuals and divorced/remarried Catholics.  Then with the revolt by the conservative bishops and finally with the watered down compromised text that will be studied over the course of the next year.

As a New York Times editorial pointed out, the mere fact that Pope Francis ordered church leaders to address these challenges and then published the rejected language for all to see was a landmark in Vatican history.  The tensions and disagreements are not unusual; Vatican II was fraught with the same; what is different is that with Vatican II, we were not privy to the controversies until years later:  Francis has put them out front and center. 

So for the next year scholars will develop treatises to argue the pros and cons of the various positions, but in the final analysis it will be the Pope, as it was with John the 23rd, Paul the 6th, and now Francis who will determine the direction the Church takes in the coming years.

Where he will end up is anybody’s guess.  While all this controversy was playing out in the newspapers and on TV with the bishops arguing the esoteric points of theology, publishing books and position papers and orchestrating well planned-out media campaigns, the Pope was quietly celebrating his private mass each day in Santa Marta chapel.  In his usual impromptu homily that first Monday, he gave a strong rebuke to the rigid legalists, the Doctors of the Law, the Pharisees that we see in today’s gospel.  They, and I’m quoting Pope Francis here,  “did not like” Jesus, he “was dangerous; doctrine was in danger, the doctrine of the law” which the theologians had formulated over the centuries.  While the theologians who confronted Jesus had  “done this out of love, to be faithful to God,” they had become “closed”, they had “simply forgotten history.  They had forgotten that it is God, not them, but God who is the God of the Law, but He is also the God of surprises.”  The God of Surprises is a frequent Jesuit expression, and as we know, Francis is a Jesuit.

Pope Francis concluded that homily by cautioning against, “hostile inflexibility — that is wanting to close oneself within the written word, and not allowing oneself to be surprised by God.”

Of course, Pope Francis was speaking about the Doctors of Law, the rigid legalists, the Pharisees of 2000 years ago, the ones who closed themselves within the written word, and not the God of Surprises.    or was he?

For the Confirmation Rite of Election Homily -Click Here

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time      A Cycle     October 12, 2014

Next weekend will be Worldwide Mission weekend, a very important time for every Catholic Christian.  Pope Francis in his wonderful encyclical The Joy of the Gospel tells us we should live our lives in a missionary key.  Spreading the faith, sharing the good news of Jesus Christ should be a priority for us all. It is a law of life that once growth stops, decay sets in.  We don’t want that to happen to our church. Christian missionaries are still putting their lives on the line to bring the gospel to new audiences.  They sacrifice themselves because they believe they have a treasure, a pearl of great price to bestow on millions unaware of Jesus and the salvation he brings.  That is the missionary key in which Pope Francis wants us to play the music of our lives, its harmony a remedy for the world’s discord.

Now we’re going to show you a video about one of the Church’s newest mission fields—Mongolia.  You can feel the joy of the gospel, the excitement of life in Christ in these new converts.  They radiate the happiness of the first Christians on Pentecost, filled with the spirit, astounded that they are loved and cherished by God, despite the hardship of their lives.  May they inspire us to bring that same joy to our world.

27th Sunday – A 5 October 2014

Matt 21:33-43

“Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be given to a people that will produce its fruit.”

Two thousand years ago, Jesus told that parable to the chief priests and elders. 

Some 800 years ago in a broken down chapel in the plains below the town of Assisi, the voice of God said, “Go, Francis, and repair my house.’

This past Wednesday, that same call to build the Church and make her fruitful was heard; this time from Pope Francis in his weekly audience before more than 35,000 people in St. Peter’s Square.  As the Pope said, “Ever since the beginning, the Lord has filled his Church with the gifts of His Holy Spirit, making her forever alive, . . . and while in every day language we refer to them  . . . as talents or natural ability,  . . . it is far more than a personal quality, it is a grace, a gift from God the Father  . . . so that it may be placed at the service of the entire community, for the good of all.”

You and I, my friends, are those people who are expected to produce that fruit.

This weekend, in O’Connell Hall, your church, St. Timothy’s, is showcasing scores of ways that the Lord has filled his Church with the gifts of His Holy Spirit, and while in everyday language we refer to them as the ministries of this parish, each truly is a grace, a gift from God the Father  . . . so that it may be placed at the service of the entire community, for the good of all.”

This month is Respect for Life Month, and one of the newest ministries to be featured in the Ministry Fair is the Respect Life Committee.  Last year the Connecticut Legislature repealed the death penalty, and this year it will again consider assisted suicide.  We know where the Church stands on abortion.  But where does it stand, and more importantly, where do you stand, on the environment, immigration, and the rights of the elderly and the disabled.  Stop by and meet Peter Schwartz and Tom Waller and see if this is something you are interested in.

Maybe that’s not your thing, and that’s OK.  Maybe it is music, or playing with young children, distributing Communion, or arranging flowers, or knitting, serving coffee, or any one of scores of ministries, gifts from the Father, graces that are available to each of us as members of this faith community.

Who knows?  But I ask you to take a walk down the hall, ask the questions, see what is available, meet the ministries.

Because this I do know, Christ told the chief priests and elders long ago that the kingdom of God has been given to you and me, but    we    are expected    to produce its fruit.

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time      A Cycle    Sept. 28, 2014

Twelve years ago, as I’m sure you all remember, I preached on the readings for this weekend. We were still under the spell of 9-11, and Fr. John Stack, who preached from this pulpit with distinction for many years, said something very important. People were still asking why God had allowed such monstrous human evil to go unchecked. Fr. Stack said why was the wrong question. And for a while I kept asking, “What’s the right one?

I came to the conclusion that when something terrible happens, the right question is Where? Where is God in all this? We’re much more likely to get an answer to this question than Why? Why? Looks only to the past. Where? spurs a constructive search in the present and the future. God is always present even in the darkest places, offering courage and hope and healing.

I remember a man in a divorced and separated group who said, “Divorce is a way of holiness.” He hadn’t wanted to be divorced, had tried not to be, but it happened. That was where he was. Now he had to find God there, just as we all have to do in our lives.

Twelve years ago I baptized a baby. The baby was named after his uncle who was killed at the World Trade Center. His aunt was his godmother. This young widow, who wanted no fuss made about her, had obviously found the strength to go on after her life was suddenly, irrationally shattered. She stood at our baptismal fount that Sunday, affirming life and goodness and the future. She had found God in there somewhere.

This past week I spoke with a parishioner who had no idea of what I would be talking about today. She told me she had travelled to be with her sister who was dying of lung cancer. She said to her sister, “I’m so proud of you. You’re facing this with such courage. How do you do it?” Her sister said, “I’m where God wants me to be.”

In the Gospel Jesus tells the chief priest and elders they can find God in some unlikely people. “Tax collectors and prostitutes are entering th kingdom of God before you.” Like the first son in Jesus’ parable, they seemed to say no to God, but then they repented and were converted to him. The chief priests and elders, on the other hand, those pillars of the Temple, those icons of respectability— they were like the second son who seems to say “Yes” to the father, but doesn’t come through. They were so full of themselves they couldn’t see God in the forgiveness of sinners. No wonder Our Lord called them “blind guides.”

St. Paul contrasts them with Jesus. Though equal with God, he emptied himself. taking on the form of a slave, identifying himself with sinners—in what Henri Nouwen calls his “downward mobility”. Emptying is the way we travel if we are truly his disciples.

All of us in one way or another are too full of ourselves. We need to take to heart the words of St. Paul: “Humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each one looking not just for his own interests, but also for those of others. In short, “Have that same mind in you as was in Jesus Christ.” In emptying himself, he wasn’t diminished. Instead, he had room for the whole world. You can find him— anywhere.

September 14, 2014  JOHN 3: 13-17

World as sacrament

Today we pause

to behold the universe

that surrounds us.

All that we see

in heaven and on earth

is a gift of God.

And God loved this gift

so he sent his son

to teach us to treasure it.

Jesus came and taught us

to stay awake for each

day is an original experience

sadly missed

if  lived

habitually,

to scan the distance

for mountain peaks

for they are dreams

which will remain as such

until scaled 

by us,

to open our ears

to river rhythms

as water twists and turns

rumbling over stones

and resting in pools

for it is our life unfolding,

to watch daisies

dance wildly

in a meadow

to a tune

their ears can hear

and ours just imagine,

and after dark

to look at

a trillion stars

and know    that we will live

forever after

the last star flickers.

Each dawn Jesus tells us

to alert our senses

to every sight and sound

and tie our imaginations

to every tree stone and star

until the whole world

becomes a sacrament

bestowing the grace

upon our days

to walk

gratefully

in the presence of our loving God.

 

The 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 7, 2014

Matthew 18: 15-20

Thirteen years ago we gathered together in churches, synagogues and mosques in shock and grief for the victims of an unimaginable act of horror. This Thursday, 9/11, will bring us together once again, much as a family comes together to commemorate the anniversary of a loss. We don’t gather to forget; we gather to remember. To close the book of death is to close the book of life. We choose to open both. We remember humanity at its worst   – and humanity at its best –   and weigh our own lives in the balance.   Those of us who gather have consciously chosen to remain awake, but perhaps, thirteen years may have caused the promises of those original days to fade.

Today, I choose to remember everything. I choose to remember our worst nightmare, because I must not, and will not, give up dreaming. I choose to remember and thereby honor my grief, for grief as a measure of loss is also a measure of love. I choose to remember on these solemn days the unblemished sky on that perfect morning. To remember the silver planes on tilted wing. To remember the instant of impact and the billowing dust clouds of implosion. To remember the sacraments of courage and bonds of kinship throughout this great land. To remember that I might again awaken to life’s preciousness and also its fragility.

The purpose of life is not to get through our allotted span of years without disruptive incident or accident – both are outside our control. The purpose of life is to live in such a way that our lives will prove worth dying for.

Thirteen years ago, Evil was present in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. Today we see that Evil in Afghanistan and Pakistan; Somalia and Yeman; Iraq and Syria; Libya and Nigeria.

Yes, we will grieve for the journalists Jim Foley and Steve Sotloff, and for the thousands of Christian, Shia and Kurdish Muslims who are being slaughter by ISIS and the radical Sunni Muslims; but we will do so as a community.

When we feel alone, it is good to be alone together. When we feel like crying, it is good to see tears in one another’s eyes. What gifts these are – simple, saving gifts. Human joy and human pain are sacraments to be shared.

We actually did become one family in the days after that first 9/11, grieving as one, comforting each other, intimate in our shared mourning. An act intended to divide us, instead brought us closer together. Together we reawakened to how slender is the thread of life, and how essential it is that we weave those threads together.

Surely that first 9/11 proved the true character of this community and its people. We can best honor all those who have died at the hands of Evil, then and now, not only by recalling their sacrifice, but also by how we respond, with kindness and gentleness and unaccustomed patience. Only in this way can death bring us to life.

So when you say a prayer over these next couple of days or light a candle, pray not only to God, but also to the better angels of our own nature. Pray to live in such a way that your own life might itself be the answer to your prayers. Dona Nobis Pacem.

Several years ago, I spoke with a dear friend, Nan Lenihan, about 9/11. Nan’s son, Joe, worked and died in the World Trade Towers. I asked Nan how she coped with Joe’s death, what message she wanted you and me to hear. Nan’s message was one of faith: a faith much deeper than mine; a faith I can only hope to possess one day.

Nan said to me, “Dennis pray the Our Father. Pray, ‘forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us’.”

This from a mother who lost her son in 9/11!

Remember, there is only one thing that can never be taken from us, only one human monument that cannot be destroyed: even by death; and that is the love we have given away. To honor the innocents who died on that September morning thirteen years ago, to honor the innocents of today; the Foleys and Sotloffs and countless others; we must redeem this day in September and the tomorrows before us, the only way we surely can: by gifts and works of love; by loving our neighbor as ourselves, even daring to love our enemy.

Remember, each of us only builds one lasting monument over the course of a lifetime. We build that monument in one another’s hearts.

Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.

The 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time | A-Cycle

August 31, 2014

Matthew: 16:21-27

Lost and found

I will be killed here,

Jesus tells Peter.

“God forbid,”Peter says.

“No such thing will happen here.”

“My death will shatter your dreams,

won’t it Peter?

You are already thinking 

about a kingdom, my kingdom

with you in the court

in a woven robe and drinking fine wine.

Get behind me,Peter.

You are thinking like a man.

Think like God-

 lose your life and you will find it.

Peter remember that- 

-don’t just hear the words; 

but think about the words

long and hard

and keep thinking about them

until the vain thoughts in your head disappear. 

This won’t  not happen overnight,

Peter, but keep thinking

and someday the words

unless you lose your life you’ll never find your life

will strike you as

lightening from the sky

In its brilliance

you’ll understand

that it is in giving what you have been given

you discover who you are meant to be.

So don’t worry about

the woven robe and a dinner served with wine

Believe  instead 

that someday you will awake

knowing who you are

and what you are to do.

And the joy of that moment will be incomparable 

for what you had lost has been found

and the meaning of your life thereafter 

will be spoken in a simple sentence.


The 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time | A – Cycle    

Aug. 25, 2014

Why didn’t Jesus want anybody outside his inner circle to know he was the Messiah, (in Greek the Christ), the anointed one? Why didn’t everyone eventually recognize him as the Messiah, the Christ?

These two questions have a common answer: Jesus was not the kind of Messiah people were expecting. What they were expecting was a royal figure, a king of David’s line, a warrior who at the end of days would free Israel from foreign bondage and found a kingdom of Justice and peace. A public proclamation that he was the messiah could have been misinterpreted as a call to arms leading to a bloodbath at the hands of the powerful Roman Empire.

Jesus had no use for royal trappings. He was born in a stable, grew up in poverty, in an obscure village. He was a manual laborer who deplored violence and told his followers to turn the other cheek. He was criticized for keeping low company. He taught that the poor and the meek were the ones who were blessed. When he rode into Jerusalem, David’s city, the Messiah’s city, he rode, in a parody of royal pretension, in a kind of divine joke, on the back of a donkey. He met an inglorious end, submitting to the lowest form of execution: death on a cross.

No wonder so many failed to recognize him as the Messiah. He was the opposite of what they were waiting for. The royal-warrior is absent from the New Testament. Well…that’s  not quite true. Actually he does show up, but you have to wait a long time for him. He appears in the last book, the book of Revelation, the Apocalypse, almost at the end, in the 19th chapter.

The author, John the visionary writes: “I saw the heavens opened, and there was a white horse; its rider was called Faithful and True. He judges and wages war in righteousness, His eyes were like a fiery flame, and on his head were many crowns. He had a name inscribed that no one knows but himself. He wore a cloak that had been dipped in blood, and his name was called the Word of God. The armies of heaven followed him, mounted on white horses and wearing clean white linen. Out of his mouth came a sharp sword to strike the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod, and he himself will tread out in the wine press the wine of the fury and wrath of God the almighty. He has a name written in his cloak and on his thigh: “King of Kings and Lord of lords.”  He will come at the end of the world.

In living our lives we ought to follow the man on the donkey. As he himself said, “Learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart.” But we shouldn’t forget the warrior-judge, the man on the white horse. We’ll be meeting him, probably sooner than we think. Be ready.


The 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time | A-Cycle

August 17, 2014

Matthew 15: 21-28

There are several things in this gospel that are troubling, not the least of which is Jesus’ own behavior.  Never before have we seen or heard him ignore or sling insults towards someone.  I guess we could chalk it up to his human side:  he has just learned that his cousin, John the Baptist, has been beheaded, he is trying to escape the maddening crowds by traveling to the far outreaches of Galilee, and this annoying, persistent woman is a Canaanite, the sworn enemies of the Jews; that would be the equivalent today of Jesus being an Israelite and being confronted by a Hamas woman in the recent Gaza conflict.

Jesus, however, has never had a problem with assertive women:  his mother at the wedding at Cana, “They have no wine, please do something.” Or Mary at the tomb of her brother Lazarus, “If you hadn’t sat around for two days, my brother would not have died,” or the Samaritan woman at the well.

But remember Jesus is not only both fully human, but also, fully God, so there has to be more to the story.

“In Matthew’s Gospel, the focus of Jesus’ mission is the people of Israel.  They are the people of the first covenant, a covenant that Paul tells us is irrevocable.  Not until after Jesus’ death and resurrection will the mission of Jesus be extended beyond the boundaries of Israel.  This woman, a Gentile, does not fit into the scope of Jesus’ public ministry.  But she will not go away.   And there is something very compelling about the tenacity of her faith.  It is in the face of this mother’s dogged determination, [of her assertiveness, that dissolves Jesus’ hesitations]. This woman’s love for her daughter leads her to take a risk, the risk of looking foolish and ultimately of rejection.  But she is able to perceive Jesus with the eyes of faith. She recognizes in him the life-giving presence and power of God. Her faith, coupled with her selfless care for her daughter, leads to the dissolution of the barrier between Jew and Gentile.”

What the authors of Matthew’s gospel point to is a significant turning point in Jesus’ own recognition of the universality of God’s call.

“Sometimes we persistently pray for something but do not receive the answer that we sought. This experience may lead us to conclude that our faith is not strong enough or even that God is not listening at all.”

“The Canaanite woman in Matthew’s Gospel is placed before us as a model of selfless love and tenacious faith in Christ. “

To the women in today’s world: to the Malala’s of the Muslim world who wish to throw off the burqa and seek an education; to the mothers in Israel, Gaza, Syria and Iraq who simply seek peace, but are left to bury their sons and daughters; to the women seeking a greater role and participation in the Catholic Church; be they Women Religious, those seeking ordination as deacons, or just the recognition of the gifts they are and bring:  the Canaanite woman’s message is, “continue to be assertive, have faith, keep pressing, because while God doesn’t always arrive when you want Him to, He always arrives on time”.


The 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time | A Cycle

August 10, 2014

St. Peter and St. Paul, when we find them in today’s readings , are in deep water, in over their heads in fact. Paul had been perfectly content to live as a Jew. He wrote, ”I  stood out as a practicing Jew, enthusiastic for the tradition of my ancestors.” (Galatians 1 13-14)

He was so committed to this tradition that anything  seeming to go against it, like a new messiah, had to be stamped out. But on the road to Damascus, travelling to persecute followers of Jesus, he had a life-changing experience. Our Lord appeared to him, and the persecutor became the great missionary for Christ.

His turnaround was complete. He couldn’t wait to share the good news of the Gospel with his fellow Jews. Surely, when they heard his testimony, they would come flocking to Jesus. But it didn’t happen. Some Jews became Christians; most did not. But through Paul’s preaching, droves of gentiles entered the church.  Ironically his success with the gentiles  was enlarging the rift between Christians and Jews who wanted nothing to do with gentiles.

They called him an apostate, shunned him, and sometimes even abused him.

It broke his heart. I don’t think there are any more daring—or touching— words in all of Paul’s writings than these: “I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people.” He could almost wish that, so much did he love his people.

There are so many reasons to love the Jews. he tells us. They are God’s chosen ones and God doesn’t make mistakes. They have the glory of being alone in their worship of the one true God in the centuries before Christ. Judaism has produced so many great men and women: Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Rachel, Joseph, David, great prophets like Elijah,  and not least, Jesus of Nazareth. When God became man, God did not become a generic human being.  God became a Jew.

What do you do when your life is turned upside down, when all you hold sacred is called into question, when even your successes seem like failures? Paul turned to God for wisdom and came to realize that in God’s great heart, there was room, even for those who did not accept Christ as their Savior.

Peter was literally drowning. He did what we all should do when life gets to be too much for us, when we feel like we’re going down for the third time, He looked for the hand of Jesus, which is always offered to us, grabbed hold of it, and never let go.


August 3, 2014

Matthew 14: 13-21

There will be more than enough

At the sound of Mary’s voice

John leapt in Elizabeth’s womb

knowing  that the Messiah had come.

Years later

John saw Jesus coming toward him

through the  tall grass along the Jordan River

and said aloud

Behold the Lamb of God

who takes away the sins of the world.

Jesus’ recalls these memories 

when he hears that John has died.

He is shocked by the news and wants to be alone.

He asks Peter to pull in his boat 

to take him to the far side of the sea.

But the people following Jesus 

would not let him leave their sight.

They walk as fast as they can 

along the shore of the sea 

hoping to keep ahead of the boat.

Jesus can see them,

the young and old,

the feeble and strong . 

As the boat lands

part of the crowd is already there.

Jesus asks himself, 

Do I stay here with them

or move to a quiet place?

I have lost John, the cousin I loved.

But no sooner does he step ashore

see their faces

and hear their voices,

his decision is made.

It is late 

a disciple said

send them home.

They are hungry.

No.

Have them sit.

We will feed them.

But we have here

only five loaves and two fish.

We will feed them.

Have them sit on the hillside. 

He then blessed the bread and fish

and said to his disciples

share these with those who are here

and there will be enough.

Are you sure?

Yes, there will be enough

…more than enough.


The 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time | A Cycle

July 27, 2014

Matthew 13: 44-46

About 10 years ago, a friend of mine, Jim McCormack, told me he was considering   becoming a deacon.  This past June, Archbishop Blair conferred the Sacrament of Holy Orders on Jim and he is now the deacon at St. Mark the Evangelist in West Hartford.

Deacon Jim will deliver his first homily at St. Mark’s this weekend.  When I read through it I was so impressed  —  it is a little too long by St. Timothy’s standards  —  but I was so impressed I threw out the homily I had written for this weekend, and with Jim’s permission, will use parts of his. 

And so I quote:  

“Are you a “seeker,” or a “stumbler?”  That is the question being asked of us by Jesus in today’s Gospel reading.  Is your life marked by a recognition of the presence and love of God, driving you to seek a deeper relationship with Him, the “pearl of great price?”  Or are you walking on your journey of life, waiting to stumble across the “treasure in the field.”

By virtue of the fact that we are all here today, it is safe to say that we are not counting on a chance encounter to deepen our relationship with God.  We are “seekers.”  We are here because our own faith journey compels us to seek the pearl of great price.

Yet our lives are complicated, filled with many events, relationships, joys and tragedies. You could say that before [we became seekers, we first had to be stumblers].  God seeks us, placing people and events in our paths, desiring to draw us nearer to Him.

Can you think of a moment that led you to Christ – a person or particular moment or event?  Did you stumble across a treasure in the field that led you to seek the pearl of great price?

All of creation is God’s field, and the more time we spend in the world with that awareness, the more likely we are to come across this treasure.

As Catholics, we are compelled not only to continue to seek our own deeper relationship with God, but we are called to be living witnesses to the world of the Gospel message.  It is not enough for us to sit back and wait for a miracle to happen so that others may stumble across this great treasure in the field.  We are called by virtue of our baptism to be living witnesses of the love of God and to help bring about the Kingdom of God through the way we live our lives.  Yes our communal worship of God in His Holy Mass feeds and sustains us along our journey – we hear His sacred word proclaimed, we eat at His table of His body, blood, soul and divinity, and we share gifts of peace, charity and fellowship with each other.  But that is not enough. What we do within this church should have a profound influence on what we do outside this church when we encounter God’s people.  The quality of our interaction with people on a day to day, minute by minute basis can determine how they meet God, for it is these encounters with our brothers and sisters that help them to see Christ in us, and for us to see Christ in them.  St Francis of Assisi once [said], “preach [the gospel] constantly, but use words only when necessary.”

Each and every chance we get to spend time with one of our sisters and brothers is a chance to give to them the treasure that we possess.  No smile is too insignificant, no kind word wasted, no act of charity too small.  Through our actions of love, for our God and our neighbor, we help to build up the Kingdom of God and bring all of creation into a loving relationship with Him through His son Jesus Christ.

So perhaps I asked the wrong question earlier.  [Not] whether we are “seekers” or “stumblers,” [but] perhaps [we should ask]  – when did we help a sister or brother to meet Jesus Christ?  Are our actions profound enough to cause one to “stumble” across us in the field?  As the old hymn asks, “do they know we are Christians by our love,” or are we just another face in the crowd?  When you walk out of the doors of the church today, please smile.  Show charity to others.  Be forgiving to those who need forgiveness.  Act with love.  

Be so different that the next time you encounter someone they stop and wonder “why is this person different?”  “What makes them tick?”  Make others ask themselves what great gift, what pearl of great price, you must possess that guides your life.  Be the treasure in the field of God.”

End of quote.

The entire faith community of West Hartford is enriched by this new treasure in the field at St. Mark’s.  I am fortunate to call him a friend and brother deacon. 

And so it is  —  that all of us here at St. Timothy, pray that God may bless him, his family and his ministry  —  Deacon Jim McCormack.


The 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 13, 2014

Matthew: 13:1-8

“Sat on the shore of the sea”

Jesus went out of the house and sat on the shore of the sea.

That’s the opening sentence of today story about Jesus.

I like it.

A simple sentence.

Right to the point.

Jesus went out of the house and sat on the shore of the sea.

Alone and quiet was his usual morning habit.

The difference today was the sea.

The rhythm of the waves and sound of the wind  

revived memories of those 

who called his name from roadsides

or followed him from town to town

or listened as he taught in the synagogues.

His mind went from one memory to another.

Voices and faces came to him from everywhere.

His eyes and ears couldn’t keep up with them.

That is until the vivid memory of a wheat field appeared.

Then the rapid flow of his memories stopped.

He focused on a wheat field

that he and his friends had walked through just a few weeks ago.

He remembered

how the wheat shafts bent in the wind

and how the smell of the ripening wheat pleased him.

Now sitting by the shore

quiet and alone

his mind focused on something which it had missed before-

the day will come

he thought

when that walk through the field

with his friends would mean much more to them

than it did that day weeks ago.

That day came sooner that he thought it would

While sitting at table with his friends

he took in his hands

a piece of bread

broke it 

saying 

this which the earth has given

is my body for the life of the world.

           Take and eat………….

Do this in memory of me.


The 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time | A-Cycle

June 22, 2014

Don’t you remember ?

peter said to his brother

it’s not the same

is it

ever since Jesus left us

waking up isn’t the same

the excitement’s gone

i used to wake up wondering

what the day would hold

where i’d go and who i’d  meet

i’ll never forget the day

Jesus took the hand of a girl thought dead

and told her to arise

she stood and smiled

her parents took her into their arms

just as once before

i can recall that scene

as  though it were

just hours ago

those were the days

no two alike

new words new dreams every day

Jesus promised that he would never leave us

he’d be at our side always

no matter where in the world we were 

but it doesn’t seem that he kept his promise

i don’t hear his voice or see his face

he’s gone and we’re alone

andrew interrupted peter

he hasn’t left us

don’t you remember the last night 

and what he said

as we sat around

the table 

with a piece of bread in his hand

he said 

this is my body 

and with a cup of wine

said

this is my blood

then looking into our eyes 

whoever eats this bread and drinks this cup

lives in me and i in them

he couldn’t be any closer to us than that 

he in us and we in him

he kept his promise

so open your eyes and ears 

and see him in the faces and hear in him the voices

of those around you

from now on 

my brother

no two days will be alike


The 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time | A-Cycle

July 6, 2014

When I read the Gospel for today, I thought to myself: There’s something about it that’s appropriate for the Fourth of July weekend; it reminds me of something classically American—but what? There are lots of possibilities. For example, Jesus in the Gospel applauds God for revealing himself to the “little ones”. And the United States at its best  cares about the “little ones”, the ones who don’t have the power.. Right from the beginning of our history, on July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence proclaimed that “all men are created equal” (although the language is not inclusive, the equality applies also to women and children). The Gospel also speaks about giving rest from burdens. The United States has been a country that lifts burdens—burdens like want and fear. It’s not perfect. It has been shameful in its treatment of native Americans, but it is trying to make amends. It was much too slow in lifting the burdens of slavery and segregation, but finally, in the end, at long last, it lifted them. It is still in the process of lifting the burdens of discrimination based on race, gender, ethnic origin and sexual orientation. Because of the vision of our founders, exemplified in the Declaration of Independence, we can never rest easy with injustice in this country. The great ideas proclaimed on the first July the Fourth will haunt us if we do not put them into practice. Our idealism does not stop at our borders. Our record has not been spotless overseas. We have had our periods of imperialism, of colonialism, of wars for the sake of gain. Some of our wars should never have been fought.  Here again we will be haunted by our ideals until everything is put right, until we prove we believe that all are created with inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Our society is riddled with flaws: crime, violence, abortion, poverty, the sordid and the squalid, too many people left out of the general prosperity. Despite its imperfections, our nation is the one looked up to by the little ones of this world. That is why so many of our forefathers and mothers left their countries of origin to come here for a better life. May our doors never be slammed shut on people like them. And people like them are knocking on our doors today. What will our response be?

 That brings me to the solution of the mystery with which I began: What  classically American echoes sound in Jesus’ words:” Come to me all you who are heavily burdened and I will refresh you?” I found the answer in the words of poet Emma Lazarus engraved on the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”


Pentecost Sunday           A Cycle                               June 8, 2014

 “With the Spirit within them, it is quite natural for cowards to become people of great courage. There can be no doubt that this is what happened to the disciples. The strength they received from the Spirit enabled them to hold firmly to the love of Christ, facing the violence of their persecutors unafraid.” 1

I don’t think Father Emil Kapaun was ever a coward, but he did get cold feet the night before his ordination. “I am more convinced,” the 24 year old seminarian wrote, “that a man must be a living saint to take that step. [to the priesthood] And that is where my worries come in. Gee whiz, I have a feeling I am far, far from being a living saint.” Gee whiz, indeed.

Fortunately, you don’t have to be a living saint to be ordained a priest; otherwise, we’d really have a vocation shortage. All of us, I think were keenly aware of our unworthiness on ordination day when we prostrated ourselves on the sanctuary floor and invoked all the saints to pray for us – then came one of the most comforting parts of the ceremony as the choir sang over us, “Come, Holy Spirit.” Please come.

The Spirit came to Father Emil Kapaun—I have to restrain myself from saying, with a vengeance. As a chaplain in World War II’s Burma Theater, he received a Bronze Star for risking his life by staying with a wounded soldier even during a general retreat.

He was called back into service during the Korean Conflict. In Korea he “hauled wounded soldiers to safety under fire. He was taken prisoner and provided his own food to fellow inmates to keep them from starving. He knocked away an enemy soldier’s rifle to save an American from execution, and even managed to hold a sunrise service on Easter 1951 in defiance of his captor.”

“Such was the reverence for Father Kapaun among his men that a Jewish POW secretly sculptured a crucifix from scavenged wood in the chaplain’s memory using prison camp barbed wire for Jesus’ crown of thorns.”2 These reminders of our Lord’s passion and death were appropriate for a man who died of mistreatment in a Communist prison.

In 2013 President Obama awarded him our nation’s highest decoration for bravery, the Medal of Honor. Devotion to him is even spreading to Asiatic countries like North Korea and China that are officially atheistic. The process for his canonization as a saint is well underway.

The Holy Spirit did come upon Emil Kapaun, the same Spirit that transformed the cowardly apostles into heroes on the first Pentecost Sunday. Sanctity is not just for the ordained. The Second Vatican Council clearly stated that the call to holiness is directed to all of us. T’s universal. The same Holy Spirit is the source of all holiness. She can make us wiser and kinder and braver, ready to stand up for Christ in our world. We would do well to imagine ourselves prostrated on the sanctuary floor waiting for the Spirit.

So how do we get Her? The answer is simple: by asking for Her. Jesus said, “If you know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.” (Lk 11-12). So ask. We should make it part of our daily prayer. Christ guarantees that prayer will be answered. In the Spirit we can do great things for God. Come, Holy Spirit, Come! Please!


The 6th Sunday of Easter

25 May 2014

nothing has changed not even time

Jesus said to those standing by him

what i came to do is done

now it is time to go 

but i won’t leave you 

i’ll be ever at your side

always and everywhere 

live attentively

to the sights and sounds that surround you 

for i’ll be as present to you in them 

as i am to you now

open your eyes at sunrise

and behold me in the full reach of creation

it is i

ever giving ever new

just as our first meeting was

on the galilean shore

when i asked you to fold your nets

and follow me

just the sight of me

told you from within

that you would never be who you wished to be

if you held your ground 

and kept your nets ready to be cast

through attentive eyes

you’ll see me there by the sea 

with every sunrise

happy that you folded your nets

and walked in my footsteps

open your ears

to the sound of trees

no two alike

the chestnut

beech and oak

each with a different song to sing

anxiously looking forward to

their season of fulness and color

as you listen to them

recall the voices of the ten lepers

as they sang and danced their way on painless feet

to the synagogue to hear the priestly words

freeing them again

to hold the hands of those they love

live attentively

and you won’t be lonely

all you need do

is open your eyes and ears

to all that surrounds you

the marvels of the skies

and the wonders of the earth

and in an instant you’ll know

that our moments spent together

which seemed so brief

were forever moments

as real at this moment as then

live attentively 

live forever now

for nothing has changed

not even time

for “now” has no beginning 

and no end


The 5th Sunday of Easter

May 18, 2014

Acts 6: 1-7

Usually, the homily addresses points raised in the Gospel, but today I want to speak about the first reading, St. Luke’s Acts of the Apostles, because it concerns the Diaconate, the first deacons in the Catholic Church.

As you know, in the Catholic Church there are three ranks of clergy:  bishop, priest and deacon.  All bishops were and always will be priests, and all priests were and always will be deacons.  All of us, bishops, priests and deacons, have received the Sacrament of Holy Orders.  There are two types of deacons:  transitional deacons and permanent deacons.  Transitional deacons choose to continue on to be ordained priests, whereas permanent deacons remain at that rank.  I am a permanent deacon.  This morning/Yesterday seven deacons were ordained to the priesthood, one of whom had been a permanent deacon, but chose a couple of years later to return to the seminary and move up a rank.  In two short years, now Father Jim Sullivan went from Reverend Mister to Reverend Father.

The diaconate was established right after Christ’s crucifixion and Resurrection.  As St. Luke told us in the first reading, conflict was breaking out between the Jewish and Gentile converts to Christianity, because the Jews had a network of support for the widows, orphans and marginalized that the Gentiles did not have.  Jewish widows and others were getting food, shelter and help, while the non-Jews went without.  When the complaints reached the Apostles, they met and decided that since they had walked with Jesus, their primary role was to preach the Good News, so they appointed seven men to minister to the needy. 

In the early days of the Church, the priesthood, or presbyterate, was not fully developed.  It was the bishop and his deacon.  As the role of the priest evolved over the centuries the role of the deacon diminished, and by the fourth century it ceased as a distinct ministry.  Vatican II called for the reinstitution of the diaconate, and Pope Paul VI decreed its re-establishment in 1967. 

In today’s liturgy, the Deacon has three functions: he is the minister to the cup, you’ll see me prepare and elevate the chalice during Mass, he is the minister of the Gospel; whether it is the Pope or a local pastor, if there is a deacon at the mass, he is the one to proclaim the Gospel, and, as in the very beginning, to serve.  Some deacons serve in prison ministry, others are administrators of parishes or diocesan offices, still others work in food pantries and hospitals, and some prepare Deaf young adults for Confirmation.  

And what a joy and experience it was to work with Bernie Moran and Ed Peltier, the Executive Director of the American School for the Deaf, to prepare 6 Deaf teenagers for Confirmation with our other 34 hearing kids.  While many at the 4:30 Mass sang the Alleluia, 40 Confirmandi, hearing and Deaf alike, 40 sponsors, the faculty and the families of the Deaf all signed the gospel acclamation.  As Bishop Macaluso said after the Confirmation, “It was moving to see two groups of people coming together [for mass and] to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation and responding in unique ways. One group signed the ‘Alleluias’ and the other sang them, yet they were united in their commitment to their faith.” 

With Fr. Cody’s blessing, I invite you those of you who attend the 10:30 mass as a sign of solidarity and welcome to our Deaf parishioners to join in signing the Alleluia.  It is a very simple sign:  the letter X in the American Sign Language is the bend index finger.  Both index fingers are bent, make two circles and then both hands open to praise God.  Alleluia !

In terms of the Sacraments, deacons can do all the same sacraments as priests, with two major, important exceptions:  the consecration during mass and the sacrament of reconciliation.  There are some dioceses around the world where priests are so few that deacons have been granted the authority to offer the sacrament of reconciliation.  That is not true here in the United States.  In the Hartford Archdiocese there are 304 active diocesan priests and 307 permanent deacons.

And now a word about the deacon’s vestments, the signs and symbols of my office.   The stole has from Roman times been a symbol of authority.  Whereas the priest’s stole is straight down in front, my stole is tied to the side and while the priest wears a chasuble, my vestment, called a dalmatic, has sleeves.  Interestingly, and this goes back to the relationship between the bishop and his deacon, the only two clergy who are authorized to wear a dalmatic are the Pope and the deacon.  The purpose of both the dalmatic sleeves and the stole tied to the side, is that when I bend down to serve the vestments shouldn’t, literally and figuratively, get in the way.  

One of the advantages of being a deacon, as opposed to a bishop or priest, is that deacons can be married  —  although I’m sure there are days when my wife questions how much of an advantage that is.  If you are married at the time you are ordained, your wife must sign a document giving her consent to your ordination.  If you are single, like Jim Sullivan was when he was ordained a deacon, you take a vow of celibacy, and if your wife dies, with very rare exceptions, the vow of celibacy is imposed.

At the ordination of a deacon the bishop places the Book of the Gospels in the hands of the newly ordained, saying, “Receive the Gospel of Christ whose herald you have become. Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.”

My brothers and sisters, pray for me that I always remember those words.


Homily from Jan 12, 2014

He was born that way (Fr. Frascadore)

January 12, 2014

Tribute to G.K. Chesterton

He’s deaf.
He was born that way.
He’s good for nothing.
You can take him.
I’ll save on food and shelter.

So Joseph took him.
On him Mary rode to Bethlehem.

There Joseph helped her to dismount.
She slid carefully passed the donkey’s ears.
She touched them softly and said,
“Thank you.”

In the barn the donkey took his place by the manger.

The night was quiet.
It was still,
Until the baby came and was laid upon the hay.
Then at sounds the donkey had never heard before
Stood and bowed his head.

They think me deaf and dumb
But they are wrong, oh, so wrong
For I of all
Am the first of to have bowed
Before the One
Through whom all we see around us now
Has come.