Friday, July 29, 2011

Homily for the 18th Sunday of Ordinary Time

“The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs.” Last week in my homily I made a mention of a mug that I have over in my collection that says, “God answers all prayers, sometimes He says yes, sometimes he says no, and sometimes He says you got to be kidding me.” God does answer all our prayers, perhaps in ways we humanly don’t agree with but He indeed answers them. We must also remember that God answers all prayers according to His time which is not bound by our own. The Lord is not bound by minutes, hours, days, months or even years. Our Lord answers them when He wills, and when He does many times He gives us what we need not necessarily what we want.

In the very first part of the responsorial psalm, it says the hand of the Lord feeds us. Today the Lord’s hands continue to feed His people. We mustn’t forget that we are the Lords hands and feet. As the cantor sung in the alleluia verse, “one does not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” It is important and necessary for us to be here to receive the words of life that comes from God. The words that you hear today are not the lector’s words, they are not my words, but they are His words. These are the words of everlasting life and have the power to transform not only our lives but also the lives of others. As the Lords hands and feet these are the words we are called to share.

One mustn’t forget that we are called to share the message that we receive. The word of God cannot be chained. Although there are forces in the world that are trying their best to do just that…it is impossible. There is no taming the word of God for there is no force in world powerful enough to contain it! How do we get the word of God out there into a world that is trying so to keep the message from being spread? Think about the old saying, if there is a will, there is a way! There are plenty of opportunities out there for us to share our faith. It doesn’t always have to entail the use of words. We can spread the Gospel through our actions. The little things we do can go a long way.

Our Gospel tells the account of the miracle of the loaves and the fishes. In the account when it was evening it says the disciples approached him saying, “This is a deserted place and it’s already late; dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages and buy food themselves.” Jesus responded, “There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves.” Looking out into the world there are many people who are looking for the life giving word, who are missing out because not only is our culture doing all it can to drown it out, but also because many good people are remaining silent. What we have brothers and sisters is so special one would be foolish to keep it to themselves. In order for the treasure that we have to multiply it needs to be shared. There are many people out there who are looking to be fed and using the Lord’s words I challenge you to “give them some food yourselves.” God has given us all special gifts and we are called to use them for one purpose and that is to build up God’s kingdom right now.

Yes, indeed God has given each our own special gifts. Many times we don’t know how to use them. For some they don’t know how to use them because they spend all their time desiring the gifts of another that they don’t cultivate their own gift. Spending our time desiring another’s gift in a way belittles the ones God has given us. Use the gifts God has given you! As we mentioned a few moments ago we need to find ways to get this great message out there. Remember God has given us a gift, use them! God has given perhaps some of you the ability to write, use your words to spread the Gospel. It doesn’t have to be a work based on scripture, but can be something that promotes our Christian values in everyday life. Our Lord has given some the gift of being able to sing and write music. Sing your hearts out, and drown out some of that modern junk that’s out there. Believe me, lyrics to a song carries a lot of weight. Parents should be cautious to what their kids listen too. From my personal experience often times when driving I flip through the radio stations in order to find something to keep me awake, and as I do I’m horrified by some of things that I am hearing.

Perhaps we can’t sing or write but as we look around at each other we can see a diverse congregation with individuals who have many other gifts and talents. These gifts can be as simple as ones personality. How we approach and treat people can make a big difference. Something as simple as a smile can go a long way. Today the Lord says to each one of us, “Give them some food yourselves. May we spend our time this week reflecting on the gifts and talents the Lord bestowed upon us! Then after spending some time getting to know those gifts may we put them to work doing as the Lord calls feeding our brothers and sisters with His words which are the words of everlasting life.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Disciple of Christ Retreat

Last week I accompanied the parish youth group to Little Drummer Boy Campground in Gettysburg PA for our first retreat. This retreat was entitled Disciple of Christ retreat. It was a retreat led by mostly our seniors who are heading into college next year for the younger members of the group. Although it was extremely hot and humid the kids had a great week.  It should be noted that we had air conditioned cabins!  :) 

We celebrated the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass together on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. On Monday spring boarding from my homily on Sunday I reminded our young people on the importance of our call to evangelization. Taking the prayers from the section of the Roman Missal for Masses of various needs and occasions, for the Spread of the Gospel, we were of the importance for us to take the Gospel into the world.

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Then on Tuesday we reflected on Jesus’ response to the one who said, your mother and brothers are standing outside to speak with you. Our Lord responded saying, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers? Continuing with our Lord’s words He said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother.” Although Jesus’ words are true we must expand that for we are all brothers and sisters for we are created in God’s image and likeness. We must remember because we are all created in His image and likeness we are to reach out to all people. Every one we meet is a child of God and must be treated as such.

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Wednesday we celebrated the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in the evening and incorporated after the homily a candle lighting ceremony. This particular Mass was a votive Mass of the Most Holy Eucharist for the first reading and responsorial psalm reflected on the theme of bread. The responsorial psalm was, “the Lord gave them bread from heaven.” We were reminded that the Lord never abandons us on our journey of discipleship. The Lord is with us every single step of the way and He does so particularly through the Most Holy Eucharist. With Jesus at our side we are able to take His light into the world. Lighting a candle at the center of the altar each person present had an opportunity to come forward and receive from me a small votive candle. I handed each person an unlit candle saying, “As a disciple of Christ are you prepared to take the light of Christ into the world.” After responding “I am” they took the candle from me and lit their votive candle from the center candle and lined them up on the altar. Once they lit their votive candle and placed them on the altar they went and dropped a sheet of paper in which they listed things during the week that was keeping them from being Disciples of Christ and placed them into the campfire.

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Homily for 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time

“And it's a great day to be alive...I know the sun's still shinin when I close my eyes...There's some hard times in the neighborhood...But why can't every day be just this good?” This reframe taken from Travis Tritt’s hit song “It’s a great day to be alive” is a good springboard into today’s reflection.

We should consider each day when we can drag ourselves out of bed being able to plant both feet onto to floor to be a good day because it is another day for us to live out our vocations. Every day is better than the next because each day is full of new opportunities. In today’s first reading we heard about a man named Solomon who was chosen to succeed his father King David. Like Solomon we too are called by God for a particular purpose. Each one of us has a unique mission given by God and it’s a mission only we ourselves can complete. Meaning you cannot complete my mission on earth nor can I complete yours. We all have a special role to fulfill that only you and I as individuals can do.

Now that we have reiterated that we each have a special mission like Solomon did, we must take a closer look at what the Lord said to Solomon. God said, “Ask something of me, and I will give it to you.” Needless to say brothers and sisters we do not go out into the world empty handed. This leads us to the topic of prayer. When it comes to fulfilling our mission here on earth we cannot expect to do it alone, we need the Lord. In prayer not only do we grow closer to God but He also gives us the grace needed to live out our vocations. Many people in our society think prayer is a waste of time especially today when many individuals are experiencing hard times in their own backyards. Those who have lost jobs are having a hard time finding new ones and because of this are left scratching their heads to figure out where the money will come from to pay the next bill. Because of the economic situation many families are put under more stress. When things get tough it is easy to collapse under the weight, it’s easy for us to question whether or not God listening when things are not going as planned, but it’s that mindset we need to work hard to desperately overcome. Remember this God answers all prayers. In my collection of mugs over in my office I have one mug that says, “God answers all prayers, sometimes he says yes, sometimes He says no, and sometimes He says you got to be kidding me.”

Think about that for a moment, what do our prayers sound like. Dear Lord, please help me to win the lottery! Lord, help me be able to get straight A’s in school. Too many times our prayers take this form where we are asking things for ourselves. We must remember the Lord gives us what we need not what we want. Yes many of us here would like to win the lottery, but I can image the Lord looking down at every one who asks to win the lottery saying you have to be kidding me, I know what you would do with the money so the answer is no. All too often we spend our time desiring the things that we don’t have that we fail to take stock in those things we do. Listen again to Solomon’s response, “O LORD, my God, you have made me, your servant, king to succeed my father David; but I am a mere youth, not knowing at all how to act. I serve you in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a people so vast that it cannot be numbered or counted. Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong.” What was the Lord’s response? Listen closely, “Because you have asked for this—not for a long life for yourself, nor for riches, nor for the life of your enemies, but for understanding so that you may know what is right—I do as you requested.”

God answers all prayers and how He answers them depends on how we ask and what we ask for. One thing is for sure God will give us the strength we need to live out our vocations all we have to do is ask. Yes we are living in challenging times but we shouldn’t allow that to distract or discourage us from doing as the Lord wills. One could easily choose to collapse under the weight of the pressure but be warned that leads to a life of misery. May we lift up our hearts and spirits to the Lord who will give us the strength to complete our earthly journey! Yes even with Christ at our side we might experience difficult moments but with Him we can handle it.

Remember we are each called by God for a specific purpose. Listen to these final words the Lord spoke to Solomon, “I give you a heart so wise and understanding that there has never been anyone like you up to now, and after you there will come no one to equal you.” God calls each and every single one of us to a specific task and every day is a good day because it is another opportunity for us to live our lives the way God intends. It’s a great day to be alive! Every day is a good day but remember each day is even better than the day before!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Homily for the 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time

During the last two weeks of Ordinary Time my homilies have been centered on the five precepts of the Church. This week we come to the final precept of the Church which calls each of us to help provide for the needs of the Church. What is the final precept calling us to do and how can we apply it to today’s readings.

In today’s Gospel Jesus shares with the crowds another parable that has to do with a seed. He tells them that “the Kingdom of Heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in His field.” What does it mean to provide for the needs of the Church? First and foremost it reminds us of our call to evangelize and build up the Kingdom of God here on earth. We must ask ourselves are we pulling our weight when it comes to tending to the Lord’s vineyard. Are we helping others get to know Christ through our words and actions? Would people know that we are Christians by what we say and do? How are we setting the example? Are we encouraging one another to practice the faith and setting an example for them by following the other precepts of the Church, going to Mass every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation, utilizing the Sacrament of Reconciliation at least once a year, and encouraging some sort of penance on all Fridays. All these precepts of the Church are centered on assisting us in keeping our focus on God.

What does this final precept which calls us to provide for the needs of the Church mean for us as Catholics? There are many ways we can provide for the needs of the Church and guess what it isn’t always about the money. One of the ways we can provide for the needs of the Church is by staying true to our mission. You my brothers and sisters are called to the ministry of evangelization. My main responsibility as a priest is provide for you the sacraments which helps give you the tools necessary to carry out your divine mission on earth. If I speak to three hundred people at each Mass and you in turn reach out to one or two people within the week see how many lives can be touched by the Gospel. As a priest my ministry is primarily within the Church while your ministry as the faithful takes you outside the formal structure of the Church into the wider Church in the world. There are opportunities that allow you the faithful to participate in your ministry of evangelization within the structure of the Church for example, adult Catechesis, ministry to fallen away Catholics, and RCIA to name a few opportunities out there that allow you to exercise your God given ministry. Even if you’re not involved in any of these ministries you have an opportunity to reach out to those you encounter each day.

Now that we have talked about providing for the needs of the Church by participating in our mission from God I want to say something briefly about the Sunday offering. It’s not all about the money; there is also a spiritual purpose to it. The offering represents each one of us offering a small portion of ourselves to God. Many people here receive envelopes; even if you can’t put anything in it every week use them. Putting the envelope in the basket, and having it brought forward is in a way a symbolic offering of oneself. It’s a simple external action, but it is an external action with a purpose. Even if nothing monetary is physically in the envelope, it is certainly not empty. What is more important to God is that we are present. Our presence here is more important to God than any monetary offering we could give. That envelope represents us and by putting it into the offering basket it is a quiet way of saying, “here I am Lord, I come to do your will.”

There are many ways in which we can provide for the needs of the Church and the most important way we can do that is our willingness to follow the Lord’s commandments, following the precepts of His Church, and last but not least the witness we give by our presence. It is our witness to the faith in the world and our regular attendance here that stands as a testament to our belief in power of God. My brothers and sisters we are to encourage one another to follow these precepts so that we together may grow in the faith and rise up together like leavened bread.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Homily for the Fiftieth Sunday of Ordinary Time

“The seed that falls on good ground will yield a fruitful harvest.” Listening again to the familiar parable of the seed and the sower gives us a visual of how our faith grows. It all begins with a seed, a seed that is planted within each of us. That seed was infused in us when we were conceived for every child is a gift from God created in His own image and likeness.

Now we have stated that there is a seed infused with each of us, what happens next. A seed won’t grow without being properly nourished. That leads us to ponder, how do we grow in faith. One of the problems we face today is that we ourselves are not letting the Divine sower sow seeds. This happens when we choose not to cooperate with God’s divine plan and ignore the vocations He has called us too. For example, husbands and wives are choosing to ignore one of the primary ends of marriage the procreation and education of children. When it comes to teaching the faith it is the primary obligation of the parents to see to their children’s religious education and not CCD or our Catholic Schools. Priests and Religious also have steered clear from proclaiming the truth in order to appease everyone. If one comes here expecting to be all happy and fuzzy inside every time they leave here there is a problem. Sometimes we all need to be challenged! Everyone is called to be sowing seeds, and if there are any gardeners present today they will attest that it takes work. One needs to prepare a fertile soil by clearing an area for a garden, planting a seed, watering it, and over time removing weeds that threaten to strangle the new plant.

There are weeds in our lives that threaten us and those weeds are sin. Each day we should be prepared to rip them right out so that the seed within us can grow to the fullest potential. Last week in the homily I mentioned the first two precepts of the Church which is to attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation and going to confession at least once a year. These precepts are not just a mere list of things we need to do but are more importantly our gateway to spiritual growth. Our Lord has given us all the tools we need to tend to our garden of faith, the question is do we know how to put them to work. By attending Mass we allow ourselves to water our garden of faith. Every time we come here to listen to God’s word we are tending to our own spiritual garden. By going to confession we remove those weeds that threaten to strangle our spiritual life.

The next precept of the Church is you shall receive the sacrament of the Eucharist at least during the Easter Season. This precept of the Church doesn’t suggest that the reception of communion is required weekly, but strongly encourages us to receive Holy Communion at least during this holy season and whenever we are able. Why…the answer is because it’s a source of spiritual nourishment and strength. God gives us many gifts to help us grow in our spiritual life and the Most Holy Eucharist is one of them. It is because God desires that oneness that we are encouraged to receive during Easter for it serves as a strong reminder that the Lord hasn’t left us orphans. Choosing not to go to communion, or sometimes having the Church formally encouraging an individual not to go is not always a bad thing. It should not be seen as simply a denial of Holy Communion but rather as a true test of faith. That desire, that longing should drive an individual to the point where one recognizes the need for change in their lives so they can be truly one with the Lord. If the end result is that it helps the individual to grow in a greater appreciation and helps them foster a deeper devotion that time spent desiring a return to communion was successful.

Now the next precept of the Church is one we need to reflect on a little more because it’s one that has fell by the wayside in recent years and that precept is this “you shall observe the days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church.” During Lent we observe meatless Fridays and on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday we are asked to fast. Traditionally on Fridays outside of Lent we are asked to abstain from meat or reframe from other things that might get in the way of our spiritual life. While many follow the practice during Lent it’s outside of Lent we need to do some more work. Let’s be honest for some people giving up meat on Fridays, really is no big deal especially if one likes seafood. There is no penance in that; however we should find something that really conditions our heart and soul so that we may better focus the lens of our spiritual eyes on the Lord. So therefore make it a point each Friday to do some sort of penance for your spiritual wellbeing.

Conditioning our heart and soul is important especially when it comes tending our seed of faith and allowing it grow. The key for us my brothers and sisters is to allow and trust the divine sower to let Him do the work. We mustn’t forget that we are at times His hands and feet, and that we have a critical role in this all important task. May we tend to His garden so that it will yield a fruitful harvest!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Homily for the Fourteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

“See, your king shall come to you meek, and riding on an ass.” With that line taken from our first reading taken from the book of the prophet Zechariah how about we begin by doing something a little different? Let’s together take a journey. Close your eyes and picture yourselves going back in time living in the time of Jesus. We are going to begin in the stable where our Lord Jesus Christ lays in the manger. Imagine the scene, the sounds of the animals, the smell of the stable, and Mary and Joseph attending to their new born Son. Let’s stop and fast forward to the point where we find Jesus all grown up walking with His disciples. Looking back noticing all the crowds He travels up the mountain where He sits down and begins to teach. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Now let’s move forward just a bit and watch the Lord as He encounters the leper, Peter’s mother-in-law and the paralytic. With each personal encounter listen and watch as Jesus reaches out His hands to heal them of their infirmities. Imagine yourself in Matthews’s shoes as he sits at the tax collectors table. Put yourselves, at the table. Like Matthew the Lord calls out to us, “follow me.” At this time we come to the final leg of our journey we fast forward to the Lord’s greatest act of love. Yes, we are standing at the foot of the cross. Look up at Him, beaten, pierced, and all covered in blood. This brothers and sisters is our King of Glory.

What does it take to be a leader? Listen intently once again to our Lord’s words in the Gospel, “come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.” The first part of this passage is an invitation and it is an invitation our Lord echoes constantly, “come to me, all you who labor.” Then He explains why we should follow Him, “for I am meek and humble of heart.” Finally He tells us the end result, “you will find rest.” Now this sounds all and good, but their needs to be more…there must action. That last image that we referenced a few moments ago shows us all the more why we should follow Him. Our Lord Jesus Christ laid down His very life for you and me! A leader is not someone who stands up in front of people and speaks but rather a true leader is one who steps down and leads by example. Jesus Christ exemplifies this definition of a leader, while at times He spoke in front of a crowd; He walked among us acting through healing the sick, forgiving multitude of sins, and finally being pierced to a large wooden cross. His actions give us all the reasons in the world to follow Him.

Today the Lord is constantly inviting us to spend time with Him. He expresses that invitation through Holy Mother Church expressed through the precepts of the Church. The very first precept of the Church, “you shall attend Mass on Sundays and on holy days of obligation and remain free from work or activity that could impede the sanctification of such days.” Now to our ears this might sound to us like a command…that’s because it is! God has given us a free will to choose whether or not we come here on Sundays and holy days obligation; however it is worded in such a way to remind us that the Lord is constantly calling us to be here. The very next precept of the Church is “you shall confess your sins at least once a year.” Again the Church isn’t requiring us to do this just to give us something else to do. In order for us to truly live our faith we need to practice it! Our Lord challenges us by commandments and precepts because He knows what we need and He gives us the very tools in order to help us grow.

We live in a society where it has become acceptable only to do the minimum. When it comes to our faith don’t settle for mediocrity. Many people live their faith content staying at the surface; however we must not hesitate to delve deeper. Jesus died for you and me! Are we willing to die to self for Him! Most people live their faith at the surface where they feel comfortable, but how is that helpful for our spiritual growth. Utilize the sacrament of reconciliation often and experience firsthand the Lord’s love and mercy. Immerse yourselves in the faith! The more we experience it the more we can demonstrate it to others. Don’t live the faith floating at the surface but dive deeper! Challenge yourselves, push yourselves to the limit and don’t settle for anything less.

My brothers and sisters the more we delve deeper into our faith the stronger we become in it. Not only do we ourselves grow stronger, we grow stronger together as a Church. At the very end of Mass we are all given a commission to “go in peace.” When the priest walks down the aisle after every Mass He represents Christ taking the lead…leading us all in the direction we need to head. Leave here with the goal to immerse ourselves in the love of Christ and make it a point to take advantage of all the opportunities He presents to us each and every day not only to help us grow in the faith but to those opportunities in which we can share that awesome faith with our fellow brothers and sisters. Follow Christ my dear brothers and sisters and don’t ever cease praising Him as our king and our God!