HOMILY – Christ the King – Cycle A Ez 34:11-12, 15-17 1 Cor 15:20-26, 28 Matthew 25:31-46 In our gospel this week, Jesus addresses that ultimate question – what separates those who go to heaven from those who don’t? His message is clear and perhaps not quite what some would expect or would want to hear. He says nothing about those things we typically think of as sins, the things that we do that are wrong. Sins of commission. He speaks rather about the things we don’t do – the caring for others, the missed opportunities. We are called to recognize the presence of Christ in one another – and to act accordingly. In a world that has become increasingly intolerant of one another, we sometimes fail to open doors – and sometimes even shut them in each other’s face. Christianity is not convenient in this society, it is not comfortable, it is not always easy. It calls us to love God and love our neighbor. It calls us to serve God by serving others, by offering to one another consideration, truth, respect, caring and mercy. It calls us to recognize Christ in one another. The fact that in Jesus, God became human and lived amoung us meant that he ran the risk of not being recognized for who he really was. We have no problem recognizing Christ in church. We come to him and ask him to take us in, to save us, to count us amoung his friends. But when we meet him out on the streets, where he is sometimes sunk in poverty and sorrow, or sometimes someone we don’t care for, we are reluctant even to bid him the time of day. We fail to recognize the presence of Christ in those around us. Recall the question asked by the Pharisees, – “Why does he eat with sinners and tax collectors?” Time and again we are reminded that Jesus came for all – and had a soft spot for the less fortunate or those who are hurting. When we ignore one another, when we turn our backs to those in need, we turn our back to Jesus. In our gospel, Jesus tells his disciples about the last judgment which will occur when he returns in glory. He makes clear that we will be judged by how we lived and by how we treated others. “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.” And Christ makes it clear, whatever you did for the least of mine you did for me. We show our love for God by showing our love for God’s people. We are all called to be Christ to one another – without question, without judgment, without limit. We cannot compartmentalize caring or love or compassion – it must be given when it is needed and to whom it is needed. When we do, even in the small gestures, we connect with Christ. When we don’t, we ignore Christ. We can shout faith from the rooftops, but if we do not live it; if we do not show it in our actions; it is but idle chatter. Jesus makes clear the call to action – the condition of love for others – especially those in need – as a condition for entrance into heaven. He talks about the basics, the corporal works of mercy, acting one person at a time – ourselves to our neighbors. It is about more than the giving. It is about forming relationships, connecting one to another. It is about respecting one another, being truthful with one another, loving one another and caring for one another even when it is not convenient or comfortable. It is about the person –not the circumstance. When Mother Teresa accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, she had this to say: “It is not enough for us to say ‘I love God, but I do not love my neighbor.’ Saint John told us you are a liar if you say you love God and you don’t love your neighbor. How can you love God whom you do not see, if you do not love your neighbor whom you see, whom you touch, with whom you live?” Pope Francis said “we can no longer be spectators! Ignoring a person’s suffering, what does it mean?” he asks. "It means ignoring God!" the pope exclaimed. "If I do not get close to that man, that woman, that child, that old person who is suffering, I am not close to God." Jesus talked about two great commandments “Love God” and “Love your Neighbor”. Both are essential for entrance into heaven. Our prayer and worship gives us the courage and the strength to love in the way Jesus calls us to. Mother Teresa said that the key to loving others is prayer. “To be able to love one another, we must pray much, for prayer gives us a clean heart, and a clean heart can see God in our neighbor.” When we see God in our neighbor, we are more motivated to be Christ like in return. If we can stop someone’s hunger –even for a day – we serve Christ. If we give them hope to go another day – we serve Christ. We must make charity and kindness; respect and truthfulness; mercy and compassion more than occasional events – we must make them a way of life. This afternoon at 3pm at the Cathedral, Bishop Foys begins the Year of Prayer for Priestly Vocations with Solemn Vespers. At our masses each weekend during this coming year, we will pray together the prayer for vocations. Be aware of those young men in your lives who may be drawn to the priesthood. Encourage them to consider this vocation for we should all pay attention to God’s call within our lives to use our gifts in service to him and his people. Encourage them to attend one of the monthly discernment dinners with the bishop at the Cathedral. Good priests make our faith come alive for us. They make God’s presence in our lives grow through the graces and blessing of the Sacraments – particularly the Sacrament of Eucharist through which we are nourished and the Sacraments of Healing – Penance and Anointing – through which we are healed. The Sacraments are the lifeblood of who and what we are as Catholics and help us to grow in virtue that we might more effectively serve God. But you don’t have to be a priest to make Christ present – to serve his people. As we begin the New Year, anticipating the coming of our Savior, let’s remember that Christ calls us to relationship with him, rendering him his due in the form of love, service, and gratitude as our Creator. But he also calls us to relationship and service of our neighbors. He reminds us to open the door to our heart and to give the best that we have to all who are in need and all whom we encounter. He calls us to treat each other with respect, with truth and with compassion and mercy. Our goal should not be to win or to dominate, but to care and to love. For if we cannot love one another, if we cannot respect one another, if we cannot forgive one another, if we cannot act in truthfulness with one another whom we see – how can we do so with God?
HOMILY – 31 st Sunday Ordinary Time – Cycle A Malichi 1:14b-2:2b; 8-10 1 Thess2:7b-9,13 Matthew 23:1-12 Time is getting short and Jesus is being quite clear in his message. The message of today’s gospel is that everything we do must be about Jesus Christ, never about ourselves. We have to understand that we are His servants. Our priests must manifest God’s fatherhood, not their own fatherhood. In all things, God must be exalted. It is better to humble ourselves and be exalted by God then to exalt ourselves and be humbled by God. There are three passages in particular we should focus on and they convey the following message loud and clear. Be authentic, Be humble and recognize there is but one Father – one source or truth. “For they preach but do not practice. All their works are performed to be seen.” (We need to be Authentic) This past week children and adults participated in trick or treat. Putting on a mask and pretending is perfectly acceptable for a child, particularly on Halloween. It’s a part of our culture. But, putting on a mask and pretending is not acceptable for a follower of Jesus Christ. God is not satisfied with people imagining that they are great followers of Christ. We are not called to appear to be a holy people. We are called to be a holy people. In the gospel today Jesus calls out the scribes and the Pharisees for not practicing what they preach. He points to their hypocritical ways. They love the power and the prestige and they yearn to be the show. They forget to live what they say. It is a stern warning to our clergy, and to those who are in positions of power, to serve in humility. But it is not just the priest that needs to be concerned about today’s gospel. We all speak about Christianity and Christian values. We all are teachers in one form or another – as clergy, as parents, as bosses, as friends or as brothers and sisters as evangelists, We all have to realize that what we say is secondary to how we live. We say we believe this or that, but we don’t follow through. We get caught up in life, we make mistakes, and we find ourselves overwhelmed. And we know it – and we are ashamed to show it, so we put on a mask and hide from others, from ourselves, and sometimes we think from God. “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (We need to be Humble) That’s what Matthew’s gospels have been teaching us for the last several weeks – how to live in humility. Love one another – even those we don’t like. ….. Help others; respond to God’s invitation to the banquet to top all banquets. God loves us, warts and all, and he forgives us our sins if only we ask. He wants us to take off our masks and be honest about our shortcomings that with his grace we might overcome them. When we humble ourselves, when we walk in humility, when we truly offer ourselves, our actions and our love for the glory of God, then we become holy people. In talking about humility Pope Francis noted: “So it is always with God’s love, that, in order to reach us, takes the way of humility…One can take no other road, if I do not lower myself, if you do not lower yourself, you are not a Christian.” It is pretty clear – if Jesus humbles himself in this way, we can do no less. It is in some ways the price of entry. We must set our pride aside in deference to others and to God. If we don’t, as Pope Francis says, we are not Christian. We must avoid putting ourselves out front without invitation. Humility calls us to be authentic without pretense or arrogance. We need to take up the towel in service to others. For this is how we value others. We need to allow ourselves to be washed by Jesus in forgiveness of our sins and we need to forgive others that healing might take place where needed. “Call no one on earth your Father; you have but one Father in heaven.” “In you Lord, I have found my piece.” We need to recognize there is but one Father – one source of truth. Sometimes it can be easy to lose sight of what the liturgy is about. We see in non-Catholic faiths the phenomenon of ‘superstars.’ – Billy Graham, Joel Olsteen, Robert Schuller, Jerry Falwell, Jim Bakker and so many others. All good men who do many good works. But sometimes, the service and their church becomes about the personality. But Jesus is telling us – do not allow the personality to become the focus. It can happen in the Catholic Church as well when we see charismatic, high personality priests and others. When it comes to practicing our faith, when it come to the liturgy, God is and must be the show. God is the sole reason we go to church. Church is not about us. It is not about how holy we are. It is not about what we get out of it – it is about what we put into it. It is about God and giving him glory and honor. It is about his son who sacrificed all for us and it is about being joined to him through the Eucharist that we might gain the strength to live out his word. It is about coming to the banquet ready and willing to be fed. And when we do that, when we fully open ourselves to his love, he will grace us with goodness and love – he graces us with his son Jesus Christ, who dwells within us. Through the Eucharist he comes to us and dwells in us and gives us the ability to conquer those things within our lives that hold us back from living as he taught us. It is not a single priest or personality which brings the liturgy before 1.2 Billion Catholic people around the world that we might join together with one voice giving glory to God. It is only through the one source of truth, the Father, and the sacrifice of the Son who humbled himself on the cross, that we are able to become holy people. God is calling us ever more to humility, to love of him and others, to obedience, to prayer and to service. He calls us to be authentic – to take off our masks, to stop pretending, to acknowledge to ourselves and to God those obstacles which are holding us back, and to start redoubling our efforts to love and serve the Lord. Through our liturgy we are fed that we might go out and feed others. Recognizing the one source of truth, let us follow the path he has shown us that we might join in his eternal banquet.
I talked this past week about Saint Pope John XXIII who had such a dramatic impact on our church and society. This Sunday is the Feast day of another great pope – Saint Pope John Paul II. Because his feast day falls on a Sunday we do not celebrate the feast day this year. The Sunday liturgy in almost all instances takes precedence over the feast day of any given saint. Saint Pope John Paul II is the pope most of us today most clearly remember. He was the first non-Italian pope in more than 400 years. He was the second longest reigning pope in history at 26 years, just slightly less than Pope Pius IX who was pope for 31 years in the mid 1800’s. Pope John Paul II changed the face of the papacy. He travelled more than any other pope ever and met more people than any other pope. His charisma combined with his tremendous holiness and saintly nature were a powerful witness for the faith. His connection with young people is unmatched and he is the patron saint of the World Youth Day. He changed the way the pope interacts with the faithful. He played a key role in Vatican Council II and particularly in the writing of the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World called Gaudium et Spes, (Joy and Hope). His played a key role in the institution and acceptance of Vatican II both before and during his papacy. Born in Poland, he lived a difficult childhood and survived both the Nazis and the Communists. But out of those experiences grew a great appreciation for those who are oppressed and those who are in need and suffering. He built upon the themes of hope and faith envisioned by Pope John XXIII in Vatican II. He shared his passion for mercy and forgiveness. And he had a deep love and devotion for the Blessed Mother. He credited Our Lady of Fatima with saving his life and left the bullet extracted from his abdomen at the shrine on a visit to Fatima. These two great Popes who were linked in so many ways were also canonized together by Pope Francis on Divine Mercy Sunday – April 27 th , 2014 with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in attendance. Pope John Paul II had died on the vigil of Divine Mercy Sunday in 2005.
From the Deacon’s Desk: This past Wednesday we celebrate the feast day of Saint Pope John XXIII. His papacy was short, running from October 1958 until June of 1963 when he died from a stomach cancer. His election was very much unexpected. It came after eleven ballots. He was a stop gap pope, elected with the idea that at his age of 76 years he would do very little and simply ‘keep the seat warm’ until their preferred choice – Giovanni Battista Montini, the Archbishop of Milan was ready in a few years. The Holy Spirit seems to have had other plans. For Cardinal Roncalli (Pope John XXIII) was anything but a placeholder. Although his tenure was short, his influence on the faith and the church was enormous. Montini did become his successor in 1963 as Paul VI, but historic changes had already been put in motion. Immediately upon taking office, his surprised the conclave by taking the name John, the first pope to do so in over 500 years. One of his first acts was to eliminate the description of Jews as faithless and to confess on behalf of the church for the sin of anti-Semitism. He moved the church to reconcile with the Jewish people. His biggest impact was yet to come. In 1959 he called for an ecumenical council (Vatican II) less than 90 years after the previous council (Vatican I) – a very short time between councils. Cardinal Montini’s reaction was to say “this holy old boy doesn’t realize what a hornet’s nest he is stirring up.” Perhaps he did. He had a specific and detailed vision for the Council. He wanted a new approach to the world, emphasizing ecumenism, and connecting the church more effectively to the people. The changes coming out of Vatican II radically changed the face of Catholicism. He proposed five points for achieving his vision. First, a change in perspective. Be filled with hope and faith. Do not be prophets of gloom. Second, find ways to teach the faith more effectively. Third, deepen the understanding of doctrine. Fourth, ‘use the medicine of mercy.’ Teach the validity of the faith rather than condemning those who don’t follow or understand. Fifth, seek unity with other Christians, non-Christians, and men and women of good will. One of the outputs of Vatican II was the Catechism that we have today which references scripture more than any other document. It is a summary of our beliefs as Catholics. It is based on Scripture and Tradition. It is the teaching of the church. It is universal and stands alongside other catechisms – not in place of. It provides us the four pillars of our faith: 1) what we believe; 2) how we worship; 3) how we live; and 4) how we pray. Saint Pope John XXIII did not live to see the completion of the Council, but his influence and vision continue to guide us. His feast day falls on the date of the opening of Vatican II, October 11, 1962. This is highly unusual and signifies the great importance of this event and his role in it. Shortly before his death, on April 11 1963, he issued his most famous encyclical Pacem in Terris (Peace On Earth) on nuclear non-proliferation and human rights for all mankind.
Father Hils will be away on retreat this coming week. We will have communion services Tuesday through Friday with Adoration on Friday as usual. Confessions will not be available on Tuesday evening. I would ask that we all pray this week for Father and for all the priests of the diocese that they find time to be refreshed in their ministries and renewed in their passion for Our Lord and their flocks. It is a requirement that all clergy (priests and deacons) of the diocese go on a retreat at least once a year. Typically, there is a retreat like this week where the priests go as a group. Likewise, the deacons also go as a group once a year. Many priests and deacons will do an additional individual retreat at some point during the year. Why this focus – and is it just important for clergy? Let me answer the second part first. It is a good and recommended idea for everyone to go on retreat once a year. The challenge for most is that our busy schedules keep us from making the time. My experience has been that when I am too busy to go is exactly when I need to go. Retreats provide us a change of pace and a break from the normal. They break our routine and force us to slow down and focus for a time on our Lord and our relationship with him. Many retreats offer talks, seminars and meditations that help us and guide us as a group in reflecting on our spiritual lives. They often can have a theme or focus. A retreat typically will have liturgical (mass and adoration), sacramental (Confession and Eucharist), reflective and meditative (quiet time, prayer, talks, discussion), and social (meals, free time) components to them. They provide an atmosphere for reflection, renewal and transformation. Retreats come in many sizes and shapes from ½ day retreats to full week retreats. They can be silent individual retreats or group retreats. They occur in parishes, at retreat centers and monasteries, among other places. If you think you might have an interest in going on a retreat talk to Deacon Mike or Father Hils for more information. SVdP will be hosting a retreat on October 28 th at St. Anne’s Retreat Center in Melbourne KY from 8am to 3pm. It is free, provides lunch, and might be a great way to try a retreat if you have never done one before. The focus will be on renewing our spiritual lives and living as servant leaders in the world today. Just let Deacon Mike know if you are interested. Deacon Mike
HOMILY – 26 th Sunday Ordinary Time – Cycle A Ezekiel 18:25-28 Phil 2:1-11 Matthew 21:28-32 “He emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness… He humbled himself, and He was obedient even to the point of death. And because of this, God greatly exalted Him!” Why did Jesus do this? Why? Only one reason – His great love for us, each and every one of us – and his desire to give us a pathway to salvation. His humility and unconditional love for others – even those who hated him and denounced him – set the standard for us. We are called to pick up our crosses and do the Father’s will. We are called to obedience and accountability. The first part of this reading from St. Paul calls us to have the same attitude as Christ – to be united with him in mind, love, heart and thinking – acting humbly and selflessly, looking out for the needs of others. It tells us that our motivation for even the good we do should not be for our own glory – but for the good of others. We should place others before ourselves. Our readings today help us to understand what that looks like. Our first reading finds the people complaining that God holds them accountable for the sins of their fathers. “The Lord’s way is not fair!” But that is really just an excuse for them to misbehave. God tells them “no” – you are each held accountable for your own relationship with God – turn from sin and you shall preserve your life. That is a message for us as well. We have free will – the ability to choose the path we want to follow and the actions we undertake. At any time, we can choose to turn from sin and right our ship. Our challenge though, is that frankly, we live in a world of sin. And the more we sin, the harder it is to stop. As individuals we may not be guilty of the sins of the world, but we are in danger of buying into the world’s sinfulness. We are in danger of using the sinfulness of the world as an excuse for our own sinfulness. The issue is not whether we are being punished for the sins of our fathers, but whether we chose to buy into the sins of our brothers and sisters. We live in a world where the enemy is ever changing. Worldly threats change. Germany, Russia, Iran, Al Quada, ISIS, Iran, North Korea. But the real threat has remained constant and ever present – the seven deadly sins of pride, lust, greed, anger, envy, sloth, and gluttony. Worldly threats can end our earthly life. Admittedly, not an appealing choice. But sin cuts off our soul! Our gospel gives us the story of two brothers – neither of which is totally obedient to his father. One defies him and then has a change of heart and obeys. The other gives him lip service saying yes, but then doesn’t support his yes with his actions. It doesn’t even give the third option – to say yes and then go and deliver. But Jesus is making a point to those who reject him. What’s better He asks? To sin but then submit to the Father’s will? Or to give an obligatory Yes and then find a way out? We’ve all experienced this with people in our lives. The person who says all the right things, makes sure to stay just within the lines, but is always back stabbing and finding ways not to do more than they have to. That’s the second son. Or the person who may argue up front – may give some push back, but is up front with it. And when it comes time to get the work done you know you can count on them. That’s the first son. That’s the one I want around. That’s the one Jesus tells us is the better of the two. It really comes down to a question of obedience and our motivations. Do we have an obedience out of obligation or an obedience out of the desire of our heart? An obedience out of obligation has it place. As parents we teach our children lessons of obedience in order to protect them, help them to understand right from wrong, and develop the behaviors they will need to be moral people. But as a parent you also lead by example, showing what is right, and explaining why it is important. This is what causes the transformation from obligation to desire of the heart. And obedience of obligation ultimately has to change, to transform, to an obedience of desire – or it will die. Do we go to church on Sunday because we are obligated, or because we want to worship God and have a loving relationship with our Lord? If our relationship never changes to a relationship of desire, it will not last. Any relationship, to be good and lasting – even with God – must have at its core a desire to love, respect and honor the other person. Jesus wants us to be in relationship out of desire – a choice of our free will. We do have a choice, but we need to understand the cost if we walk away. You notice the father didn’t force the first son to the field. He choose to go of his own accord. We really have three paths we can follow. We can be like the chief priests, giving lip service and then walking away. How many say yes on Sunday to God’s call to them, and no the rest of the week? We can be like the first son, fighting against God’s will from time to time, but ultimately trying to improve and submitting to Him. I suspect most of us are there. What Jesus calls us to though, is what we hear in that Letter to the Philippians – to emulate Him, emptying ourselves of our sins – our hatreds, our pride, our impatience, our self-indulgences – and putting others before ourselves, loving them, caring for them, and being obedient to God, even to the point of death. That makes us a saint. This is what we commit to each time we come to Mass as well. Just before we read the gospel, what do we do? We make the sign of the cross on our forehead, our lips and our heart. What is the meaning of that? We ask God to let us know his will in our minds, to profess it with our lips and to embrace it and to faithfully safeguard it in our hearts! We are asking God to lead us to an obedience out of the desire of our hearts. But we each are individually accountable for making that choice through the actions we undertake. We are on a journey, each and every one of us. What Jesus looks for is not the simple yes, but the honest effort to move forward, to change and to repent. It is not the sin which condemns us but the refusal to change. We just cannot say "yes" once in our faith journey. We have to repeat that commitment many times through our lives as we mature, and as life presents new challenges to test our faith. Faith is a day-to- day commitment, a "yes" said over and over again in large and small ways. Through our presence at liturgies and worship, through our continual prayers and development of our prayer life, through our care for the poor and each other, and through our participation in the life of the church. Saint Vincent DePaul, whose feast Day was this past Wednesday, along with Mother Teresa and St. Francis Assisi, may be some of the foremost examples of the saints who embraced God’s call to us to love others, especially the poor and suffering. A prayer that St. Vincent offered frequently is a good prayer for each of us as well as we seek an obedience of true desire. “O savior of our souls, who listened to what you were told and were yourself obedient to the point of preferring death to disobedience, through this very example of obedience you gave on earth, grant us in your divine goodness the obedience we need in order to do nothing that is contrary to the will of God.”
From the Deacon’s Desk: Our gospel gives us the story of two brothers – neither of which is totally obedient to his father. One defies him and then has a change of heart and obeys. The other gives him lip service saying yes, but then doesn’t support his yes with his actions. It doesn’t even give the third option – to say yes and then go and deliver. But Jesus is making a point to those who reject him. What’s better He asks? To sin but then submit to the Father’s will? Or to give an obligatory Yes and then find a way out? We’ve all experienced this with people in our lives. The person who says all the right things, makes sure to stay just within the lines, but is always back stabbing and finding ways not to do more than they have to. That’s the second son. Or the person who may argue up front – may give some push back, but is up front with it. And when it comes time to get the work done you know you can count on them. That’s the first son. That’s the one I want around. That’s the one Jesus tells us is the better of the two. It really comes down to a question of obedience and our motivations. Do we have an obedience out of obligation or an obedience out of the desire of our heart? Any relationship, to be good and lasting – even with God – must have at its core a desire to love, respect and honor the other person. Jesus wants us to be in relationship out of desire – a choice of our free will. What He calls us to is what we hear in that Letter to the Philippians – to emulate Him, emptying ourselves of our sins – our hatreds, our pride, our impatience, our self- indulgences – and putting others before ourselves, loving them, caring for them, and being obedient to God, even to the point of death. It calls for a zeal and passion exemplified by St. Vincent DePaul. A prayer that he offered frequently is a good prayer for each of us as well as we seek an obedience of true desire. “O savior of our souls, who listened to what you were told and were yourself obedient to the point of preferring death to disobedience, through this very example of obedience you gave on earth, grant us in your divine goodness the obedience we need in order to do nothing that is contrary to the will of God.” Deacon Mike
As we all settle back in from the summer months there are a lot of opportunities for you to engage in the life of the parish in October. Here are just a few: Do you have some documents to get rid of? Bank statements, tax documents and the like. Shred-It Document Shredding will be on-site from noon to 2pm on October 14 in front of Donnelly Hall. There is no charge for the service but you can make a donation to the church if you feel so moved. Don’t miss this opportunity for some fall cleanup. Our Fall Festival will be held on Sunday October 22 nd after the 10:30am mass. There will be food a plenty, even some soft serve ice cream. We will have a bounce house for the kids, face painting and other games as well. I suspect there will be a little corn-hole action as well. You’ll even have an opportunity to get a split the pot ticket and / or bid on items up for raffle. Come and join in all the fun. Interested in supporting SVdP? Pick up one of our bags for grocery shopping and help provide food to those in need. Even better, come to our meeting on October 11 at 6:30pm and learn more about what we do. It is a great month to consider this as there is a training on October 21 st specifically for those interested in SVdP. See Kathy McDonough – or call her at 859-866- 0430 – for more information. It’s still not too late to join our Bible and the Sacraments Study on Thursday evenings at 7pm. The discussions are fantastic and help us all come to know our faith in a deeper more meaningful way. We will be going for another nine weeks of study. Each week has a video followed by questions and discussions. It’s been a great group but we always have room for more. There is no charge for any of these – all we ask is your presence! Come and join in – you won’t find any better deals out there! Deacon Mike
From the Deacon’s Desk: Our readings this week speak to reconciliation – finding our way back to wholeness in our relationships. We seek reconciliation with God through the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Penance or Confession) where he forgives us completely and totally but also calls us to conversion of our heart, our thoughts and our actions. God waits patiently for us to find our way back to him where he extends his grace and mercy upon us. Sometimes, reconciliation with one another can be much harder, but it calls us to the same mindset. I suspect all of us have experienced fractured relationships in our lives. It might be with a parent, a sibling, a spouse, our children, a coworker or dear friend. When someone does something – intentional or unintentional – to break trust with another person, emotional wounds are developed that must be overcome. Communication is the first key and sometimes the hardest. WE have to talk about the situation before we can resolve it. Jesus tells us to talk to one another and try to work it out. If we can’t – seek help. That help comes especially through prayer. The Psalm says to us “if today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” We need to be open to the Spirit in our lives listening and looking for guidance to soften our hearts that we may be open to both receiving and extending mercy to others. In Paul’s Letter to the Romans, we are reminded that we are called first and foremost to love one another. That is especially difficult when someone has hurt us, but also the most important time to remember this. Love is not as much about feelings and emotions as it is about commitment, respect, and self-sacrifice for others. It is through love for others that we find the ability to extend mercy and forgiveness for the hurts that have been inflicted. Ironically, this is also the best way to heal our wounds. In confession, we come with a deep seated desire to be reconciled to our Lord seeking forgiveness, full of humility and a deep desire to change and remove whatever obstacle stands between us and God. We must bring the same mindset to reconciliation with those in our lives whom we have hurt or who have hurt us. It takes time. It takes great patience, especially if the other person isn’t ready. It takes prayer. It takes unconditional love which places the other before ourselves. It is essential though. Because any fractured relationship here on earth is also a fracture in our relationship with God. God calls us to soften our hearts and extend the forgiveness and love he gives to us out to all others. Perhaps there is someone in your life with whom you are struggling. Time spent repairing those relationships is time spent with God. God entrusts to us the message of reconciliation. Are we listening? Deacon Mike
Our first reading this week comes from the prophet of Jeremiah. He is sometimes referred to as the prophet of doom because he had the misfortune of being the spokesman for God at a time when the kingdom (of Judah) was headed for collapse. He is constantly frustrated because his message delivered on behalf of God is despised, not listened to, gets him in trouble and so much more. His frustration and disappointment boils over in continual conversations with God called his ‘confessions.’ It is a series of five passages the last of which we hear from today. “You duped me, O Lord” harkens to another of my favorite passages which comes from the Prophet Habakkuk “how long O Lord, I cry for help but you do not listen.” Prophets and saints alike throughout history have felt the sting of frustration that God is not listening. I suspect I like these lines because I can so easily relate. I suspect many of us have felt that same frustration of helplessness and abandonment – justified or not – at various points in our lives and have had the same ‘conversation’ with God. It actually gives me a little comfort to know I am in the company of saints and prophets in this regard at least. Suffering is a part of our human condition though. Jesus reminds us that we must pick up our crosses, that we must follow him in suffering, but that if we do, eternal happiness will be ours. Pope Francis reminds us that “Suffering is a call to conversion; it reminds us of our frailty and vulnerability.” It is not that God wants us to suffer – it is a part of our weakened state in humanity. But when we suffer ‘well’ – in prayer, humility and understanding that we are helpless without God – he uses that suffering to draw us closer into his love and eternal happiness. Every one of us has some suffering in our lives – most of it hidden from others. Whether it is health issues for ourselves or loved ones, financial struggles, relationship issues with spouses, siblings, children or parents; trust lost, the loss of loved ones to death, or fears about world events from terrorism to the devastation of Hurricane Harvey; it is only in picking up our crosses and trusting in God’s goodness, mercy and love for us and the hope of his eternal salvation that we can make sense out of suffering. WE help one another through – and become Christ’s presence to one another – when we reach out in kindness, love and compassion to one another – understanding even when we don’t know. Lifting each other up in prayer is the most loving thing we can do. It is our hope for each other. It is our hope for those suffering from the devastation of Harvey. Deacon Mike
HOMILY – 21 st Sunday Ordinary Time – Cycle A Is 22:15, 19-23 Romans 11:33-36 Matthew 16:13-20 Today is all about foundations! God loves solid foundations. Our readings speak to the foundation of the church. Today’s Gospel is a moment of truth for Jesus and his apostles. Jesus has been running the show for some time now. He has been making all the decisions and doing the heavy lifting for this small group of men. But he knows his time is running out. He knows that he has an appointment with destiny and his time is getting short. He’s been driving the car so to speak, but he knows he is soon going to turn over the keys – and he needs to know if someone is ready to drive. So he brings them together for a serious conversation. First, he asks what people are saying about who he is. But his interest isn’t in what other people think. It’s the second question – “Who do you say that I am?” – that he wants the answer to. I can imagine a period of silence as Jesus looks from apostle to apostle, looking deeply into their eyes, waiting patiently for their answer. Finally Peter says “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Peter’s answer shows a recognition that comes not from the mind, not from what he has been taught, but from the heart. Jesus knew of his own divinity, but now he knows that Peter sees it as well – even if he doesn’t yet fully understand it. This moment of truth marks a change in direction for Jesus and the apostles. Until now, he has been teaching and forming them. From this point forward he will begin to prepare them for when he would leave the earth. And Peter will be the steward of his church. He gives him the keys to the kingdom and the authority teach and to forgive or bind sins. Upon this rock I will build my church. But why Peter?? By all accounts John may have been smarter. Matthew was surely better with money. Peter was certainly flawed: at times showing a temper, sometimes being stubborn, at other times showing fear, and later even showing cowardice as he denied even knowing Jesus. But for all his flaws, Peter knew and accepted in his heart who Jesus was. This giving of authority to Peter is completed in the last earthly exchange between Jesus and Peter when Jesus asks three times “Peter, do you love me? Feed my sheep!” This is what set Peter apart. His great love for Jesus. It is that recognition of who Jesus is – fueled by his love for him that sets the foundation for changing the world and building up the kingdom of God. It provides the foundation of the greatest institution and longest running institution in the history of the world. It provides us a church home where we can learn, develop and grow filled with the assurance of God’s abiding love and care for us. So why is this important to us here in Grant County? Well, for one thing, it is the foundation of our church hierarchy from which springs the teaching authority of our Pope, bishops and priests. But even more important are the twin questions: “Who do you say that I am?”, and “Do you love me?” For he is asking these same questions of each one of us, and he waits patiently for our answers. “Who do you say that I am?” You have to answer that question for yourself, directly to Jesus. No one can do it for you. What you say to Jesus depends on your own heart. He doesn’t want to know what we have read in books or what others think – only you. Oscar Romero tells us “Christianity is not a collection of truths to be believed or laws to be obeyed. Rather Christianity is a person. Christianity is Christ.” St. Paul in writing to Timothy didn’t say “I know in what I have believed”, he said “I know in whom I have believed.” Christianity – love of Christ – can never stay locked in the closet. It must be opened. What is important to Jesus is the love we have for him. True faith, true love, produces a life full of actions, not a head full of facts. Choosing Christ means losing that which is not Christ. It means choosing love, not sinfulness. It means recognizing in Christ who he is. It calls us to spend time in prayer and spending quality time with him. “Do you love me? Feed my sheep!” Who do we say that Jesus is – not with our words but with our lives? If Peter is the rock, the foundation, then we are small stones helping to support the structure of the living church. How can we do this – be constructive, be supportive, be generous and loving? Do we give ourselves totally, completely and unconditionally to Jesus? If so, then our lives and actions should reflect that. Jesus is not just some historical figure, but he is present here with us today and every day. We need to spend time with him in prayer. If we want him in the center of our lives, we have to spend time with him. He comes to us in the Eucharist. We need to recognize his presence, embrace his love in that Eucharist, and share that love out to others as he shares his love with us. We can’t just say we love him – we have to serve him, serve his presence in the poor and the sick and the lonely, serve his presence in our homes and with our children and with our friends. And if we love him, we should bring that presence, bring him to others. In just two weeks, our CCD classes start up. Get your children registered and have them in class. Our Adult Faith Studies begin again on September 7 looking at the Bible and the Sacraments. Come and join the 20 to 30 who have already found such great value in these sessions. Come and learn more yourself. And introduce someone you know to the faith through RCIA. RCIA allows those who don’t know him to come and meet him. We meet once a week until Easter to lead more people into the love of Christ. “Feed my sheep.” What a wonderful gift to give a friend or a spouse – the gift of Jesus Christ and the Catholic faith. It’s not as much about what facts we learn as it is about spending time with Jesus, building up the body of Christ, and coming to know and love him. The more we know him, the more we love him. When we recognize Christ and give our love to him – fully and completely – we become a shining light on the hill for the church and all its members to see.
“You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church!” Our gospel this week is all about the foundation of our Church. Jesus clearly lays the foundation as Peter and the papacy. Foundations are important because they give us stability, they give us grounding and they give us focus. They provide both parameters and modeling for us to understand how to live in relationship to God. Jesus even tells us earlier in Matthew’s gospel to build your house on a solid foundation and not on shifting sands. Peter through the inspiration and direction of Jesus, the papacy, and church teachings give us a solid foundation. The Trinity provides a model and foundation of how to form and feed a marriage. The traditional family structure provides that same solid foundation for our children. It is these foundations that we are called to ground ourselves to when storms come in our lives. The foundation of the Church reminds us of the wisdom of church teachings formed and driven by the inspiration of the Spirit. It encourages us to reach out in faith trusting that our Lord will stretch His hand to us, holding us and keeping us safe. It gives us the guidance of the Spirit which brings to us hope and strength through our prayers offered in humility. It provides us the grace of the sacraments which comfort us, strengthen us, heal us and draw us into the loving embrace of our Father. The foundation of the Trinity reminds us of the importance of Christ at the center of our marriage. With Him as our focal point; prayer, respect, mercy and forgiveness pour forth from an unconditional love. It provides us the model of perfect unity driven by complete self-sacrifice and a passion only for the needs of our spouse. The traditional family – modeled after the structure and love of the Trinity – provides safety and trust for our children to learn, grow and flourish in the presence of God’s love exemplified. Embracing these foundations allows us to form our lives integrated into God’s will and plan for us. We accept His Divine Providence for us through the submission to His plan and the foundations He provides us. It is ultimately the choice of each of us to accept these foundational structures. When we do, the storms of life become less frightening and threatening because we have the assurance of His love and protection. We are each encouraged to set our houses upon the rock of the Church. Deacon Mike
Win a Crucifix For Your Home Today!! Have you looked on the website recently?? Pat McDonough continues to do a great job and there is always new information to learn more about the parish. Now there is even more reason to go out and look! YOU COULD WIN A NEW CRUCIFIX FOR YOUR HOME!! How you say?? Somewhere on our website is a picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Find the picture and email Deacon Mike with the page it is located on and the saying that is underneath it. It is as easy as that! Be the first to identify this and you will receive a wood crucifix from the Holy Land. Deacon Mike’s email address is email@example.com. While you are out there take the time to look around. You can learn about our members of Parish Council – who they are and how to contact them. Look at our bulletins on line. Find out what’s happening in the pro- life movement. Take the faith quiz challenge and see how you do. Look at the games and puzzles that are great fun for kids of all ages. Check out the links that are provided to a variety of sites with tons of information about our faith, the readings and so much more. See who we are praying for in the parish. Check out our religious education program as we get ready for the new school year. Soon it will be updated with our new teachers for the coming year. If you are a Lector, EMHC, Altar Server or Greeter, you can check when you are scheduled right on-line. Get in the flow and stay in the know! Did you know that nearly every day celebrates a saint or that each month has a special devotion? It’s all right there on line for you. Note only can you see who the day or the month are for, but you can go right to links to help you know more about the saint or devotional. This is our ‘church family’ history and helps us to know who we are and how we can draw closer to God. Deacon Mike
From the Deacon’s Desk: Last week I talked about the passing on of our faith to our children. Our readings right now are spending a lot of time talking about faith. The gospel this Sunday has Jesus say to Peter, “O you of little faith…” Our readings raise the question of what faith is and who is it for? The gospel from this past Wednesday raises in a particular way a question which has been debated in the church occasionally. I’ll let you go search out the gospel (Matthew 15:21-28), but the question is “What is the mission of the Church? Is it to convert the world to Christianity or is it to serve only those who are already baptized or who happen to join?” The answer may seem obvious, and certainly Jesus through his interaction in the gospel seems to clearly indicate that we should be making faith available to all. We may even give voice to the idea that we absolutely are to make faith available widely and work to convert others. But do our actions match that sentiment, or do we through our actions seem to be saying that we want to keep the faith “in the family?” How often do we share our faith with someone who is not Catholic or maybe not even Christian? How often do we witness to our faith through our actions? How often do we defend our faith when it comes under attack versus simply standing by quietly? When is the last time we invited someone to come and worship with us – perhaps even a lapsed Catholic or family member who hasn’t been? Jesus calls us to both grow stronger in our own faith and support our family (both personal and parish) in their faith journeys. But he also calls us through our Baptism and Confirmation to become witnesses to the faith reaching out to all in both word and action inviting them to come into the ‘family!’ To do this requires that we trust in our own faith by trusting in God. It requires that we have the confidence to know that when we witness to the faith, the Holy Spirit guides and protects us. We can grow stronger in our confidence by joining in the Adult study sessions coming this fall. Starting September 7, we will once again gather on Thursday nights to learn and share in our journeys. We will be led in a study of the bible and how it connects to the sacraments which are at the core of our faith life as Catholics. Nearly 30 people have been participating in these studies. Come and join this new session – let’s get 60, 70 or 80 together. We meet from 7pm to 8:30pm. Bring a friend and learn together. This type of interaction helps us to grow in knowledge and confidence to be able to witness to the faith to others, defending it when necessary, proclaiming it when the opportunity arises, and living it with joy for others to see. Deacon Mike
HOMILY – 17th Sunday Ordinary Time – Cycle A 1 Kings 3:5, 7-12 Romans 8:28-30 Matthew 13:44-52 “What then shall we say to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Those are the words in Paul’s letter to the Romans that immediately follow today’s second reading. In many ways they capture the very essence of that reading. Our reading today summarizes Paul’s account to the Roman’s of God’s plan of salvation. “What then shall we say to this?” God’s wants us!! He wants every single one of us! He does everything to bring us back to him, to reconfigure us to the image of his Son, to provide us eternity – everything except make the decision for us. He loves us so much that he gives us the freedom to make our own choice in the end. His plan is for all of us to return to him. He is continually inviting us, placing his treasure before us, calling us home. But – each of us must make our own choice. He knows what we will decide even before you decide. And he is saddened by everyone who walks away. But it is our choice – your choice to make! God has put the plan in place. He has provided us every avenue to find our way home. Archbishop Pilarczek referred to it as God’s 5 step plan as outlined by Paul – he foreknew, he predestined, he called, he justified and he glorified. For all eternity God knew what he wanted to do and he decided to take whatever steps were necessary to bring salvation to all of us. God predestines no one to evil, but wills salvation for all human beings. Our gospel speaks of treasures buried in the fields. God’s love for us – our faith which he gives to us – that is the treasure he buries in the fields of our lives for us. He buries our faith opportunity in the fields of our lives willing us to dig it up and purchase it. He places that treasure in the pathways of our lives for us to find. We only need to open our eyes – to purchase it with our yes which makes us Holy – and the acceptance of his love for us evidenced in our response to him. At Baptism – and again at Confirmation – we look upon the treasure of our faith – the treasure of Jesus Christ – and we say yes. We are sanctified through no merit of our own but because of God’s goodness and love for us. Max Lucado says, “God loves us just the way we are, but he refuses to leave us that way.” He continually encourages us and exhorts us to be configured to the way of Christ. The only ones not brought to salvation are those who refuse and purposely walk away. This is God’s general plan of salvation. But each of us has free will – and we make the choice of acceptance or rejection. These are the decision points of our lives – the moments of truth – moments of tension as a choice is made – commitment moments. Do we go to mass on Sunday or sleep in? Do we cheat on our spouse or remain faithful? Do we steal that which is not ours, lash out in anger to feel better, or lie to cover our tracks? Do we stand by and watch injustice or stand up and speak? Do we choose the path of Jesus Christ or the path of least resistance? These are the times when the easiest choice, the choice which creates the least pain for you, the choice which appears the most attractive – is the wrong choice. It is the choice not in concert with God’s love and plan for us. You see, someone else is working against us – Satan. He temps us with choices that look appealing. He distracts us with pleasures and shortcuts. He uses our suffering – the very suffering he is at the root of – to try and cause us to lose faith in God’s goodness. In our first reading today, God comes to Solomon in a dream and asks him what he would like from God. Solomon asks to know how to act. He asks to be able to distinguish right from wrong. He asks for wisdom. And God grants it to him. He gives it to each of us as well. He sent his Son, not only that we might have salvation, but that we might also have wisdom. Jesus gave us wisdom by modelling for us how to live. He gave us wisdom through his teaching. He gave us wisdom in the form of our Counselor and guide, the Holy Spirit. Our Psalm praises God for giving us splendid laws and instruction for people to live by – and it begs for wisdom to understand. Did you hear what we said in it? “My part is to keep your words. The law of your mouth is to me more precious than gold or silver.” And we repeated over and over, “Lord, I love your commands.” Do we?…… Do we truly love our Lord’s commands?…. Or do we love His commands when they are in line with our will? Commitment begins when other options appear preferable! Our commitment to God begins when other options appear preferable! It is easy to love God when His will is fitting ours. Not so much when following His will doesn’t fit what looks good and tempting to us. We have seen it time and again over time. Someone is faced with a decision point, a commitment point where they must decide their commitment to God’s will. And in that moment – it hurts! This is free will. Even Lucifer, the highest ranked of angels faced this decision – and he chose to go against God. He chose another option that appeared preferable because his pride wouldn’t allow him to submit to God’s will. And ever since, he has entered into the equation for us. He battles for your soul offering options that appear preferable. Adam and Eve chose another option. Unlike Lucifer, unlike Adam and Eve, Jesus showed us the way. When other options were preferable, He chose the Father’s will. Each of us faces these moments in our lives too. Every one of us has temptations and challenges placed before us. Satan continually works to draw us away from God, to convince us of the goodness of something when it isn’t. Each of us needs help to overcome Satan. We need God’s help. And God has a plan! Do we believe that God has a plan? Do we completely and totally trust in his plan? Then we choose to sacrifice all else to pursue his plan. It is a plan loaded with the Wisdom of Solomon. It is a plan loaded with the sacrifice and the love, the mercy, the compassion and the forgiveness of our Lord Jesus Christ – his very person present in the Eucharist to sustain us in him, it is a plan loaded with the gift of the Holy Spirit to sanctify us, to grace us, to guide us and to walk with us, it is a plan loaded with the life model of Jesus and the life models of the Blessed Mother and all the saints that we might have a path to follow, it is a plan designed to draw us in. We are called to become like Jesus – we are called to find His presence, especially in the midst of anguish – and to submit to His will. We may not understand God’s plan and how it applies to every detail of our lives, but that doesn’t mean there is no plan. We are called to embrace His plan in total trust and love, through prayer, through the Eucharist, through every aspect of our lives. And we are called to be his presence to others. Through our example and invitation we can help others uncover the treasure of God’s love present in their lives. Whether through a personal invitation to RCIA, or the act of bringing your children to Religious Education classes, or joining in our Adult Bible Study, you can be a beacon of God’s love uncovering his treasure for others. It is through our actions that we fulfill that commitment even when other options are preferable. Be transformed by the treasures you find, surrendering yourself to Jesus, and accepting God’s will for your life.
Have you ever wondered how you might become more involved in the liturgies of the church? Each of us is graced by God with unique gifts – many of which can be a blessing when shared with the parish. Father mentioned this past weekend all those who work silently behind the scenes providing flowers, tending the gardens, cleaning the linens and doing maintenance work. We have others that cut our grass, count the collections each week, and run our SVdP Conference for the good of those in need. Soon our teachers will be spending time during the week preparing the lessons which they will share with our children in religious education classes on Sunday mornings. All of these ministries – and many others – are the lifeblood of our parish. Those who serve in these capacities help to keep everything running smoothly. The liturgy though is at the heart of our faith. It is our praise and worship of God and the nourishment we all require. Those who serve in these ministries help to make the God’s love and grace even more evident to us. Perhaps you have a gift to share. There may be more ways to serve than you think. The obvious ways are as a Lector – bringing God’s Word to life for us in the hearing of it; and as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion (EMHC) taking an active part in providing the nourishment of Jesus himself to each one of us. Twice a year the diocese holds training sessions (mandatory for one to serve in this capacity) to prepare people properly for these ministries. The next session is Tuesday, August 17 at 7pm at St. Paul’s in Florence. If you are interested, or even think you might have an interest, see Father Hils, Deacon Mike or Suzi Noel. We have to add you to an approved list and then you can register on the Diocesan website. We really can use people, particularly on Saturday evenings. There are other ways to become involved as well. Our choir is always open to having more voices join in with them. See Sarah Campbell if you have an interest. The other ministry which is deeply rewarding is service at the mass as an altar server. Anyone who has received Holy Communion is eligible. Adults are welcome to be altar servers as well. Pat McDonough does a great job for us on Saturday nights. For our high schoolers, it is a wonderful way to become more engaged in the mass and to learn more about your faith through the very act of the service. If you have an interest in being an altar server, let Father Hils or Deacon Mike know. Finally, you can help as an usher or a greeter. You can also volunteer to take the gifts up in the offertory procession. Your presence and your involvement makes for a richer liturgy for all of us. Deacon Mike
Our gospel this week continues with the story about sowing the seeds of God. We are called to sow the seeds of God’s word and love. They are the seeds which Jesus gives us – the seeds of truth. As disciples we are called to let these seeds take up root within each of us and to then share the faith we grow in out with others, planting seeds of opportunity within those closest to us. Each of us has the opportunity to let seeds take root within us simply by becoming more aware of and involved with the happenings around the parish. Have you visited our website lately? Pat McDonough does an outstanding job of keeping it fresh, informative and fun. Go out and take a look at the bulletin bloopers (not ours) under the humor button, check out the fun and games button and take the knowledge check. While you’re there, see what’s happening in the parish. Suzi Noel has even started to tie into the website through the bulletin boards. You can check your knowledge tight there each week. Coming in September, our Adult Faith Studies return on Thursday nights from 7pm to 8:15pm with an exploration of the sacraments. This group has consistently had 20 to 30 people every week enter into great discussions led by entertaining presenters that bring our faith to life. Not only do we grow in our knowledge and live of our Catholic faith, but we have great fellowship as well. September also brings back the start of the school year. Be sure to register your children from grades K to 8 in our Religious Education classes on Sunday mornings from 9 to 10:30. Our teachers work hard to plant the seeds and impart the faith to our young people. This is also a great opportunity for our high school students. There are many opportunities for these young people to get more involved in the life of the church and bring their unique energy and talents to us. They can serve as teacher aides or office assistants. I would welcome any of these young people to also consider joining the ranks of our altar servers. It is a great joy and privilege to serve and worship our Lord in this way. Finally, you can plant the seeds in the lives of those whom you know that have fallen away from the faith or are searching in their lives. Invite them to join our RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) program that starts in late August / early September. This is the pathway for those who wish to learn more about the Catholic faith in a loving and welcoming environment. So often, it is through personal invitation from a friend that people find their way to the Church and to our Lord. Are you that friend? Don’t be afraid to plant some seeds! If you know someone who might be interested in exploring this, let Deacon Mike, Father Hils or Suzi Noel know. Deacon Mike
Two themes come through in our readings this week that strike me. First, from our gospel reading we hear the parable about the sowing of seeds. From Paul’s letter to the Romans we hear more about suffering and that the suffering we endure will be nothing compared to the rewards we receive in heaven. What are the seeds we are to sow, and how are they connected to the sufferings we are to endure? As I reflected on these two ideas on Monday – the Feast of St. Benedict – a third concept was brought to mind for me which relates in some ways. St. Benedict was the father of monasticism – or the monastic movement. He lived at a time when world values or morals were in total disarray as the Roman Empire had collapsed and there was a lack of civil order. Christian values were challenging at best to live out in such a society. Monasteries offered an opportunity for small communities to live separate from society as a whole so that they might be totally focused on Christ. There is a book out right now called the Benedict Option by Rod Dreher, that suggests a return to such an approach as the only option to truly living Christian values in today’s world as well. Dreher’s belief is that our societal norms have deteriorated so far that it is impossible to live Christian values in our society. Therefore he suggests that Christians must separate themselves from society into small communities to live our values. For some that may be fine. But I am not sure that we as Catholics are generally called to this concept. We are called to sow the seeds of God’s word and love. They are the seeds which Jesus gives us – the seeds of truth. The seeds are his Word in its many expressions. But we have to do something with this gift. It simply is not enough just to hear the Word of God. We have to let it grow within us and within the world taking root and being nourished by our care for it.. It is simply not enough to go to Church. We have to be Church. It is not enough to read the Bible. We have to be People of the Word. A part of this is suffering. To be a Christian is to accept suffering and accept the challenge of the Cross. Certainly we are all confronted with suffering within our own lives in the form of sickness and death, job and economic challenges, and family dynamics. But we also face suffering in the form of the tension which is created trying to bring Christian values to a society so at odds with our values. It is a challenge to fight for those values in the face of scorn and ridicule. It is the same suffering our Lord endured for each of us that he now calls us to embrace. Like the fireman running into the fire, we are called to run to the suffering, embrace it, and bring Christ’s presence that the seeds of His truth might prevail. Deacon Mike
From the Deacon’s Desk: We enter the ‘lazy days of summer’ as we begin the month of July. Vacations are at the forefront as families take the opportunity to spend some time together. It is both a time for relaxation and for bonding and growing family relationships through the memories we make. We wish any of you going on vacation this summer safe travels and wonderful experiences that provide growth and joy. In our readings this summer, we enter deeply into consideration of what being a disciple of Jesus Christ is all about. This too is about growth and bonding. We are in ordinary time – that time which gives us a little rest from the intensity and focus of the Advent / Christmas and Lent / Easter seasons. It is a time to come to understand what we are called to in our relationship with Jesus. In our reading this week, Jesus invites us to ‘take his yoke’ – or connect ourselves to him letting him take the burdens of worldly expectations from us and offering us his rest and his ways of mercy and love that will refresh and bless us. We do this by spending time with him and seeking refuge in his ways. Summer is a good time to combine the change of pace in life and the focus on family and good friends with a commitment to examine our relationship with Jesus seeking to strengthen it in all ways. Here are a couple suggestions. Take the time to reflect on how you might improve your prayer life. Maybe carry a rosary with you at all times. You never know when the opportunity may come up to say a rosary – maybe you get caught in traffic, waiting at a doctor’s office, waiting for a plane, or simply with a few moments of peace and quiet. A decade of the rosary takes less than five minutes and a full rosary only 15 to 20. Be sure to offer at least a quick prayer to begin the day, grace before meals, and thanksgiving for the day bedtime. Find a good book to read – maybe one about the saint you were named after in baptism or one of you favorite saints or bible figures. Maybe a book on one of our great popes from current times or past. They don’t have to be long and they can be inspiring. If you ever need a suggestion, I know Father Hils or myself would be able to offer up some thoughts to you (and maybe even a book to borrow). Look into some charity or volunteer opportunities – SVdP, visiting nursing homes, Rose Garden Mission, Be Concerned are just a few that come to mind. When you give to others, you get much more in return. Enjoy your summer and make time to come to know our Lord just a little better. Deacon Mike
From the Deacon’s Desk: We begin a new fiscal year and that means we also have a change to our parish council. Paul Merz has faithfully served as our Parish Council President for the past year and has served for the last three years. Paul has done an excellent job for us during his time and we thank him for his leadership. Paul will be replaced on parish council by Cory Haar who begins a three year term. Cory and his wife Heather are long time parishioners at St. William and have been involved in a variety of ways. Heather currently is our First Grade CCD teacher as well as one of our facilitators for Children’s Liturgy. We welcome Cory to parish council and look forward to his thoughts and contributions. All the members of parish council are listed on the website with a little bio about them. Parish Council is an advisory board to Father Hils for the operation of the parish. They provide input to him on a variety of topics to give him a sense of what the parish is thinking. If you have an issue you would like parish council to discuss you can certainly approach any member and ask them to give voice to your thoughts. They are your representatives and are always open to ideas. The other primary committee for operation of the parish is the Finance Committee. This is actually the one committee mandated in a parish by canon law. Our Finance Committee members are also identified on the website. This committee meets once a quarter to review and discuss the parish finances. Steve Bates has recently agreed to join this committee replacing Jeff Walters who has moved away. We welcome Steve and know he will bring excellent insights to our discussions. As we get deeply into discussion of discipleship in our readings, these two committees represent two examples of how people become involved in the parish life and live out discipleship within our parish family. There are many ways to become involved in the parish – I dare say there is something for everyone if you simply look. Some of the ways to be involved include as a teacher or aide in our Religious Education program; helping in our liturgies as a lector, Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion, Altar server, choir member, greeter, usher or sacristan; helping with maintenance of the property by lawn care, gardening, cleaning of the halls and kitchens, changing lights, doing repairs and so much more. You can also help with our Fish Fry’s, donut Sundays, or social committee. Perhaps SVdP, Pro Life, RCIA or Adult Faith studies is an area of interest. These are just a few of the ways you can get involved. Want to know more or have another idea? Let Father Hils, Deacon Mike or Suzie Noel know and we will get you connected! Deacon Mike
HOMILY – 12th Sunday Ordinary Time – Cycle A Jer 20:10-13 Romans 5:12-15 Matthew 10:26-33 “Do not be afraid!” Some of the most comforting words we can hear when they come from someone who can protect us. Words that a parent might say and that bring comfort to a child during scary times like a storm. They are the most commonly heard words in the bible. Have no fear. Do not be afraid. Fear no one. As Jesus says these words to the apostles today though – and to us – they are in reality a call to arms. There is no assurance that we will be protected from harm or sheltered from ridicule. Quite the opposite. Just before this reading, Jesus tells the apostles, “I am sending you like sheep before the wolves.” Jesus knows that persecution is to come to those who speak in his name. He is telling us – do not be afraid of the persecution, the ridicule, the insults and the scorn. Accept it! Embrace it! The doors have been flung open – What was concealed must be revealed, what was secret must be made known, what was said in darkness must be spoken in the light, what was whispered must be shouted. It is our responsibility – it is our call to proclaim Christ in our words and our actions, to defend the faith and to proclaim it from the rooftops. And when we do, the persecution will come – but we take comfort knowing that he walks with us in our suffering and is united to us every step of the way just as we are united to his suffering on the cross for us. And as Paul tells us in the second reading – the gracious gift which God offers us – this gift of eternal salvation is radiant with hope! It is far greater than the transgressions brought on by sin. If we deny Christ by what we do and what we fail to do we walk into the depths of sin and we walk away from him. Our presence at mass, our acceptance of faith, is just the beginning. Through our Baptism we received the Holy Spirit. Through our Confirmation we received the fullness of the seven gifts the Spirit gives to us. Through the Eucharist we are nourished time and again that we might go out boldly to live the faith, witness to the faith, defend the faith and proclaim the message of Christ. God graces us that we might be emboldened to do so, but it is up to each of us to make the choice to move forward with courage and passion following the path of Christ. So how do we prepare ourselves for this journey – this task? How do we effectively proclaim the faith? We do so collectively when we come together for mass. Saying the patriotic rosary – where we pray for civility once again is another way. We do so collectively and individually through our actions. We must show Christ and the mission he calls us to, to be the first priority in our lives. Today we take up the Peter’s Pence Collection for the Holy Father. This supports the efforts of the Pope to care for those in need around the world. Supporting our local SVdP group with money, food or items for the truck next week provides for those in need right here. Even better is getting personally involved in ministries like SVdP, Care Net, Rose Garden mission, Welcome House, parish Kitchen and so many more. This allows you to personally minister to others as Christ did – reaching out in love and charity. It is equally important that we be ready and willing to proclaim the truth of the faith. That demands that we have an understanding of the faith and the teachings of the church. It means speaking out on issues such as abortion, the dignity and sacramental nature of marriage, the preferential option for care for the poor, respect for immigrants, care for the environment and so much more. I know that we can feel overwhelmed by this demand of speaking out. But it’s helpful to keep in mind that there hasn’t been a saint in the history of the Church who has completely understood the Faith. At the end of his life, Saint Thomas Aquinas, who is arguably the greatest teacher of the Faith in the Church’s history, had a vision of God. After this vision, St. Thomas declared that all that he had written throughout his life—which is an awful lot—was like straw compared to what he had seen in this vision. Despite our limits, we have to be willing to go out on a limb, and explain what we do know. Over time, we must be willing to learn more than what we know now. Join us for our Thursday night bible study that starts again in the fall. Watch EWTN. Don’t be afraid to take some classes! We have to grow in our knowledge, but we also have to pray to God the Holy Spirit for inspiration, courage and wisdom when confronted with mistruths and immorality that we might be Christ present. We should pray “Lord, in your great love, answer me!” Holy Spirit guide me! “Fear no one” Jesus tells us! We are worth more than the sparrows. Our Heavenly Father cares for us. His Son loves us. His Spirit fills us. Sure, it isn’t always easy to stand up for truth. But we have to recognize that good is always going to be opposed by evil. We cannot be afraid. When we stand up for that which is right and true, the Lord will win the battles for us. Maybe we might not be part of the in-crowd. But it is infinitely better to be part of the in-heaven crowd than the in-crowd on earth. Go forth – in courage, in truth, in Christ Jesus!
Is God calling you? Have you heard God’s call in your life? How does God speak to us? As we celebrate Trinity Sunday we are reminded of the three persons of God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) who work in unison to make God’s presence known to us and to help us understand His will for our lives. I suspect many of us have felt the gentle nudges (and sometimes not so gentle) of where God wants to lead us. For most, His call to us is subtle and requires us to spend time in contemplation and reflection to discern his call. But for some throughout time, His call has been much more direct and specific. This is the focus of our upcoming Vacation Bible School entitled “Can You Hear Me Now!” Children ages 4 to 12 are invited to come July 10 through 14 in the evenings for a great adventure that will introduce them to some of those who have received special calls from God. This is a wonderful week that makes characters from the bible come alive and engages the children in a special way in their understanding of the faith. There is no cost and it is a ton of fun. Kathy McDonough and Suzie Noel are hard at work putting the final touches on a fantastic week of adventure, fun and learning. There will be stories, games, crafts music and so much more! Be sure to register your children and let them hear about God’s call to others to serve Him in a special way. Calling all kids ages 4 to 12!! Can you hear me now!! Deacon Mike
We close out the Season of Easter this week with the Holy Spirit coming to the apostles and to us, gracing us with the courage and confidence to proclaim the good News of Jesus Christ to the world! The great feast of Pentecost reminds us of the ‘coming out’ of the apostles from their hiding after Jesus had been killed. They boldly embraced His message and mission ready and willing to die for the cause. And all but John did as they were each martyred. John is the only apostle to die of natural causes. At Pentecost, the bishops in the various dioceses will also provide the sacrament of Confirmation to many seeking full and complete communion with the Church. In Confirmation, we all step forward and claim our faith as our own and commit to proclaiming the Good News. We become warriors for Christ just as the apostles did. The Holy Spirit comes to us in a special way serving always as our guide, our counselor and our companion. Alleluia we proclaim!! This year, as we transition back into Ordinary time, we continue reading from Matthew’s gospel. In the readings through the summer, Jesus continues his education of the apostles, his followers and us alike. He instructs them on their need to go into the world teaching his message, casting out spirits and healing the sick. He warns them of the dangers they will face and the sacrifices they will be called to make. He uses parables to teach the crowds and then offers the deeper meaning of each to the apostles. We too are privy to that deeper meaning of each of the parables. We should reflect upon them, drinking in the message of each that we may more effectively embrace and live our faith. Many of us plan vacations during the summer months. Remember that you can always find out the times of catholic masses in whatever areas you choose to visit. Simply go to masstimes.org. The site will prompt you to enter the city or zip code you will be visiting. It will provide you with a map of all the catholic churches close to your site with their mass times for Sundays, weekdays, and Holy Days. They will also list times for confessions and adoration. This is a great site to allow you to attend mass no matter where you go. Apple also has an APP for your phone for MASSTIMES.ORG! in the ITunes store. Both these sites also provide the phone numbers for the churches. One tip when using this or any other source for finding out mass times. Call the parish to confirm the times listed are correct. Probably better than 90% of the time they are, but there can be occasions when a parish changes the times of their masses and they haven’t ‘published’ those changes yet. Enjoy your travels, wherever you might go. Deacon Mike
HOMILY – Ascension Sunday – Cycle A Acts 1:1-11 Eph 1:17-23 Mark 16:15-20 This is a great time of year. It is a time when new beginnings are sprouting up all around us. The trees and flowers are out in full force. Many of you have just started returning to the lake for the coming season – ready to enjoy the beauty of the area – the water and the outdoors. Weddings are common as people begin their new lives together as a couple. And graduations – high school and college – are sending a whole new crop of energetic young people into the world to make their mark. But the greatest of all the new beginnings is the one we celebrate today – the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Ascension is not a separate event from Easter, but rather is the completion of the Resurrection and prepares the way for the gift of the Holy Spirit – the Advocate whom the apostles and we receive at Pentecost. As Christ ascends to the right hand of the Father he leaves behind a church in its infancy, but fully gifted with unity, hope and diversity in him. The Ascension marks the completion of Jesus’ historical ministry and the beginning of our’s. The Ascension is not just focused on Jesus but on the church. While his work on earth is complete, ours is just beginning. The joy we celebrate is the salvation Christ has brought us, but the Ascension also marks the call that each of us receives. We still need to be transformed into Christ. This doesn’t mean learning the rules, knowing our bible and attending mass. Those are all good things. But our mission should be to live the life reflecting Christ in all we do and in the way we treat others. People do not become Christians through the words of Christianity. People become Christians through the presence of Jesus Christ. We as Catholics in particular, are called not just to receive but to give. We make Christ present by the way we live, by the way we treat others and by the actions we take. Each of us is called by Christ to be united to him, to walk with him, to be transformed by him. In our second reading today, we are called to know his call, to be enlightened by his call and to know the hope that belongs to that call. Paul tells us later in this same letter to the Ephesians to “live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of spirit through the bond of peace… Grace was given to each of us… to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” We are called to use our gifts – given us by Christ – to build up the body of Christ. This is a call each of us receives first in Baptism when we are marked as Christ’s and called to be brought up in his ways. In Confirmation we are sealed with the Spirit – the same spirit he sends to us at Pentecost. And we nourish our call each time we come to share in the Eucharist receiving Jesus fully and completely. Each of us has a simple choice to make in our lives – to accept Jesus as our Savior and follow him – or to reject him. And if we accept him, we can’t go half way. We accept not only him, but his ministry as well. We must come to know the gospel, live the gospel and proclaim the gospel. Proclaiming the gospel means far more than teaching articles of faith. Proclaiming the Gospel means proclaiming the life of Jesus – making the presence of Christ a reality to the world. This is the commission that we have received from the Jesus. In Eucharist, we receive his very presence. He dwells within our bodies. We are called to nurture his presence and make his presence real for others. Jesus works through us attracting others to him. God calls us to reflect Christ throughout the world. We must care for others as he has cared for us. We must forgive others as we have been forgiven. And we must acquire the patience that God has shown to us. This is the mission we are called to by Christ through the Ascension. After WWII there was a church in Dresden Germany which had been bombed and was destroyed completely. All that remained was a damaged statute of Jesus. The hands and feet were destroyed on the statute, but the rest remained in tact. At the bottom of the statute a sign was placed that reads “You are the hands and feet of Christ. We are to be those hands and feet. We are to be Jesus – he resides in us and wants us to reside in him. Within our families, throughout our communities, around our country, people are hurting. Most of us have been touched in one way or another – personally or through someone close. We need to help them – and one another – financially, emotionally and spiritually. Many have gotten too caught up materialism and secularism. It has infected all of us. And we lose sight of God. We have lost our sense of the meaning of the human journey as a pathway to heaven. CS Lewis refers to it as one of the greatest triumphs of the devil. The devil fights to take away people’s desire and thirst for heaven, not by making them desire hell. No one would do that. But he tricks us. He steals our desire by convincing us that everyone gets there and we don’t need to try. He convinces us that we only have to say yes but we don’t have to pick up the cross. Listen to Christ – listen to his call. As we transition through the Ascension from the ministry of Christ here on earth to our ministry inspired by Christ, let us not become complacent or succumb to temptations. Many of you play sports. Would it make sense to learn all the plays, go to all the practices and meetings, and then not be part of the team when the season begins? When a couple is married, it is not acceptable to rejoice in the wedding and then do nothing in the marriage. We would not accept a graduate who celebrates his graduation and then decides to do nothing with the education opting to be a bum instead. So as we celebrate the Ascension of Jesus to the Father, let’s consider how we each answer his call to go forth proclaiming the Good News, accepting our ministry, using the gifts he has given us.
From the Deacon’s Desk: How we treat one another matters! Last week we heard Jesus say “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” He brings a calm and reassurance at a time with uncertainty, fear, confusion and misfortune are at the doorstep. He is at the last supper and giving the disciples their last instructions laced with reassurances that he will take care of them. This week he tells them “if you love me, keep my commandments.” If we truly love Jesus, we should set aside our fears and irrational thoughts and focus on following his example in life and his instruction in Word. This message is reinforced by the instruction Peter gives to the new Christians in the reading from 1 Peter when he says, “Beloved: Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts.” Peter is telling them how to take their faith out into the world. He is telling them to let the witness of your love and actions carry the day. They are going to meet many who are indifferent to their faith at best and outright hostile at worst. We will all encounter many people in our lives who are in different places in theirs. Some are on fire for the Lord. Some are working their way through life and in many ways mirror who we are. And some are hurting and in pain. I suspect Jesus would tell us, ‘they are all my children, treat them with love and compassion.’ We do not know what is going on in the lives of those we encounter. But I suspect that nearly everyone we meet has some challenges going on – challenges we do not know about. We also don’t know when God is going to use us as the servant of His love to another person. What we do know, from both Jesus and Peter, is that we should lead with our love. Operate in an environment that is cordial and friendly, driven by quiet witness and genuine love. We need to be ready to be the calming influence – the quiet voice that provides reassurance to those who are in need. Be prepared for Jesus to use you to be the quiet in the storm for someone else. Be prepared to bring the calm and reassurance to others when they are most in need – when they are hurting, frenzied, and perhaps a little unhinged? Most of us are just one calamity, one tragedy, one unexpected detour in our lives away from being the one in need and in search of calm. What someone says to us – how they treat us – the respect they give us in that moment can be the difference between hope and despair. How we treat each other matters because Jesus is in each and every person we meet – sometimes buried deep inside –but present none the less. So each encounter we have with another person is an encounter with Christ. How we treat each other is how we treat Christ! Deacon Mike
“Do not let your hearts be troubled.” This is the calming reassurance of Jesus to his disciples at the Last Supper as he tries to help them make sense out of his impending death. He has prepared us here on earth with his life and sacrifice. In his life he has given us the words of salvation and shown us the path forward. In his death he has paid the price necessary for our redemption. In his rising, he goes to prepare a dwelling place especially for us in the heavenly kingdom. He has seen to our needs, he provides another Advocate (the Holy Spirit) for us, and he asks only that we love him and keep his commandments. Although we do not hear it in this reading, he says it again later in this discourse when he says “Peace I leave you, my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” This is not a fleeting peace or peace of this world that he is offering to them – and to us. It is the lasting peace of eternal salvation. It is the peace of unity as children of God. It is a peace that enables us to deal with the disappointments of life because we recognize the great gift that is to come. It is a peace of total trust and understanding that give us the assurance that we do not need to be afraid and our hearts do not need to be troubled. We hear these words during the mass as well – right after the Our Father and as an introduction to the sign of peace. In the Our Father and Sign of Peace we come together as God’s children united as we approach the banquet at His altar – a banquet at which we become human tabernacles taking in Our Lord in the most intimate union possible. He once again gives us what we most need here on earth and prepares us for our ultimate dwelling place in heaven. It is a joyous and glorious reminder of the care he has for us. This week we also celebrate Mother’s Day as we recognize and thank our mother’s for the care they give to us throughout our lives. They too sacrifice and bring us comfort. They provide for our needs as the calming reassurance that they will be there to help us through the storms in life as well as to celebrate the joys in life. Be sure to take a moment this weekend to thank those women who have provided the love of a mother to you or others. Pray for them that they may be richly rewarded for their sacrifices, guidance and love. Deacon Mike
This weekend we see nine of our children continue their journey of following our Lord’s call as they celebrate their First Communion. It is fitting that this day coincides with our Gospel reading about the Good Shepherd. For today, we hear about a voice that is true and sweet – the voice of the Good Shepherd – the voice of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Good Shepherd. Our shepherd into eternity! From our very birth He begins to call to us. It is an innate part of our DNA – that part of us that is made in the image of God – that has us from the very beginning having a yearning, a desire to seek out and find the goodness of our Lord. In our Baptism, He comes to us and claims us as one of His flock. From that moment on we belong to Him. Throughout scripture we hear His call to us starting when He says to Simon and Andrew, “Come after me.” And when we stray, get lost, and find ourselves in the darkest of places, He says “Listen to my voice.” He feeds us and anoints us. And on the cross —- on the cross, He gives His very life for us that we might live. He is our Good Shepherd! He knows us and loves us and tends to our every need. “The Lord is my Shepherd, there is nothing I shall want” – if only I listen to His voice and follow where He leads me. How do we do that? How do we hear His voice and know that it is Him? We start in prayer – daily prayer – constant prayer. He calls out to us through the scriptures that we might know His voice. Through the scriptures he forms our conscience, our understanding of right from wrong. And we hear His voice most clearly through the celebration of the Liturgy – the celebration of the Eucharist. Here He comes to us in full voice, enveloping us in His love, feeding us His very body and blood that we might live. He found a way to be with us always, to walk with us, to feed us, to love us. He defeats the thieves and robbers, the strangers and the grip of death that all try to claim us. He gives us hope. He gives us love. He gives us eternal life. There are many voices out there – we need to tune them out and listen to the Good Shepherd. Like sheep who run from the voices of other shepherds, we need to run away from all the other noise and voices. Listen closely to His voice. Renew your loyalty to the true Shepherd. For there we will find life and find it more abundantly. On this special day, let us join with our First Communicants in prayer and in love as we come to the table of our Lord. Deacon Mike
How fitting that we have just begun our study of the Bible and the Mass. The gospel this week is likely familiar to most of us. It is the story of Jesus joining the disciples on the road to Emmaus. He greets them, breaks open the scriptures for them, joins them at table, blesses and breaks the bread revealing himself as the Messiah of whom they have been speaking, and thus sets their hearts on fire to go out to others. Every detail is well scripted and even the most casual Christian knows the story and recognizes the celebration of the Eucharist – our mass – in the story. For us as Catholics – it is about the very essence of our faith – the food which feeds us for the journey. We are so familiar with this story, that when we hear it in today’s readings, we can go past the other important message of this day. Our second reading from 1st Peter tells us how to live and who we are to be. We hear that we are to ‘conduct ourselves with reverence during our time of sojourning.’ This is not a casual request. It is not an easy cross to bear. For because God has been revealed to us, we can no longer act out of ignorance. This is a call that places us at odds with the way of living the world finds most common today. Jesus gave us the model in his life – and we are called to follow. We can no longer ignore those in need and place self before others. We must live with integrity and a passion for others. Through our baptism we belong to God. He paid the ultimate price for us – the blood of Christ. This sacrifice set us free to take part in God’s plan for our salvation – a plan he knew from before the foundation of the world. And we are connected to Christ through his resurrection and through his life here on earth. He came that we might live and he lived that we might see how. Christian morality is living consistently as God has made us to be – as a loving and caring people. The passage immediately following this reading tells us to “love one another intensely from a pure heart!” We are here in this place to be Christ to one another. We do that proactively by walking with one another – as Christ walked with the disciples on the Road to Emmaus. We do that by becoming a part of people’s lives and walking their walk with them as they walk our walk with us. Next weekend, nine of our children will join us fully at the Eucharistic table as they celebrate their First Communion. God has been being revealed to them through the Word and through their studies. This weekend they have their final preparation in a Jesus Retreat on Sunday. Let us lift up these nine children in prayer that they experience the joy of the Resurrected Christ! Deacon Mike
From the Deacon’s Desk:
Alleluia! Easter blessings to all. Our readings from this past week have been reminders of the many times that Jesus appeared AFTER the Resurrection to his disciples. Five times on Easter day alone, 11 recorded times up to Pentacost, and likely many more as indicated in John’s gospel. This Sunday is Divine Mercy Sunday – given to us by Jesus through his instructions to St. Faustina – another time Jesus has made himself present to us after his earthly death. With our historical perspective and knowledge of all that has happened over time, we rejoice during this Easter Season. But the early apostles were doing anything but rejoicing. They had just seen their Lord, their Messiah crucified. They were hiding in fear, likely feeling great failure as well. But our Lord came to them to reassure them and to ultimately give them the Holy Spirit as their companion. He instilled in them the courage to build and proclaim his church on earth. He gave them the words and the ‘tools’ they needed when they needed it. And he gave them the mass – and contained within it the Eucharist – that they may continually be fed and strengthened and have Him with them at all times. This is the gift which he has graced upon all of us – the gift of the liturgy of the mass – the Eucharist – his very being – that we may feel the comfort of his presence just as the early disciples did. Through the Eucharist he gives us the courage and strength to continue the mission of the church. The liturgy of the mass is a gift we should all treasure and seek to understand intimately. Now you have a chance to learn those thing which perhaps you have forgotten, never understood or simply never learned. Come and join us for five short weeks every Thursday night starting April 27 th and going to May 25 th . We will meet from 7PM to 8:15PM in Leveque Hall. Our study from Ascension Press is led by a 30 minute video each week followed by group discussion. Each participant will have a workbook and study guide to help them. We will study the mass from a biblical perspective. This is your opportunity to gain a greater appreciation and understanding of what we participate in every weekend. It will bring a richness to your liturgical understanding that will enable you to enter even more deeply into prayer and worship of our God. Look for the sign-up sheet in the gathering area or talk to Deacon Mike. Cost for the workbooks is $20 and a donations is appreciated. But don’t let the cost keep you away. If it is an obstacle, the fee is waived. We hope to see as many as possible this coming Thursday. Deacon Mike
4th Sunday of Lent – Cycle A
1 Samuel 16:1b, 6-7; 10-13a Eph 5:8-14 John 9:1-41
Today we celebrate Laetare Sunday. The colors of the vestments change from the purple of penance to a rose color to reflect a mixing in of the hope of the resurrection – the point at which Jesus took the greatest action ever undertaken for humanity – the very sacrifice of His life for our salvation through His humiliation, torture, death, and resurrection. The love of God overwhelming the sin of Adam and Eve. We are a little over half way in our Lenten journey and our readings have shifted as well. Last week and this week reflect our continual call to conversion and discipleship. A call that seeks our response to that sacrifice Jesus made for us. Listen to the words of our second reading from Ephesians. “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” This most likely comes from an early Christian baptismal hymn. It captures the essence of what Paul is telling us in this letter. We come from the darkness of death and the sin of Adam and Eve. Through baptism we are called into the light of Christ. In other words we are called into relationship with him. It opens the doorway for us, but it is a lifelong journey – a journey Paul is talking to the Ephesians about. And that relationship produces goodness, righteousness and truth. It calls us to walk away from the darkness and into the light – to reflect that very light back out by our actions. It is more than just accepting Christ. It is more than just believing in Christ. It is about becoming a reflection of Christ through our very actions. This is the call of our Baptism and Confirmation. In Baptism, Christ claims us as His very own. We are marked by Him and He says to Satan, “stay back, this one belongs to me!” In Confirmation, we claim Christ as our very own. He gives us the Holy Spirit to walk with us and give us the courage to say to Satan, “stay back, I belong to Christ!” And in so doing, we commit to a life led by Christ and filled by Christ. This reading speaks in a special way to the journey of our Elect – those coming into the Church. Paul tells them and us to walk away from the darkness, to not be associated with it, and to live only in the light. And it reminds each of us of who and what we are supposed to be. If Christ isn’t the very center of our lives – if He isn’t in every decision we make – if He isn’t in every waking thought we have – if He isn’t the very essence and reason for our living, the one true love of our lives, then we have work to do. We have work to do. Our gospel stories from last week and this carry a common theme that points to the reason for rejoicing – the hope and redemption He offers to each of us. In both stories, Jesus recreates and/or graces someone who you wouldn’t expect to become his followers. This is good news for us. God sees beyond our sins and limitations. He offers to each of us a pathway that leads us to the heavenly kingdom. Clement of Alexandria wrote, “God became man so that you might learn from a man how a man may become God.” Jesus meets and visits with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. He heals the man blind from birth. It is who they are, and the conversations he has with both that are the important elements to focus on. Both are people others might easily look down upon as sinners or ‘lesser’ individuals. A woman married several times and now living with a man. A woman of a lower class. And a blind man – probably blind because of his sin or the sins of his parents – or so they think. You can almost hear the people saying, ‘Please, PLEASE!! Keep them at a distance!’ What people have you asked God to ‘please, keep at a distance’ that you might not have to know them, care for them, or be around them? Yes, we have work to do. And yet Jesus not only associates with them, but initiates the interactions and engages with both with no judgement or distain. Through their conversations and interactions both the woman and the blind man begin to have their respective blindness removed and they see Jesus first as a man, then as a prophet, then as a man from God, and finally as Jesus – God himself. It is through prayer (conversation), relationship (response to their needs) and finally through faith that both come to believe and know Jesus. They become witnesses to, and advocates for the goodness and glory of God. In Lent, we are challenged to confront the darkness in our lives – and change! We are challenged through our words AND our actions to be children of the light. We are challenged to reach out to others – particularly those who are less fortunate – and be as Christ to them. We are challenged to be the light of Christ to others. In his exhortation, The Gospel of Joy, Pope Francis calls on us to help others see our joy in Jesus Christ. It is not enough for us to call ourselves Christians. We have to bring Jesus Christ to others. Pope Francis tells us, “Just as Jesus healed a man who was blind, we must lead others out of darkness into the Light of Christ.” Pope Francis summons us to share our joy and proclaim with our lives to those who are searching: I was lost, but now I am found. I was blind, but now I see. It is not just about knowing Christ. It is about what we do with that knowledge. A story is told of a disciple who asked the master, “What’s the difference between knowledge and enlightenment?” And the master answered, “When you have knowledge, you use a torch to show the way. When you are enlightened, you become the torch.” Dear Lord Jesus, this Lenten season, let us take up the torch, let us set ourselves on fire, and let us become the light that leads others to Christ. Amen.
HOMILY – 8th Sunday – Cycle A
Isaiah 49:14 – 15 1 Corinthians 4:1 – 5 Matthew 6:24 – 34
OK! This is a little over the top! Looks like Jesus has gone off the deep end! Let’s look at where we are at. We started off four weeks ago hearing about the Beatitudes, his introduction for the Sermon on the Mount. A framework for how to live born out of humility and offering hope and promise. Good – we can do that! But then it got a little harder – we had to be an example – the light on the hill. Then he talked about the need to obey the laws – I agree with that. Stay away from the temptations that draw us in. Live the law out of a desire to please God – not just out of fear and obedience. OK – there is some work to do there but it’s alright. Last week we heard love your enemies. We are getting close to the line now. But you know what – with all of these, I control the pace and the choices. It’s been a progression in relationships I can learn to embrace. But today – today not so much. Today is a lot harder. Look at what he says to us. “Do not worry about your life…Do not worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow will take care of itself.” “No one can serve two masters. You cannot serve God and mammon.” In Hebrew, mammon speaks not just to possessions and wealth, but to that in which one trusts. “Rest in God alone my soul.” Really!!? What is he asking? To give God total control. To trust totally and completely. Let God be the pilot and we get in the passenger seat? I mean, surely we can drive a little. I mean – God’s busy – he might miss something and I can help course correct when he does. Right?? Placing all our trust in God is more challenging than it sounds. If you are like me, you can say the words with great ease, but it goes against every instinct in our body to actually give total control and trust to God. We are taught to plan for our future, for our success. And when we have success, we are quick to claim credit. But, what is more important – good planning or putting trust in God? Be honest with yourself when you answer that question! So…maybe He doesn’t REALLY mean it – does He? On February 22, 1931, Jesus appeared to a simple nun – St. Faustina – with a clear message of hope and mercy. Part of what he said to her – “The graces of My mercy are drawn by means of one vessel only, and that is — trust. The more a soul trusts, the more it will receive. Souls that trust boundlessly are a great comfort to Me, because I pour all the treasures of My graces into them. I rejoice that they ask for much, because it is My desire to give much, very much. On the other hand, I am sad when souls ask for little, when they narrow their hearts”. I think he means it! Trust is one of the most difficult virtues. It is also one of the most noble virtues. It is an inherent part of the theological virtue of Hope with which we are graced by God. It is one of the most important and respected virtues a person can have in life; trust in one’s neighbors, relatives, and friends. Trust is what makes us real Christians in a world that is suspicious of everyone and everything, a world that now seems to be engaged in an endless cycle of self-indulgence and mistrust. It is intended to be at the core of all our relationships. God provides us examples of trust embraced throughout our lives. Start with the apostles who walked away from everything in their lives – possessions, family, friends and homes – to be with Jesus. Saint Anthony the Abbott and Saint Francis Assisi gave away all their possessions. Saint Maximillian Kolbe gave away his life in total trust in God’s eternal promise. And there are so many others. We learn trust and build it in our human relationships – particularly in our marriages and families. This is one reason marriage grounded in a covenantal and trust filled relationship is so important – it provide a training ground for our relationship with Christ. We even follow the pattern Jesus has set out for us over the last four weeks. I think about my relationship with Joyce. When we first met and started dating, we began to establish rules or guidelines of expectations for each other. I still think she had more for me than I had for her! If you want to continue the relationship you abide by the expectations – at first out of fear of losing the relationship, but ultimately out of a deep desire to please and honor and respect your partner. You come to love the person completely and totally – accepting and even loving everything about them. In a healthy, love filled relationship, you know and trust the other person completely. You know they will always have your back – no matter what. The more completely you enter into the relationship, the more you get back. Such a relationship teaches us and prepares us for our relationship with God – a relationship of trust perfected. We build trust over time, through exposure, understanding and spending time with God. It is a byproduct of the progression Jesus has taken us through. A progression Father has talked about over the last three weeks – a spiritual progression that draws us further in – further in to the Interior castle St. Theresa speaks of – the home and the heart of God himself – into complete and full union with God born out of total love and total trust. Through prayer, through frequent reception of the Eucharist, through the choices we make every day we come to know and love and serve God in this world that we may be ever happy with him in heaven. The choices Jesus asks us to make don’t happen just once in our lifetime. They come every day, in large and small ways. How will my being Jesus’ disciple affect the decision I must make right now? What will be the consequences of my choice for me? How will my decision affect others? Jesus leaves very little wiggle room for us, “no one can serve two masters.” We need to know and embrace the expectations that God has for us. We need to discern through prayer how He wants us to proceed in everything. We need to trust that he will always be with us and have our back – even when and especially when things get really difficult. We enter into Lent this coming week. It is a good place and a good time to think more deeply about our relationship with God. Do we truly trust Him in all that we do? Take the opportunity to better understand his will for you. Perhaps we might identify those places in our lives mammon comes before God. These things are the other God’s we have in our lives – money, sports, drugs, sex – anything which competes with our commitment and devotion to God. We cannot serve two masters. Lent is a good time to give more control, more time, more trust over to God. Be with God today that He might be with you tomorrow. Remember those words of Jesus to Saint Faustina which bear repeating. “The graces of My mercy are drawn by means of one vessel only, and that is — trust. The more a soul trusts, the more it will receive. Souls that trust boundlessly are a great comfort to Me, because I pour all the treasures of My graces into them. I rejoice that they ask for much, because it is My desire to give much, very much. On the other hand, I am sad when souls ask for little, when they narrow their hearts”. He calls us to a life of love and trust that will one day be manifested in heaven as love and trust perfected. The question is, are we ready to take that next step – are we ready to go all in?
From the Deacon’s Desk: This week Jesus continues to teach in the Sermon on the Mount. He’s on a roll and the lessons aren’t getting any easier. Last week he told us we need to be the light of the world. This week he starts to expand upon what that means. He tells us, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.” What are we to make of this? Jesus is telling us it is about more than laws or rules. There are really three dimensions to what he is telling us this week. The first dimension is the obvious – there are laws and rules and we need to obey them. As Catholics and Christians we have an obligation to know the teachings of the Church (Father emphasized this last week), to witness to them through our actions and our words, shedding light on the truth of the commandments and Church teachings. Secondly, he is warning us to stay away from the fringes of violation of the law for temptation is greatest there. Set aside your anger he tells us, for anger out of control leads to murder. Don not lust, for lust leads to adultery. You get the idea. We need to exercise self-control before we reach a point of no return. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, while the law is important, our disposition is even more so. We follow the law and rules out of obligation, fear or both. He is teaching us that our actions must be driven by more than that – they must be driven by love and desire – desire to please God, to glorify God and to love God. The laws and teachings that God gives us are to teach us how to accomplish this. As we embrace God’s laws, we may begin out of obligation but as we develop habits that incline us to do good (definition of virtue), those virtues lead us to desire and love of God. This is the fulfillment of what God calls us to. We Christians are called to a different way of living, in our relations to each other and then to the world. We seek reconciliation where there is anger and alienation. We tame our desires despite the license of the world around us. We are faithful to one another and so, when we make promises, we keep them. How do we do this – live this life Jesus calls us to? Certainly we can’t do it simply by wishing it so. Instead, we fix our eyes on Jesus and we turn to each other in mutual love and support. Sound idealistic? Yes it does, but Jesus wouldn’t ask us to fulfill something he wouldn’t help us accomplish. He gives us himself in and through the Eucharist to nourish us. He provides us the Holy Spirit as guide, counselor and companion. Through his life, the Blessed Mother and all the saints, he gives us continual examples of how to be the shining light on the hilltop. Deacon Mike
From the Deacon’s Desk: Do you smell it?? That’s right – it is the sweet smell of North Atlantic Cod making it’s way to St. William. It doesn’t seem possible but the 2017 Fish Fry season is nearly upon us. This is the most important fund raising event for our parish. And it serves as a community function as well bringing people from around Grant County and beyond together on Friday nights for a great meal and social gathering. This year will be our first with the presence of the Ark and the additional people it brings into the county. We need the help and support of everyone in the parish to make this as successful as it can be. You will see some changes this year. First, we have several people who have supported us for years who will no longer be present to support us as they have in the past. Karen McPherson who headed our kitchen in the evenings has moved to Florida. Several .people who supported us for so many years simply are not able to take on the roles physically anymore. We owe them a deep debt of gratitude for what they have done in the past. We can honor them by stepping forward to make everything work smoothly. So how can you help? There are four key ways you can help.
- Distribute flyers advertising the Fish Fry’s starting in late February to businesses and other churches. Also help us to get our fish fry signs out along key roadways during the last week in February.
- Commit to work some time during the Fish Fry’s to help us make them run smoothly.
- Sign up to bring desserts or two liters. One of the hallmarks of our fish fry’s are our homemade desserts.
- Support us by coming to eat and bring your family and friends.
Let Deacon Mike know if you are willing to distribute flyers or put up signs. If you are willing to work, we would like commitments for as many weeks as you can work. Our hope is to fill as many slots as possible with commitments before the fish fry. We will ask for additional support through a general sign up each week before the fish frys. It takes 80 people each week to make these happen. Let Deacon Mike know if you are willing to work – how much and when. We will also have two call in numbers this year for carryout orders. The two numbers will be 859-816-8646 and the church number of 859-824-5381. This should help us to accommodate more carryout orders as one issue we had last year was people being able to get through for carryout. We appreciate all you do for the parish. Your support of the fish fry’s each year has allowed us to build what is recognized as one of the nest fish fry’s in Northern Kentucky. We invite you to be part of the action. Deacon Mike
HOMILY – 4th Sunday – Cycle A
Zep 2:3; 3:12 – 13 1 Corinthians 1:26 – 31 Matthew 5:1 – 12
Seek the Lord! Seek justice! Seek Humility! Be humble and you will grow in virtue. This is the message we hear from the Prophet Zephaniah in our first reading. Zephaniah warned against the sinfulness and destructiveness of pride. Pride is the deadliest of sins. It is the downfall of mankind and angels alike. From Satan to Adam and Eve to so many along the way. In our society today, it is the one deadly sin that we often times mistakenly see as a virtue. How often have we heard, or said, or felt – you should be proud of yourself! Pride causes us to move our focus from God to self. In a world which places a premium on success, on winning, on being the best, it is easy to succumb to the sin of pride. I suspect many of you struggle like I do with this sin on a daily basis. The prophet Micah proclaimed to us that what is expected of us by God is “to act justly, to love tenderly, and to walk humbly with your God.” Humility is the virtue which helps us to overcome pride. Humility is being open to God’s presence. A proud person does not need God. Or they only need him for the really big stuff. They got the rest covered because they are that good. Humility calls us to recognize that we do nothing on our own – it is by God’s grace – and his grace alone – that we are able to accomplish anything and everything. It is only in relationship with God, through prayer and constant companionship, that we overcome our sinfulness. St. Paul tells us this in the second reading that “it is due to God himself that we can be in Christ Jesus.”…He chose us!…Jesus, who was meek and humble of heart, came among us not to be served, but to serve. He modeled that service in his life and at the Last Supper. And he instructed us to follow him. Today and for the next several weeks until Lent, we’ll hear teachings from the Sermon on the Mount. This is Jesus giving instruction to his disciples, to the people who have witnessed his healings, and to all of us. The Beatitudes, which we hear today, provide us an introduction to those teachings and at the same time, in many ways, summarize their meaning. They offer hope to those who are afflicted or may be disenfranchised; and they offer promise to those who seek the Lord by walking humbly in service to others. These are not some flowery sayings, but a prescription for the way we are to live. They explain the way our hearts and minds should be if we truly wish to have a proper relationship with God. They call us to a different place then the world does. You want to know what a saint looks like – read the Beatitudes! The Catechism tells us that the Beatitudes are at the heart of Jesus’s preaching. It tells us that they reveal the goal of human existence, the ultimate end of human acts, God calls us to his own Beatitude. And what is that beatitude? To be blessed, because we are loved. And because God loves us, we can care for the weak, remove injustices, alleviate poverty, stop oppression, and restore righteousness in our world. We can defend the unborn, support the elderly, and lift the hearts of those without hope. Through God’s love, we have the power to touch hearts with compassion, let others see his love in our eyes, and heal wounds through selflessness. Through his love we are blessed and through his love we can bless others and through his love and his grace, the kingdom of heaven can be ours. But the Catechism also tells us that this beatitude of God’s love which we are promised, confronts us with decisive moral choices. As St. Paul tells us in Romans, “We cannot conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but we must be transformed by the renewing of our minds and our hearts.” If we are people of God, we must take what we receive here on Sunday out into the world during the week – we need to be living that love in the way we treat other people – and not just our friends, but those who are in need, those who are suffering, those who Christ so loved. Jesus has given us all we need to do this. Through the Our Father, he gave us the perfect prayer. Through the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount, he taught us how to live and gave us his blessing. Through the Holy Spirit he gave us our guide. And through the Eucharist he gives us our strength. The Eucharist is God’s love embodied and brought to us in the person of his son, Jesus Christ. It is God’s love, first given to us. In his encyclical “God is Love”, Pope Benedict tells us “A Eucharist which does not pass over into the concrete practice of love is intrinsically fragmented…Love of God and love of neighbor have become one; in the least of the brethren we find Jesus himself, and in Jesus we find God. Only if I serve my neighbor can my eyes be opened to what God does for me and how much he loves me. For the church, charity is not a kind of welfare activity which could equally well be left to others, but is a part of her nature, an indispensible expression of her very being.” Then in 2007, he followed that in his Apostolic Exhortation Sacrament of Charity – Pope Benedict said, “The more ardent the love for the Eucharist in the hearts of Christian people, the more clearly they will recognize the goal of all mission: to bring Christ to others. Not just a theory or a way of life inspired by Christ, but the gift of his very person. anyone who has not shared the truth of love with his brothers and sisters has not yet given enough.” Wow! That is powerful stuff! The source of all that we need is here – at this altar!! It is the Eucharist which enables us to live the Beatitudes! The Eucharist is our humility, it is our charity, it is our path to salvation. We are commanded by the very nature of the Eucharist -the love God has given us – to share it out – person to person – in humility, in charity, in justice, and in love that we might make that love and our relationship with God complete. As Pope Francis tells us, “we need to get the smell of the sheep on us.” This is why I love Saint Vincent DePaul! It provides us opportunity to reach out and help others in the way Christ calls us to. This is the very essence of the mission of the Saint Vincent DePaul Society. Inspired by gospel values, joined together to grow spiritually through person to person service to those in need, united in a spirit of poverty, charity and humility and nourished by prayer. Humility, prayer and Eucharist are at the very core of the Society. It is so easy in this materialistic world, a world which encourages competition and winning at any expense, a world which teaches us to focus on self, to take pride in what we do, to seek self satisfaction even when those around us are suffering – it is easy to lose sight of our humility and Christian love and God’s love for us. But a humble person needs God. A humble person fears what he or she might become without God in his or her life. A humble person recognizes God’s presence in others, God’s truth in different ways of thought, and God’s action in their own life. A humble person seeks the Lord wherever He may be found. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Scalia said “we are fools for Christ’s sake…we must pray for the courage to endure the scorn of a sophisticated world.” His words echo the words of our Lord at the end of the Beatitudes – “blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you.” We don’t have to be Jesus, Saint Vincent DePaul, or Mother Teresa. But we do have to open our eyes, our minds and our hearts to the love of God, acting justly, loving tenderly, and walking daily humbly in service to others.
From the Deacon’s Desk:
By now you may have heard the sad and yet exciting news – come this June, Kathy McDonough will be retiring as our Coordinator of Religious Education (CRE). Kathy has served us for many years now in this capacity and has done an outstanding job in coordinating and guiding our efforts to educate our children in the faith. She has also served our parish in many other ways behind the scenes to help make the presence of Christ evident to all. We still have several months before she leaves this position – and we will certainly formally thank her closer to June – but take the time to offer your thanks to her personally for all she has done for our children. The good news is that she will still be present and playing an important role within the parish. As noted last week, Kathy has taken on the role of President of our local SVdP Conference. She has been active in SVdP for some time and it is fitting that her energy or making Christ present to our children now be extended to making His presence evident throughout the Grant County community. Many thanks to her for all she has done and all she will do!
Be humble and you will grow in virtue. This is the message we hear from the Prophet Zephaniah in our first reading. Zephaniah warned against the sinfulness and destructiveness of pride. The prophet Micah proclaimed to us that what is expected of us by God is “to act justly, to love tenderly, and to walk humbly with your God.” Kathy has been an outstanding example of humility. We all are called by Jesus to do the same.
The Beatitudes, which we hear this week, provide us an introduction to the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount, and at the same time, in many ways, summarize their meaning. They offer hope to those who are afflicted or may be disenfranchised, and they offer promise to those who seek the Lord by walking humbly in service to others. These are not some flowery sayings, but a prescription for the way we are to live. They explain the way our hearts and minds should be if we truly wish to have a proper relationship with God. They call us to a different place then the world does. The Catechism tells us that the Beatitudes are at the heart of Jesus’s preaching. It tells us that they reveal the goal of human existence, the ultimate end of human acts, God calls us to his own Beatitude. And what is that beatitude? To be blessed, because we are loved. And because God loves us, we can care for the weak, remove injustices, alleviate poverty, stop oppression, and restore righteousness in our world. We can defend the unborn, support the elderly, and lift the hearts of those without hope. Through God’s love, we have the power to touch hearts with compassion, let others see his love in our eyes, and heal wounds through selflessness. Through his love we are blessed and through his love we can bless others and through his love and his grace, the kingdom of heaven can be ours.
The Beatitudes offer us the pathway to walk humbly with the Lord and to grow in virtue.
From the Deacon’s Desk:
This Sunday (January 22) marks the 44th anniversary of the legalization of abortion in this country. The legalized killing of babies remains a dark stain upon the character of this country. WE have had other dark moments – the Dred Scott decision which dehumanized slaves, and the denial of the right of women to vote chief among them. But the right of unborn children remains as the one that hasn’t been corrected.
This is what abortion has taken from us in the last 40 years Two generations– nearly 60 million people – doctors, nurses, teachers, police and fireman, lawyers and politicians, priests, rabbis and ministers, scientists and inventors, servers at McDonalds, managers at Walmart, factory workers and mechanics and on and on; not to mention all their children that will never be.
Did you know that there actually were two decisions by the Supreme Court on that fateful day? Roe v Wade is the one we hear about, but equally important was Doe v Bolton which actually solidified the idea of abortion up to birth. The two women at the center of these decisions have also come to see the light. They are now pro-life advocates. The women who fought to legalize abortion – to have abortions – have come to see the evil that exists in the killing of innocent children. They have come to understand the effect abortion has on the fabric of humanity. Not only on the children taken, but on the women who make this choice.
Abortion has always been against Catholic teaching from the very earliest times. In 1995 Pope John Paul II declared that the Church’s teaching on abortion “is unchanged and unchangeable. Therefore, by the authority which Christ conferred upon Peter and his successors . . . I declare that direct abortion, that is, abortion willed as an end or as a means, always constitutes a grave moral disorder, since it is the deliberate killing of an innocent human being…No circumstance, no purpose, no law whatsoever can ever make licit an act which is intrinsically illicit, since it is contrary to the law of God which is written in every human heart, knowable by reason itself, and proclaimed by the Church” (Evangelium Vitae 62).
It is a grave and mortal sin. It can be forgiven – as any sin can – through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. As Catholics, it is important that we pray for the healing of our nation, for the protection of our unborn children, and for the forgiveness and healing of those touched by abortion. We should pray for an end to the circumstances of desperation that lead women to this decision. And for those who treat it as a casual medical procedure, we pray for them to come to understand the sanctity of all human life.
This coming Friday, January 27th, if at all possible we are encouraged to spend time in prayer and in adoration of the Eucharist that we may find our way forward as a nation and individuals to right this injustice restoring protection for all people from conception to a natural death.
HOMILY – Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God – Cycle A, B, C
Num 6:22-27 Galatians 4:4-7 Luke 2:16-21
This is the day of new beginnings. Each year, we look to reset our lives making resolutions to change. Why do we do this? Because we want to make changes in our lives – positive changes that lead to a better life. The first day of the New Year presents us symbolically with all kinds of possibilities. Resolutions – some of them daunting – appear achievable. Hope springs eternal! – even though we only keep 12% of the resolutions we make! But as Catholics and Christians, in this season of Christmas, we are witness to a new beginning which is greater than any of our New Year’s resolutions and possibilities. We have celebrated the birth of Jesus our Savior. He has come to fill the breach between heaven and earth that was opened by Adam and Eve. He offers us through his birth and his life and his resurrection new opportunity for eternal life – if only we will resolve to grasp it. The focus of this season – and particularly during this octave of Christmas – is on Jesus, his birth, his growing strong and becoming a man under the guidance and care of his parents Mary and Joseph. All of this leads up to his baptism by John in the Jordan and the beginning of his ministry here on earth. It is the gift of pure love which God has given to each of us. For this transformative event in human history is the triumph of love over evil. It marks a true new beginning in our human history that reopens the door of eternal salvation to us as God’s plan for that salvation begins to become evident to us. But today we take a pause, and we celebrate the woman who made possible this gift which God graced upon us – Mary the mother of Jesus – the Mother of God! But Mary is much more than the Mother of God. She is our Mother as well. She is our guide and our teacher, setting the example for us of how to follow Jesus – how to follow the will of God. In this gospel we hear that the shepherds made known even to Mary and Joseph all they had been told about this child. And then we hear, Mary “kept all of these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” In Luke’s gospel, we see this theme again and again with Mary. Remember when the angel Gabriel first came to her to announce that she would bear the child of God. Mary was “greatly troubled at what was said, and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.” “How can this be?” she asked. “Let me be the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done according to your word.” Later in Luke, when Jesus disappeared only to be found teaching in the temple, Mary did not understand why Jesus had acted as he had. But her response was to “keep all these things in her heart.” Her willingness to “hold all these things in her heart” – should be an example and an inspiration to all of us. Often she didn’t understand immediately what was happening. But she accepted God’s will. She reflected upon the events of her life. She prayed for guidance. She meditated on God’s will and always offered herself up as the handmaid of the Lord. Things were not always easy for her just as they are not always easy for us. Think about it (virgin pregnant, manger birth, bounty on child, son murdered). But she accepted it all. But she was resolved to do the will of God. She did not allow other influences or desires to compete or interfere with her desire to please God. She always placed his will above her own. Mary gave control in her life over to God. And she came to know his will by patiently reflecting and praying and seeking it out in her heart. We are called to do no less, but we have the example of Mary to inspire and guide us. As we face the challenges of the coming year, things are not going to be easy for us. We look around the world and see violence out of control in Syria and the Middle East. Throughout the world and even in our own country we see terrorism spawned by ISIS. We look at our government which seems incapable of cooperation and civility. Far too many people remain unemployed, living in poverty, or otherwise in distress. Common decency and moral values seem to slip away at times. Fear and disorder sometimes seem to reign supreme. And for most of us, we face personal challenges as well in our lives – financial, health, in our relationships, and spiritually. As we begin a new year, and as we celebrate and revisit this transformative moment in the history of humanity, it is a good time to reset our thoughts and to begin anew. Our first reading offers us a set of blessings to embrace as new beginnings for all of us. The word ‘you’ in the blessing can be taken personally, but was actually directed at a nation, and would be appropriately addressed to our nation and world. Each line invokes a personal action from God: to bless you with good fortune and to keep you from harm; to look favorably toward you and to be gracious you; to look upon you kindly and to grant you peace. The petitions are very similar in that they ask for the same reality, that is, a blessing to make life worth living. Peace is the fundamental element in Jewish blessings – the condition of absolute well being. On this, the World Day of Peace, I can think of no better starting point than to embrace and pray for peace, civility, and common decency. Pope Francis, in reflecting on this World Day of Peace said, “I ask God to help all of us to cultivate nonviolence in our most personal thoughts and values. May charity and nonviolence govern how we treat each other as individuals, within society and in international life. All of us want peace. Many people build it day by day through small gestures and acts; many of them are suffering, yet patiently persevere in their efforts to be peacemakers.” Maybe it’s time for us to take a pause and reflect on the example of Mary. Maybe this is a good time to seek an even more important and permanent resolution – the resolution to put God in control, to seek and do his will above all else, to live as he would have us live. We do this by taking time to pray – and pray patiently, to listen quietly, and to seek God’s will for us. By placing our trust and faith in God – as Mary did – and placing his will above all else – as Mary did – we can have a resolution that will truly move us to a better place, make us better people and be worthy of our efforts. We could join Mary in singing “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!”