November 10, 2019
Cycle C – 32th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Fr. LeBlanc (all Masses)
During certain times of the calendar year, nature’s ‘life cycle coincides with ‘faith events’ that the Church commemorates in our liturgical cycle of worship each year.
For example, in the spring, when nature bursts forth with the beauty of ‘new’ life, the Church celebrates Easter with its promise of ‘new and eternal life’ through Jesus’ Resurrection and our hope of the same for us one day.
Now, towards the end of the ‘calendar year, nature’s life cycle begins to wind down to its close – as the Church’s liturgical year prepares to end in 2 weeks time with the Feast of Christ the King – reminding us of ‘final things’: when God will bring the work of salvation to its conclusion and Jesus Christ will ‘return again’, bringing God’s kingdom to fulfillment through the ‘Resurrection of the dead – (the last part of ‘Christian revelation yet to be fulfilled).
This is ‘why’ the primary focus of our liturgies in November center on ‘final things’ – including what will occur once our ‘earthly existence’ passes away.
Our November liturgies annually begin with the commemoration of ‘All Saints’ – (remembering all holy men & women who lived before us) – who loved God and neighbor so much in their earthly lives as to merit heaven as ‘Saints’- living in the presence of God forever.
And then we commemorate ‘All Souls’ (the day ‘after’ ‘All Saints’):
Praying for our ‘departed loved ones & friends and ‘All Souls’ in Purgatory who, (with the help of our prayers), are in ‘process’ of coming into the fullness of God’s presence in heaven through contrition of life’s sins, so as to come to live in God’s love, joy and peace forever as well.
This we ‘believe and profess’ each time we recite the Creed, praying: ‘I look forward to the Resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come’.
All of us came to an awareness fairly early on in life that ‘death’ is part of life – from which no one is exempt. Happily, however, because of JESUS, we know (through revelation & faith), that death is ‘not‘ the ‘end’ but the ‘door’ into eternal life and only through ‘death’ can we pass through that door. While we don’t like to think about ‘death’, we shouldn’t be afraid of it ‘either’.
When I was in college, I majored in ‘philosophy’ (which all seminarians are required to do as part of preparation for priesthood). My favorite ‘School-of Philosophy’ is known as ‘Stoicism’.
This philosophy came on the scene in the ancient world before the time of Jesus, and it is still practiced today by many as a ‘philosophy of life’- encouraging individuals: (i) to come to learn their purpose for being in the world, (ii) to then strive to become one’s better self through life,
(iii) learning that one can only control & change oneself – (not other people or situations which are beyond one’s control). At the same time, one needs to strive to deal with others with respect and make the world a better place.
And then, beyond ‘becoming one’s better self’, Stoicism also taught that one should learn to meditate on ‘death’ – to realize that our time on earth is limited and we should make the most of it by adding goodness to the world, then eventually ‘accepting death’ as a natural part of life for all ‘living things’.
But when when one then brings a further ‘spiritual dimension’ to such a commendable ‘life philosophy’, (when one brings Christian ‘faith’ to such an equation), how much ‘richer &fuller’ life becomes and acceptance of eventual ‘earthly death’, because one knows it is but the ‘door’ to a greater life which will never end.
For because of JESUS, we know (in faith) that death is ‘not’ the end – (but merely the ‘gateway’ to eternal life made possible through His ‘death & Resurrection.
The 7 brothers in our 1st reading today from Maccabees accepted ‘death’ (rather then break Jewish laws), one of the brothers saying: “It is my choice to die at the hands of men, with the hope God gives of being raised up by Him”.
JESUS himself affirms this as well in today’s Gospel, saying: “Those who are deemed worthy in the coming age of the ‘Resurrection of the Dead’, will no longer die, because they will be like angels and be the children of God because they are the ones who will rise”.
This is ‘why’ we live our earthly lives in basic ‘hope and optimism’ as Christians– (‘not’ afraid of ‘natural death’ when it comes), because where Jesus already ‘is’, we too believe we will be one day as He has promised us, (along with our faithful ‘’departed’ for whom we pray during this ‘Month of All Souls’).
We simply need to strive to walk the path that Jesus Himself walked, carry our crosses in life, love & serve God in our neighbor, and then finally, (in the end), make our greatest ‘act of faith’ by handing ourselves over in death from this world – (as JESUS himself did) – so as to live with Him in ‘eternal life’.
And then (on that day) when calls us home, may we too, (through His love & mercy) – come to know the joys of ‘eternal life & Resurrection’, hearing Jesus say to us: ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter now into the joy of the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world’.
November 03, 2019
Cycle C – 30th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Deacon Thermer (all Masses)
October 27, 2019
Cycle C – 30th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Fr. LeBlanc (8:30 and 10:30 am Masses)
We likely have never stopped to think about it, but ‘without’ God, we are ‘nothing’. For if the Lord ever stopped thinking of you or me (even for a second), we would cease to exist. Every breath we take, every blessing we receive from God, is pure gift, pure grace. We cannot merit God’s love.. We cannot work for it nor gain it through our own efforts. We cannot buy our salvation nor can we pay for our sins.
We should of course strive to live good lives and do good works – not because they gain us anything through ‘our’ merits, but because this should be the proper response of a disciple through a life of loving service – reflecting gratitude for what GOD has done for us (in Jesus), for the incomprehensible love of GOD for ‘us’, who – ( as St. Paul reminds us): ‘came to save us while we were still in our sins through Jesus suffering & death on the cross for us’.
a. Though innocent & without sin, Jesus died for you & me purely out of love for us which is so unimaginable when one stops to think about it, and should evoke a response of wonder & awe within us – beckoning us to respond through lives of loving service within our faith community here at St. Timothy’s and beyond our doors – reflecting God’s love to our brothers and sisters near & far as we strive to build God’s kingdom in our given time
b. In doing so, we realize from whose merits we are privileged to ‘live, and move and have our being’ as the Preface of today’s Mass will remind us – (not through our own merits but through God’s).
This is the distinction between the two individuals presented to us in our Gospel Parable today – *(one a Pharisee and the other a Tax Collector). We’ve heard this story often enough that we know who the villain will be (and who will be held up as an ‘example’ by Jesus).
The Pharisee prays: ‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity –
Greedy, dishonest, adulterous – (or even like this tax collector). I fast twice a week and pay tithes on my whole income’.
a. The ‘Pharisee’s self-righteous ‘response’ is so apparent, that (in our time), the word ‘Pharisee’ has become synonymous with ‘hypocrisy’ in common parlance. But it was ‘not’ that way in Jesus’ time. Indeed it was just the opposite.
b. For in ‘biblical times, Pharisees epitomized what it meant to be a ‘devout’ Jew. Most of them were ‘good people: who strove earnestly to fulfill ‘all’ the prescriptions of the Mosaic Law (out of love for God). They were ‘admired’ and ‘held up’ as examples of piety to strive to emulate.
In ‘contrast’ at that time, Tax collectors were seen as some of the ‘worst’ of sinners and rightfully so. For they were Jews who were the ‘lackeys’ of Rome. They ‘defrauded’ money from their fellow Jews. They ‘helped themselves’ to a slice of the taxes and then gave the rest to their Roman masters. There was nothing enviable about ‘tax collectors’ at all from a Jewish perspective at that time. In truth, there was good reason why most of them were despised & shunned by their fellow Jews.
And yet here is one of these Jewish Tax collectors in Jesus’ Parable today – Standing off at a distance, not even raising his eyes to heaven, beating his breast & saying: ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner’. And then to the shock of his listeners, Jesus says: ‘I tell you, the ‘latter – (the ‘tax collector’) went home justified but not the ‘former’ – (the ‘pharisee’).
Given the justifiable ‘contempt’ in which tax collectors were held at that time, I would have to believe that some kind of conversion must have happened to this particular ‘tax collector – who could not have uttered his prayer (with such sincerity), and then gone back to continue in his profession, oppressing his fellow Jews once more.
Something must have happened to him so that his heart was overwhelmed by God’s grace & mercy – (becoming a ‘ changed’ man), whereas the Pharisee remained ‘mired’ in his ‘self-righteousness’- (blinded to the fact that he was in a state of displeasure with God).
In the end, the reality of course was that both the ‘Pharisee’ and the ‘Tax Collector’ were ‘sinners’ with one significant difference – (namely, that one was able to acknowledge so but the other was ‘not’).
So if we were to place ourselves in today’s parable, where might we find ourselves?
Well – were we to be honest about it, the reality is that we should also find ourselves in both the ‘Pharisee & Tax Collector’.
a. For whenever we are prideful, whenever we are quick to judge others, whenever we gossip, whenever we are self-righteous, *then the person looking back at us in the mirror is the ‘Pharisee’ in today’s Gospel.
b. But, (on the other hand), whenever we truly acknowledge our sins before God, whenever we truly realize that we can never merit or buy God’s love through our own efforts, nor repay His mercy & forgiveness won for us through the blood of Jesus, *then it is the ‘Tax Collector’ who looks back at us in the mirror, and we should be grateful when such is so.
For we are already ‘accepted & loved’ by God, (our redemption already won for us by Jesus. This is far different than striving to ‘win’ heaven (by our own merits) which we can never do. For God’s love is pure gift, God’s mercy & forgiveness towards us are pure grace.
Our response then as ‘disciples’ to God’s pure gifts of love, mercy & grace should be to strive to live lives of loving ‘service & gratitude’ to God, who, (in Christ Jesus), came among us to save us and whose loving sacrifice will continue to redeem souls and offer true life to all who seek it in time and through eternity in God’s kingdom.
Bishop Peter (4:00 pm Mass)
JESUS’ PARABLE OF THE PHARISEE AND THE TAX COLLECTOR
Saint Joan of Arc when asked if she was in the state of grace replied,” If I am there, may God keep me there and if not, may God put me there.” Perfect answer
- Pharisees – means “separated.” The Roman occupying force tried to assimilate the Jews so some of them reacted strongly. Thus they responded with public displays of fidelity to Israel and its traditions.
2. Not all Pharisees should be seen in a negative light. St. Paul was one of them as was Gamaliel in the Acts of the Apostles and a group of them who warned Jesus to be aware of King Herod who wanted to kill him.
3. Tax Collectors or Publicans: Collected taxes for the Romans. It would like people on our street collecting taxes from us for a country that defeated us in a war. They often charge more and pocketed the rest. This was even more hateful because of high taxation – to pay the temple tax and the taxes to support King Herod and his lifestyle, and most of the taxpayers were poor. Incidentally, St. Matthew was one of them.
4. The Parable: Jesus directs it to those “who considered themselves righteous and looked down on others with contempt.”
a. The two went up to the Temple to pray. The tax collector was considered ritually impure because of his work; thus he had to remain in the back.
b. The Pharisee extols his own virtues but then drives a wedge between himself from the tax collector.
• He prays from the head whereas the publican prays from the heart. He humbles himself – he wouldn’t even raise his eyes to heaven – and simply prays, “O God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
• Humility – to strike one’s breast was generally a gesture reserved to women.
c. Jesus’ conclusion: The publican went down to his home justified and not the Pharisee.
d. Important point: The Pharisee hopes to gain God’s favor by his works. We can never put God in our debt…
• The Publican is “justified,” that is, God heard his plea for forgiveness because he humbled himself before God.
• When we humble ourselves, God’s power rushes into our hearts.
5. Some conclusions for our lives:
a. If a person is good, it’s because of God’s grace. “There but with the grace of God go I.” (John Bradford in the 16th century while working with a group of prisoners.)
b. Some people believing they are good and not in need of God’s help, look down on others. The disciple of Jesus, however, tries to build bridges between people and lift them up if possible.
• Ed and Donna DuBaldo and 40 years of ministry to prisoners at the Hartford Correctional Institution on Weston St. in Hartford…
c. Pride and prestige: Those people who try to acquire and hold on to positions in their parishes, thus blocking others, especially younger people, from contributing.
d. Those in the Church who consider themselves orthodox and look down on those they judge to be unorthodox and are not faithful to the teaching authority of the church
e. Those who put emphasis on implementing the social doctrine of the church (a good thing) but who disparage those who don’t deem this to be as important as growing spiritually.
• Actually, to grow spiritually includes service of others like Jesus who came not to be served but to serve and to give his life for us.
6. Eucharist: It is Jesus who humbled himself by being obedient unto death on a cross and gives us the grace to take to heart the words of St. Paul to the Philippians: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.” (Phil. 2:3)
October 20, 2019
Cycle C – 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Bishop Peter (8:30 am Mass)
THEME: To persevere in prayer to Jesus who loves us and knows what is best for us. PARABLE OF THE WIDOW WHO CONFRONTS THE CORRUPT JUDGE
1. Have you ever been treated unjustly? Have you prayed and not received the answer you were hoping for? Jesus had similar experiences. Before answering these questions, let us consider Jesus’ parable.
2. The judge: He neither feared God nor respected people.
a. Here is what the Jewish Law tradition about judges: 2 Chronicles 19:5-7
“Consider carefully what you do, because you are not judging for mere mortals but for the LORD, who is with you whenever you give a verdict. 7 Now let the fear of the LORD be on you. Judge carefully, for with the LORD our God there is no injustice or partiality or bribery.”
b. Thus the judge represents God and is responsible to God.
c. His ego is inflated by his power and thus doesn’t care about the “cries of the poor.” (Psalm 69:34)
3. The Widow: Most likely she was young. Girls at that time married at ages 15-16. Perhaps the issue was her inheritance that was held up by a man of her deceased husband’s family. Widows in the Scriptures are cited as the most vulnerable persons along with orphans and foreigners so she counted on that money for herself and her children. Without it, she would be reduced to begging or even prostitution.
a. She is exceptional because in that culture a woman would not appear in public to demand her rights.
b. One has to admire her persistence and determination to get what is due to her and her children.
4. The judge again: He feared neither God nor humans but he fears this woman so he concludes: Even though I fear neither God nor humans, nevertheless because of her dogged persistence I am going to judge in her favor for I fear that she might hit me in the face and give me a black eye. (The Greek word is from boxing.)
5. The parable draws a comparison between God and the judge. If the corrupt judge will give in to the widow, “how much more will God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry out to him day and night.”
6. Jesus brings us into the Kingdom of God where everything is reversed.
a. “Blessed are the poor for the Kingdom of God is yours.” (For Luke, the word “poor” refers to people who are financially poor whereas Matthew adds, “poor in spirit,” meaning those who know they need God. Certainly those who are indigent realize that more than people who are not poor.
b. In the Kingdom the weak become strong, like the widow confronting the judge.
7. Thus there are two points: Persistence in prayer and God stands with those who are being treated unjustly. EXAMPLES:
a. Saint Monica who prayed 27 years for the conversion of her son, St. Augustine
b. Cardinal Kung Pin Mei – after 22 years in solitary confinement under the Chinese Communists said, “God’s help and protection are always with the church.”
c. Philippines – 3 million people surround the Aguinaldo Fortress and cause the ouster of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos in February, 1986
8. To pray for an intention that was not granted… My prayers for my young cousin who died of pancreatic cancer leaving a husband and three children… It is so difficult to live with mystery.
a. It is helpful to focus on Jesus at this point and his prayer in the Garden of Gethsemani: “Father, if it be your will, let this “cup” (of suffering) pass from me yet not my will but yours be done.” Jesus’ prayer was answered, not then but when the Father raised him from the dead. Had Jesus not gone through his passion, he would not have saved us…
b. Faith in the midst of persecution: St. Luke refers to this at the end of today’s passage. Peter and Paul had been martyred in Rome and persecution was rampant. Jesus through Luke tells us to have faith, even when we are suffering because he is with us – silently perhaps but he will give us the courage to move forward – even today when the church is persecuted because of our stands on the sacredness of human life (thus opposed to physician-assisted suicide and abortion, for example).
9. Eucharist: It is Jesus who loves you so much and says, “Why do you doubt? Why don’t you trust me” (To Peter after he walked on water but took his eyes off Jesus and sank.) Keep praying. I am always with you. My presence in the Blessed Sacrament is proof of this. Amen.
October 13, 2019
Cycle C – 28th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Deacon Dennis (8:30 and 10:30 am Masses)
Leprosy was worse than death for the men in today’s gospel. These ten men walked the earth. They breathed and ate. They had hopes and fears and aspirations and feelings just like you and me. Yet, they were the walking dead. Leprosy was the most dreaded of all ancient diseases. It ate away at the body and left its victim maimed and disfigured. There was no known cure. In their hopes for a family life, a useful occupation, plans for the future—they were dead men.
Their situation was made worse because leprosy was believed to be highly contagious. Actually, we know today that it is not. But tell that to ancient superstition. Jewish law clearly prescribed that a leper could not get within fifty yards of a clean person. Everywhere these poor men journeyed they heard familiar words yelled out: “Unclean,” “Leper.” Leprosy was a serious public health concern but it was tinged with the religious element of ritual uncleanness. So, it was that they not only had to live with their physical handicap, but they were also isolated. They had to live in the hell of loneliness.
But even in the midst of this horrible situation these lepers had something to be thankful for. In their common misery they had banded together. They had found each other. It is interesting to note that one of these ten lepers was a Samaritan. Now a good Jew in that day in time would have no dealings at all with a Samaritan. They looked upon Samaritans as dogs, half-breeds. Yet, in the common misery of their leprosy these men had forgotten that they were Jew and Samaritan and realized only that they were men in need. I know that there is power in fellowship, especially the fellowship of people who have a common need. Even lepers found it so.
Which, I think, brings us to the point of the story, which is simply this: even in the midst of our problems there is always something to be thankful for.
Many of us are familiar with the hymn “Now Thank We All Our God”, but let me tell you the background on that hymn of gratitude.
Lutheran pastor Martin Reinkard wrote that hymn in 1637 at the time of the Thirty Years War in Germany. A wall fortified the city of Eilenburg in which he was a pastor, so it became a haven for refugees seeking safety from the fighting. But soon, the city became too crowded, food supplies dwindled, a famine and then a terrible plague hit and Eilenburg became a giant morgue. In that single year, over 6000 persons in Reinkard’s German village, including his wife and all of his children, died from the plague. He alone conducted 4,500 funerals in that year alone including his wife’s. Remarkably, it was in the midst of that catastrophic personal and social loss that Reinkard sat down and wrote the great hymn of thanksgiving: “Now thank we all our God with hearts and hands and voices.”
Even in the middle of suffering reasons can be found to give thanks. That is the first lesson. But we cannot stop there. Finding reasons to be grateful is well and good but the second lesson of the story is far more important: In the midst of problems thanksgiving needs to be expressed.
A couple of years ago, I attended the weekend retreat for our Confirmation candidates run by Bobbi Moran. It was an emotional weekend, filled with soul-searching, laughter and finally the distribution of letters written by parents to their sons and daughters.
Bobbi had asked the parents to write a private letter, only to be opened by their child, and in it talk about how important the child was, what he or she brought to the family, why, as parents, you were proud of this child.
In the Cursillo movement, these letters are called Planca, planks that bridge the unspoken.
As the youngsters opened their letters, the tears began to flow. In fact, I watched three football players, two from Hall and one from Northwest Catholic, weeping unashamed. These macho young men, openly sobbing.
An elderly woman I knew once told me that as teenagers, we think our parents are dumb. Then in the 20s, we realize how smart they really are. But it takes to the 30s, 40s, or even later, to tell our parents how much we appreciate all they did and sacrificed for us.
Sometimes, unfortunately, we wait too long and it is too late. If your elderly parents are still alive, tell them this week how much they mean to you.
Tell your wife or husband or partner, tell your children; what a blessing they are to you.
And thank God for the gifts that have been given to you. Do it now, before it is too late.
“Now Thank We All Our God”
Bishop Peter (4:00 pm Vigil Mass)
Theme: “Give thanks to the Lord for the Lord is good. His love is everlasting.”
1. Today we focus on giving thanks to God and to those through whom God acts to provide for us.
a. We have the examples of Naaman, the Syrian general and the Samaritan, both of whom are cured of leprosy. God works through the Prophet Elisha to cure Naaman and Jesus, God’s Son, cures the Samaritan. Both praise and thank God. Note that Elisha doesn’t attribute the healing to himself but to God and Naaman understands this.
2. The Gospel of Luke, chapter 17.
a. According to my commentary, the Hebrew word for leprosy does not designate Hansen’s disease. In Jesus’ time it was more an ailment of the skin.
• As an aside, Saint Damian of Molokai lived with people with Hansen’s disease and ultimately died from his horrible affliction.
b. In Jesus’ times according to the Law of Moses, lepers were forced to separate themselves from spouses and other loved ones and live with other lepers.
c. Family members had to bring them food, call out to them and run away.
d. They had to ring a bell when anyone came anywhere near them and say, “Unclean, unclean.”
e. To touch them was strictly forbidden because people thought that anyone who did so could get the disease and communicate it to others.
On another occasion, Jesus touches a leper. Also, Saint Francis of Assisi actually kissed one and his whole life changed. From then on he not only lived poverty but dedicated himself to serving the poor and social outcasts.
f. To touch a leper at Jesus’ time was similar to touching a person with AIDS when the disease first became public.
3. These ten must have heard about Jesus and his power to cure.
a. Interestingly one of them is a Samaritan – usually they didn’t get along.
b. Jesus doesn’t touch them but cures them by his word alone just as he did for the centurion’s slave.
c. “Go show yourselves to the priests.” This was according to Jewish Law. Once the priests saw they were cured, they could return to their towns, their family and friends.
4. Strangely, only one comes back to thank GOD. He does so with great joy, falling at Jesus’ feet and praising God and he is a foreigner!
a. Sad question: “Where are the other nine?”
b. To the Samaritan: “Go, your faith has made you whole.”
5. What can we take from all of this?
• To avoid taking for granted all that benefits us and this includes much more than material objects. Here are some examples:
• The doctors and dentists and nurses we see and all they had to study so they can heal us. Lawyers too.
• Hospitals: The Sisters of St. Joseph came to Hartford at the turn of the 20th Century with $9.00 to found St. Francis Hospital.
• Saint Raphael was founded by the Sisters of Charity because Catholic and Jewish doctors were not allowed to practice at Grace New Haven Hospital. * Your priests and deacons and their years of preparation
• The system of water we drink and use
• Electricity and Thomas Edison
• People who invented the automobile, the cell phone and the computer
• For youngsters in school: those sciences you study, mathematics, literature are all given to you. Ultimately thank God from whom all blessings flow, while thanking these anonymous inventors and discoverers through whom God acts in mysterious ways.
a. The first words to learn in a foreign language – gracias, obrigado, merci – (The young boy who disagreed and said that the first words should be, “Where are the toilets?”)
• To thank people who assist us in any way by sending flowers, writing a note or letter or email.
6. EUCHARIST: Means, “Thank you,” in Greek (how much we owe them in literature, theater, astronomy, mathematics, philosophy. (They calculated that the world was round even as far back as 500 years before Christ using the geometry that they developed) Thanks to Saint Paul without whose back-breaking ministry we would not be here today. Thanks to the farm workers who harvested the wheat and grapes used to make our bread and wine for the Mass. Finally, thanks to Jesus who loves us so much that died for us and now lives in us and wants to do all he can to help us become better human beings whom he will take to Heaven someday.
October 6, 2019
Cycle C – 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Fr. LeBlanc (8:30 and 10:30 am Masses)
The Apostles say to Jesus in Luke’s Gospel today: ’Lord, increase our Faith’, and Jesus replies: ‘If you have Faith the size of a ‘mustard seed, you would say to a mulberry tree: ‘Be uprooted & planted in the sea and it would obey you’.
Back in the 1980’s, I had the joy of visiting the Holy Land: walking in the footsteps of Jesus, seeing many things I had never seen before.
And one day our tour guide took us to a garden (like Gethsemane) and ‘pointed out’ to us a large ‘bush’ – where, – (as Jesus says elsewhere), – ‘birds could build their nests for their young’.
(a) Then the tour guide showed us the tiniest seed’ (from which this large ‘bush’ had grown) – a ‘mustard seed (only about 1/3 the size of a ‘grain’ of pepper), barely larger than a grain of sand) – which I’ve kept all of these years to remind me of its message.
(b) This is what Jesus used to describe what even a ‘tiny’ amount of faith can do – when our ‘Faith’ is transformed (from simple ‘belief’) into a personal ‘relationship’ with Jesus, who in turn helps us to become better disciples – building God’s kingdom through lives of love & service.
When his disciples ask Jesus to ‘Increase their faith’ in today’s Gospel scene, it is just after Jesus has taught them about what it means to be ‘His disciple’ – *(not simply ‘believing’ in Him), but ‘acting’ like Him, following His example, continuing His mission of proclaiming the Good News in the given time in which one lives.
We know how challenging this is can be at times as we strive to follow Jesus’ example.
(a) For how can we have faith to uproot a Mulberry tree and plant it in the sea?
(b) How can we have faith to move a mountain (as Jesus says elsewhere in the Gospels)? Such would seem humanly ‘impossible’.
But in His response to the Apostles request to ‘increase their faith’), Jesus tells them
‘not’ to view faith (through human eyes) but rather through ‘God’s eyes’.
(a) Jesus reminds them (and us) that we do not need ‘greater’ faith, but rather only need to transform the ‘faith’ we already have (from simple belief) into ‘lived action, through ‘discipleship’ – (accomplishing great things with the ‘faith and gifts’ we have already received).
(b) For if a small ‘mustard seed’ can produce a great ‘bush’ (for the birds to rest in its shade) – how much more can a small amount of faith – *(actively lived and watered by God’s Grace), accomplish in building God’s Kingdom.
All of the saints, (all Holy men and women through the ages), knew this.
(a) Even though many did not believe that they had much to offer, they nevertheless accomplished great things for God, because their ‘faith’ became more than ‘belief’.
(b) It became a ‘lived’ faith – (through ‘active’ discipleship), – reflecting the love of God through their lives of love & service to their neighbors – helping to build God’s kingdom in the process.
To the disciples who ask for ‘more’ faith in today’s Gospel, (and to us who might ask the same), Jesus responds (in effect) today by saying: ‘Don’t worry about how much faith you have;…for faith is such a powerful thing (when lived), that even a small amount (applied in love and service), can accomplish great things for God’.
While we may ‘not’ think that we have great ‘gifts’, the gifts’ we already have are ‘sufficient’ to becoming ‘good’ disciples, building God’s kingdom in our midst in the time we have been given here on earth.
Today’s ‘Parable of the Mustard Seed’ reminds us that we need ‘not’ ask for ‘more’ faith but just ‘trust’ and ‘apply’ the faith we have already been given, knowing that God is always with us nourishing the faith we have already received (through His Word and Sacraments), calling us to be disciples, becoming Jesus for others, and then allowing God to water and grow the seeds of our faith through the Spirit for the growth of the Kingdom.
We can do this (for example) by becoming more ‘active & participating’ members of our own ‘faith family’ here at St Timothy’s – Sharing our ‘time and talents’ using our gifts through involvement & service, building a more vibrant ‘faith community’, joining one of our various ministries – becoming ‘active’ disciples, ‘living’ our faith, building God’s kingdom among us and beyond our church doors.
For Jesus reminds us today that even with ‘very little’ – like a tiny ‘mustard seed’ as a symbol for our ‘faith’, we can accomplish great things for God & God’s Kingdom.
St. Teresa of Avila, (the great Spanish Carmelite mystic), put it best centuries ago when she said: ‘Christ has no body now but ‘yours’, no hands, no feet, no eyes now but ‘yours’.
Or said another way in a saying I heard long ago: ‘I shall walk this way but once: therefore, if there is any good I can do, let me do it now, for I shall ‘not’ walk this way again’.
Bishop Peter (4:00 pm Mass)
THEME: THE IMPORTANCE OF FAITH IN OUR LIVES
1. The Prophet Habakkuk, first reading: He foresees the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple as the troops of Babylon (modern Iraq) draw ever nearer to destroy Jerusalem and deport many of the Jewish leaders. He urges his listeners to have faith in God who will not abandon his people. They will return from exile and rebuild their city and Temple.
a. Example of the valiant Polish people after the Nazis had destroyed Warsaw. (I saw a video of that disaster.) With faith, they would rebuild their capital city.
b. Mother Teresa who demanded that the Lebanese military commander transfer children from an orphanage that had been damaged to one on the other side of Beirut in the midst of a civil war. She told him there would be a cease-fire on August 15th, Feast of Our Lady’s Assumption into heaven. The Colonel said it was impossible. It happened!
c. She prayed for the conversion of a hardened murderer who was to be hanged. No one thought it possible. On the scaffold the man repented and asked to kiss a crucifix.
d. Charlie Mascola, as a 19-year-old soldier during World War II found himself surrounded by Germans. He prayed fervently, “Lord, if you let me escape, I shall never miss Mass again. He escaped and kept his promise.
2. GOSPEL: LUKE 17: 5-10
a. “Lord, increase our faith.” – Jesus uses Middle Eastern hyperbole – Faith the size of a mustard seed – a very small seed – If you have even a little faith, you can say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea and it would obey you.”
b. Why do the Apostles want Jesus to increase their faith? So that he would enable them to be like him and to believe that he is with them, no matter what befalls them.
• Paul’s statement: “I live, now not so much I but Christ lives in me.”
• To integrate all Jesus’ virtues into my own life: Steadfast loyalty to his father and to his followers, total honesty, authenticity, the ability to forgive those who offended them and not hold grudges, the ability to reach out to and accept everyone, even the hated Romans.
• To believe that Jesus is with you and never abandons you even though you suffer and are moved to doubt that he cares about you.
• To believe that Jesus doesn’t forsake his church despite the sins and errors of the clergy. “THE CATHOLIC CHURCH ALWAYS SNAPS BACK.” (From a study published in the Harvard Business Review about 10 years ago)
3. “We are unprofitable servants. We have done what we were obliged to do.”
a. We can never put God in our debt. “But Lord, look at all the good I have done and am doing.” Like the Pharisee and the Publican at prayer in the Temple: “Lord, I thank you that I am not like this Publican=tax collector. I pay the Temple tax. I fast twice a week and so forth.” Well tarah, tarah! And the poor Publican never lifted his eyes and kept beating his breast saying, “Have mercy on my O Lord for I am a sinner.”
b. Saint Thomas Aquinas near the end of his life had a vision of Jesus while the saint was praying in his chapel before the Blessed Sacrament. After that, he refused to write anymore saying, “My writings are like a pile of hay.” (And he was one of the greatest geniuses of the Western World.)
CONCLUSION: PRAYER BY FATHER THOMAS MERTON, OCSO
“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot now for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this, you will lead my by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.” Amen.
September 29, 2019
Cycle C – 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Bishop Peter (4:00 pm Mass)
JESUS’ PARABLE ABOUT LAZARUS AND THE RICH MAN
1. The rich man is very rich… his clothing, his meals, every day. No work, just pleasures.
2. Lazarus = (friend of God). This is the only parable of Jesus in which a character has a name.
a. Covered with sores. Could not keep the dogs away.
b. Desires the crumbs – there were no utensils so people ate with their hands and wiped them on bread and threw the bread on the floor. This is all Lazarus wanted to eat. DIVES IS COMPLICIT IN LAZARUS’ DEATH!
3. The next part of the parable sees a reversal.
a. Dives has flames as clothing, is thirsty.
b. L is in complete comfort and peace.
c. D wouldn’t give L anything. Now he asks L for water. The first time Dives speaks Lazarus’ name!
4. The point here: After we die, the time for decision and action is past. Now is the time to realize the consequences of one’s action.
5. The tragedy: “He lifted up his eyes and saw L.” During his lifetime he paid no attention to L because his wealth and power blinded him. He wouldn’t, he couldn’t see the poor man.
6. He realizes that he has been neglecting the Jewish Law, called the Torah.
a. “Let there be no poor among you.” (Deut 15/14)
b. “I command you: you shall be generous to your brother, to the needy and to the poor in the land.” (Deut. 15/11)
7. Even though someone should rise from the dead – Jesus forces us to recall that HE is the poor one who has risen from the dead.
CONCLUSIONS AND APPLICATIONS
1. “Indifference to human suffering is the height of sacrilegious behavior.” The worst sin is to do nothing… Like the priest and Levite who did nothing to help the man beaten by robbers and who is finally helped by the Good Samaritan.
2. October of 1979: Saint John Paul lI in Yankee Stadium: “When we make JC the center of our feelings and thoughts, we do not turn away from people and their needs.” Like yourselves.
a. Private philanthropy is important but is not enough: “The poor of the United States and of the world are your sisters and brothers in Christ. You must never be content to leave them just the crumbs from the feast and you must treat them like guests at your family table.
* According to an annual index released Tuesday, September 17th of this year by the Center for Global Development that ranks 27 of the world’s wealthiest countries, the U.S. scored dead last on foreign aid contributions despite being the largest donor in dollar amount. [That’s because in 2017, we allocated a mere 0.18 percent of its gross national income for development assistance. That is well short of the 0.7 percent that wealthy countries have committed to strive for since 1970.] Only seven countries met or exceeded that target in 2016.
3. WORLD DAY OF MIGRANTS AND REFUGEES: Pope Francis writes: The presence of migrants and refugees – and of vulnerable people in general – is an invitation to recover some of those essential dimensions of our Christian existence and our humanity that risk being overlooked in a prosperous society. That is why it is not just about migrants. When we show concern for them, we also show concern for ourselves, for everyone; in taking care of them, we all grow; in listening to them, we also give voice to a part of ourselves that we may keep hidden because care for migrants is not well regarded nowadays.
b. The Pope again says: “Dear brothers and sisters, our response to the challenges posed by contemporary migration can be summed up in four verbs: welcome, protect, promote and integrate”.
c. As Catholics we must listen to Our Holy Father’ words about migrants and refugees rather than those voices that would cause us to fear them.
Jesus Christ is the rich one who became poor to enrich us with his poverty. May he give us and our nation as a whole compassionate hearts like his own for migrants and refugees and the poor at home and elsewhere as well as the creativity and generosity to meet their needs. Amen.
September 22, 2019
Cycle C – 25th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Deacon Dennis Ferguson
We have all seen and read it so many times: whether real or in fiction. There are men and women out there who are so driven to succeed, to make money, to gain status, to win at any cost; that everything else is forgotten. That is point that Jesus makes in today’s gospel when he says:
“The children of this world are much more shrewd in handling their affairs than the people who belong to the light.’’ You and I are the “people who belong to the light.”
Or to put it another way, Jesus is saying that worldly people are more willing to sacrifice for worldly goals than Christians are for Christian goals. But Jesus also says, “No servant can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and mammon.”
Money is not the root of all evil – it is what you do with that money that counts!
The words of Jesus are not intended to shame or to embarrass us, but rather, to encourage and inspire us. They are intended to remind us that God has put into the human spirit a tremendous capacity to work and to sacrifice to achieve great goals.
And what is that goal for us as Christians?
As Pope Francis said recently, if we are called to speak for the unborn; then we must shout: shout for those who are born: the marginalized, the discriminated against, the homeless, members of the LGBT community, the poor, the undocumented. Those men, those women, those children, whom society has forced to walk in darkness. We, you an I. are to bring the light of the Gospel to dispel the shadows of their despair.
The grace for this commitment was given to us in Baptism and in Confirmation. And it is renewed in us each time we gather here at mass and share the Lord’s Supper.
If worldly people are capable of making great sacrifices for worldly goals, how much more are we Christians capable of?
This is the good news that the Church reminds us of in today’s Scripture readings. It is the good news that you and I have the power to do great things for God’s kingdom— if we but choose to. But we can’t serve both God and mammon.
Let us close with a prayer: Lord, open our ears to your word, even when it challenges us more than we want to be challenged.
Lord, open our minds to your word, even when it disturbs us more than we want to be disturbed.
Lord, help us put your word into practice, even when it means changing our lives more than we want to change.
And above all, Lord, help us realize that You want to achieve great things through us and that we can achieve great things for You if we but open our hearts to You.
September 15, 2019
Cycle C – 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Bishop Peter (4:00 pm Mass)
“THE LORD IS MERCIFUL AND GRACIOUS, SLOW TO ANGER AND ABOUNDING IN STEADFAST LOVE.” (Psalm 103: 8)
*** Cardinal François Xavier van Thuan preached this to the papal household in the presence of Saint Pope John Paul II. As Archbishop of Saigon, Vietnam, he was arrested by the Communists and forced to spend 9 years in solitary confinement and another 4 years in a concentration camp.
THE FIVE DEFECTS OF JESUS
1. Jesus had a terrible memory.
a. Good thief: Today you will be with me in paradise. What? No purgatory for all his sins?
b. The sinful woman who washed Jesus’ feet: “Her many sins have been forgiven because of her great love.” What? Isn’t Jesus being too easy on her?
c. Prodigal Son: Come on, Lord. Doesn’t he have to make restitution?
d. Jesus does not have a memory like mine. He not only pardons, and pardons every person; he even forgets that he has pardoned!
2. Jesus was poor in math.
a. How could you possibly leave 99 sheep and go off to look for one who has strayed? It makes no sense… unless you are rich in mercy, like Jesus. Then it does make sense. Mercy is more powerful than conclusions based on math.
3. Jesus didn’t know logic.
a. A woman who has 10 silver pieces and loses one of them and then finds it throws a party worth much more than the piece of silver she lost! How illogical is that!
b. Ah, but as the great French mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote, “The heart has its reasons that reason does not know.”
c. And Jesus says it even better: “There is more joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents than over the 99 who don’t have to repent.” (Luke XV)
4. Jesus is a risk-taker.
a. To encourage people to follow you, you should promise them success, money, power, position.
b. Jesus, however, doesn’t do that. He tells people to follow him no matter where he will lead them. Just trust him. But how trust him when he went to the cross? That is the point. “If you want to be my disciple, then you must deny yourself, take up your cross each day and follow me.” Not easy but certainly challenging and most people want to be challenged, especially the young.
c. You must be people of the beatitudes: Hooray for you who are poor, who are hungry, who weep and who are hated because of me.
d. Who can possibly follow a man like that! He must be crazy!
e. That is precisely what some people said of him in his day. Maybe that is why millions of young people from all over the world come to World Youth Days to celebrate world youth day with the Pope. Young people especially are attracted, not by ease, but by challenges to their generous hearts!
5. Finally: Jesus doesn’t understand economics and business.
a. In the parable of the land owner who hires workers at different times and he pays them all the same wage. This is very poor business thinking. If Jesus were the administrator or CEO of a company, it would go bankrupt!
b. His reason: he feels sorry for those who are unemployed and for their families and tells those who disagree with him: “Can I not do what I want with what is mine? Or are you jealous because I am generous?”
HOW TO APPLY THIS TO OUR LIVES
6. We too must integrate these so-called “defects” into our lives. We must develop short memories toward people who have offended us. We must be rich in mercy as Jesus is merciful toward us. We must throw logic out the window and rejoice when sinners convert, as Jesus rejoices when we convert. We must follow the risk-taker and be willing to carry our cross each day, no matter what, because he is with us at every step. And we must be generous with our time, talent and treasure. “How can the love of God be in the hearts of those who have an adequate amount of this world’s goods and yet close their hands to those in need?” (I John)
Jesus has no problem entering into bread and wine but he does experience such resistance when he tries to enter me.
Through the Word we hear and the Eucharist we celebrate, may the ever-defective Lord Jesus Christ help us to see life and people and their problems, not through the eyes of the world but rather as he sees them.
September 8, 2019
Cycle C – 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time
Deacon Dennis Ferguson
St. Luke throws some pretty heavy, controversial, provocative stuff at us in today’s gospel.
The first is that if you want to be a disciple of Christ, you have to hate your mother and father; hate your wife and kids; hate your brothers and sisters.
Did Christ really use the word hate?
Remember, Luke’s gospel was written by somebody trying to write down direct quotes of Jesus, a hundred and fifty years after Christ died. But, HATE! I do know that there are at least three distinct meanings for the word LOVE in the Greek language, so maybe the word hate is more nuanced than in English.
I also know that peace and love were Jesus’ middle names. So, I’ll leave it to the biblical scholars if Christ used the word Hate, but for me what he was saying was that as followers of Jesus, our responsibility extends beyond our flesh-and-blood family to the entire human family. That if we want to follow Christ we must follow him not only into church on Sunday morning, but also into our schools and places of work on Monday, and Tuesday and the weeks ahead.
The second point in today’s gospel is that it is not enough to say you are going to take it into the marketplace on Monday, but you have to do it, despite the costs.
If you are planning on building a tower, you have to be committed to finishing the job.
They say that there are three stages of commitment.
First, there is the fun stage. That’s when we go out and say, “I love doing this. Why didn’t I get involved sooner?’’
Second, there is the intolerant stage. That’s when we say, “Anyone who doesn’t get involved like me is a lazy slug.’’
Finally, there is the reality stage. That’s when we suddenly realize that our involvement is going to make only a microscopic dent in the problems of our world. But, despite that realization, we keep doing it.
That’s the stage at which saints are made.
The message in the gospel is clear: Take what you have at this very moment; and put it into practice out there, in the weeks ahead.
St. Luke uses provocative words to get that message across:
I’ll phrase it differently, you and I have to get to the third stage of commitment, the stage where we realize that our involvement is going to make only a microscopic dent in the problems of our world. But, despite that realization, we keep doing it. If we do, then you and I can go become saints.
September 1, 2019
Cycle C – 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time
Fr. LeBlanc (4:00 pm; 10:30 am Masses)
On Friday, I had the joy of visiting my ‘newest’ grand-nephew – (my nephew and niece-in-Law having recently bought a home only a mile away from here). As my sister now babysits there a couple of days a week, I’ll have the opportunity to see my 3 yr old grand-niece and ‘new’ grand-nephew more often which will be nice. I also look forward to ‘Baptizing’ my new grand-nephew here at St. Timothy’s on October 13th….( I’m a bit ‘biased’ but he’s a little ‘cutie pie’!)
Here at St.Timothy’s, we are fortunate to have many children – (including many ‘little ones’). I believe we’ve had 10 Baptisms this summer alone, which is wonderful for our Parish family. I will baptize another beautiful little girl, Vivian Picone, after the 10:30 am Mass. Additionally here at St. Tim’s, we also have our ‘Play & Pray’ group of ‘toddlers, who gather monthly in O’Connell Hall on Sunday – (a sight to see). (I refer to them as “my ‘littlest parishioners”.)
We know that Jesus himself loved ‘little children’ as seen in the Gospels. Children brought so much joy to Jesus, energized him and lifted his spirits with their innocence and child-like simplicity. They were precious to Jesus because children are ‘not yet’ as preoccupied with their ‘ego’ self as adults are.
That said, Jesus came into the world to give us all purpose and meaning. He came to teach us about how to be truly human, fully alive. He came to guide us to what will make us truly happy.
Jesus saw in ‘Little Children’ what GOD intended us to be before ‘Original Sin’ – when humanity was ‘innocent’, trusting and joy-filled (as children are) – ‘BEFORE’ Ego, before pride. Is it any wonder that Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Let the children come to me and do not hinder them, for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs’.
This weekend, our scriptures speak about another virtue which is reflective of those who belong to the kingdom of God – (*the virtue of ‘humility).
This summer while in France, I visited Lisieux where St. Therese, (affectionately known as ‘The Little Flower’) lived as a simple Carmelite nun, hidden from the world, living a very ‘humble life’ towards the end of the 19th century. Living her ‘Little Way’ of love, Therese humbled herself in all things. Without complaint, Therese endured the verbal abuse and constant criticisms of a a very difficult ‘old nun’ for whom she cared. She quietly endured deprivations and other afflictions (not even known to the Sisters with whom she lived). She then quietly endured tremendous suffering from tuberculosis – (again without complaint), subsequently dying at the young age of only 23 – a model of ‘humility’ and holiness which the world would come to know only after her brief life – (declared a saint in 1929 barely 30 years after her death).
And then (in more recent times), there was the ‘little nun’ from India (who would become ‘Saint’ Mother Teresa of Calcutta), who herself was a beautiful witness of ‘humility’ and ‘love’, already known worldwide during her own lifetime for her compassion and care for the poor, the suffering and dying. Whether she was speaking ‘truth to the powerful’ in her travels around the world or ‘holding the dying Christ’ (made present in the poor on the streets of Calcutta and elsewhere), Mother Teresa ‘lived’ humility, compassion and love before our eyes, and the world looked on in awe.
In our own lifetime, Mother Teresa exemplified the words from ‘Matthew’s’ Gospel: ‘I was hungry (and you gave me food);// I was thirsty (and you gave me drink);// I was a stranger (and you welcomed me:// I was naked (and you clothed me); // I was sick (and you took care of me);
I was in prison and you visited me’ (Matt 25:31-46)
‘This’ truth lies at the ‘heart of humility’, namely that : ‘Those who love the poor are an instruction manual for the rest of us. They make humility visible to us and draw us into its transformative power’.
Above all others, this truth was exemplified for us in ‘Jesus’ Himself – (St. Paul saying of Him): “Though He was in the form of God, Jesus did not count ‘equality’ with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied Himself taking the form of a slave, being born in the likeness of humankind’. ( Philippians 2).
In JESUS we learn that ‘GOD is ‘humble’….Are ‘WE’?
In our scripture readings this weekend, (in the models of faith who have gone before us), and above all in JESUS HIMSELF, we are reminded that GOD is ‘humble’ and challenges us to be the same.
‘For everyone who exalts oneself will be humbled.
But the one who humbles oneself will be exalted’.
Bishop Peter (8:30 am Mass)
HUMILITY AND SUPPORTING THOSE WHO ARE WEAK AND SUFFERING
1. Jesus gives us the greatest example of humility: “Though he was in the form of God, Jesus did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at. (Unlike Adam and Eve who grasped the forbidden fruit) Rather, he emptied himself, being born in the likeness of humans and then he humbled himself, becoming obedient even to the point of dying on a CROSS.” (Philippians II:6-11)
a. Think of all he went through during his passion – scourged, crowned with thorns and crucified. In all this, he never lashed out at those who were torturing him.
b. He also stood by those whom society deemed weak as we heard in today’s Gospel when Jesus tells the Pharisees to invite outcasts to dinner, such as the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind. This was shocking to the Pharisees who considered these people sinners since they were so afflicted. Of course today, we no longer think this way.
2. Humility is virtue and it often comes as a result of suffering or rejection or failure.
a. Humility is not weakness – on the contrary – it opens people to the sufferings of others and moves the person to compassion (a dynamic feeling that springs from the gut).
b. Nathan Pusey, President of Harvard University who helped a woman and her children to unload their car and turn on the electricity and water in a rented house in Portland, ME. She didn’t know who he was and he never told her!
3. To put this in the context of Labor Day: Tomorrow we honor and remember those who worked and still work in the mines, on the fields, in factories and construction. They include those who clean houses, work in hotels and restaurants and carwashes and so forth.
a. The tragedy of Father Michael J. McGivney and how he and his father and brother died in their late 30s because only the Irish would work in the foundry section of the brass industry in Waterbury. The fumes seriously affected their lungs…
b. Thanks to those who struggled even to the point of death to form labor unions, these life-threatening conditions have been for the most part eliminated due to the government that created agencies like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
- In this context Pope Francis stated: “I address a strong appeal from my heart that the dignity and safety of the worker always be protected.”
c. Seven years ago Father James Manship who worked for 11 years with Latino immigrants in the New Haven area told me of several men who lost fingers on machine-presses because the factories’ owners refused to install safeguards. After their injuries they were warned against applying for workmen’s compensation. If they did, the owners would report them to ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) because they were undocumented.
- In these cases we see men who are vulnerable (the poor) and individuals with power who treated them as though they were machines rather than human beings created in God’s image.
4. The last point I wish to make is the principle developed by Saint Pope John Paul II. He argues that labor precedes capital. He wrote: “All the means of production, from the most primitive to the ultra-modern ones, were gradually developed by human beings using their experience and intellect… (Laborem Exercens, = On Human Labor, # 12, p. 43)
a. Example: What we call social media: Computers and cell phones had been developed by human beings. (Labor) One or several geniuses used their ingenuity and creativity to produce social media. Then, as the process moved forward, capital in the form of money was needed to further the enterprise.
b. His point is that there should be no division between capital and labor as we often see today, one side struggling against the other.
c. Example: Seymour Specialty Wire – In the year 2,000, workers bought out the company. These included managers and all joined forces for the good of the enterprise because they were the owners! And they all shared in the profits, not equally since managers received more, something that was agreed to before they bought the factory.
d. Even today, workers should share in the profits that they and management create together.
- Thus it is unjust for management to consider the workforce as inferior. Without them, the company cannot succeed nor can it succeed if only the workers try to run it. (Cuba for instance!)
5. Humility and Labor Day: It is necessary that both sides realize that they must work together rather than being at odds with each other. May the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of unity and peace, help working people and management to collaborate for the good of the enterprise as well as the good of the larger community.
August 25, 2019
Cycle C – 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time
Bishop Peter (10:30 am Mass)
JESUS COMES TO SAVE ALL PEOPLE AND WE MUST COOPERATE IN THAT PLAN.
1. Focus on Jesus, always. He comes to save all people. In fact, Isaiah and other prophets predicted this.
a. From the reading of Isaiah in today’s liturgy: God will draw people from all these far off (at the time) nations to himself. He says: “I come to gather nations of every language; they shall come and see my glory.”
• They will gather in Jerusalem, God’s holy city and he will purify them of their sins and offenses.
2. Jesus reinforces the fact that God wants to save all people. Along with the prophets and ancestors of the Jews there will be “people from the east and the west, the north and the south” who will participate in the Heavenly Banquet (an image of Heaven).
a. Then, at the conclusion of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus sends his disciples to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” He adds, “I am with you until the end of time.”
b. Several points here: (1) Isaiah says that God will draw all peoples to himself. Jesus tells the disciples, however, that they will have to GO OUT to them. They have work to do and it will not be easy but Jesus will be with them every step of the way. (2) Since the earliest times, people were converted to Christ by the way his followers lived. Thus it was not only through the work of the Apostles like Paul but also his converts who themselves brought others to the faith.
3. Let’s return to our present times and to our own country and note that the same dynamic remains, meaning that people will be brought to Jesus through the lives of Catholics like yourselves who are called to be living examples of Jesus’ presence in society… Even to MAKE him present.
a. The picture is bleak, especially in New England where the numbers of unchurched people are the highest in the U.S. Not long ago, we took over from Oregon and Washington States.
b. Here is what Bishop Robert Barron (auxiliary bishop of LA) says: “In the early 1970s, roughly 5% of Americans identified as having no religion… Today, it is 25%! (in only 47 years) That is one quarter of all our fellow citizens claim no religion.
• Even more startling is the percentage of “nones” (= no religion) under the age of 30 rises to 40% and among Catholic youth the figure is an astounding 50%!
• Unfortunately the clergy scandal in our church has contributed to this. But other religions, perhaps with the exception of Muslims, are experiencing the same phenomenon and often to a sadder degree than ourselves.
4. Bleak? To say the least. What can give us hope?
a. Jesus loves these sisters and brothers of ours more than we could ever imagine. He will see to it in his good time that their souls are touched.
b. Saint Augustine’s words are so important here: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts will be restless until they rest in Thee.”
• In other words, no material, intellectual, sexual thrills, no power, prestige and possessions will satisfy the longing of the human heart.
c. FOCUS = Fellowship of Catholic University Scholars – Founded by Curtis Martin about 15 years ago, he forms groups of college grads who live on or near campuses around the country and interact with students, offering them Bible study or the possibility of gathering in small groups to study the Catholic faith. Their objective: Help students to develop a personal relationship with Jesus.
• Last week I had lunch with a young woman who is involved on the campus of Brown University in Providence, R.I. Needless to say I was deeply touched by her enthusiasm and her zeal to help bring college students to Christ.
• In fact, a group has been formed on the campus of CCSU (Central Ct. State University).
d. Re campus ministries around the country and especially on Catholic University campuses. The Jesuits and Franciscans and Dominicans along with the Holy Cross fathers and brothers and many religious sisters and laypersons are working hard to reach out to college students.
5. As for the wider society, Jesus turns to faithful Catholics like yourselves who have stayed and who can be a source of salt, light and leaven in our society today.
a. Like the early disciples, you too must continue to work at being Jesus’ true followers. “Not those who say, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven but those who do the will of my Father.” Prayer, grace before meals, the family rosary, reading the Bible, getting missalettes and reflecting on the Sunday readings before coming to Mass.
b. And most of all, working with God’s grace to become more and more a reflection of Jesus Christ in you. Authenticity, authenticity, authenticity.
I leave you with these words from Saint Pope Paul VI: “The world, despite innumerable signs of denying God is nevertheless searching for him in unexpected ways and painfully feeling the need of God. Thus the world is calling for evangelizers to speak to it of a God whom they themselves should know and be familiar with as if they could see the invisible. The world calls for and expects from us simplicity of life, the spirit of prayer, charity towards all, especially the lowly and the poor, obedience and humility, detachment and self-sacrifice. Without this mark of holiness, our word will have difficulty in touching the heart of our contemporaries. It risks being vain and sterile.” (#76)
August 18, 2019
Cycle C – 20th Sunday of Ordinary Time
August 11, 2019
Cycle C – 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Deacon Dennis (8:30 and 10:30 am Masses)
Those of us who have had teenage children, know that they think they are invincible and immortal. That is until one of their friends dies in a tragic accident. As we hold them and try to comfort them, we think to ourselves, “There, but for the grace of God, that could have been my son or daughter.”
Many of us have been around co-workers who were a little too strange for comfort, or very weird, or seemed to be wound to tightly. And we normally just blow it off. That is until we stop and say a prayer for the victims of last week’s rampages in Dayton and El Paso. There, but for the grace of God, go I.
And that’s precisely the point that Jesus makes in today’s gospel. That’s why he warns us: “Be ready . . . with your lamps lit. . . . You, too, must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you are not expecting him.” In the narrow sense those words refer to the end of the world. In the wider sense, however, they refer to the end of our life. And it is for the end of our life — or our death — that we must be, especially, prepared. All we know is that it will occur. My African-American friends at St. Justin/St. Michael’s Church in Hartford have an expression: “God may not come when you want him, but he always arrives on time.”
Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, the author of volumes of research on death and dying, has interviewed hundreds of people who were declared clinically dead and then revived – people who had gone through the near-death experience. A remarkable number of these people report experiencing a kind of instant replay of their lives – a kind of judgment, if you will. Kubler-Ross quotes them as saying, “When you come to this point, you see there are only two things that are relevant: love and service to others. All those things we think are important – like money, fame and power – are insignificant.”
Today’s gospel invites us to ask ourselves, how well we are preparing ourselves for that day when our life on this planet will come to an end. It invites us to ask ourselves, “If we were to die tonight, how ready would we be to face God?’’ And if our answer to that question leaves something to be desired, then we can be sure that Jesus is speaking to us in a special way through today’s gospel. He is saying: “Be . . . like servants who are waiting for their master to come back. . . . And you, too, must be ready, because the Son of man will come at an hour when you are not expecting him.”
That’s the message that Jesus gives us in today’s gospel. That’s the message that Jesus wants us to take to heart in this liturgy.
Consider just this past week – there but by the grace of God, go you, me, our friends, our coworkers, our children.
Bishop Peter (4:00 pm Mass)
Theme: FAITH: “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11: 1-2)
1. An example: We all believe in heaven and we HOPE that Jesus will take us there some day.
a. Never forget that the Eucharist is our greatest source of hope: “O Sacred Banquet in which Christ becomes our food. The memory of his passion is renewed. The soul is filled with grace and to us is given the promise of future glory in heaven.” (St. Thomas Aquinas, died in 1274)
• Each time we receive the Lord in the Eucharist, Jesus renews his promise to take us to heaven someday.
SOME LIVING EXAMLES OF FAITH AND HOPE
BISHOP FRANJO KOMÁRICA OF BANJA LUKA, BOSNIA- HÉRZAGOVINA, A MAN OF FAITH IN A DIVIDED COUNTRY
1. I met him in 1999 during a fact-finding trip with our U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Migration and Refugees. He told us about the civil war that ended in 1994 and how the Serbs had dynamited 80% of his churches and executed 60% of his priests. These horrible acts exacerbated the hatred between the Serbs and the Croatians. The Serbs are Orthodox and the Croatians are Roman Catholics for the most part. He strongly believed, however, that these divisions could be overcome in time with the prayer of those who believed that, with God’s help, this was possible. Prayer that would lead to effective action.
a. He told us of a visit he made to two concentration camps, one for men and one for women, to encourage his people. He suggested that they pray one Hail Mary each day for their guards. At first they baulked but the women took up the challenge and the men followed. After one week he noted a marked change in the atmosphere of those camps as both Croatians and Serbs began to respect each other. The power of prayer…
b. He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize as one who did what he could to overcome hatred and divisions by encouraging mutual love and respect.
2. I use this example to show the necessity of prayer and the struggle to follow the non-violent Christ as we face divisions in our country. The causes are many and it is up to professionals such as historians, sociologists and psychologists to analyze them. Just as Bishop Komarica believed in the power of prayer and the presence of Jesus Christ, so can we because He loves our people more than we could ever imagine.
a. FROM THE SECOND EUCHARISTIC PRAYER FOR RECONCILIATION
b. “By your Holy Spirit you move human hearts so that enemies begin to speak to each other again, adversaries join hands and peoples seek to meet together.”… “By the working of your power, it comes about O Lord that hatred is overcome by love, revenge gives way to forgiveness and discord is changed to mutual respect.”
3. A second example: At the Anti-Defamation League’s annual Torch of Liberty Award in Hartford of May of this year, the speakers were a former white supremacist named Arno Michaelis and a Sikh named Pardeep Kaleka. After an attack by a white supremacist on a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin on August 5, 2012, Pardeep reached out to Arno to try and understand the white supremacist thinking. During their dialogue, they became friendly to the point that Arno renounced his position. Now he and Pardeep travel around the country telling their story, showing through their relationship that there is hope once people try to understand one another in an atmosphere of mutual respect.
a. The many persons of various races who have come together to support the victims and their families in Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, TX while calling for sensible legislation to curb gun violence.
b. Your parish with the diversity here and your willingness to worship together and serve on various activities because of your faith in the Lord Jesus, the Prince of Peace.
4. BISHOP JOE VAZQUEZ OF AUSTIN, TX AND OTHER BISHOPS FROM THE SOUTH OF OUR COUNTRY IN A JOINT STATEMENT ON AUGUST 9TH, 2019
“The tragic loss of life of 22 people this weekend in El Paso demonstrates that hate-filled rhetoric and ideas can become the motivation for some to commit acts of violence. The anti-immigrant, anti-refugee, anti-Muslim, and anti-Semitic sentiments that have been publicly proclaimed in our society in recent years have incited hatred in our communities. Hatred and harsh rhetoric were echoed in the El Paso shooter’s explanation about why he committed this weekend’s shooting, as well as being evident in the motivation of the shooters who attacked the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh last year and the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston in 2015. Therefore we renew our call to stop using hate-filled language that demeans and divides us and motivates some people to such horrific violence. Moreover, we ask our leaders and all Americans to work to unite us as a great, diverse, and welcoming people.”
5. “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.” “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God.” And as the Archangel Gabriel said to Mary during the Annunciation: “Nothing is impossible for God.”
6. Now we turn to the Eucharistic part of our Mass. It is Jesus who is the object of our faith and hope, “a hope that does not disappoint for the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.” (Romans V)
August 4, 2019
Cycle C – 18th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Bishop Peter (10:30 am Mass)
Theme: To live as one born again through Baptism and follow Jesus and not the ways of the world. Put on the mind of Christ.
Subtheme: “Jesus, though rich, became poor…” (II Cor. 8)
1. Jesus, through Saint Luke, warns us about the potential danger of riches. Some would argue that, of all the seven capital sins (pride, envy, etc.), the must subtle is greed because it can grasp us often without our being aware of it.
a. The Greeks called greed, or the constant desire for more, “the greatest source of evil.”
2. Colossians 3 – The author is telling us that, since we are baptized, we mush shed the “former man or woman” since we have mystically died to sin and have risen with Jesus.
a. Thus we must live according to who we are. That implies turning away from “immorality, impurity, evil desire and the greed that is idolatry.”
• Idolatry is making the center of our desires a created thing and not the creator.
• In this case it is making the pursuit of money and possessions the driving force in our lives rather than love of God above all things and our neighbor as ourselves. This last is central to Jesus’ teachings.
• Pope Francis calls the obsession with wealth a “new and ruthless” form of worshiping a false idol, and argued it reduces humans to creatures of consumption.
3. Now to the words of Jesus in Luke’s Gospel and the Parable of the “Rich Fool.”
a. Jesus’ answer to the questioner, “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.”
• The owner of the farm is obviously self-centered.
• He never thanks God for his harvest. He owes it only to himself. Idolatry?
• He addresses himself 16 times and only himself.
• He makes no mention of giving a raise to his workers who produced this abundant harvest.
• He says nothing about caring for his wife and family and those around him in need.
• He apparently is alone – how sad!
• The best way to make God laugh is to tell God your plans: This man hopes to live for a long time and relax. “You fool, this night your soul will be demanded of you.” (You will die and be judged by God.)
4. Some conclusions for all of us, including myself of course.
a. Possessions can (not necessarily) isolate us from people around us and especially from the poor, as in the parable of Lazarus, the beggar and the rich man (no name) who couldn’t even see the him on his doorstep.
• Isolate from family: Harry Chapin and “The Cat’s in the Cradle”
• Conspicuous consumption & Amelda Marcos of the Philippines
b. Greed moves people to become arrogant – “I did it all by myself!” and tend to treat others with disdain.
c. With greed comes the drive for prestige against which Jesus warns us because it can (not necessarily) inflate our ego or false-self.
• Join prestigious clubs, go to prestigious schools, have prestigious friends…
5. The antidote to greed is generosity accompanied by humility.
a. Bill Gates who accompanies his wife and children to Catholic Mass in TX, a man and his wife who are aware of human needs and tries to meet them.
b. Many of you – generosity in the gift of life – your children and the costs of raising a family today. The Lord is pleased with you.
c. Humility: Yes, successful people do work hard but they must realize that there are many factors that lead to success: a good home and love of parents, education and talent, living in a country where economic success is possible, good health, supportive friends and associates – and see the hand of God in all of this.
d. Generosity in helping poor people – volunteering to serve non-profits using business skills to move the needle forward…
e. Generosity in supporting your parish and the A.A. Appeal that benefits so many people
6. Some ethical questions to guide our thinking as regards our government’s fiscal policies?
a. Do these policies tend to create more jobs? (It seems to me that the tax cut led to more employment.)
b. Are the benefits spread equitably throughout society? Do moderate and lower income people benefit proportionally from a given policy? For example, do those in the moderate and lower quintiles receive a greater percentage than those in the top 10%?
c. Does the policy increase inequality in our society or add to the already gross inequality we experience in the USA? (According to Thomas Pickety in his book “Capital” of 2015 (I believe), the US and the UK are the developed countries with the greatest inequality in the world)?
d. Does the policy add significantly to our immense deficit without any foreseeable chance of recuperating a good portion of that money?
7. EUCHARIST: It is Jesus who though rich became poor to enrich us through his poverty. May the generous Jesus help us to put on his own mind and think and act like him so that we may better serve him in his distressing disguise, in the words of Mother Teresa, in the poor, the suffering, the lonely.
Fr. Alvin LeBlanc (4:00pm and 8:30am Masses)
From time to time, it is good to assess our ‘priorities’ in life:
How are we doing? Are we where we want to be in our life goals?
How are we doing in our relationships with ‘others’ (family members, friends, coworkers, people in general)?
How are we doing in our relationship with God?
How do our priorities fit in the values that God would place on them and what is ultimately of value, what will bring us greater peace & happiness; What will give us reward which will not fade away?
Ecclesiastes reminds us this weekend: ‘What profit comes to man from all the toil and anxiety of heart (with which he has labored under the sun)? // All his days sorrow and grief are his occupation; // even at night, his mind is not at rest….For here is one who has labored and yet, to ‘another’ (who has not labored for it), he must leave his property”.
Jesus then fleshes this out in the ‘Parable of the Rich Man’ – (the latter considering himself blessed because he has accumulated so much – (in this case grain) – that he decides to ‘tear down’ his barns & build larger ones (to store all of his grain and other goods) for what he believes will be (years ahead) for his retirement) – only to have God say to him: “This very night, your life will be demanded of you &the things you have prepared (for yourself), to whom will they belong”? – Jesus concluding: “Thus will it be for all who store up ‘treasure’ for themselves, but do ‘not’ grow rich in what matters to God”.
In saying this, is Jesus saying that having ‘property & well-being’, having ‘possessions & even wealth (per se), are bad things? That to be his follower necessitates depriving oneself (or one’s loved ones) of the means to enjoy life & be comfortable?
Certainly this is ‘not’ the point of our scripture readings this weekend. Some – (through a vowed commitment) are called to ‘give up much’ for the sake of the kingdom but this is to free them from earthly concerns to more freely follow and serve the Lord and others. But for the majority of followers who have responsibilities (especially for their families), the Gospel ‘challenge’ is – (as it is for ‘all’ followers of Jesus), to: strive to live ‘proportionally’ (to one’s needs and wants) to strive to live a ‘balanced life’,
A greater simplicity of life ( sometimes called ‘minimalism’ today- as we live in a very consumerist culture) – with way many more things than we need and often don’t even use.
And in order to live a more balanced life, (a proportional life, we must seek the things that God would have us seek, (because we are not only ‘body’ but also ‘spirit’): God who has created us and therefore has planted within us those seeds, (those things which can lead us to more balanced, happy lives, Our body & spirit in greater equilibrium (by seeking to follow ‘God’s ways’ for us – (thus becoming more centered, knowing greater peace).
We achieve this further when our life ‘priorities’ also encompass our obligation to care (not only for our own) but also for the less-fortunate, to share of our ‘good fortune’ by caring for our neighbor in need – (whoever they may be) – as God commands us to do, with generous hearts, (also becoming instruments of peace & reconciliation through our witness as disciples: reflecting God’s priorities through our daily lives, seeking common ground (in our dealings with others), making the world just a little but better each day by what we say and do.
The lesson then of this weekend’s Scriptures (the challenge to us as followers of the Lord) – is that we assess our ‘priorities’ in life (from time to time) vis-à-vis what Jesus would have them be for us, and ‘tweak’ them accordingly. For in the end, Jesus is reminding us today that we need to ‘grow rich in the sight of GOD, by living loving, generous and caring lives in all of our relationships.
St. Paul puts it this way today, saying: ‘Think, of what is’ above’, (not of what is on earth) for our life is hidden with Christ in God. For when Christ (your life appears), then you too will appear with Him in glory’…..(OR) as JESUS himself puts it elsewhere: ‘Where your ‘Heart’ is, there will your ‘TREASURE’ be also’!
And if our treasure is on the ‘things of GOD’ – (in ‘loving and serving’ GOD in our neighbor with generous hearts) – then there will our true treasure be, which we will bring with us one day to GOD:
Treasures which will be incorruptible,
Treasures which will endure through eternity.
July 28, 2019
Cycle C – 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Bishop Peter (4:00 pm and 10:30 am Masses)
1. We are in a context of faith here – faith in Jesus Christ who loves you very much. In fact, he manifests his love for you by transforming you into his very likeness. You are Christ – meaning anointed ones, anointed with the Holy Spirit so you can say with St. Paul, “I live, now not so much I, but Christ lives in me.”
a. That’s why, after children or adults have had the saving waters of baptism poured them, the priest or deacon anoints their heads with Sacred Chrism, a sign of the active presence of the Holy Spirit in them.
b. That we can call God “Our Father,” and really mean it is one of the great gifts of the Holy Spirit. [If we didn’t have the Spirit, we could say the words but they wouldn’t mean anything.]
2. With that, we turn to Luke’s shorter version of the Lord’s Prayer.
a. Father = Abba, the endearing term a child uses to address his father. An English equivalent is “daddy.” In Spanish children pray, “Papa Dios.” Jewish children in Israel call their fathers, “Abba.”
• This implies that we can be intimate with Our Father who wants to forgive us, support us, and grant us what we need.
a. “Hallowed by thy name.” = Make yourself powerfully present in me and in our world that is seeking you often without realizing it.
b. “Your kingdom come.” With force into the hearts of humankind so that we may follow our consciences and make good choices.
c. “Give us each day our daily bread: The food that sustains us and especially the Bread of Life, the Eucharist, which we need to get us to the Heavenly Banquet.
d. “Forgive us our sins because we forgive everyone in debt to us…” Do we?
e. “Do not subject us to the final test.” = Do not let us be tempted beyond our means to resist and be with us when we face death and the effort of the Evil One who wants to lead us into despair.
3. Jesus tells us that the Father will give us the Holy Spirit if we ask him – the Holy Spirit is the origin of all our spiritual gifts – the gifts of faith, hope and love – the ability to produce the 9 fruits = charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, mercy and self-control.
a. This means that, since the Father will give us the greatest of gifts, then he will also give us other gifts to fulfill our needs.
4. Jesus invites us to pray to the Father even under difficult circumstances such as he did during his agony in the Garden of Gethsemani just before he was arrested.
a. His prayer should model our own: “Father, if you be willing, remove this cup from me; yet not my will but yours be done.”
• [Cup = his horrible passion.]
b. Jesus didn’t get what he wanted but the Father had other plans. He raised his Son from the dead and made him the source of eternal life for all who believe in him.
c. Difficult circumstances: The Roman Catholic Bishop Franjo Komárica of Banja Luka, Bosnia during the horrible civil war… 80% of his churches destroyed by the Serbs and 60% of his priests were shot to death. He visited the concentration camps of both men and women (Croatian Catholics) and asked them to pray one Hail Mary per day for their captives. The women began and later the men followed. Within one week there was a noticeable change in the guards’ attitude toward them.
d. We don’t always get what we want but God’s choice is better. I prayed that I would get into Yale but was refused. I did, however, get into Dartmouth. There I met one of the finest priests I have ever known who, at the end of my freshman year, looked me in the eye and asked, “Peter, do you want to be a priest?” At first I resisted. Then at the end of the school year, I spoke with my parents and told them I wanted to go to the seminary…
e. To pray without ceasing: Saint Monica who prayed 27 years for the conversion of her wayward son, who became St. Augustine.
5. Eucharist: May the Holy Spirit increase our faith so we can believe ever more intensely that God is Our Father who loves us more than we can ever imagine. Amen.
July 21, 2019
Cycle C – 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Deacon Dennis Ferguson
To use the imagery of today’s gospel, we’re a lot like Martha. We are “worried and troubled over so many things.” We can’t sit still. We can’t take time off, as Mary did, to sit quietly at the Lord’s feet.
Today’s story of Martha and Mary makes an important point. We can get so involved in what we are doing that we forget why we are doing it. Economist Gordon Dahl is quoted as saying that “most middle class Americans tend to worship their work, to work at their play, and to play at their worship. As a result, their meanings and values are distorted. Their relationships disintegrate faster than they can keep them in repair and their lifestyles resemble a cast of characters in search of a plot.”
Jesus didn’t visit his old friends, Martha and Mary, and their brother Lazarus, just for a clean house and a good meal. This is probably his last time with them: he was on the road to Jerusalem and his death. What he wanted most was to sit and leave his friends with a final message.
It was all about balance: food for the body and food for the spirit.
There is the story of an explorer who was searching the Amazon River in South America. For two days he pushed his indigenous guides and porters to the limit. Arising on the third day he found his staff sitting under a tree, obviously not ready to press on. He asked why and the response was, “the men have to wait for their souls to catch up to their bodies.”
Balance. We need it in every aspect of our lives: our work, our families, our leisure time. We need it in our culture, our government and our politics.
You have in this week’s bulletin a letter signed by all the active bishops in Connecticut. It is a balanced statement on immigration policies. The bishops are to be commended for their vision. Unfortunately, it was written before the latest racial screed of “Send them back” surfaced.
As a recent editorial in the New York Tines noted: Presidents are not saints, and in a country with such a troubled racial and xenophobic history, even the greatest leaders have fallen short of promoting the principle that all people are created equal. Abraham Lincoln contended for years that the best way to deal with the legacy of slavery would be to ship African-Americans to a colony in Africa or Central America. But then a few years later, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation and supported the enactment of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution.
Balance and a moral compass for the Nation. In his first two decades in Congress, Lyndon B. Johnson opposed every civil rights bill to come his way — only to turn around and fight for the Civil Rights Act of 1957 and, as president, the more sweeping Civil Rights Act of 1964. When White House aides warned him that championing the 1964 bill would ultimately damage his chances at re-election, he famously replied, “Well, what the hell’s the presidency for?”
But where is that balance in America today. Mr. Trump appears to see the presidency as a giant megaphone for stoking racial and ethnic animus. It is not just that he pursues policies aimed at exacerbating divisions, like banning migrants from majority-Muslim nations or building a wall on the United States-Mexico border. He seeks to demonize those who oppose his policies as dangerous extremists out to destroy America. In cases where his critics are not white — whether congresswomen of color or a judge of Mexican heritage — Mr. Trump is eager to spotlight that fact.
The president is looking to divide Americans along color lines, to conjure a zero-sum vision of America in which whites must contend against nonwhites for jobs, wealth, safety and citizenship. He thinks this approach will win him another four years in the White House. At this point, does it much matter if he is acting purely out of political cynicism, or without, as he says, a prejudiced bone in his body? The rage he is nurturing and the pain he is causing are all too real. The damage he is doing will take years to undo.
Some of you may dislike this type of homily, you’ve told me so in the past. The Church, however, teaches that when politics touches on faith and morals, we have the right, no, the obligation to speak out. Jesus called for balance in people’s lives, with the government and with the Hebraic Law. He spoke truth to power. Because otherwise, as Abraham Lincoln wrote: “To sin, by silence, when we should protest makes cowards of us all”.
July 14, 2019
Cycle C – 15th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Bishop Peter (4:00 pm and 10:30 am Masses)
THEME: THANKS TO THE HOLY SPIRIT IN OUR HEARTS, WE CAN BE COMPASSIONATE AS WAS THE GOOD SAMARITAN.
1. With reference to our reading from the book of Deuteronomy, the essence of the Law of Moses is to love the Lord, our God, with all our heart, soul and strength and our neighbor as ourselves. (Leviticus XIX) The word, “neighbor,” will be discussed by Jesus in the Parable of the Good Samaritan.
2. Second reading: The so-called Cosmic Christ – “All things were created through him and for him. He is before all things and in him all things hold together.”
a. Awesome! We adore Christ present throughout the universe that he created and guides in some mysterious way. The discoveries of astronomy serve to open believers in Christ to his action in the universe he created and sustains… a universe that is constantly evolving… Galaxies separating themselves from ours at a speed of 5.5 million miles per hour…
b. His power works through the HS and in the world, bringing people together, raising up people who are peacemakers and who try to break down barriers so that people might realize that we truly are sisters and brothers.
c. [Examples: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, (Eleanor Roosevelt chaired this commission and brought the work to its fulfillment on Dec. 10, 1948), the work of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who tried to break down racial barriers by peaceful means. Gandhi too. John F. Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis, Pope John XXIII]
d. Our country so badly needs Jesus’ guidance so that people will respect one another. For example, no white supremacy!
3. Now, the Good Samaritan:
a. Some of you, like me, have driven down the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. From 2400 feet above sea level to 820 below! A distance of only 28 miles by the modern road.
b. It is desolate with no homes making it perfect for robbers to hide and pounce on travelers. So prevalent were crimes committed here that it was referred to as the “Way of Blood.”
c. When Jesus says that a priest and then a Levite passed by to avoid the wounded man, many listeners would have been delighted to see these two portrayed as insensitive and uncaring.
• Gerald Sloyan, S.J. writes in his book entitled simply Jesus: “The temple priests not only lived well but acted as agents of the Roman Empire to collect taxes from the ordinary, hard-working people. Moreover, they were suspected of withholding too much for their services…”
d. The same audience was shocked, however, upon hearing that the hero was a Samaritan. Though ethnically Jewish, the Samaritans had been erroneously accused of going over to five false gods after their return from Assyria. (Assyria overcame and crushed the Northern Kingdom of Israel in 721 BC) Interestingly, the five gods become the “five husbands” of the Samaritan woman whom Jesus meets at the well.
• Thus making a Samaritan the hero would be similar to doing so for a member of ISIS or in WW II, a Japanese soldier aiding a wounded American.
• In any event this man was moved from the gut by compassion so he went beyond the barriers built up over years to see in the wounded man a fellow human being. He goes to great expense as he brings him to an inn where he pays for the man’s room and board, promising to reimburse the inn keeper for further expenses.
e. The scholar of the Law had occasioned the parable by asking Jesus to define exactly who his neighbor was. Jesus doesn’t answer directly but asks, “Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers.” “The one who showed him mercy.” “Then go and do likewise.”
4. To be neighbor is to be active. The neighbor is one who sees people in need and is moved to compassion to meet those needs, no matter who they are.
• Catholic Charities settled Muslims from civil war in Bosnia. Three work at St. Thomas Seminary = The Pastoral Center.
• Pope Francis washes feet of several Muslims in a jail in Rome on Holy Thursday several years ago and brought back families to the two parishes within the Vatican.
• This to elementary and high school students: Reach out to the most lonely, bullied, shunned student even if other students laugh at you. “To thine own self be true and thou shalt be false to no man.” (Hamlet)
6. EUCHARIST: Jesus asks his listeners to become better human beings by going against what comes naturally: xenophobia, or fear of the foreigner, disdain for those who are different and happiness over another’s failures. We are enabled to do this by the HS who moves us to be open to other human beings and to be merciful, even as our Heavenly Father is merciful. Amen.
July 7, 2019
Cycle C – 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Luke 10:1-12; 17-20
Bishop Peter (8:30 and 10:30 am Masses)
THEME: THAT GOD WORKS THROUGH HUMAN AGENTS IS A SIGN OF GOD’S HUMILITY AND TRUST IN US.
1. God worked through Paul and Paul knows that any success he had he attributes to Jesus.
a. Paul writes of the marks of Jesus’ sufferings that he bears in his body. This most likely refers to the many times Paul was scourged and beaten. How did he stand all that? For love of Jesus.
2. Re The first reading from Isaiah. It speaks of the return of the Jews from captivity in Babylon in the year 538 BC, thanks to the Persian king Cyrus who one year earlier (539 BC) had defeated the Babylonians. The sacred author sees Cyrus acting under God’s influence and not simply on his own.
3. Similarly, Jesus chooses to work through humans to extend his work of evangelization.
a. 72 – the number of nations known at that time. Thus St. Luke shows how much Jesus longs to evangelize the whole world.
b. Why does Jesus tell the disciples not to speak to anyone on the way? according to the culture, people would stop and chat for a long time. No. The mission is urgent. Get on your way.
c. “Peace to this house.” In Hebrew, the word is “Shalom.” It is more than the absence of war. It conveys wishes for good health, fertility, prosperity and a clear conscience.
d. When they return, Jesus is elated that they had a good experience but they must not let it go to their heads. They would have no success unless Jesus had given them the power to preach the Kingdom of God effectively.
e. The Kingdom of God: “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” In heaven, everyone does the will of God. Also, there is no war, no sickness, no poverty, no oppression. It is up to the followers of Jesus along with others of good will to set conditions allowing the Kingdom to break into the world.
4. Here is a prime example of an area where Jesus’ Kingdom must break in, that is, on our southern border where migrants at least to this point, are suffering because of inhumane conditions. Here is an excerpt of the statement by Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Houston, TX. He is the president of our bishops’ conference: “We join with our Holy Father Pope Francis in immense sadness, having seen the horrific images of Oscar Martinez and his daughter Angie Valeria who drowned in the Rio Grande Valley while attempting to flee persecution and enter the United States. This image cries to heaven for justice. This image silences politics. Who can look on this picture and not see the results of the failures of all of us to find a humane and just solution to the immigration crisis? Sadly, this picture shows the daily plight of our brothers and sisters. Not only does their cry reach heaven. It reaches us. And it must reach our federal government…”
a. Catholic Charities and diocesan organizations in El Paso and Brownsville on the US – Mexican border are very involved in providing humanitarian aid and legal counseling. The most visible person is Sister Norma Pimentel who heads the Office of Catholic Charities for the Rio Grande region. Even Pope Francis, after hearing of her valor dedication wrote to congratulate her and all religious women like her who serve migrant populations especially on the US – Mexican border.
5. Now back to our parish and your role as lay persons to bring about the Kingdom of God:
a. You are called and empowered by baptism to “prepare the way of the Lord,” to re-present him in your various environments. You have the responsibility of making Jesus known by the way you live. As St. Francis of Assisi said, “Preach always. Use words when necessary.”
- First and foremost in your home: You cooperate with God in giving birth to your children. Then you bring them up according to sound morals and the will of God.
- In your workplaces: Several questions: How can you make them more conducive to human development? Are there conflicts? What can you do, if anything, to resolve them? (My friend who did exactly that and as a result the workers enjoyed coming to their jobs.)
- Joe Lopes – Portuguese immigrant, electrician, who read his New Testament during lunch breaks. Little by little the younger men began to ask him for advice in their marriages and other areas of life.
6. Lastly, how crucial and challenging is your role in the church and in the world. May Jesus increase your faith and help you see how important you are to him and his on-going mission to make the Kingdom of his Father present in our modern world. “Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” Amen.
June 30, 2019
Cycle C – 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Bishop Peter (8:30 and 10:30 am Masses)
HOMILY ON SAINTS PETER AND PAUL
1. Both Peter and Paul were strong men with outstanding leadership qualities. Had they been in our era, they would have become CEOs of some major organizations.
a. But they had to be formed so they could be leaders in Jesus’ church.
b. Paul: Malaria? He wrote: “… in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. (II Corinthians 12: 7-9)
c. Peter: When Jesus invites him to walk on water and he sinks because he takes his eyes off Jesus when he hears the wind and sees the waves. Jesus rescues him and says: “Why did your doubt? Why didn’t you trust me? (Matthew 14:22ff)
- During Jesus’ passion, Peter is brought down by a teenage girl when he denies he knows Jesus. He weeps bitterly when he sees Jesus being led away as a prisoner.
- Jesus forgives him and makes him the head of his “sheep.” (John XX)
2. Another very important scene – (Mark 4:35-41) The apostles are with Jesus in a boat and all of a sudden the wind and waves threaten them. They awaken Jesus who was asleep. He calms the wind and the waves and then rebukes the apostles, saying: “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”
a. Represents the “Bark of Peter,” or the church. Re the large boat Rabbi David Freund discovered in the Sea of Galilee – he is an archeologist who teaches at the University of Hartford. The boat represents the church. Thus Catholics today must have faith that Jesus is with us and his church. He is not asleep.
3. Let’s go back to the Peter’s commission in Matthew 16: “You are Peter and upon this Rock I shall build my church. And the gates of hell will not prevail against it.”
a. This promise of Jesus is so important as our people are burdened with the shock and shame of the sex abuse scandal. People put their trust in priests and bishops, some of whom betrayed that trust and took advantage of young people, children and vulnerable adults.
4. Bishop Robert Barron in his “Letter to a Suffering Church:” He calls the whole debacle the “Devil’s Masterpiece.” “Certainly,” he writes, “in the ordinary run of history bad things happen but this scandal is just too exquisitely designed. It has corroded Catholic credibility so completely that the Church’s work in evangelization, catechesis, preaching, outreach to the poor, recruitment of vocations and education has been crippled. And most terribly, members of the Church, especially its most vulnerable, have been forced to live through a nightmare from which it seems impossible to wake. If the Church had a personal enemy, and indeed the devil is known as the enemy of the human race, it is hard to imagine that he could have come up with a better plan.” (pps 3-4)
a. This doesn’t take human beings off the hook. But the evil one looks for men and women who are willing to cooperate with him and who think that what they are doing is not wrong.
5. Will the gates of hell prevail? Will the ship of Peter sink? No. That is our faith.
a. Harvard Business School Review about ten years ago: Most organizations they studied snap but “the Catholic Church snaps back.”
b. The French Revolution in 1789 – clergy and religious slaughtered. Seemingly it was the end of the church in France. Subsequently, however, Jesus raised up great saints such as Saint Jean-Marie Vianney, Patron of All Priests, Saint Therese de Lisieux, the French Mission Society, Holy Cross Fathers, Brothers and Sisters (founders of our Notre Dame University), Saint Catherine Labouré and the Miraculous Medal, Blessed Simon Gabriel Bruté who evangelized peoples of Indiana in the 1860s, the man John Adams called the most educated person in America…
c. The policies put in place by the US Catholic Bishops in 2002 that greatly reduced these incidents making our parishes and schools the safest environments for youth and young people in the country, if not in the world.
d. Policies during our meeting in Baltimore on June 13th, extending sanctions to bishops thanks to Pope Francis’ document, “You are the light of the world.” These policies include a hotline to every archbishop (32 in our country) staffed by lay persons.
6. As we come to the Eucharistic part of our celebration let us make our own the prayer of the paralytic’s father in Mark 9: 24, “Lord I believe. Please help me to overcome my lack of faith.” Amen.
June 23, 2019
Cycle C – Body and Blood of Christ
Theme: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in them.”
1. History – Saint Juliana of Liege (Belgium), an 18-year-old nun, in 1209, received a vision of Jesus asking her for a feast day in honor of Himself in the Blessed Sacrament.
a. Shows Jesus’ trust in her. Also, Jesus chooses those who appear weak and insignificant to get his work done.
2. Traditional scholarly sources have long recognized her as the promoter of the Feast of Corpus Christi (The Body of Christ). She went to her parish priest with this request. The priest believed her and the feast was celebrated locally and finally Pope Urban IV extended it to the universal church in 1264.
3. We have the oldest text (around the year 55 AD) in I Corinthians, II thanks to the “drunks of Corinth.” They used to bring their own food and wine to consume prior to the celebration of the Eucharist and didn’t share them with those who had none. St. Paul reprimands them saying, “Do you show contempt for the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing?”
a. After the passage from I Corinthians 11:23-26, Paul tells them and all of us: “Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord.”
b. Were this simply bread and wine, Paul would not have written so forcefully. No – the bread and wine become the body and blood of Jesus Christ.
4. The Eucharist is a summary of the Last Supper, Jesus’ death, his rising from the dead to new life and the fact that he will come again to end time as we know it.
a. We pray this in one of the three responses after the consecration at Mass: “When we eat this bread and drink this cup we proclaim your death, O Lord, until you come again.”
b. Jesus “projects” himself with his wounds and his tremendous love for us and at the words of the priest, what were bread and wine are now the body and blood of Christ. When we receive Communion, he us his Holy Spirit who transforms us little by little into living images of Jesus himself.
c. Jesus takes an act of brutality and torture and transforms it into an act of unselfish love so that we can be capable of unselfish love too.
d. St. John Paul II wrote that Jesus uses the voice of the priest. Thus it is Jesus who consecrates and Jesus who baptizes…
5. Witnesses of Faith:
a. Saint Tarcisius, first century martyr was chosen to carry some consecrated hosts to a prison for the Christians there. A few of his friends saw him and asked what he was carrying but he refused to tell them. Believing him to be a Christian, they kicked and stoned him. Along came a soldier who chased them away. Tarcisius recognized him as a Christian too. Unfortunately Tarcisius died shortly after having been rescued for having protected the Most Holy Eucharist. Would he have done so if he believed that they were only pieces of bread?
b. Father Augustine Giusani of St. Ann Church, New Britain, who learned that his church had been broken into and the tabernacle smashed. Police accompanied him as he searched for the hosts. He found some in a garbage heap and kneeling, began to consume them. The police observed this with awe. Would he have done this had he considered the hosts to be only bread?
6. Results of assisting at Mass and receiving the Most Holy Eucharist
a. Jesus helps us see with his own eyes: His presence in the poor, the sick, refugees and undocumented immigrants who fear deportation.
- Among the poorest is Sister Earth who suffers because of our lack of respect for her – climate change…
b. Ask Jesus after receiving him in Holy Communion to help you in whatever way you know you need him – to be a better father or mother, son or daughter, friend, student…
7. We come to the Eucharistic part of our Mass. Let us listen to the beautiful words of St. Thomas Aquinas: “O Sacred Banquet in which Christ becomes our food, the memory of his passion is renewed, the soul is filled with grace and to us is given the promise of future glory with the Lord Jesus.” Amen.
June 16, 2019
Cycle C – Most Holy Trinity
1. St. Augustine is walking along the shore, contemplating the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity and how he would attempt to write about it. As he looks up, he sees a boy of about 7 who has dug a hole in the sand and is going back and forth from the ocean with a small pail, filling it with ocean water and dumping it into the hole. Augustine asks the child what he is doing and he replies, “I am trying to empty all that water into the hole I dug.” Augustine tells him, “That’s impossible.” The child replies, “As impossible as it is to fathom the depths of the Most Holy Trinity.” The boy then disappears.
2. Augustine did leave us an image that helps us understand just a little what it means to have three persons in one God.
a. God is LOVE. The Father loves with such intensity that his love becomes the Son. The love between the Father and the Son is the Holy Spirit. With that in mind, let us see how the Most Holy Trinity is important in our lives and world.
3. So much of this comes from the Gospel of John and his First Letter. In the Gospel he writes, “God so loved the world that he sent his only Son so that all who believe in him might not perish but have eternal life. For the Father sent his Son into the world, not to condemn the world but that the world be saved by him.” (John 3)
a. The Trinity created the universe with the Big Bang about 13.7 billion years ago and the earth about 4.3 billion years ago. Then about 2,000 years ago, (so short a time compared with the creation of the universe) God sent his son who was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary. Subsequently his foster father, Joseph, names him Jesus meaning “God saves.”
b. Jesus is a man like us in all things but sin. He grows up in a family and village. He learns the carpenter’s trade. At age 30 he begins his public ministry after being baptized by John in the Jordan River when the Holy Spirit comes upon him.
c. He preaches the good news to the poor in spirit = those who know they need God because of their suffering and hunger, because theirs is the Kingdom of God.
d. He cures the sick, feeds the hungry, forgives sinners and raises the dead to new life.
e. He also is a prophet, in other words, he goes against the conventions of his times: (1) Cures on the Sabbath saying, “The Sabbath is made for human beings, not the other way around.” (2) Cures the centurion’s servant, thus incurring the wrath of those who hated the Romans and wanted them out of their country after 90 years of oppression. (3) He goes to the Temple and drives out the money changers. Why? Because these people were charging a high percentage just to change ordinary coins into those needed to pay the Temple tax. He thus addresses the corruption of the Temple authorities who then collaborate with Pontius Pilate to have him put to death on a cross.
- Even there he is LOVE. He forgives those who crucify and taunt him.
- He rises from the dead and forgives his Apostles who abandoned him during his passion.
4. He then sends his Holy Spirit who creates his Body, the Church and into the hearts of all those who believe in him as Lord and Savior of the World.
a. Pope Francis: Without the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ would have been a figure of the past. Without the Holy Spirit, he church would be nothing more than a moral society.
b. The Holy Spirit makes us like Jesus Christ. We ARE Christ because we have been anointed by the Holy Spirit [symbolized by the anointing with chrism – from the same root in Greek as Christ = The Anointed one.]
c. The Holy Spirit: (1) has poured God’s love into our hearts so that we can be LOVE too, even though that is such a difficult ideal to attain. We can love our enemies, do good to those who hate us, bless those who curse us, pray for those who persecute us, as Jesus demanded (not asked, but demanded). (2) has raised up prophets through the ages who call us to live the basics of Jesus’ teachings in the Bible such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Mother Teresa calling us to respect human life and treat everyone with dignity, Pope John XXIII who was the peacemaker par excellence and Pope John Paul II who taught that human life must be respected from conception until natural death. (3) has helped the church reform itself throughout the centuries such as what the bishops of our country just did in our meeting in Baltimore from the 10th to the 13th of this month. All our conclusions are available on the USCCB (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) web site. I am available after Mass to anyone who has any questions.
d. Finally, the Spirit leads us to Jesus and Jesus brings us back to the Father. One day we shall see God face to face and realize just who God is and who we are.
5. As we prepare for the Eucharist, let us pray together, “Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end.” Amen.
June 9, 2019
Cycle C – Pentacost
THEME: “Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons and daughters of God.”(Romans VIII)
1. St. Luke is the author of the Acts of the Apostles. What is he telling us about the original Pentecost?
a. First, Pentecost is a Jewish Feast and ours is in a sense modeled after it.
- The Feast of Shavuot (Pentecost in English), one of the three great pilgrim Feasts occurs 50 days after the Feast of Pesach (Passover). [This holiday, described in Leviticus 23:15-22, was primarily an agricultural festival.] Very early in Jewish history, the Rabbis determined that the timing of the feast coincided with the great event in Jewish History of God giving His Torah or Law to Moses on Mt. Sinai. It marks the Covenant between God and Israel. That is why there are so many Jews present in Jerusalem when the HS comes.
- Thus Pentecost, 50 days after Easter, is the feast of the HS who formed the church and who is the NEW LAW or the interior force and light we need to follow the mind of the Master.
b. To be concrete: We read in the NT: “Love your enemies…” This is very difficult but the HS in us gives us the wisdom to see that it is the Master’s will and the power to put it into practice. It’s like having a road map and the car to get us to our destination.
• Another example: In Romans 12, St. Paul writes: “Let love be genuine. Hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good. Love one another with mutual affection and outdo one another in showing honor. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer… Beloved, never avenge yourselves… for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, says the Lord. No, if your enemies are hungry, feed them…Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.”
• If I read this prayerfully, it will resonate within us/ thanks to the HS within me.
2. The Tongues of Fire:
a. Babel and Pentecost – Babel – the inhabitants commit a sin of pride and consequently God punishes them by the multiplication of languages (tongues)
b. At Pentecost, the HS who is the love between the Father and the Son brings people together. All understand the Apostles’ words – unification of languages or tongues. Babel and pride and division, Pentecost and love and unity.
c. Application to us: The Holy Spirit is a wall-smasher and with the Spirit’s power, we can be that too:
- By breaking down divisions within our families as we try to mediate disputes, by being peacemakers in our neighborhoods or in the workplace. Example of my friend who came to her new sector and found dissension among the workers…
- The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr./ His dream was the unity of people of all races and religions traditions
3. The HS gives the power to love as Jesus did.
a. The HS is the love between the Father and the Son and we are made to love.
b. Thus I can move from selfish and self-centeredness to being a woman or man for others as was Jesus. E.G. Father Emile Kapaun who received the Congressional Medal of Honor posthumously for his unselfish service during the Korean War.
c. Along with the inner strength to persevere, to keep going – my mother after my father was drafted to serve in the navy during WWII – fathers who work long hours, mothers who work outside the home and assume so many burdens for their families, aging spouses who care for one another… St. Monica who prayed 27 years for her son, St. Augustine, asking God for the grace of his conversion.
4. Through our participation in the Most Holy Eucharistic Celebration, may the HS lead us ever more deeply into the mystery of Jesus’ love for us and give each of us the ability to love as did our Master. Amen.
June 2, 2019
Cycle C – 7th Sunday of Easter
THEME: THE HOLY SPIRIT LEADS US TO SEE THE MIND OF CHRIST.
1. Jesus has withdrawn his visible presence. Before he ascended into Heaven, he said to his Apostles: “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name will teach you everything and remind you all that I told you.”
a. So the Holy Spirit would empower the church and her members to discern, to try and understand, the mind of our Master, Jesus Christ. This is not always easy. It demands prayer and study and consultation with others as was the case in the Second Vatican Council.
2. Now, some examples:
a. The one we read about last week – How Peter and other church leaders, directed by the Holy Spirit (Peter says this) decided in the year 48 that Gentile converts would only have to believe in Jesus Christ as God’s Son who lived, suffered and died and rose again to give us new life. Then they would confirm or ratify their expression of faith by being baptized. Thus it was not necessary for them to become Jews first in order to be followers of the Lord Jesus.
b. The Council of Nicaea in 325 resolved the conflict caused by the Egyptian monk, Arius. He taught that the Father was greater than the Son and the Son was greater than the Holy Spirit. The Council, however, taught that the three Persons are all equal, three Persons in one God.
c. In the area of morality, the Dominican bishop, Bartholomé de las Casas, horrified by the treatment which the colonizers from Spain were inflicting on the indigenous peoples of the new world, became their strongest advocate, taking their cause to Fernando, King of Spain.
d. In this context one can assert that the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Junior, was guided by the Holy Spirit as he led a movement to end racial discrimination in our country.
e. In a more recent area of church doctrine, we consider Pope Pius XII’s definition of the teaching that the Virgin Mary was assumed into heaven. He did this after consulting the bishops of the world to see if this was already the faith of their people. The responses were all positive.
f. The rather recent teachings in the area of Catholic Social Justice beginning with Pope Leo XIII in 1892 when he wrote a letter strongly supporting working people and their right to form trade associations or unions and their struggle for better wages and humane working conditions.
g. Pope Saint John Paul II convinced President Ronald Reagan to push for the reduction of nuclear arms. Thus Reagan proposed the START Treaty (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) ultimately signed in 1991 by President George Herbert Walker Bush and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.
h. Pope John Paul II and the consistent ethic of life: Human life must be respected from conception until natural death. Thus opposition to abortion on demand, euthanasia, capital punishment and support of people who are suffering from any cause such as poverty, war, disease or human trafficking, for example.
3. There is so much more and these are only a few examples culled from hundreds, even thousands.
4. Now, what about yourselves? How have you experienced the Holy Spirit in your own lives or the lives of people you know and love? What inner force helped you to see that this was the man or woman with whom you wanted to spend your life? When you thought it time to seek another job? When you chose to go to one college rather than another?
5. Eucharist: It is Jesus, Emmanuel, who loves you and his bride, the church so much that he promises to remain with you and her until the end of the world. Amen.
May 26, 2019
Cycle C – 6th Sunday of Easter
Deacon Dennis Ferguson (4 pm Vigil and 8:30 am Masses)
Jesuit author, Mark Link, in writing about today’s gospel, tells the story of four-year-old Marion West. “Marion shouted and jumped for joy each noon when her mother came home from work on her lunch break. Her mother would pick her up at the neighbor’s. They’d hurry home, eat lunch, and play together. But Marion would become hysterical when her mother left again after lunch. One day her mother stopped coming home for lunch. Marion was saddened.
She wondered why her mother stopped coming. She wondered why her mother stopped eating and playing with her. She wondered if her mother still loved her as much as she once did. Years later Marion learned that her mother still came home each noon. She sat at the kitchen window, eating her lunch and watching Marion play in the neighbor’s yard.
All the while she longed to be with Marion. She longed to hold her close, especially when she cried. But it was for Marion’s good that she didn’t. Eventually Marion adjusted to her mother’s absence and grew up in a healthy way.
Looking back on it now, Marion sees why her mother stopped coming. It was for her own good, for her own growth and development.”
In today’s gospel, Jesus says in effect to his disciples: “Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid. You heard me say to you, ‘I am leaving, but I will come back to you.’ The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and make you remember all that I have told you.” In other words, Jesus is saying to his disciples that it’s time for him to leave them for a while. It’s time for them to begin a new phase in their spiritual growth. It’s time for them to grow and develop in a new way.
What is true of four-year-old Marion and what is true of the disciples of Jesus is also true of us. There come times in our lives when God seems to abandon us. There come times in our lives when God seems to leave us for a while.
Take our prayer, for example. Perhaps there was a time when we experienced deep peace from prayer. But now we seem to draw little from it.
Or take our faith. Perhaps there was a time when our faith was strong enough to move mountains. But now it can hardly move a molehill.
Or take our religious commitment. Perhaps we once derived great satisfaction from working in the CCD program, in RCIA, or as a eucharistic minister. Now we derive very little joy from it.
It is as though God has abandoned us. We begin to wonder if God still loves us as much as he once did, just as Marion did.
The truth is that God loves us very much. He loves us as much as he always did. He still longs to hold us close.
But God knows that it’s for our own good that he doesn’t. God knows it is time for us to begin a new phase in our spiritual growth, just as Marion did and just as the disciples of Jesus did.
For example, it’s time for us to realize that prayer can take place without feelings on our part. In fact, the best prayer often takes place when our heart seems to turn to stone and we have no feelings at all. For it is then that we truly pray with faith.
It’s time for us to realize that faith is not a feeling. It’s a commitment. It’s a surrender of ourselves to God. It’s saying yes to God, even though we don’t sense or feel his presence, just as Marion didn’t sense or feel her mother’s presence.
Finally, it’s time for us to realize that the motive for our religious involvement does not come, primarily, from the satisfaction we get from it.
We get involved because Jesus asked us to. We get involved because Jesus taught us to. We get involved because Jesus himself did.
The former Benedictine monk, Gregory Norbert of the Weston Priory, wrote the words I close with today, the words that Jesus left us with.
Peace I leave with you today, a peace the world cannot give.
Peace I leave with you my friend, so that your joy be ever full.
Bishop Peter (10:30 am Mass)
May 19, 2019
Cycle C – 5th Sunday of Easter
THEME: “LOVE ONE ANOTHER AS I HAVE LOVED YOU.”
1. This is so difficult. How can we possibly love others as Jesus loves us?
a. Empowered by the Holy Spirit: “The love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.” (Romans V)
- The HS is Jesus’ Spirit. Thus the power of Jesus’ love in us can break through our selfishness, our inclination toward vengeance, our impatience and our negative ambition that moves us to seek our own glory no matter what we do to other people…
b. Not only does God give us the power, God also gives us the ideals of true love in the famous hymn of love in Saint Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, chapter 13: “Love is patient and kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
- Admittedly, even to come close to attaining these ideals demands much work and constant examinations of conscience.
2. Jesus speaks of love within the community. The most basic is the family. Through parents’ love for their children, they form them to become capable of true love so they in turn can take their place in the world and create their own homes and families.
a. This involves: Manners (thank you), admitting they are wrong (I’m sorry.), making sacrifices for each other such as caring for sick members and spending time with one another, putting away cell phones and eating meals together, especially on Sundays.
b. But true love in a community must break forth as does God’s love. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit demonstrate this through creation, in particular creating us human beings.
c. The Trinity goes farther – the Son of God becomes one of us, like us in all things but sin and shows us what it means to live a truly and full human life.
d. Examples: Husbands and wives who beget and educate children; families who serve others such as working together at a soup kitchen…
e. Your parish and your many outreach efforts that make the lives of people better.
3. Other expressions of love: Love in Greek is expressed by 4 different words: love in a family, eros or love between spouses, phila or love between friends and agapé.
a. Agapé is invincible goodwill. No matter what another does to us, we will never permit bitterness to invade our hearts.
- For example, a French priest once told a Communist: You can tie me up and whip me but I cannot hate you and remain faithful to Christ. That’s a telling difference between Christians and atheists.
b. Friendship: Here is a story about the Special Olympics in Seattle, Washington. A man was striving for a record in the 300 meter race. The starting gun went off and 8 men begin to sprint. At the half-way point, he sees his friend fall, stops and helps him up. They lock arms together to the finish line while the crowd goes wild! Friendship is more important than winning. What a lesson this man teaches us.
4. Through all our efforts in communion with the Lord Jesus, we pave the way for the breaking in of a new heaven and a new earth. Each time we exercise patience or forgiveness, we demolish impediments so that this can happen. Thus it is inspiring to know that our efforts to love contribute to the creation of a new heaven and a new earth, in other words the Kingdom of God.
a. This is especially true when we love our Sister Earth and do what we can to curb and eliminate fossil fuels in order to save her. (Pope Francis)
5. Eucharist: It is Jesus who loves us so much that he gave his life for us and remains always with us. May he help us to attain his ideals of love, no matter what the cost. Amen.
May 12, 2019 (Mother’s Day)
Cycle C – 4th Sunday of Easter
1. What a fine example of faithful perseverance St. Paul gives us even though he is persecuted by his own Jewish people and by those converts from Judaism who insist that gentile converts must become Jews first.
a. This is all the more inspiring since Paul had nothing to gain financially. His sole motivating force was his deep faith in the Lord Jesus and his love for him.
b. Thus he was “compelled” as he said to preach the Good News, the Gospel, that Jesus Christ is God’s Son who rose from the dead to give us hope and new life. He forgives us our sin so that we no longer have to bear guilt for the past and sends us his HS who empowers us to live like Jesus himself. Thus we can say with Saint Paul: “I live, now not so much I, but it is Christ who lives in me.”
2. The sacred writer of the Book of Revelation gives us a similar example in the martyrs of the early church, particularly those who were killed during the reign of the Roman Emperor Diocletian (95-96).
a. Like the martyrs throughout the years, including the thousands since the beginning of the 21st century, they are in heaven because “they have been washed clean by the blood of the Lamb,” meaning Jesus Christ. This concept is rich in our tradition, for example, in the first letter of John we read: “… the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin.” (I John 1:7)
3. On Mother’s Day it is appropriate to present examples of mothers who have who have persevered in faithfulness despite many difficulties:
a. In the fourth century, this woman married a pagan Roman who was unfaithful, drank heavily and had a violent temper. What is more, she knew that her son was brilliant and prayed 27 years for his conversion to Christianity.
• One year before his death, her husband, Patrick, converted after changing his ways, thanks to his wife’s prayers.
• Then her son not only converted but became a priest and bishop, one of the most famous in Christian history. Her name, Saint Monica and his, Saint Augustine who wrote, “Late have I loved thee, O Beauty ever ancient, O beauty ever new. Late have I loved you.”
• Perhaps there are many Monicas among you today, praying for the conversion and return to the Church of your young adult children.
b. Because we are in Good Shepherd Sunday (always the 4th after Easter), here is the example of a mother who has suffered unspeakable tragedy and yet perseveres in her faith in profound love for Jesus Christ:
• She wrote: “Seven years after this horrendous event, I continue to draw on, trust and follow the Good Shepherd, even when paths are frightening and dark, even when I don’t understand. In these moments I embrace his closeness and know it is in his protection that I am enabled to walk. Thus I believe that when the storm has passed, when the danger is averted, I will emerge onto green pastures, still waters, and find rest in the loving tenderness of the Good Shepherd.” The author – Jennifer Hubbard whose daughter Catherine Violet, was a victim of the Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012. (From the May edition of Magnificat, p. 153…)
c. How many of you mothers persevere despite tragedy in your lives? How many remain faithful to the Church despite the failure of some of its leaders? How many of you went through trying times raising your children even under difficult circumstances such as husbands going off to military service or having to leave your homes when you yourselves were deployed? How many of you were faithful and still are as you care for children with special needs or sick husbands or aging parents?
4. In all these circumstances you are accompanied by the Good Shepherd as he walked with Jennifer Hubbard. He is the greatest example of perseverance and faithfulness because he constantly reaches out to bring the lost sheep back into the fold where they can find forgiveness, rest and the cool waters of peace.
Now we come to the Eucharistic part of our celebration: As we gaze on the Most Holy Eucharist and receive it we recall that it is Jesus the Good Shepherd who promises to be with us constantly, in ways we perhaps will never know. “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for years to come.” (Psalm 23)
May 5, 2019
Cycle C – 3rd Sunday of Easter
Fr. Tom Coughlin
Do you have a favorite word in your personal dictionary? Is there a particular word that you are fond of? We all have our own internal personal dictionary that we collect and store in our minds when we grow and learn. Maybe you use this particular word as a source of inspiration or guidance in your life. Very often, all these words we hear and read become an invaluable part of who we are and how we will become. Words do form and shape us as individual beings. The words that we read, hear and hold in our hearts often sculpt us into what God has made us to be. Without words, we cannot grow and thrive as human beings. Since we hold and treasure words in our hearts, we ask ourselves if there is a peculiar word in our hearts that we are fond of and may reveal who or what we really are? Give yourself a moment to pause and reflect on what may be your favorite word; a word that may best describe who you really are.
I for my part often wonder if God has a favorite word in His own personal dictionary, too. Does He have a favorite word? Let’s consult the Scriptures and see what we can glean from the treasure trove of His eternal words in the Scriptures and find out for ourselves. Let’s start with the very first words that God used to speak to us in the Scriptures especially when we heard them during the Easter Vigil service this year:
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was GOOD…”
In the next several passages of the vigil readings which narrated on how God created our world, we come to read and hear that every time when God created something, He saw that whatever He did was good. Whatever God did, it was always good. In essence, the actions and grace of God are always good. Apart from Him, nothing is good. From the Scripture stories of the creation of God, we can clearly see how God shared with us His feelings about His work. He described His works as something good. It looks like that God’s favorite word may be this particular word, “Good.” Although God does not restrict Himself to a particular word as He is the creator of all the words that we have on earth, I could not help but to wonder if the word, “GOOD” is His favorite word because He had repeatedly used this word every time He created something in the story of creation. It was a no mere accident that God used this word, “GOOD” in the Scriptures often because it clearly alludes to the goodness of God and His nature. He used this word, “Good” to reveal to us who He really is. By His actions in creating all of us, God manifested to us of his profound goodness. Like a proverbial a slip of tongue, God tells us in the Scripture who and what He is really all about. In the manifold of his infinite mystery, God has revealed something to us about Himself and that the word “GOOD” was deliberately used to manifest His personality. He did not use any other words to describe who He is. Jesus once described himself as a “GOOD” Shepherd. Therefore, God is essentially good, nothing else. Apart from Him, there is nothing that is good.
I am led to believe that the word, “GOOD is God’s favorite word because He had repeatedly used it in the Scriptures, notably in the creation story. Therefore it now behooves us to strive for this grace of goodness in our life. We ask ourselves how can we become as good as God is. First most, we need to view ourselves as good. We all are good because God created us in the likeness of God Himself. We need to think, breathe and live as good people. We need to make our faith in God good, not bad. We still need to have good faith in people that we live with. We need to strive after goodness and to make all things that we do to be good. We are created by God to be good and therefore we need to live our lives as something good and in turn God will undoubtedly bless us. We are reminded by some lines from a song in the “Sound of Music”: “Nothing comes from nothing. Nothing ever could. So somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must have done something good.” We need to do something good for God and for His people and in turn God will bless us. Such is our calling, to be as good as God is.
God has done many good things for us and therefore let us worship and love God in total goodness. Let us view the whole world as something good. Let us love everyone as someone good. Let us use our good words to make God’s world holy and good. When we make every effort to make God’s world holy and good, we will become Children of God and we all will be as good as God is.
Apr 28, 2019
Cycle C – 2nd Sunday of Easter
Deacon Dennis Ferguson
Like St. Thomas, I have had doubts about my faith. Doubts when I stood and gave the homily at a young man’s funeral whom I had known since he was in kindergarten at Morley School. Joey was only thirty years old when he was shot and killed by the State Police. I don’t hold anything against the State Police. I believe it was suicide by cop. Joey had said to me six months before his death that he couldn’t come back to the people and places that had gotten him into trouble before. But come back he did. My faith says we have free will, the ability to make choices between good and evil. But I was angry that it happened, and angry at God for letting it happen. I cried at that funeral and wanted to shout, “Lord, couldn’t you have given Joey a little help, the strength to avoid the people and places he feared, and I thought to myself: Why, Lord? Is it all true? Is resurrection a reality? Is it all simply ancient myth designed to get us through the night? Is my belief that God even exists a reality or a fiction?
You and I will never see Jesus in this life. It can never be proven to us that he was raised from the dead. Jesus understands it’s harder for us 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 do you prove love? How do you prove friendship? How do we prove devotion to our spouse; to our children? We can’t: we trust; we hope; we believe; and because we do, we again – are blessed.
You and I are here this Saturday night/Sunday morning to feel the presence of God, to somehow leave a better person than when we walked in 45 minutes earlier.
And yet, I know there are times in our lives when we face grief, or disappointment, or pain, or depression, or anger at God. There are times when our hold on God, falters. When these moments of true, deep doubt come, let me urge something upon you. I told you this truth in this past Good Friday’s homily; I’ve said it in other homilies; but for me, I need to remind myself of it over and over again. NEVER DOUBT IN THE DARK, WHAT GOD HAS TOLD YOU IN THE LIGHT.
I hope that simple truth brings comfort to those who struggle. I know it brings solace to our retiring Pastoral Associate, Pat Piano. Pat is an amazing liturgist and the consummate organizer. Anyone who has worked with Pat around illnesses or funerals, knows she possesses a unique blend of compassion, the ability to comfort, and insight into the human heart. She is a personal friend and she epitomizes what will redeem and strengthen our Catholic Church in the Archdiocese by the mere fact that she is a woman. Dear God, continue to bless us with competent, capable women like her to guide this Church.
Because she and we have also experienced that light. It is in those moments of spiritual light when God shows us true reality. We have all experienced that light when, throughout our lifetime, we actually have felt the presence of God.
Christ comes to us through living people – through you and me. Imagine, if you will, standing in front of a fire with another person. Imagine that fire is Jesus. Both you and that other person can feel the warmth of the fire — of Jesus.
You can see the reflection of the fire in the face of the other person, but you can’t see it in yourself; you can feel it, but you can’t see it. Only the other person can see it in you. We bring the Easter light of Christ into the world, and to each other.
These moments are so very important, because they allow us — to get through many dark nights of doubt and despair.
In moments of light, God has told you that he will never desert you. 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, Christ told us tonight/today “Do not be afraid.” Never doubt that.
NEVER DOUBT IN THE DARK, WHAT GOD HAS TOLD YOU IN THE LIGHT.
Apr 21, 2019
Cycle C – Easter Day
Fr. Alvin LeBlanc
We gather this Easter Sunday to celebrate the central event of our faith which gave birth to Christianity.
We do so in the pageantry of the Church’s ancient Easter liturgy – with Word, symbols & song – to celebrate the ‘Good News of Salvation’ — that Jesus Christ, who suffered & died for us, and rose from the dead — the joy of which burst forth from this sacred day some 2,000 years ago giving us hope & promise that we will share in the victory won for us through Jesus Christ on Easter and be with Him and our departed loved ones in eternal life one day.
For it is EASTER which began our Christian faith:
Christianity did not begin at Christmas when Jesus was born. It did not begin when He became an itinerant preacher (and the crowds began to gather around Him because of His teachings, miracles and healings. It did not begin when Jesus raised His friend Lazurus from the Dead (days after Lazurus had died). It did not even happen during most of Holy Week (even on Good Friday as Jesus underwent His agonizing death on the Cross for us – unjustly condemned, the most innocent of all men who would ever live). For HAD Jesus’ life ended with His last breath on the Cross on (what became) Good Friday, you and I would not be here today. There would be no Christianity, no Christmas, and likely no remembrance of Jesus of Nazareth (except perhaps a minor footnote in Jewish (and Roman) history) had Good Friday been the end.
NO – without Jesus Christ’s RESURRECTION from the Dead, there would not have been an EASTER from which Christian Faith began. For it was only from the prism and light of EASTER Sunday that the many facets of WHO Jesus truly was began to be gleaned. It was only in light of the events of Easter, that believers began then looking backwards to Jesus earthly life & ministry, and then further back to his birth in Bethlehem, and finally further back to his existence always with God before time – God’s eternal SON – John’s Gospel saying: ‘In the beginning was the WORD – (namely JESUS), and ‘the WORD was with GOD, and the WORD was GOD’. Only through this multi-faceted prism did the early Christians then come to see that the Scriptures were indeed fulfilled in JESUS.
Christianity (and its GOOD NEWS) began because of what occurred on this day some 2,000 years ago – the news which went forth from the empty tomb that 1st Easter Sunday morning (as we hear from John’s Gospel today through the witness of Mary Magdalen, Simon Peter and John (who found Jesus’ tomb empty) – with only John, (the beloved disciple of Jesus), apparently understanding the scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead (as Jesus Himself had prophesied) but the disciples were slow to understand.
In last night’s Easter Vigil Gospel from LUKE, the truth of Easter’s proclamation is more clearly confirmed. There, Luke says:
At daybreak, (on the 1st day of the week), the women who had followed Jesus came to the tomb, and finding the Stone rolled away from the tomb), they entered, but did not find the body of Jesus.
(Then) two men in dazzling garments appeared to them & they were terrified.
The men said to them: Why do you seek the living among the dead?
He is not here! He has been Raised!!!
It was with that joyful news that Christianity BEGAN: with an empty tomb and (in Luke’s account) – with 2 (angelic) men ‘announcing’ the ‘GOOD NEWS’ of EASTER – (to the women who had followed Jesus).
In the days that ensued, stories began to circulate (by those chosen by God beforehand – who were privileged to encounter the Risen Lord Jesus after His Resurrection) that Jesus (who had been crucified and put to death) truly had been raised.
This is the Good News of Easter from which Christianity was born this day – from a handful of witnesses chosen by God, who witnessed the Risen Jesus for 40 days before His Ascension, growing to over three billion Christians in the world today, 1.2 billion sharing our Catholic Christian faith today.
In a few moments, with the Easter water (blessed last evening), we will be blessed with EASTER water – reminding us of our baptisms where, as St. Paul says, ‘we were buried with Christ into His death, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead (by the glory of the Father),we too might live in newness of life, and one day be united with Him in the Resurrection’.
Now having completed our Lenten journey, may we be renewed in our own faith in Jesus, (the Resurrection and the Life) – in whom our Christian faith began and will continue one day into Eternal Life – won for us through the victory of the Risen Lord Jesus on Easter.
Apr 20, 2019
Cycle C – Easter Vigil
Fr. Alvin LeBlanc
We have gathered this Easter Vigil Night to celebrate the ‘central’ mystery of our faith which gave ‘birth’ to Christianity.
We do so in the pageantry of the Church’s ancient Easter liturgy – in Word, (symbols) & song – to celebrate the ‘Good News of Salvation’ that Jesus Christ, (who suffered & died for us) – is ‘Risen’ from the Dead – the ‘belief’ of which gives ‘guidance & meaning’ (not only to ‘this’ life), but ‘hope & promise ‘of this night of sharing one day in the victory of Jesus Christ over ‘death’ – leading us to eternal life with Him and our departed loved ones one day.
We likely never stop to think about it – but Christianity really ‘began’ at ‘EASTER’.
It did ‘not’ begin at Christmas when Jesus was born; It did ‘not’ begin when He became an itinerant preacher (and the crowds began to gather around Him b/c of His teachings & miracles). It did ‘not’ begin when Jesus raised His fried Lazarus from the Dead (days after Lazarus had died); It did ‘not’ even happen during most of Holy Week, even on Good Friday when (alone & abandoned by most who had ‘hoped’ in Him), it all came to a seeming crushing end and despair, as Jesus underwent His agonizing death on the Cross. ‘HAD’ it ended with Jesus’ last breath on the ‘Cross’, you & I would not be here tonight. There would be ‘no’ Christianity – (no Christmas) –– (no ‘remembrance of ‘Jesus of Nazareth’) – except perhaps as a minor footnote in Jewish and Roman history.
‘NO’ – ‘Without’ JESUS CHRIST’S ‘RESSURECTION’ from the Dead– there would be ‘NO’ Christianity because there would ‘not’ have been an ‘EASTER’ ‘from which’ our faith ‘began’ – only thereafter believers looking ‘backwards’ to His life and ministry, (then to His Birth), and finally even to ‘before’ His birth – to see that, in Jesus, the scriptures had been fulfilled.
LUKE – (the Gospel for this present ‘liturgical year’), proclaims the Easter roots of Christianity in tonight’s Gospel, saying:
‘At daybreak, (on the 1st day of the week), the women who had followed Jesus came to the tomb) and finding the Stone rolled away from the tomb, they entered, but did ‘not’ find the body of Jesus. Two men in dazzling garments appeared to them & they were terrified. The men said to them: ‘Why do you seek the ‘living’ among the dead? He is ‘not’ here! He has been ‘Raised’!!!’
It was with that ‘joyful news’ that Christianity ‘’began’ – with an ‘empty’ tomb and, in Luke’s account), two angelic men ‘announcing’ the ‘GOOD NEWS’ of EASTER to the women who had come to the tomb.
It was from ‘EASTER’, that stories began to circulate (by those chosen by God beforehand) who were privileged to encounter the ‘Risen Lord Jesus’ in the days and weeks which followed and from EASTER that Christianity was ‘born’.
And as ‘Christianity’ began on this night long ago, so the Church (from the earliest centuries), chose the ‘Easter’ Vigil (above all), to annually receive ‘new’ members into the Christian faith through what has come to be known as the RCIA – (the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults).
Tonight – (throughout the world), tens of thousands of catechumens will be baptized – will (in the words of St. Paul in tonight’s Epistle) ‘be buried with Christ (through the ‘waters’ of Baptism) into His Death, so that just as Christ was ‘raised’ from the Dead by the glory of the Father, they too might live in newness of life, and one day (through death), be united with Him in the Resurrection’.
With great joy this evening, we will shortly be ‘welcoming’ our catechumen, Yvonne Uherek, into her ‘new’ life in Jesus (through the waters of Baptism), followed by Confirmation and the Eucharist, becoming a full member of our Catholic family of faith, through the graces she will receive this night through the Risen Lord and throughout her life.
May Yvonne, through her ‘Christian Initiation’ tonight, receive God’s abundant blessings in her life of faith in the years ahead, and each of us – having completed our own ‘Lenten journey, be ‘renewed’ in our own faith in Jesus, the Resurrection and the Life – in whom our Christian faith ‘began’ and will ‘continue’ one day into Eternal Life through the ‘promise of Easter’ – gained for us on this night.
Apr 13-14, 2019
Cycle C – Palm Sunday
Homilist: Deacon Eric
Apr 6-7, 2019
Cycle C – 5th Sunday of Lent
Homilist (8:30/10:30 am Masses): Fr. Tom Coughlin
We all have our favorite quotes or adages that guide us in our life. One of my favorite quotes is this: “Saints have a past; sinners have a future.” How true it is! Sinners like us do have a future and all of our saints have a past. There is hope for us, sinners, of our bright future, no matter how heinous the sins of our past may be. Our God is hopelessly merciful. He will not remember our past because our God is not God of the past but God of the future. Let me repeat this wonderful adage: “Saints have a past; sinners have a future.”
Today’s Gospel reading reminds us that what matters the most is not what happens in the past but what will happen now and in the future. Jesus did not condemn this adulterous lady to the past. Jesus gave this woman a future. However, he made it clear to her that she was not to sin anymore. We hear the same statement during our confessions. The priests who absolve us of our sins tell us this, “Go into peace and sin no more.” We must do likewise.
The Old Testament reading at today’s Mass inform us that there will be a new pavement for a better future. “Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not; see, I am doing something new!” Our prophet, Isaiah gives us encouraging words that our future needs not to be bleak and hopeless. Our future looks more promising mostly because Jesus rose from the dead. His resurrection from the dead gives us a bright future and that is precisely what St. Paul was trying to illustrate in his Letter to the Philippines. St. Paul also wrote that if Jesus did not rise from the dead, we will remain dead in our sins and will have no redemption from our sins. The power of Jesus’ resurrection has freed us from the power of sin and death. We have a wonderful future ahead of us, thanks to Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross on Good Friday.
Let’s look at the today’s Gospel story of a woman caught in adultery. This Gospel story consists of three main characters: the adulteress, the accusers (Pharisees) and Christ himself. We can see the interplay among these main characters: the accusers trying to dominate the scene by dragging the prostitute to the play for the purpose of humiliating her and at the same time challenging Jesus with his knowledge of the Jewish law and how he would interpret the Jewish Law on the sin of adultery. What we actually are seeing in this story is not just a drama but warfare between violence and injustice beget by the evil one and act of compassion and mercy beget by God. It is a war between the good and the evil, the endless struggle between the light and the darkness. Not being outdone by the accusers, Jesus performed an incredible miracle: Jesus was able to recognize and expose the specific sins of the accusers’ past lives by writing out their concealed sins in the dirt, much to their shame and glaring exposition of their blind hypocrisy. It then became clear that the sins of the prostitute were not in any way different from the concealed sins of the accusers. The sins of the prostitute and the Pharisees were one and the same. The prostitute was accused simply because she was a woman. Jesus laid bare the travesty of injustice and challenged this age-old injustice perpetuated against the female gender by mankind. Sadly, this injustice is still perpetuated in Islamic countries and many women are still stoned to death. One has to see the movie, “The Stoning of Soryana M.” to fathom this incredible horror and mockery of justice for women in Islamic cultures.
Furthermore, Jesus rose above this fray and slam shut the ongoing travesty of justice by saying these powerful words: “He who is without sin may cast the first stone.” The logic behind these words is that no one is without sin. We all are sinners. Jesus wants to portray God the Father as a God of mercy, not God of retribution. If the Father of Jesus Christ is a God of retribution, then anyone can cast stone at whoever deserves this. Jesus changed everything. He wanted to wage a war against senseless violence of injustice as it had no room in the Kingdom of God. Jesus wanted to herald in a Kingdom of justice, kindness and mercy. For the Pharisees, they want no part of it as they were deeply entrenched in their evil ways. No wonder our Lord detested them and he had to expose their hypocrisy in order to redeem the prostitute from this delicate situation. It worked this time for this prostitute and she got away with it, thanks to the mercy of God. However, sadly to say, it only served to incur the wrath and final determination of the Pharisees to do away with Jesus. Consequently, Jesus did not die on the cross for mere infractions of the Jewish laws. Instead, it was a sum of all the confrontations and the warfare Jesus had with the Pharisees that led him directly to his final and ignominious death on the cross on Good Friday. It was a sweet revenge exacted by the shame-faced Pharisees on Jesus for His battle against their acts of self-righteousness and injustice. It was the price Jesus had to pay in order to bring in the Kingdom of God on earth. We now owe Jesus a life time of allegiance, both here and hereafter.
More importantly, how do we see ourselves in this story? Which one of these characters in this story we may identify ourselves with? The prostitute, or Jesus, or the Pharisees? Which one? Only we know in the recess of our hearts which one we may identify ourselves closely with. If we are not sure, then perhaps we may identify with all three of them rolled into one? There may be times when we like to judge and accuse others of sins when we do the same thing ourselves. Or perhaps we may want to identify ourselves like Jesus in forgiving the sinners? Or perhaps we may feel spiritually weak and victimized like this prostitute, not knowing what to do or where to go? Sometime we may do all three together at the same time, for after all we do not understand the paradoxical nature of humanity.
In closing, this powerful story of Jesus redeeming this hapless prostitute is a beacon of hope for all of us who continue to sin. We come to realize that with grace of God, we can rise above our sinfulness and to follow Jesus’ command: “Go and sin no more.” This is our future. The past will no longer have control over us, for our God
Homilist (4pm Vigil Mass): Bishop Peter
THEME: “The Father sent his son into the world, not to condemn it but that the world might be saved by him.”
1. To be a disciple of Jesus implies a process, a journey.
a. My friend’s sign: “Be patient with me. God isn’t finished with me yet.”
b. This is what St. Paul is telling us. He had a big ego that God transformed so that he would rely more on God than on himself.
♦ Shipwreck, being beaten and whipped + some kind of disease such as malaria.
c. He did come to realize this as he wrote in I Corinthians 15: 10 – “Thanks be to God I am what I am and his grace toward me has not been in vain…”
d. Likewise our journey is never smooth – we go through ups and downs, temptation and sin, repentance and an effort, with God’s grace, to follow Jesus the best we can.
e. Repeat: “Be patient with me. God isn’t finished with me yet.”
2. The Gospel – The point: He uses his authority to bring the woman to conversion and into goodness. “Neither do I condemn you. Go and from now on do not sin anymore.” Be patient with me. God isn’t… yet.
3. The scribes and Pharisees put Jesus in the horns of a dilemma.
a. The only act of adultery where the woman was caught without the man!
b. If he says, stone her, he loses credibility with the people who see him as loving and merciful.
c. If he says no, he will be accused of disobeying the Law of Moses – of being soft on crime.
d. Jesus knows the gravity of adultery – unjust to the other party in the marriage – that person, if the adultery is found out, continues to question and even doubt the credibility of the offender…
e. Several men I know still feel guilty about past infidelity.
4. Jesus lowers his eyes and traces something on the ground. Because he can’t stand to see the hate in their eyes and the dread in hers? Doodling? Waiting for the accusers to be quiet? Tracing some of their sins? We don’t know.
5. Jesus’ answer: “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Then they all leave, beginning with the eldest.
6. What conclusions can we draw from this lovely story?
a. Those particular scribes and Pharisees didn’t care about the woman at all – they only used her to get at Jesus.
b. Jesus, on the contrary, looks on her as a human being who has sinned out of weakness and whom he will forgive so that she might live a new life.
c. Jesus does the same for us – when we sin, he wants to raise us up to renew our lives, to be free of sin and guilt. Why? Because he is rich in mercy, slow to anger, kind and merciful.
d. As Jesus is to us, so may we be to those who have offended us.
e. Lastly, let’s use our imagination. Jesus is carrying his cross on his way to Calvary. His face is covered with blood and sweat and spittle, making it difficult for him to see. A woman breaks through the crowd, approaches Jesus and wipes his face with her veil. As Jesus’ eyes meet hers, he recognizes in her the very woman he saved from being stoned to death. As a reward, her veil bears the imprint of his face. Christian tradition has named her Veronica. (Vera or True Icon)
f. Any act of kindness begets many more. Is that your experience?
Mar 31, 2019
Cycle C – 4th Sunday of Lent
Luke 15:1-3; 11-32
Homilist (8:30/10:30 am Masses): Deacon Dennis
As you just heard, today’s gospel begins with the Pharisees and scribes angrily complaining that Jesus “welcomes sinners and eats with them.” How could someone who claims to be from God, acting in God’s name, dare to do such a scandalous thing! Today’s passage is the third of three parables that Jesus uses to respond to these complainers. You will recall the Good Shepard and the lost sheep, the widow who searched for the lost coin, and today, the lost son.
In the three parables, God is the shepherd, the widow and the father of the prodigal son. A God who is fully intent on recovering what was lost. God’s response is not anger over offenses, but feasting and joy. The shepherd, the woman, and the father each threw a feast amid great rejoicing when something that was lost had been found.
Today’s parable, about a journey to forgiveness and acceptance, has even more to say about God’s attitude. The father runs out to meet and embrace the spendthrift younger son. He does not wait to hear the son’s well-rehearsed plea to be taken back as a menial servant. Instead, his father gives him everything a true son has — the finest robe, sandals, ring, and feasting on the fatted calf. And when the older son refuses to come in for the feast, his father goes out to plead with him. Despite the older son’s angry refusal to share in his father’s joy over the return of the one he had lost, the father does not cancel the feast.
The story stops there. The feast will go on, but we never learn whether the breach in the family circle is ever healed, whether both sons ever became real sons to their father or brothers to each other. When the younger one went away, his father was just a source of money, and he was still only that, when the boy decided to return, motivated by his need for food and a place to stay. To the older son, his father was only someone whom he dutifully obeyed as his slave-master. But all that mattered to their father was this: the one who had been dead has come to life again, had come back home. That tells us that God is amazingly eager to accept even a first step back, no matter how long the inner journey home will finally take.
If you get a chance in the week ahead, search on the web for Rembrandt’s painting, “The Return of the Prodigal Son.”
In the painting, the son has returned home in a wretched state from travels in which he has wasted his inheritance and fallen into poverty and despair. He kneels before his father in repentance, wishing for forgiveness and a renewed place in the family. His father receives him with a tender gesture. In the painting, the father’s hands seem to suggest mothering and fathering at once; the left appears larger and more masculine, set on the son’s shoulder, while the right is softer and more receptive in gesture. God is mother as well as father, motherhood and fatherhood both fully present. Standing at the right is the prodigal son’s older brother, who crosses his hands in seething judgment.
My friends, as you think about that painting, do some soul-searching of your life because I think each of us here today can see ourselves at times as first as the younger son, at other times as the older one, and finally, hopefully, sometimes as the father. I certainly can.
What lessons — of forgiveness even before the journey of repentance is complete; what lessons of overcoming festering resentments and hurts; and especially what lessons of forgiving love and acceptance of those who have wounded us — can we learn for our Lenten journey with God? No matter where we are on the journey, the Lord always invites us, week after week, to feast at his table of forgiveness, reconciliation, and love.
Homilist (4pm Vigil Mass): Bishop Peter
THEME: “God is rich in mercy,” and wants to hug us as the father of the Prodigal Son hugged him.
1. From II Corinthians 5: 17-21 – The Father wants to reconcile us to himself and destroy every barrier that separates us from him.
a. Thus St. Paul writes: “For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.”
b. What does this mean since Jesus was without sin? Jesus so identifies with us that he took on himself our sins in order to destroy them and reconcile us with his Father.
- We receive the effects of this through our faith in Jesus Christ and our baptism when Jesus united us to himself so as to offer us to his Father by the power of the HS.
- We see this also in I Peter 2:24 “Christ bore our sins in his body on the cross so that, dead to sin, we might live a just life. By his wounds we have been healed.”
- We should keep this in mind especially when we feel guilt for past sins, even those we have confessed. Simply give them over to him so that he can absorb and destroy them.
2. The Parable of the Prodigal Son and the Loving Father
a. This is one of the most beloved parables of Jesus.
- Many have seen the painting by Rembrandt – one notices the father’s hands on his son’s shoulders – they are different! One is th hand of a man, the other of a woman to show the masculine and feminine sides of God’s love.
b. The Pharisees (the word means “separated”) were men, many of whom thought they could attain spiritual perfection by obeying the Law of Moses as well as the interpretations of the doctors of the law, called Scribes. Thus they looked down on “sinners” such as tax collectors and the majority of the people who could not possibly keep the law as they interpreted it – e.g. ritual washings and the Sabbath rest.
c. Thus they criticized Jesus who not only associated with them. He even ate with them!
d. That the son is self-absorbed is evident when he asks his father for his share of the inheritance. In other words, he all but wished his father were dead.
e. Off he goes, squandering his money on parties and loose living. When his funds run out, his so-called friends desert him and he is reduced to caring for pigs – animals considered impure by the Jews.
f. At this low point in his life, he realizes how foolish he has been. Even my father’s day laborers have enough to eat and here I am dying of hunger. So I shall return to my father and tell him that I have sinned against God and you. Thus I am not worthy to be called your son. Just treat me as one of your hired hands.
g. The father sees him. Something in his blood makes him recognize that this young man dressed in rags is his son.
h. The father runs, something a man of his stature would never do but he couldn’t help himself. He won’t even let him finish his act of contrition but kisses him continuously, a sign that he forgives his son.
i. The robe and sandals signify that he is restored as son. He would have been content to be a servant – now he is a son again. With the ring, he could now sign documents, impressing wax with its design.
j. And the feast begins!
k. The older son represents the Pharisees. The father goes out, again something unexpected of a man of his social standing, and tries to reason with him. “We have to celebrate because this brother of yours was dead and has come back to life. He was lost and is now found!”
- Evidently the older son has little or no love in his heart. How sad.
l. Does the older son join the guests at the festival? We don’t know.
a. God is rich in mercy. God is constantly reaching out to us hoping to draw us back to Himself with pleas of love.
- Also, the Father rejoices when the sinner returns.
- c.f. also the image from the Book of Revelation (3:20) – “If anyone hears me knocking at his door and opens it, I will come in and dine with them and they with me.”
b. To avail ourselves of the beautiful Sacrament of Reconciliation during Lent.
c. There is no sin too great that can keep us from the love of God – theft, years in prison, one or several abortions, the hatred one has born in his or her heart for many years and so forth. The only condition: to be truly sorry.
4. Eucharist: It is Jesus who took on himself our sins and guilt and nailed them to his cross and it is Jesus who helps us believe that he is kind and rich in mercy.
Mar 24, 2019
Cycle C – 3rd Sunday of Lent
Homilist (8:30/10:30 am Masses): Fr. Tom Coughlin
Today’s Old Testament story about the burning bush is one of the most fascinating stories because it spoke about the nature of God. Also the reading is very much a scientific story because it dealt with the Law of Physics. Does anyone here like Physics or even understand it? I always have problems understanding Physics because I am never good with mathematics. Nevertheless, the story about the burning bush is a lesson in Physics. Why is this so? It is because we are dealing with the question of the second law of physics or thermodynamics known as entropy which is a measure of the energy dispersal in the system. A campfire is an example of entropy. The solid wood burns and becomes ash, smoke and gases, all of which spread energy outwards more easily than the solid fuel.
Let me repeat the passage from Exodus: “There an angel of the LORD appeared to Moses in fire flaming out of a bush. As he looked on, he was surprised to see that the bush, though on fire, was not consumed. So Moses decided, “I must go over to look at this remarkable sight, and see why the bush is not burned.” We ask ourselves this question: exactly what did Moses see? Actually he saw a tree or a bush that was awash in flames and yet the leaves and wood were not burned or become charred. It was a sight that no one has ever seen before. Moses was puzzled by this unusual phenomenon; a tree engulfed in fire would not decompose. It did not make any sense to Moses because it was contrary to the Laws of Physics. The Laws of Physics tell us that any material that is consumed by flames will result in total decomposition, destruction and ashes. We ask ourselves what is the meaning of this burning bush story for us today?
Firstly, it tells us that the burning bush in the desert is a clue to the nature of the Godhead. What Moses witnessed in the desert was a no mere imagination or illusion on his part. Moses saw exactly what he saw: a burning bush that remained unscathed by flames. One may tempt to dismiss it as a mirage in the desert that Moses might have seen. However, it is interesting to note that Lee Strobel in his book, “The Case for Christ” explained that the Jewish people in ancient time did not have talents or interest in creating fantasy stories like we do in our society today with Science Fiction. What Moses saw was not a science fiction. He actually saw it plain and clear. Little did Moses realize that he was actually looking at the mystery of God in the burning bush. You can imagine his total astonishment when he heard the voice of God speaking from the bush. After hearing the voice of God, Moses then understood why the tree did not burn down and decompose into ashes.
Secondly, the burning bush reveals to us of the hidden nature of the Godhead. For the first time, as recorded in the Scriptures, God revealed Himself as immortal and everlasting. Nothing in the universe, even the Laws of Physics can impinge on the infinite dynamism of the Godhead. In God is the source of everything and nothing came to be without Him. In the Creed, we recite: “God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God.” We do not say that God comes from somewhere other than God himself. We say that God comes from God and nothing else. God is uncreated. There is nothing more to add or subtract to His existence. Everything about God is true and so is the truth of the story of the burning bush. The burning bush symbolizes the mystery of God and that God is above the law of Physics that rules our lives.
Thirdly, this story of burning bush reveals to us of the incredible power of His existence and His reign. God is forever infinite in his goodness and mercy. Nothing will exhaust His divine goodness because He is an eternal source of salvation and happiness, especially for those who opt to believe and love God in faith. The burning bush defied the boundaries of physical laws and therefore the boundaries of His mercy and love will defy our feeble logic. We will never be able to fathom the depth of God’s mercy and love for us because we often try to apply our own logic to God’s greatness. Sometimes we prefer our own set of logic to that of God’s and that’s where we get into trouble. Furthermore, the scriptures remind us: “As high as the heaven is from the earth, so are my ways and thoughts are from yours.” We will always be puzzled by the infinite mercy of God because we may have not made efforts to go beyond our boundaries of love and kindness. The burning bush symbolizes the inconsumable power of love and forgiveness and we are challenged by God to be as holy and forgiving as God is.
Lastly, the burning bush is the truth of all truths. This is where God speaks to us through Moses and revealed Himself to us as one who is technically and physically unnamable. No name or any word in the heaven or earth can be properly made or designed for God. Otherwise it will be blasphemy. This is why the Jewish people rightly do not spell the name of God in its entirety and leaving out the vowel, making it as “G-d.” The name of God is most sacred of all words ever uttered both in the heaven and earth and therefore we need to deeply revere the name of God. The burning bush continues to mystify us and challenge us to live up to the standards of God, not ours.
Homilist (4pm Vigil Mass): Bishop Peter
1. In the first reading, the Israelites are being sorely oppressed as slaves by the Egyptians. Because Pharaoh wanted to kill Moses, he fled and came to Mount Horeb. This is where he meets God in the burning bush (the presence of God).
a. Where we meet God is holy ground:
- Your home, your stove, where you change diapers, your workbench, desk, computer, cell phone (surgeon and operating table = altar)
b. God tells Moses that he will liberate his people from slavery because he has heard their cry.
- Actually, God wants all people to be free of external oppression and internal conflict. Benedictus: “Blessed by the Lord, the God of Israel. He has come…free.” Free to worship him without fear… life.”
- Human trafficking in Lybia…
c. God’s name: Yahveh – “I am who am.” Very difficult to grasp.
- Many Jewish scholars say it means: “I will be what tomorrow demands.” In other words, you will discover who I am in the events of daily living and in the plan I have for you and each one of us. We have had that experience of discovering how God acts in our lives but always in retrospect, never in the unseen future.
- Choice of a spouse, college, career, when Jesus helped you through a difficult time in your life thanks to the people he sent to assist you…
- God’s motive – love, freely given, full of compassion and affection for his people and for you.
d. Moses progressively discovers who God is and we do as well…
- For example, God makes demands on his people – as I have been compassionate to you, so must you be to one another, even to the foreigners among you.
- This from the Book of Deuteronomy: I execute justice for the poor among you, the widow, the orphan and the foreigner, giving them food and clothing. You shall love the foreigner because, remember, you were once foreigners in the land of Egypt where you were oppressed. (Deuteronomy 10: 18-19)
- The Jews discover that God loves all humans with Israel being the beloved chosen people. Example: God weeps when Egyptians drown in the Red Sea because they are his children too.
- As did Archbishop Saint Óscar Romero of San Salvador, who was shot to death while celebrating Mass on this day in 1980. He learned little by little to stand with the poor of his country. It cost him his life.
2. Gospel: God shows his love for humanity in the most impressive way possible by sending us his only Son who lived our life like us in everything but sin.
a. In today’s Gospel Jesus uses two examples: Those killed by Pilate’s orders and those who were crushed when a tower toppled on them.
- People of those times – and unfortunately some people today – think that those who are killed by natural disasters or, say, by serial killers, deserve this because they must have been sinners.
- Jesus says no to this and so must we because he is rich in mercy.
b. The fig tree – Jesus calls us to repentance and at the same time is patient with us. God and patience – 13.7 billion years and 4.3 billion years… God has lots of time. Unfortunately, we don’t!
- Example: The young Saint Augustine – finally repents and discovers what he was missing – the joy and peace that come from a clear conscience, of experiencing God’s presence in his life and the strength to advance against adversity. Also the ability to love or treat others as he wants them to love or treat him.
3. Question: Is Jesus calling me to repentance? What must I submit to him in order to become a more authentic disciple?
a. Please remember confessions in most churches of the archdiocese every Monday during Lent.
4. Now we come to the Eucharist. It is Jesus’ most beautiful sign of his dynamic presence among us, Jesus who wants to forgive us and offer us peace of mind, Jesus who sustains us in our struggles and Jesus who lets us discover him as we move forward with him into uncharted waters. Amen.
Mar 17, 2019
Cycle C – 2nd Sunday of Lent
Homilist (8:30/10:30 am Masses): Deacon Dennis Ferguson
“This is my chosen Son; listen to him.” We never know when we will encounter the face of Christ in the everyday people we meet. A recent New York Times Editorial read: Quote
“New Yorkers, if not city dwellers everywhere, might acknowledge a debt to Pope Francis this week. He has offered a concrete, permanently useful prescription for dealing with panhandlers.
It is this: Give them the money, and don’t worry about it.”
The pope’s advice, from an interview with a Milan magazine published just before the beginning of Lent, is startlingly simple. It’s scripturally sound, yet possibly confounding, even subversive.
Living in West Hartford or Bloomfield, or simply driving through Hartford, or even Avon and Simsbury, you realize that homelessness is a fact; an unsolved, unending crisis. That means that at some point in your day, or week, a person seeming (or claiming) to be homeless, or suffering with a disability, will ask you for help.
You probably already have a panhandler policy.
You keep walking, or not. You give, or not. Loose coins, a dollar, or just a shake of the head. Your rule may be blanket, or case-by-case.
If it’s case by case, that means you have your own on-the-spot, individualized benefits program, with a bit of means-testing, mental health and character assessment, and criminal-background check — to the extent that any of this is possible from a second or two of looking someone up and down.
Francis’ solution eliminates that effort. But it is by no means effortless. The pope said that giving something to someone in need is quote “always right.” . . . .
But what if someone uses the money for, say, alcohol? . . . . His answer: Quoting the Pope again, “If a glass of wine is the only happiness he has in life, that’s O.K. Instead, ask yourself, what do you do on the sly? What ‘happiness’ do you seek in secret?” Another way to look at it, he said, is to recognize how you are the “luckier” one, with a home, a spouse and children, and then ask why your responsibility to help, should be pushed onto someone else.
Then he posed a greater challenge. He said the way of giving is as important as the gift. You should not simply drop a bill into a cup and walk away. You must stop, look the person in the eyes, and touch his or her hands.
The reason is to preserve dignity, to see another person not as a pathology or a social condition, but as a human, with a life whose value is equal to your own. This message runs through Francis’ preaching and writings, which always seem to turn on the practical and personal, often citing the people he met and served as a parish priest in Argentina.
The Editorial concluded:
“His recent statements on refugees and immigrants are the global version of his panhandler remarks — a rebuke aimed directly at the rich nations of Europe and at the United States.”
“America is in the middle of a raging argument over poor outcasts. The president speaks of building walls and repelling foreigners. That mind-set can be debated in Washington, but it can also be confronted on the sidewalk. You don’t know what that guy will do with your dollar. Maybe you’d disapprove of what he does. Maybe compassion, however, is always the right call.” End of quote.
We never know when we will encounter the face of Christ in the everyday people we meet, because . . . .
This is my chosen Son.
Homilist (4 p.m. Mass): Bishop Peter Rosazza
We must keep in mind Jesus’ Transfiguration when we move through Lent and especially during Holy Week. (Balance between the glorious Christ and the Christ of the Passion)
- In the reading from Genesis, Abraham has a profound religious experience.
- Cutting animals in half – May I be like them if I don’t keep the Covenant. This comes from the culture of Abraham’s times.
- Today’s reading from the letter to the Philippians: “God will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory. This refers to the Tranfiguration of Jesus as we heard in today’s Gospel according to Luke. One day this will happen to us as well.
- Saint Damian of Molokai (Hawaii) said that the mystery of the resurrection from the dead gave the lepers he was serving great hope.
1. Jesus takes Peter, James and John – the same 3 he will invite to come close to him during his agony in Gethsemani.
a. This experience should have helped them during that ordeal but it apparently didn’t. They would understand it only after Jesus rose from the dead
b. Just as in the garden of Gethsemani, they are overcome by sleep.
2. Moses and Elijah– two greatest figures of the OT, therefore of his Jewish tradition, are with him, encouraging him as he goes to Jerusalem where he will be tortured, die and rise again.
3. The three Apostles see Jesus transfigured – meaning that he permitted some of the glory he had with the Father before the world began to come forth. Not all – they couldn’t have taken it. Nor could we. We would die of sheer joy.
a. Three tents – the Jewish feast of Sukkot or of the harvest, a time of rejoicing that was used by the Jews as a symbol of heaven and the end of time. Often Jewish families in West Hartford will set up temporary dwellings in their back yards at this time, between the end of September into October (based on the Jewish calendar).
b. Peter wants this to endure – This is the end of time! No more fish store or pain or problems, just pure bliss.
4. The cloud – traditionally the presence of God.
a. The voice: “This is my chosen Son. Listen to him.”
b. After the voice had spoken, Jesus was alone, as in the Garden of Gethsemani… and during his passion, abandoned by his followers.
5. Conclusions for ourselves:
a. Examples I have had of seeing Jesus’ glory in other people: Sister Jerylyn, Wayne … Looking into the eyes of a pregnant woman…
b. Listen to Jesus: Even when he asks us to do difficult things given the fact that he did them too:
• Just before this story in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus tells the crowd that if they wish to be his disciples, they must take up their cross each day and follow him.
• This means to move forward even with the burdens of daily living. It is never easy to follow Jesus but it’s worth it.
• “If you follow Jesus, your life will have meaning and he will take you to heaven. If you find a better deal, take it.”
• “If you don’t forgive your brother or sister from your heart, neither will your heavenly Father forgive you.”
• Respect each and every human being because they are made in God’s image and likeness – this in the context of the massacres of Muslims in New Zealand…
• Carrying our cross each day does not include putting up with intolerable situations such as in a marriage or suffering from illness. We have the right to seek the means to free ourselves from suffering inasmuch as this is possible.
6. The EUCHARIST we shall celebrate together sums up all of this – Jesus facing his passion at the Last Supper, Jesus alone in the garden, Jesus present to us in this visible sign of his tremendous love for us, Jesus who will change us little by little so that when we see him after we die, the image of his presence in us will shine with great intensity and we shall will finally realize who we truly are. Amen.
Mar 10, 2019
Cycle C – 1st Sunday of Lent
Homilist (10:30 a.m. Mass): Bishop Peter Rosazza
The Three Temptations of Christ
1. 40 days – a long period of time, not necessarily 40 days as we count them today.
2. Just prior to this text, Luke gives us Jesus’ genealogy that ends with Adam. Adam failed. Jesus does not. Since Jesus defeated Satan and his temptations, so can we WITH HIM – and not by ourselves.
a. “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13) Freddy Núñez’s story
b. Jesus is hungry – obviously – Luke emphasizes that Jesus is a human being too – some thought that he was only divine and people saw only the appearance of a man.
THE THREE TEMPTATIONS
1. “If you are the Son of God, you have the power to change this stone into a loaf of bread. Just do it. You are hungry. Why not?
a. Satan in these three temptations tries to get Jesus to focus on himself. He never does. His person of reference is his Father.
b. Jesus never uses his powers for himself. He is not the Messiah of extraordinary and fantastic signs.
c. “One does not live on bread alone.” Jesus means that being faithful to his Father is “food” for him, for his soul. He always does his Father’s will and submits himself totally to his Father.
d. For ourselves: (1) Faithfulness to God under all circumstances (2) The abuse of power in the sense of dominating for one’s ego: parent over children, man or woman over the other, principal over teachers, teachers over students, coaches over players, etc.
• Those who follow Jesus use power for the good of others. We ask: What can I do help those for whom I am responsible to become better human beings?
2. Satan shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and their riches. His objective? Tempt him to become a worldly king. On the contrary, Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world AND he will become king ONLY AFTER HE GOES THROUGH HIS HORRIBLE PASSION AND DEATH ON A CROSS.
a. Ourselves: Possessions as an ego enhancer – the more I have, the better I am. I have as much as you do so I am at least equal to you. I am better than you because I have more than you – I am better than you because I have a bigger house, a more expensive car…
b. Billy Graham: “I never saw a hearse pulling a U-Hall.”
c. Possessions – (1) simple lifestyle (2) using them for the good of family, sharing with the poor, including our intellectual powers that today have become the greatest source of wealth.
3. See all the people down there? Throw yourself down from the Temple. If you are God’s Son, He will have to send his angels to save you. Then all the people will applaud you and recognize you as their Messiah.
a. Jesus rejects the temptation – he is not that kind of Messiah. He will save humanity not by extraordinary feats but by submitting humbly to the Father’s will, including his appalling passion.
b. In these three temptations Satan tries to appeal to Jesus’ ego. All centered on him.
• On the contrary, Jesus remains focused on the Father. As Pope Francis said to young people, “Do not ask who I am but rather for whom am I?” “Love in your heart wasn’t put there to stay. Love isn’t love until you give it away.”
c. The temptation to be prestigious – to stand out – to be the center of attention – join prestigious clubs, send kids to prestigious schools – live in a prestigious neighborhood – send a prestigious Christmas letter!
• It all depends on why a person does these things. If it is for the good of one’s family, that is fine. If it is to build up the false self, NO.
d. As opposed to Jesus who, though in the form of God, did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at – but emptied himself and humbled himself out of love for his Father and for us. May we be motivated and empowered by that same love in all its aspects. Amen.
Mar 2-3, 2019
Cycle C – 8th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Homilist: Fr. Alvin LeBlanc
2019 Archbishop’s Annual Appeal Kick-Off Video
Feb 23-24, 2019
Cycle C – 7th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Homilist: Fr. Alvin LeBlanc
2018 Annual Report – Pastor Observations
In a few moments Dennis Rusconi will present the 2018 Financial Report.
As Pastor, I wish to express my gratitude to you our parishioners for your continuing financial generosity, helping us to ensure that we meet our financial responsibilities for our community of faith – without which we would be unable to provide the many ministries and services we offer our faith community and others through the parish of Saint Timothy to which we are blessed to belong.
Saint Timothy continues to be a vibrant community of faith. Last year (in 2018):
20 Baptisms were celebrated at Saint Timothy’s. We also offer ‘young family ministry’ and we continue to register new families.
28 children received their 1st Communion as did 2 Adults for the 1st time.
36 of our young people received the Sacrament of Confirmation and 30+ will do so this coming May.
As regards Marriage, I celebrated 3 last year but ironically, none were at St. Timothy’s. While weddings have diminished in recent years in the U.S., it is hoped that the importance of this Sacrament will find renewal among Catholics in years to come.
As regards Funerals, we had 26 at St.Timothy’s in 2018 – a number of whom were longtime parishioners. We prayerfully commend all of them and other beloved departed to God’s love, care & eternal peace.
Concerning parish life, St.Timothy’s is blessed to have multiple ministries in our faith community. We have many parishioners who give of their time and talent (in addition to treasure) to serve our community. I am grateful to the clergy who served our parish this past year, including
Bishop Peter Rosazza, who we are blessed to have with us as a weekend celebrant.
We also thank Fr. Tom Coughlin who ministers to the Deaf members of our faith community and Julie Colbert who signs the weekend liturgy.
Additionally, we thank the following priests who have celebrated Masses this past year:
Fathers Ed Nadonly, Frank Johnson, Robert Grant, Terry Kristofak, Cliff Hesler, Tony Smith, and the late Fr. Robert Russo.
We thank our 2 Deacons Dennis Ferguson & Eric Thermer for their Diaconal Ministry among us – preaching, baptizing and other ministries.
I also wish to express deep gratitude to Pat Piano, our longtime Pastoral Associate. As you are now aware, Pat will be retiring from her position at the end of April after 16 years of dedicated & faithful pastoral service to our faith community. Without question, she has positively contributed to our communal life, spirit and vibrancy as a faith community. St. Tim’s has been made better by Pat having ministered among us for so long. We will be sorry to see her leave her position but look forward to her & her husband Dan continuing to be parishioners of our faith community. We will appropriately honor Pat in late April.
There are so many others to thank, including other members of our Pastoral Staff:
Jane LaChapelle, our Business Manager for our Parish and Sharon McHale in the same capacity at St. Timothy Middle School. We thank Jill Costa, our parish Secretary, our trustees (Victor Dowling and Val Mara), our Sacristans (Mert Champagne & Barbara Stage), our Parish Council President Barbara Carpenter and other members of our Parish Council, our Finance Council, Chairperson Tom Policelli, Dennis Rusconi and other Finance members.
Additionally, we thank our St. Timothy School Principal Colleen DiSanto, Associate Principal Tom Menner, our teachers, School Board Members and all who assist in supporting our school.
We thank our Parish Faith Formation Directors Stephanie Barnes & Dianne Whittemore & all our Catechists. We thank our gifted Director of Music Rochelle Bard and our Adult and Children’s Choir under Rochelle’s direction, our Cantors, & our Violinist Cyrus Stephens.
We are very grateful to our 8 members of our RCIA team who guide Catechumens/Candidates into the fullness of the Catholic faith and also grateful to our 42 Ministers of Communion, 20 Lectors, 33 Altar Servers, 20 members of our Pastoral Care Team, and 24 Greeters at weekend liturgies and Funerals.
Finally, we thank the members of our Parish Environment Committee, those involved in our 60th Anniversary Picture Directory, the members of our new Adoration Chapel project, and those assisting in our upcoming 60th Anniversary Banquet in late May.
To all of you and likely many more who I may have forgotten, I wish to thank EACH and every one of YOU for the blessing you are in helping Saint Timothy’s continue to be the vibrant faith community that we are. As Pastor, I am grateful to each of you and blessed to share our faith journey together.
God bless you all.
I now invite Dennis Rusconi to present our Financial Report for 2018.
Feb 16-17, 2019 Cycle C – 6th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Homilist: Deacon Dennis Ferguson
For many of us, the Beatitudes I just read, don’t quite seem correct. That is because we are more familiar with Matthew’s Beatitudes. I just read the gospel according to Luke. Luke writes “Blessed are you who are poor”, whereas Matthew writes, “Blessed are you who are poor in spirit”. Luke says, “Blessed are you who hunger”, while Matthew offers, “. . . those who hunger for what is right.”
The reason for this is that Luke directed his Gospel to the very poor of his time, especially the early Gentile-Christians, whereas Matthew wrote his Gospel for the Jewish people of his time, including the very rich.
Matthew is said to have “spiritualized” Luke’s version.
Looking at another way, Luke’s “poor” use their poverty as their vehicle to get closer to God, just as Matthew’s “poor in spirit” are those people who use their wealth to draw them closer to God. Luke’s Beatitudes should sharpen our insight into the human side of Jesus.
Jesus looked at those on the bottom rung of the economic ladder and compared them with those who were better off financially. And He saw a quality of life in the former (the poor) that was not apparent in the latter (the rich). He saw how excessive concentration on getting more money, more power, more status, more goods can harden the human spirit. He saw how excessive preoccupation with the accumulation of wealth can divide and separate people, resulting in the situation we have in today’s world — where the many have too little and the few have too much. Jesus never condemned money and riches as such. It was what people did with those riches that counted.
In the third Beatitude, Jesus speaks to poor and rich alike: “Happy are you who weep now: you shall laugh”. Natural law and justice demand that the poor shall not weep alone. Equity and justice demand a personal identification with God’s poor by us. Natural law and justice demand sincere lamenting by the few with much – us – over the plight of the many with little. “Happy are you, blessed are you who weep now,” Jesus says. Happy are you who willingly share in the plight, the pain, the misery of others.
These are the times which cry out for us to be the kind of people Jesus describes as “blessed,” “happy.” These are the times which cry out for us to see the world through the eyes of the disadvantaged. These are the times which cry out for us to weep over injustice, hatred, violence and oppression in all their ugly forms. “Blessed are those who weep and act now.”
Blessed are those who weep for the homeless men and women who will sleep under the Route 84 bridge because the homeless shelters are full.
Blessed are those who weep and speak out against discrimination towards our gay brothers and lesbian sisters.
Blessed are those who weep and act to end prejudice against a person because of the color of their skin.
Blessed are those who weep and act to end bigotry against our Muslim and Jewish neighbors.
Blessed are those who weep and act to end the rape of the environment.
Blessed are you who are now weeping, for you will laugh.
Rejoice and behold for your reward will be great in heaven.
Feb 9-10, 2019 Cycle C – 5th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Homilist: Fr. Alvin LeBlanc
1. This weekend, our scripture readings present us with individuals who had real experiences of being ‘IN’ the very presence of God and how their lives were changed dramatically as a result of that ‘personal encounter’.
a. Isaiah encounters God in a ‘vision’ where he ‘sees the Lord seated on a lofty throne, the train of his garment filling the temple, and angels above proclaiming words we still use in every Mass, saying : ‘Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts. All the earth is filled with His glory’.
b. Paul then refers to his own encounter with the Lord through his personal ‘conversion’ on the Road to Damascus. In today’s passage, he reminds his listeners that he ‘passed on to them the word which he himself received from the Lord’. He says: ‘After the Resurrection, the Lord appeared to the apostles, then to others, and finally to me – (adding): ‘I am the least of the Apostles because I persecuted the Church of God’ which Paul did before his conversion experience).
c. Finally, Peter encounters God Himself in the person of Jesus standing before Him, as Peter witnesses Jesus performing the ‘Miracle of the great Catch of Fish’ on the Lake of Genesaret.
2. What should be encouraging for us in our faith journey is that each of these men felt unworthy of their encounter with God because of their own sinfulness.
a. Isaiah says: ‘Woe to me, I am doomed, for I am a man of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts’.
b. Paul acknowledges his unworthiness as the least of the Apostles because he had persecuted the early Christians before his ‘conversion encounter’ with Jesus.
c. (and finally) Peter says to Jesus – (the very Son of God standing before him) – ‘Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful man’.
3. Yet despite their unworthiness, God chose them – (seeing into their hearts) – turning Isaiah into a great prophet and Peter & Paul into great Apostles at the very beginning of Christianity. *(Each of them encountered God personally and as a result, their lives were changed forever.)
4. God, of course, has never appeared to us in the manner experienced by Isaiah, Peter & Paul. But that does ‘not’ mean that we can’t experience God’s presence in a personal way – even powerfully so at times.
a. As Jesus said: ‘The Kingdom of God is within us’. We have the Spirit of Jesus within us received at our Baptisms. God ‘IS’ present to us always. But how often are we present to Him? How often do we listen to His voice, to His Spirit trying to guide us into His ways of thinking & acting? Do we really experience His love & care for us at every moment of our lives?
5. While we will not likely ever experience an extraordinary personal encounter with God (as did Isaiah, Peter and Paul), God does want to speak to us as well, (to reveal Himself to us), to encounter ‘us’ if we will but take time for quiet, personal, conversational times with Him in His presence, which will grace, bless and anchor our lives and give us greater peace.
a. God can speak to us as we reflect on His word in scripture (where He can guide us).
b. We can encounter Him in the Sacraments (given to us by Jesus) – deepening our understanding of those Sacraments and their spiritual graces for our faith journey.
c. But we can also encounter Jesus personally (and deeply) in a special way as Catholics, by simply sitting in His ‘real presence’ where He can speak to us and ‘we’ to Him, in a ‘mutual encounter’ which can deepen our spiritual lives and assist us with challenges which life brings.
6. As you are aware, we now have a beautiful new ‘Adoration Chapel’ here at St. Timothy’s where we can place ourselves in the ‘very presence of Jesus’ in the
Blessed Sacrament – (the Eucharist), waiting for us to encounter Him and receive His graces to assist us on our life’s journey.
a. The ‘Adoration Chapel’ itself is now open & available for our use on a daily basis. One can enter through the hallway doors of the Church at any time during the day and have an intimate place to pray, meditate or do spiritual reading in the Lord’s presence in the Blessed Sacrament.
b. Additionally, ‘Adoration with the ‘Exposition of the Eucharist’ will continue to take place every Wednesday (as before), but now in the Chapel instead of the Church itself.
c. The Chapel will also have ‘Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament on Saturday mornings until noontime.
d. Additional hours for ‘Exposition’ will be added as we get individuals to ‘sign up’ for time before the Blessed Sacrament on other weekdays as such becomes possible. **We encourage you to use your new ‘Adoration Chapel’ and invite family and friends from other parishes to utilize this new prayer space as well for Adoration, prayer and reflection before the Lord.
7. For whether it is to pray, to present whatever cares we may have for ourselves (or others), there is nothing to compare to doing so before the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament’, resulting in ‘special graces’ which come from being in the very ‘presence of GOD – the Lord ‘who waits to encounter us and speak to us’.
8. Will we come then to encounter and speak to HIM?
Feb 9-10, 2019 Cycle C – 4th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Homilist (10:30 a.m. Mass): Bishop Peter Rosazza
1. From I Corinthians 15: The essential teaching of our faith: “I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that he was buried and that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, that he appeared to Cephas (Peter), then to the 12… Last of all he appeared to me as one untimely born.”
a. Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus… He saw the risen Lord who chose him because he knew how important Paul would be to the spread of the Gospel.
• He knew Hebrew and Greek.
• He was a rabbi, formed in what we now call the OT and the traditions of Judaism, and could therefore bring the Good News to both Jews and gentiles.
b. Paul’s humility: “By the grace of God I am what I am and his grace toward me has not been in vain.”
• Paul keeps in balance the power of God’s grace AND how he responds to it.
c. Summary: Paul sees Jesus and is humbled. In the past, he took the initiative. After seeing the risen Christ he asks, “What do you want me to do?”
• That should be our question too.
• This implies that we keep Jesus at the center of our lives, thus living as he wants.
• Adam and Eve syndrome: Never mind what God wants. I want to be like God so I am going to eat the so-called forbidden fruit!
2. Peter’s Conversion:
a. He sees something mysterious in Jesus. Calls him “Master.”
b. After the miraculous catch of fish, Peter’s faith in Jesus becomes deeper so that he recognizes his sinfulness, his unworthiness. At this point Jesus tells him: “Don’t be afraid.” (309 times in NT) From now on you will be catching people.
c. Peter, along with James and John, follow Jesus, as his disciples and as his companions in Jesus’ mission.
d. Summary: Peter sees something beautifully mysterious in Jesus. This makes him realize how incapable he is of following him. Jesus then at this low point tells him that he will have a special place in his mission.
• When Peter “empties himself,” Jesus fills the void.
3. Isaiah’s calling: We pray these words before the Consecration… Holy, Holy, Holy…
a. Realizes that he is a sinner. At that point, God prepares him for his prophetic mission – to call the people of Israel back to the basics of their faith – love of God and love of neighbor.
4. More examples:
a. Good revolutionary: Like Peter, he sees something mysteriously beautiful in Jesus who is approachable (what an insight) and begs for forgiveness.
b. English poet and Anglican clergyman John Newton(1725–1807). Slave trade – saw how evil it was – gave it up – composed the words to “Amazing Grace…” Believed that, if we humbly ask God to forgive us, being rich in mercy, God always does so. Like the father in the parable of the Prodigal Son.
c. Charlie Mascola – 19 years old – WWII – surrounded by Germans – turns to his faith and makes the promise to attend Mass faithfully every Sunday. He was rescued and kept his promise until he could no longer go to church because of failing health.
5. Yourselves: Most of you, if not everyone, has had an experience of God. No? How did you react? How did it influence you? Do you ever think about it? It usually coincides with your best talents – thus God calls you to develop and use them for your family and co-workers for example. Kindness, perseverance, seeing the best in people, being patient with people so they may see the truth and turn to God…
6. Eucharist: Thomas Aquinas: Jesus appears to him as he is praying before the Blessed Sacrament. Jesus says, “Thomas, you have written and taught well of me. What can I give you? Thomas gives the perfect answer. “Yourself, O Lord.” Amen.
Homilist (4:00 p.m./10:30 a.m. Masses): Deacon Eric Thermer
Jan 26-27, 2019 Cycle C – 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time
Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21
Homilist (8:30/10:30 am Masses): Deacon Dennis Ferguson
In Israel, during Jesus’ lifetime, there were two places of worship: the Temple and the synagogue.
There was only one Temple; and it was located in Jerusalem. But there were hundreds of synagogues; almost every village had one.
The Temple was a place of sacrifice, where the people offered such things as lambs and doves to God. The synagogue, on the other hand, was a place of instruction. It was there that Jews listened to God’s Word in Sacred Scripture and tried to apply it to their lives.
As you’d expect, the temple and synagogue services have their counterparts in our Mass.
The second half of the Mass is like the temple service. It’s called the Liturgy of the Eucharist and deals with offering sacrifice — as Jesus did at the Last Supper, and Fr. LeBlanc will do again in a few minutes.
The other half, the first part of the Mass, is like the synagogue service. It’s called the Liturgy of the Word and deals with reading Scripture and applying it to our lives — as Jesus did for the people of Nazareth in today’s gospel.
When Jesus was handed the Sacred Scroll he read from the Prophet Isaiah. The Sacred Scroll is the handwritten collection of all of the books of what we call the Old Testament, or more properly, the Hebrew Scripture.
The passage that Jesus read and taught from that day are words filled with hope for the poor, the helpless, and the oppressed. We have heard those same words of hope and commitment from political and religious leaders for centuries.
But as we know, all to well, they are words that cannot be carried out by any political or religious leader working alone. They must be carried out by everyone. For as Paul says in today’s second reading, we all form one body. We all share the responsibility of making these hopes come true. The promise that Jesus sets forth is a dream that can be only be realized if we make it – our dream – as well. If we give generously of our own loaves and fishes, Jesus will find a way to multiply them and feed the multitudes.
If the victims of blindness, bigotry and discrimination are to recover vision and hope, we must minister to them.
If the victims of political oppression throughout the world are to be set free, we must raise our voices in their support.
If the victims of poverty are to hear the good news of Jesus, we must tell them about it by what we do.
If the victims of discrimination, oppression and poverty are to break free of their bonds, if the hungry are to be fed it involves a three-step process. First, we begin with charity, love in action, which provides the energy to free and feed the multitudes. But that is not enough. Thus, the second step. There must be advocacy, to set up the systems to help all those in need, not just the ones we come in contact with. And last, thirdly, there must be systemic change, changes so that those who hunger are able to feed themselves. Teach a man to fish.
In the Liturgy of the Word, Jesus shows us the food is there to share, and He calls us to action. In the Liturgy of the Eucharist, in the breaking of the bread together, Jesus shows us that someday — hopefully — we will all eat at the same table together.
This is the good news that the victims of social injustice are waiting to hear. We can, as the late, former President George H. W. Bush said, create “a thousand points of light” that will dispel the darkness of our world. But, we, you and I, must make it happen.
Homilist (4:00 p.m. Mass): Bishop Peter Rosazza
THEME: “THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME BECAUSE HE HAS ANOINTED ME,” SAYS JESUS. AND THE SAME SPIRIT IS UPON YOU SO YOU CAN RE-PRESENT JESUS IN TODAY’S WORLD.
1. Today’s Gospel from Luke
a. Prologue – the only Gospel that has one addressed to an individual. Theophilus? We don’t know who he is, most likely a prominent convert to Christianity.
b. Luke also wrote a second book, a sequel to this one, called the Acts of the Apostles. It is also referred to as the “Gospel of the Holy Spirit” because it features the Spirit’s activity in Saints Peter and Paul and others as the church begins to spread.
2. Jesus in the Synagogue of Nazareth
a. He has come from being baptized in the Jordan by John and is now empowered by the Holy Spirit.
b. He is in charge – finds the words of the Prophet Isaiah in the scroll – and reads in Hebrew (his language was Aramaic but he must have been able to read Hebrew too) and gives us his mission statement:
• “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me…”
c. He does not meet the expectations people had of the Messiah – a warrior who would drive out the Romans and restore home rule.
• This mission statement proclaims that the Kingdom of God is present. From here on he does this through his preaching and acts of kindness.
• This is similar to the response he gives to the disciples of Saint John the Baptist who is in prison and wonders if Jesus is the Messiah, the “One who is to come.” So he replies “Go and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.” (Luke 7:21)
d. This thrust of Jesus’ life continues in the church today and is constant in our tradition of two thousand years – Saint Lawrence the Deacon, Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint John of God, Saint Vincent de Paul, Saint John Bosco, Mother Teresa and countless religious women who for many years have served the sick and the poor in the name of Jesus Christ… for example the Sisters of Saint Joseph who founded St. Francis Hospital in Hartford dedicated to St. Francis de Sales. And the Sisters of Mercy who created Saint Mary Home in W. Hartford and Saint Francis Home for Children in New Haven about 150 years ago – 500 orphans in 1900.
3. What does it mean to bring the good news to the poor? Who are the poor?
a. They are the ones Jesus refers to in the Beatitudes: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, in other words, “Blessed are those who know they need God.”
b. Applying this today:
• It is important to emphasize the essence of the Good News = Gospel that God loves us unconditionally and that loving God will help us and those around us to become more and more “fully alive” in the words of Saint Irenaeus, who died in the year 200, Bishop of Lyon, France.
c. Example of the Special Olympics:
• Persons with disabilities who, in Tim Shriver’s words (Book entitled Fully Alive, were considered “non-entities, bullied, belittled, berated, defective, in-valid.”
• Eunice Kennedy Shriver founded the S.O and now her son, Tim, runs them. Through sports, these sisters and brothers of ours know they can achieve and appreciate themselves and others.
• And they can teach us something too: Story of athlete who was running the 300 meters, on his way to a world record, his friend falls, he stops, turns back, helps his friend up and the two lock arms and run to the finish line together. THIS MAN DEMONSTRATES WHAT IS REALLY IMPORTANT IN LIFE.
d. The Vulnerable – includes Immigrants – the example of my friend María (not her real name) rejected by the girls of her class when she tried to join them for lunch – they took their trays and walked away, leaving her alone…
e. In all of this we free “captives” and “let the oppressed go free.”
f. Eucharist: It is the same Jesus who spoke in the Synagogue and who empowers us today to bring good news to the poor, to learn from them and to help others become ever more fully alive. Amen.
Jan 19-20, 2019 Cycle C – 2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time
John 2:1-11 (The Wedding Feast at Cana)
Homilist: Bishop Peter Rosazza
Theme: The Lord Jesus let his glory shine from him in this miracle and the other signs. We too have his glory, thanks to the Holy Spirit and can manifest it by our union with Jesus and our actions.
1. Mary: Intercedes on behalf of the young couple – 150 gallons of wine! The prophets, e.g. Amos, spoke of an abundance of wine as a sign that the Messianic period had arrived.
a. Some Evangelicals criticize Catholics (and the Orthodox for that matter) for praying to Mary to intercede for us…
b. Now people come to her praying, we have no baby, apartment, job, I have been diagnosed with cancer or a loved one is in this predicament…
• This is so evident at the great pilgrimage sites such as Guadalupe in Mexico, Lourdes and Fátima.
c. Even if our petition for some reason is not granted, we know that we have been heard and we feel an inner strength to go forward and the belief that Jesus is with us in our pain and darkness.
d. And most importantly, she always brings us to Jesus.
• “Do whatever he tells you.”
2. “Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his GLORY; and his disciples believed in him.”
a. Jesus let his glory shine through his person (that’s why the Apostles were attracted to him) – his authenticity, simplicity and sincerity
• and through his signs (we would call them miracles but John calls them signs.) the official’s son, the cure of the paralyzed man, Jesus feeds the 5,000, Jesus walks on water, Jesus cures the man who is blind from birth and Jesus raises his friend, Lazarus, from the dead.
a. We see this sign and with the eyes of our faith we go beyond it to believe in Jesus as did his disciples and adore Jesus, saying with Saint Thomas the Apostle, “My Lord…
b. We too have been given the source of Jesus’ glory, the HS! Thus we are capable of manifesting that glory by who we are and what we do.
c. You see this glory in children, in the elderly, in people who have been in recovery for a time, in people who are humble despite their position in the world. The glory of God in them comes through them because of their simplicity and their authenticity. One sees it in their eyes.
• Dr. King, Sal Cola (St. Bernadette, New Haven), prisoners I confirmed and how they knelt on the concrete floor after Communion…
d. Les Misérables – the bishop, Jean Valjean – in who they were and what they did.
e. You bring Jesus to others as Mary did to Elizabeth.
• Through your good works, at home, on the job, in school, by the way you treat others with respect, by your generosity to those in need, and especially by your willingness to forgive people who have offended you, you show forth this glory.
4. EUCHARIST: In the consecrated bread and wine, we can see Jesus with the eyes of our faith. May the Lord who nourishes us with his word and Eucharist help us be more aware of who we are and what we can accomplish by living more and more united to him.
Jan 12-13, 2019 Cycle C – Baptism of the Lord
Luke 3:15-16, 21-22
Homilist: Fr. Alvin LeBlanc
At first glance, today’s Feast may seem ‘out of place’. After all, when we ‘think’ of Christmas, we associate it with Jesus as an ‘infant’ born in a stable on a bed of hay, surrounded by Mary & Joseph, with shepherds adoring – (born poor among the poor), & visited by Magi from the East (following a star), bearing gifts for a new born child foretold to be a king.
This is how we annually celebrate Christmas, and yet the Church ‘ends’ the Christmas season each year – (‘not’ with these images of a poor new-born infant), but Christmas ends rather with the ‘Baptism of the Lord’ – not baptized as an infant like most of us were, but rather as an Adult – (30 years later), baptized by his cousin John calling people to ‘conversion and ‘repentance’ for their sins.
Why then do we associate the ‘Baptism of the Lord’ with ‘Christmas’ – (when it might seem more appropriate during Lent) – with ‘its’ call to conversion, repenting and believing in the Good News’?
Back in the late 1970’s, when I was in the Seminary in Baltimore, I was taught by the Sulpician Fathers, among whom was Fr. Raymond Brown – (a noted American scripture scholar, teacher and writer). Among several works that Fr. Brown published was a small book at the time, entitled: ‘An Adult Christ at Christmas.
He noted that while Christmas brings us to a warm and nostalgic place each year (as we celebrate the birth of the ‘Christ child ‘ long ago), the Christmas ‘story’ was recorded by Matthew & Luke — (not for children or the ‘child in us’ bringing back warm memories each year of Christmas’ past), but was written for an ‘Adult Jewish & Gentile audience – (revealing to all ‘WHO’ this child Jesus truly was and is).
The Christmas story contains ‘revelations’ (or ‘epiphanies’) regarding this Jesus.
a. The first ‘revelation was to His own people – (the Jewish people- ‘God’s chosen people) on Christmas– proclaiming that this infant was the ‘Promised Messiah & Christ’ foretold by the prophets & now revealed as a poor child in a stable in Bethlehem in the fullness of time.
b. Secondly, He was further ‘revealed’ on Epiphany (which means revelation’), as not only the ‘Jewish Messiah’, but revealed through God’s guidance and a star to the Magi as also the ‘light to all nations’- (the Savior to all peoples), sent by God as ‘Savior for all the world’
**These are the revelations of Emmanuel – (God with us) which we traditionally associate with the ‘Christmas season each year – images of the ‘infant Jesus’ born in Bethlehem 2,000 yrs ago.
But the Church, in her wisdom, appropriately today adds a final ‘revelation’(or ‘epiphany’) to the Christmas season, of ‘WHO’ Jesus was and is, on this Feast of the ‘Baptism of the Lord – revealing a kind of ‘Trinitarian epiphany’ (today at the end of the Christmas season) – of one God as a ‘Trinity of 3 persons’ – (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – including Jesus who:
a. became ‘incarnate’- (human) – with us
b. to identify with us, to be with us always,
c. (and) now calls us to be His disciples,
i.continuing to build God’s kingdom of justice, love & peace in our world
ii. until its fullness is achieved one day in God’s loving plan of salvation.
Luke proclaims today: ‘After all the people were baptized, Jesus was also baptized, and the heavens opened up and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him (like a dove), and a Voice came from heaven saying: ‘You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased’ —- **(a ‘Trinitarian Epiphany of GOD – (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) – revealed to us at the end of the Christmas season (at Jesus’s Baptism) – this Jesus who then began ‘His’ years of ministry, proclaiming the ‘Good News of salvation’ to all.
As such, we are reminded that Christmas ends – (not with an ‘infant’), but with an ‘Adult Christ at Christmas’
A. (not only for his own mission from His Heavenly Father,
B. but with an ‘Adult’ call from Jesus – reminding us that He came into the world to also ‘CALL US’ into His life and mission
i. To faith ‘lived in ‘active discipleship’ (in service to brothers & sisters near & far),
ii. Building God’s kingdom in our own given time & place
iii. (and) reflecting the ‘Trinitarian love of our God (for all peoples), for which JESUS , God’s SON– (Emmanuel God ‘with us’), came into our world at Christmas.
And so, it is now incumbent on us as active ‘Disciples’, to ‘continue’ the mission of Jesus (as Jesus ‘would have us do’).
So as we end the Christmas season this weekend, let us do so mindful of the words of Howard Thurman, (an African-American theologian/civil rights activist), who years ago wrote words you have likely read (or heard) before from his poem, entitled ‘The Work of Christmas’, saying :
When the song of the angels is stilled; when the star in the sky is gone, When the kings & princes are home (and the shepherds are back with their flocks), the WORK of Christmas ‘BEGINS’
*To find the lost; (to heal the broken),
**To feed the hungry; (to visit the sick & imprisoned),
***To rebuild the nations (and to bring peace among brothers and sisters).
This is ‘our call’ now as ‘disciples’ of JESUS (at the end of the Christmas season), and with the help of God’s Spirit (whom we have received through our own Baptisms), may we do so – striving (through our ‘lived’ discipleship), to continue the ‘Work of Christmas’ all 365 days of the year.