Sunday, September 30, 2012

Homily for the 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B 2012

 

“Come now, you rich, weep and wail over your impending miseries. Your wealth has rotted away, your clothes have become moth-eaten, your gold and silver have corroded, and that corrosion will be a testimony against you.” This quote taken from today’s Second Reading from the letter of Saint James coincides with some of the things we are experiencing today. Today many people in our country are struggling because they find themselves out of work or not able to make enough money to put food on the table and pay the bills. Truth is brothers and sisters the crises we face today could have been avoided. This crisis is a result of the deadly sin of greed on the part of our society.

Soon as we hear the word “greed” we immediately associate it with the adding up of material things such as possessions and money. Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the word greed as “a selfish desire for more of something than is needed.” Greed is so destructive not only for our society but also for our spiritual life for when greed consumes our lives it causes us to close our hearts to the point where we focus and live only for ourselves.

Brothers and sisters it is easy for us to associate and confuse greed with success. There are many individuals who are successful, who are certainly not greedy individuals. These individuals are extremely generous with their talents, time, and treasure. While certainly having more makes it more challenging towards growing in ones spiritual life, we shouldn’t be so quick to associate success with greed. Yes there are plenty of greedy people out there who are looking simply to pile up wealth here on earth, but today I would like to present to you an argument that the majority of greedy people are not those in business but that the deadly sin of greed is implanted in the hearts of all of us gathered here.

Next week is pro-life Sunday and in preparation for that I wish to talk about two items in particular that have contributed to the collapse of this great nation, the sins of abortion and contraception. Everything hinges on the issue of life. Let me repeat that again…everything hinges on the issue of life. The issue of contraception has been brought to the forefront in recent months with the Health and Human Services mandate. While our objection as a Church to the H.H.S mandate is on the grounds that it violates our freedom of conscience as a Church and that it violates the freedom of conscience of individuals, it has provided for us an opportunity to address the topic of contraceptives on a moral level. More people today are coming to an understanding of why abortion is wrong, however, they are still not grasping the moral gravity of the use of contraception.

In the majority of the cases abortion and contraception is a product of the deadly sin of greed. Remember greed is a selfish desire and the most of the time people will use contraception to prevent pregnancy so that it doesn’t get in their way of their careers or their plans in life. Today people are even given the option to have an abortion when it’s discovered that their children will be born with certain aliments. Raising children with disabilities can be a challenge but having worked with adults and children with these disabilities let me say this…they taught me and they can teach everyone how to love. They are truly special individuals. Brothers and sisters abortion is just unacceptable in every case. The argument people tend to make in favor for contraceptives is that we live in a society where we can’t afford to have and provide for children. While I understand this argument recognizing that times are indeed tough…we cannot afford not to have children.

Why are we experiencing such an economic collapse? The fact is the birth rate in our nation is low and with the low birth rate our nation is simply imploding. Once greed seeps into the very core of our society the family it begins to spread to the point where it can be seen externally. Why is it when we browse the news we see so many stories of corruption being exposed? The answer is simple the greed that took root in the core is bubbling to the surface. Why are so many jobs leaving our country? Again the answer is simple we are running out of laborers. Having a low birthrate means big problems. If we keep running in the trend we are heading more doctors, nurses, and teachers will be out of work because they will have no one to teach or treat. Once something takes root in the core of our society…the family it will eventually spill over into other areas…in fact we are experiencing its effects right now. Everything hinges on the issue of life. Greed can be overcome by generosity and an openness to life in all its stages.

We are indeed a rich nation filled with a lot of potential but our wealth is slowly slipping away. Will things get more difficult before it gets better…in deed it will, but it’s important that we change course. This past week I was at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville Tennessee where Trace Adkins sang a song “tough times don’t last, tough people do! It is important that we take hold of the cross and carry it. Take the line found in today’s letter from Saint James to heart. His words can be applied easily today as they were in his time but today there is hope in the horizon and that hope can be found in the spirit of everyone gathered here today. Be open to God’s plan not your own. We can see the danger and we can see the problems…with that I leave you with this…what are we doing and what are we going to do to change it?

 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Homily for the 25th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B 2012

 

“The Lord upholds my life.” Keep this line taken from our responsorial psalm front and center this week. Use it for your own personal mediation and keep saying it over and over again.

Our readings from the Book of Wisdom and the Gospel of Mark talk about suffering and death. Yet there is hope contained in both of those readings. The first reading from the Book of Wisdom foreshadows what we here in the Gospel referencing the Son of Man. It says, “For if the just one be the son of God, God will defend him and deliver him from the hand of his foes.” Then Jesus says in the Gospel, “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise.” We find our hope brothers and sisters in the person of Jesus Christ. As the Son of Man was handed over and experienced death, He did indeed rise on the third day. We together experience moments that weigh heavily upon us, but the Lord too promises us that like the Son of Man we too can be rescued from the bonds of sin and death. All we have to do is have faith in the living God.

It is so easy for us to lose sight, especially when we see a lot of bad things going on all around us. In times of trial it is important and necessary to place our faith in God. Let’s go back to last weeks Gospel where we heard, “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.” Putting last weeks closing line from the Gospel in context of what we are addressing this week is that all too often we are living for instant gratification, living for the moment, living for the things of this world that come and go that lead us in a direction in which we should not go. Our goal, our purpose is not of this world brother and sisters. If we strive to live in and for this world we will indeed ultimately lose our lives, not just physically but also spiritually. Going back to the question posed in the Old Baltimore Catechism, why did God make us? The answer is simple, God made us to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be Happy with Him forever in heaven.

That is our purpose brothers and sisters to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be Happy with Him forever in heaven. Our goal is heaven, it is that simple. Yet often we tend to make it complicated. Listen once again to some quotes from our Second Reading, “Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice,” and “Where do the wars and where do the conflicts among you come from? Is it not from your passions that make war within your members?” Then how about in today’s Gospel where we find the disciples fighting over which one is the greatest. Look at some of the current events going on in the world around us; see how we tend to complicate matters. However, Jesus does something interesting; taking a child He places the child on his lap and uses the example of a child to make a point. Up to this point Jesus has been talking about how the Son of Man must suffer and die, but will rise again on the third day, and addresses the argument between His disciples about who is the greatest. The child in the Gospel represents faith. Children place their faith and trust in their parents and guardians to take care of their basic needs. Also in a child’s world everything is simple. It is that childlike faith, childlike trust, and that childlike simplicity which we must recapture before God.

Once again recapturing this childlike trust won’t be easy because of the hardships and trials that are going on around us, but try not to let that discourage you. Stay focused on that final goal…heaven. There are a lot of things brought out in today’s readings. The final line of the second reading fleshes something else out that is important to tie in with our theme where it says, “You do not possess because you do not ask. You ask but do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” Prayer is an important aspect and in the letter from Saint James we are reminded that many times we don’t have because we do not ask, but says we do not receive because we ask wrongly meaning we are asking for things we want and not things that we really need. Today we are challenged to look back for those moments in which the Lord upheld our lives, but we should also go back and look how God responded to us in those situations.

There is song on country singer Collin Raye’s CD “His Love Remains” entitled “I Get What I Need,” which I listen to often. It is a beautiful song and the words to the reframe are…

I prayed for strength and I got pain that made me strong, I prayed for courage, and I got fear to overcome. When I prayed for faith, my empty heart brought me to my knees, I don’t always get what I want I get what I need.

May we stay close placing our total faith and trust in Him. While it may be difficult for us sometimes to see keep in mind the readings today are about hope for the things that are in store for us when the time comes. Pray for the gift of faith and of trust this week and do not lose hope for the Lord promises and the Lord is certainly good to His word that He will indeed uphold our lives…that is of course if we allow Him!

 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Homily for the 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time

 

Our responsorial psalm gives us a goal “to walk with the Lord in the land of the living.” That is our goal which all of us should be aspiring towards and the last couple weeks we have been learning how to accomplish it.

On Labor Day weekend I preached on the importance of laboring in the vineyard of the Lord that while Labor Day is a day in which we may take off from our physical laboring there is no day off from our Christian obligations. Last week, I preached on phrase found in prophet Isaiah, “Be strong, fear not!” We are called brothers and sisters to be strong in the faith for if we are strong in faith we have nothing to fear. Turning towards the readings for this Sunday I want to give us all a reminder courtesy of today’s Second Reading from the letter of James, faith without works is dead.

It is not enough to say we have faith and do nothing. Brothers and sisters we need to ask ourselves are we doing what the Lord asks of us or is this the extent of our faith…coming to Church each Sunday. Coming to Church is important and necessary, in order to help us keep our eyes on the Lord, but are we doing more. Are we living our faith out in the world? Faith without works is dead. In order for our faith to be alive and burning within us it must be accompanied by works. There is no break from our Christian obligation to live and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The line towards the end is quite amusing where it says, “Indeed someone might say," You have faith and I have works." Demonstrate your faith to me without works.” Demonstrating ones faith without works is impossible because in order for us to demonstrate it in some fashion requires a little effort. It goes on to say, "and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works.” How we live our lives demonstrates our faith. Is it evident that people know we are Christians by our actions? Although we may fail are we demonstrating our faith in God’s mercy by availing ourselves to the vehicle of His mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation? The sacrament of reconciliation is extremely important brothers and sisters because the more we ourselves utilize it the more our hearts are conditioned to His heart which helps us demonstrate His love and mercy to those who offend us.

Friday night I took myself out to the movies. The movie I chose to go see was a movie titled “The Last Ounce of Courage.” If you get the opportunity I would encourage you to go see it. It really isn’t a long movie just under two hours but it carries a profound message. Brothers and sisters I have been preaching on the importance of living our faith the last couple weeks, but the honest truth is that it is getting harder and harder to do. The freedom to be people of faith is under attack. Our very freedom even to be able to make a simple everyday decision is slowly being eroded before our very eyes. There is a movement out there that is trying to reduce religion to the confine of these four walls and as this happens the world erupts with hate and violence because there is no other alternative. We have become a nation of intolerance rather than a nation of tolerance. The movie centers on a father, losing his son in a war and years later that father finding himself embattled in a war of his own years later over the celebration of Christmas in his town. While this movie focuses on the season of Christmas, it is about much more than celebrating Christmas, it is about celebrating freedom. This movie “The Last Ounce of Courage” not only reminds us of the importance of freedom but it also reminds us to remember those men and women who have fought to protect that freedom since the time our forefathers founded this great nation. If you get a chance go see this movie, it brought this priest to tears as it reminded me of what is at stake and as it reminded me of those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedom. There are a lot of problems brewing throughout our world and even here at home and the question we must ask ourselves, do we have the courage to live our faith in order to change course?

In order for us to obtain the goal of walking with the Lord in the land of the living we cannot merely practice our faith at surface level, but rather truly live it! Every single one of us is called to live our faith making it apart of our every day lives. There are some who are unable to perform certain acts of charity because of a physical limitation. For those individuals they too can live the faith by turning to the Lord in prayer. Brothers and sisters prayer is part of living our faith and as someone who strives to go out there and live my faith I appreciate those prayers. I need those prayers. So if you know someone who is discouraged who find themselves in these kinds of situations, remember to always encourage them to pray because prayer in and of itself is an important act, a work of faith.

As we go forth today may we mediate on that goal in which our responsorial psalm provides for us! May we labor faithfully in the vineyard of the Lord and keep this in mind, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it." Laboring the Lord vineyard is indeed a difficult task and people will try to find ways to stop us and to stop the message of the Gospel. We cannot allow that to happen. The time is now brothers and sisters to reach down within our very selves to find that ounce of courage that is within each of us and use it to courageously live our faith.

 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

In Remembrance of the Tragic Events of 9/11

 

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Eleven years ago today marks the anniversary of the tragic events that fell upon our nation. Today we remember all those who have died on this day, and all those who have died protecting our country. The pictures of this tragic day have been imprinted into our memories. May we never forget those who have died…those who were just going to work to provide for their families, those first responders who were trying to save lives, and those who have gone before us and those who have lost their lives since that tragic day protecting our freedom!

One thing that stood out that day as we flipped through the stations in the seminary television room was that no matter what station whether it be cnn, nbc, or fox I never heard the name of God mentioned so much in a news broadcast. People were turning to the Lord for comfort and peace. Churches throughout this nation were filling up to process the events of the day, to pray for loved ones who were injured and those who were lost. This tragedy brought so many people together and united our great country. The events of this day brought about by hatred and ignorance demonstrated that good can rise up out of evil. May we never forget the images of those who were rushing to the scene towards the burning buildings to save lives, may we never forget those who lost their lives in this senseless tragedy, and may we never forget that spirit of unity that brought us closer as a nation.

This morning I celebrated the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass using the prayers for the preservation of peace and justice. We were reminded in these prayers of our need to foster peace and unity. In the opening collect we pray, “O God, who have revealed that peacemakers are to be called your children, grant, we pray, that we may work without ceasing to establish that justice which alone ensures true and everlasting peace.” It is also fitting that today we hear in the Gospel the calling of the Apostles reminding all of us of our call to live the Gospel promoting the peace and unity in which the Lord desires for each of us.

Also while celebrating Mass this morning I recalled another event that only happened a year ago today. The mission to the parish in Chambersburg which I was assigned at the time Our Lady of Refuge in Doylesburg burned to the ground in the early morning hours leaving only the brick exterior of the Church. For the parishioners of the mission it was a great tragedy to lose their Church that stood for over 150 plus years. I share this because today there is now a roof back on the Church and they are now working on the interior moving forward in faith. Our Lady of Refuge mission Church is now rising up from the ashes and like the little mission Church in Doylesburg may we too rise up as a nation standing united in our resolve to protect our great nation.

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Violence occurs because of hardened hearts. An individual’s heart is allowed to harden when all they experience is violence and hatred. Today’s Gospel calls us to discipleship. Our Lord calls us too by name to live the Gospel. Truth is the love of Christ can melt every heart. That is why it is extremely important for us to live the Gospel in today’s society. It is in Christ’s ministry we experience His love and mercy which leads to peace a peace only He can give us.

Moving forward remembering the events of this day I invite you if you pass any firefighter, medical personal, anyone serving in any branch of the military, or police officer to thank them for their service. Many of these individuals give up of their time and sometimes risk their lives not only to save lives but also to protect us. Make sure to thank them for their service. Also today remember to say a prayer for all those who died on 9/11/2001 and those who have died serving to protect our nation.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord. And let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

May God bless America!!!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Homily for the 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time

 

Isaiah the prophet implores us “to be strong, fear not! Here is your God; He comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you.” Indeed we have nothing to fear brothers and sisters for our Lord God is at our side, He comes to us here in this most sacred place to fill us with His love in order to strengthen us for the journey.

Last week for my homily I mentioned that labor day while it may give us a break from our physical labors, it does not give us a break from our responsibilities in tending to the vineyard of the Lord. We are together called to faithfully work in His vineyard. Hard work produces result not only for other individuals but also for us! Working hard makes us much stronger. Not only does it help us get stronger but it helps us to build endurance. In building up our endurance and strength we can withstand anything that comes our way. Do not fear, brothers and sisters, be strong in the faith!

In today’s Gospel we have the encounter with the deaf man with a speech impediment. The deaf man in today’s Gospel from Mark represents all of us for there are many times we allow the word of God to fall on deaf years. We are often times content doing what we want rather than what the Lord wants from us. Today the Lord cries out to us saying “ephphatha” which means “be opened.” He wants us to open our ears, our hearts, and our eyes to His awesome presence. Perhaps we are struggling to see it, but the Lord is telling us clearly do not give up…work at it! Keep working towards it and we will on day see His glory.

Many people today are struggling because they do not have faith. When someone who has it all loses everything most of those individuals find themselves unable to withstand the storm because of their lack of faith. One time as a seminarian I had the opportunity to minister within a poor parish and the one thing that stood out was their tremendous faith. They could handle everything that came their way because their initial reaction was to place things in God’s hands.

Throughout my life, I have been through a lot. So many up and downs and there was many a time when I found myself discouraged. There were some points in my seminary formation in which I never thought I would make it to ordination. Yet the Lord reminded me, not only through my prayers, but through the kind words of encouragement from others of His presence. He wanted me to be a priest and God did will it. I was ordained on the 6th of June 2009, twenty eight years to the day of when I was born. At my age I still have a lot on my plate for I am dealing with things now in which I expected only to deal with years from now. There was a point in which I remember saying just last year to a priest why is all this happening to me, what am I doing wrong. That wise priest told me, “Everything is going wrong for you, because you are doing everything right.” Life isn’t always easy but with the help of God we can handle everything that is thrown our way.

Brothers and sisters in order for us to be strong and to grow stronger we must open ourselves up to Christ. We need to allow Him to speak to us and work through us. Having faith gives us to strength that will withstand any…any storm! May we always strive to open our ears to hear this word and to open our mouths to speak His truths! “Be strong, fear not!”

 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Homily for the 22nd Week of Ordinary Time

 

There is no such thing as a rest from our Labors in the Vineyard of the Lord. While this is Labor Day weekend and many people are taking advantage of the long weekend it is good that we always keep that in mind. Even at rest…physical rest that is we should always be laboring for the Lord.

As we heard in the letter of James this morning in the second reading we were challenged to be “Doers of the word, and not hearers only.” Our Lord calls us to action not inaction. Although the Lord invites us to rest from physical labor He never expects us to rest from our Christian Responsibility. Even when we sit here resting in the presence of the Lord we are laboring. For when we hear the word of God we should always be reflecting on how we are going to apply it. While our bodies may rest, our heart and mind never do. Because if our heart stops…then so do we.

“Be doers of the word.” That line reminds us that we are always to live our faith and that we should never allow our faith to be put on the back burner. Our Catholic Faith calls us to act. Our action not only includes following the precepts of the Church and the Commandments of the Lord but they should also include living the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. The Corporal…feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, visit the imprisoned, and to bury the dead. Next we look at the Spiritual…admonish the sinners, instruct the ignorant, counsel the doubtful, comfort the sorrowful, bear wrongs patiently, forgive all injuries, and pray for the living and the dead. As one can see there are plenty of opportunities to labor in the Lord’s vineyard.

May we never allow ourselves to become idle, even in times of physical rest! Always keep the mind fixed on God and what He expects from us. Take time to pray! What happens when we allow ourselves to become idle and take our eyes away from God? That’s when sin creeps in and where does sin come from? Our Lord Jesus answers that question when He said, “Hear me, all of you, and understand. Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile.” He goes on to continue, “From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile.” Sin, brothers and sisters, comes from within. That is why we must strive each and every day to keep focused on the Lord. Even on vacation we are called to make time for the Lord. Skipping Mass even once might cause us to do it again and again. Once we allow ourselves to pull away for even a second that is when sinful thoughts take root. Keep your heart and mind always fixated on Christ.

On this Labor Day weekend, where many people take this opportunity for physical rest and gather together with family and friends I invite you to also take this opportunity to mediate on the importance of laboring in the vineyard of Lord. Always remember that rest from physical labor never means a rest from our duties as Christians. Finally keep this in mind there is always a reward awaiting us when our earthly journey is done…and that is “to live in the presence of the Lord.”

 

 

Note from Fr. C.

Being on vacation does not excuse an individual from their obligations to attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  Even on vacation we are to make every effort to get to Church.

There are valid reasons for missing Mass…an illness, caring for a sick child or parent when no one else is available, or in especially the winter months when road conditions become bad to the point where it is not safe (not only for oneself but for others) to be one roads.  These are valid reasons for missing mass.  Being on vacation is NOT a valid reason.

So when scheduling a vacation make every effort to find the nearest Church and the Mass times.  Below is a link to masstimes.org which I mentioned in the audio of the homily.

http://www.masstimes.org/