Saturday, August 27, 2011

Homily for the 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time

Let us begin with a question…are we truly thirsting for the Lord? It’s a question only we can ponder for ourselves. Our Lord in today’s Gospel reminds us that whoever wishes to come after Him “must deny himself.” Take note that this is some really strong words coming directly from the Lord. What does it mean today for one to deny oneself?

Many of us probably can already come up with an answer. To deny one selves means to give up what we desire and want for the sake of another. Is that right? Absolutely! But the question is it easy? While it’s an easy concept to grasp, it’s not an easy one to follow! Why is it becoming increasingly more difficult to deny oneself? Perhaps it has something to do with fear! Letting go of oneself often entails perhaps some things that we ourselves are uncomfortable with doing. For example God has asked some people to give up everything worldly and live their lives day to day. Some individuals give up high paying jobs to do things that will make a difference in the world. If God asked some individuals to do that, they would be hesitant. Why??? Because they would be concerned about how they are going to put food on their tables and pay the countless bills. When it comes to some of these things there is a natural fear that can overtake us.

Another reason it is becoming increasingly difficult to deny oneself in today’s world is because the mindset of many individuals has changed. At one time in our history we could accept things in faith. Today if we asked some individuals to accept things in faith they would be like…yeah right I can’t accept anything on faith! More and more people want something that is concrete. In essence we want to be able a plan and we want to see results. When the Lord asks something of us many times it is as if He is saying “jump!” Jump where…jump into the unknown! Often times when the Lord asks us to do something many times He is asking us to leave our comfort zones. It’s utterly amazing every time I attempt to do my own thing; it often doesn’t go the way that I plan. However, the opposite happens when I let it all go and place everything to His hands. Everything goes much better.

Dying to self means letting go! It means letting go of this self centered attitude that has consumed so many of us in recent times. Begin by placing everything, not just some things, but everything into God’s hands. Going back to my homily from last week we talked about staying close and following Jesus who is our rock. We follow Him by listening and following everything that He has taught us. In today’s world everyone has an opinion, but in the Catholic Church there is only one person’s opinion that matters and that is of course our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Now we must ask ourselves are we thirsting for the Lord or are we thirsting for the things of the world. The things of this world will dissipate but the love of God doesn’t. God’s love is everlasting. As we leave here today let us pray for the grace to deny ourselves and to go after the Lord. In doing so perhaps we won’t be building up worldly but instead building up treasure where it truly belongs in the heavenly kingdom!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Homily for the 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings focus on the exchange of keys. The exchange of keys is symbolic and it’s symbolic of an exchange of power or a new responsibility. In today’s Gospel from Matthew we witness our Lord Jesus Christ passing on the responsibility of the Church on earth into the hands of Saint Peter. Our Lord Jesus Christ said to Peter, “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.”

From Peter the papacy has been passed down generations and now rests in the hands of Pope Benedict XVI. Throughout the centuries the Church has experienced many scandals and trials, and yet despite them the Church still stands strong standing as a testament to the Lord’s words, “the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.

My brothers and sisters we mustn’t forget that a set of keys have also been placed into our hands. Each one of us has an individual responsibility to build up God’s kingdom on earth. We are called to take the message of the Gospel into the world. It is not only important but it is certainly now extremely necessary. For far too long Christians have remained silent and have allowed certain atrocities to develop and spread. Now is the time for Christians everywhere to find their voice and speak up! Many of the crises we face today are rooted in the overall lack of appreciation for life in all its stages. From that stems individual greed and a desire for individual power. With that said a culture that turns it back to God and closes their hearts to life is headed ultimately for a collapse of economic proportions.

For us to be successful in our vocations we must attach ourselves to the rock, our Lord Jesus Christ. His representative on earth is the pope and as Catholics we are called to follow and listen to his guidance. Jesus Christ chose Saint Peter as another way in which He can remain with us throughout time. That tradition continues in Pope Benedict XVI. Stay close to Peter and we will stay close to Christ!

Everyone gathered here has a special role in the life of the Church. Whether we build and grow together as a family of faith depends upon us as individuals. For that to happen we must unite ourselves ultimately to Jesus who is our rock and be faithful to the mission to which He calls us. Today we must ask ourselves, are we ready to profess Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the living God?” For those who might have at times bought into the lies promulgated by the world, it’s never too late to come back. Many have and continue to do so each and every single day! We must open our hearts and minds and root them in Jesus and all those things He has taught and continues to teach us today. While there might be for some time to come a series of trials, things in the end will get better. It’s time we as Christians find our voice and take this message into the world.

“I will place the keys of the house of David, upon His shoulders.” As the keys are now formally in the hands of Pope Benedict XVI we mustn’t forget that a set of keys have been placed into our hands as well. Each one of us is responsible for following the call of the Lord, taking the message that He gives us out into the world. Stay close and follow Christ and be ready to experience something truly awesome. What that awesome thing is…I am not telling, you will just have to experience it for yourselves! Just put your faith in Jesus Christ and sit back and wait and see!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Homily for the 20th Sunday of Ordinary Time

“Thus says the Lord: Observe what is right, do what is just; for my salvation is about to come, my justice, about to be revealed.” The very first part of the opening line from the first reading is a challenge that the Lord Himself still echoes to all is to do and follow what is right. Our Lord is constantly calling His people to always do the right thing.

Now we must remember that we are called to do what is right and just every single day because we should be living our lives each day as the salvation of the Lord is about to come this very moment. This is the message we are called to proclaim. Throughout the last several weeks I have preached on the importance of the ministry of the evangelization which is your primary ministry in the life of the Church. Blessed John Paul II called for a new life of evangelization in the life of the Church and His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI has continued that call these past six years of His papacy. There are new ways for us to evangelize. It was only a few years ago in order to get word out one had to contact a radio or television station, and for publications contact a news paper or put out money to purchase an ad on a billboard. While many of these advertising tools are still at our disposal there are even new ways for us to reach out into the world through the World Wide Web.

In speaking of the importance of spread of the Gospel I would like us to turn our focus to our Lord Jesus Christ in today’s Gospel. He is doing something rather peculiar. A woman is calling out to Him and at first He appears to ignore her. Then when the woman fell at His feet paying Him homage He says something that might sound to our ears as cold, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” The woman however doesn’t give up and responds to the Lord saying, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” At this He responds to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” Our Lord wasn’t brushing this particular woman’s needs aside but rather what He was doing at that particular moment was making every effort to draw out the faith from her.

Studying today’s Gospel at a much deeper level we do not see our Lord ignoring this woman’s needs but rather see Him drawing out her faith. When we do things that are right and just not only does it carry the potential of drawing out our faith but also the faith of others. Going back to my homily from last week we are called to challenge one another much like Jesus challenged the woman in today’s Gospel. Put your faith in Christ Jesus and do not look back! Have faith and be persistent!  We might at times feel that our prayers have fallen on deaf ears…because it seems that He doesn’t answer our prayers.  Do not become discouraged…be persistent!  The woman in today’s Gospel could have just as easily given up, however she didn’t and we see that she received her wish. Let that be a lesson for each one of us!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Homily for the 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time

“Take courage” and “do not be afraid.” These are the words our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ extend to us today. More than ever we need to be courageous witnesses of the Gospel being not afraid of any repercussions that we may incur. Following Christ is not always easy but that being said following Christ is the only path that leads to true happiness.

Following our Lord means a willingness to take a chance. Many of us take chances every day and we might not realize it. Individuals spend money on a chance to win a million dollar jackpot lottery, or put their names in to win a car. We take chances almost every day, but the million dollar question today is this, when was the last time we took a chance for the Lord. In today’s first reading the Lord said to Elijah, “go outside and stand on the mountain before the Lord; and the Lord will be passing by.” Then in today’s Gospel our Lord reached out to Peter who said to Him, “Lord if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” The Lord responded simply with one word, “come.” Our Lord is constantly inviting us to come after Him and many of us here are hearing the Lord call us but maybe something is holding us back.

What happened to Peter, well He got out of the boat and began walking on water. “But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened; and began to sink.” Peter represents many of us gathered here. Perhaps we might initially be willing to follow the Lord but suddenly when we come into some sort of resistance we begin to retreat and run. When that happens we begin to sink. Being a faithful Catholic is not always easy especially today when our faith contradicts what is becoming the growing norm. As Catholics we are called to value all human life from the moment of conception to natural death. One of the biggest items in the news today is marriage and this is one area in which we must strongly defend. One issue regarding marriage is that today there are many individuals who want the definition of marriage to be redefined. This is impossible because the definition of marriage was written once and for all in stone by God who is the divine author. Marriage is defined by God as the joining of one man and one woman with one of its primary ends being the procreation and education of children. The problem with rewriting the definition of marriage to something other than what God defines it, excludes instantly the possibility of procreation. Some will make the argument that the Church is discriminating against those who hold opinions contrary to the Church’s when she speaks this truth. Its hard being a faithful Catholic in today’s growing secular society.

That leaves us with a question what are we to do. The answer is simple we as Catholics are given a responsibility to guide and lead others to the truth. As Jesus invites us we are to be constantly inviting others. Unfortunately we might experience fierce opposition, but the reason the opposition is so fierce is because what we teach which is given to us by the Lord Himself is right. Her teachings do not discriminate for Holy Mother Church wants everyone to be saved. With that said although the Church is very much clear certain actions are indeed sinful, she doesn’t condemn the sinner. She reaches out to them and loves them very much. My best friend is one of those individuals living a life contrary to God’s design for marriage. When I look at her I don’t see someone living a life contrary to God’s definition of marriage I see a child of God. Every individual, no matter what they struggle with is a child of God; they are our brothers and sisters and must be treated as such. However, at times we need to challenge others and ourselves to live a life of holiness according to God’s divine plan not just with this particular issue but with His plan in its entirety. There are plenty of other things out there that threaten our faith. Our Lord says “do not judge”, but He never said do not challenge. Jesus challenges us each and every day and we are to challenge one another. If we don’t, we’re just simply letting one another fall.

Be courageous witness’s brothers and sisters to the Gospel. Do not be afraid of what others may say! More than ever today we need to take this message with us everywhere we go. Remember this, our Lord desires everyone to be saved! Not just certain individuals but everyone. Yes, we have the ability to choose which path we follow; some choose the path that leads to life, while others choose the path that ultimately leads to death buts it’s our choice. God wants everyone to have a choice. He wants us to have a choice because not having one reduces us to being slaves. Again, as the Lord calls us, we are to call one another. Ponder this, if we truly love someone then we should want give them all the options and once that is done then the ball is in their court. All we can do is simply be faithful to who we are as Catholics, faithful to the teachings as handed down to us by God. With that we conclude once again with the words from our Lord Jesus Christ that we began with, “take courage” and “do not be afraid.” Take a chance on the Lord, stick close and follow Him, because not only does it offer you the possibility of saving your life, but also the lives of others as well!