Thursday, November 22, 2012

Homily for Thanksgiving Day 2012

 

As our year comes to an end we are given this opportunity to pause and take some time to give thanks. It has been a great year! Despite some of the bumps in the road that might be present we do have a lot to be thankful for. While there are some individuals struggling in our midst to put food on the table, to pay bills on time, or simply trying to find some time during the day to balance schedules we are truly a blest nation.

While we trace our celebration of thanksgiving back to the time of the pilgrims this idea of celebrating Thanksgiving Day on the fourth Thursday of November was established under the presidency of President Abraham Lincoln. Prior to his tenure thanksgiving was celebrated in each state at different times and we know from history that during his presidency our country was torn in two by a civil war. People in his day faced hard times just like many people today experience it and in some ways we are a divided nation. President Lincoln believed by setting a set day for the celebration of thanksgiving it would bring our nation closer together. He established it as “a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” Interestingly those early leaders of our nation recognized the importance of giving thanks to God.

Brothers and sisters thanksgiving day is in danger. The danger this day faces is the danger of just becoming another secular holiday. That is why at the Masses in which I celebrated this past weekend I offered the invitation for you to come to Mass today to celebrate this holiday keeping in mind the purpose of the holiday. While not a Holy Day or a Holy Day of Obligation we must take time to thank the one who makes everything possible. Thanksgiving cannot become just another secular holiday.

Today many of you will be gathering with family and friends and as you gather around the dinning room table you might perhaps be sharing with one another those things that you are thankful for, however, today I challenge you to never forget who ultimately gave you those things. Keep the Lord in the center. Although times for many are tough we are truly a blest nation. Let us give thanks for our family and friends, the food on the table, the roof over heads, and let us give thanks to those who have worked so hard and sacrificed so much to allow us the opportunity to celebrate great holidays like thanksgiving day. If you get a chance make sure you take the opportunity to say “thank you” to those in the health care and service industry who are working today. Yes times are indeed tough, but do not forget to thank God, a God who promised and does remain with us. Today’s Gospel paints a chilling picture of the challenge we are faced with today, ten lepers were cleansed but only one returned. We are in danger of becoming increasingly an ungrateful nation. Once again I want to drive home the point for all of us here to not forget to give thanks to God for the gifts He has given us. Remember to say “thank you” also to those who help or serve us in any way because don’t forget God dwells in all of us for we are created in His image and likeness. Be grateful!

Thanksgiving, while a national holiday provides us as a people of faith a great opportunity to rediscover what is important to us. It brings families together and as I have repeatedly mentioned the family is the backbone the very core of our society. So whenever we can gather with our families it is always beneficial. Thanksgiving gives us the opportunity to be grateful for the things that we have in our lives. Finally, thanksgiving as I have mentioned repeatedly this morning gives us an opportunity to give thanks to Almighty God for those many gifts we have all been given. As we leave here today may we praise the name of the Lord forever for all that He has done for us!!!

 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Word of the Day…Initiative!

 

In this mornings Gospel one word comes to mind…the word initiative. The Gospel account is the one of Zacchaeus who was the chief tax collector and his encounter with the Lord. Once Zacchaeus heard that Jesus was coming he ran out wanting to see Him. However, because He was not a tall man Zacchaeus needed to do something in order to make this happen. Zacchaeus took the initiative to climb the sycamore tree in order to see the Lord as He made His way through the crowd.

Having seen Zacchaeus’ initiative it is important to point out the initiative the Lord took soon as He saw Zacchaeus hanging on the branches of the sycamore tree. Jesus yelled for Zacchaeus to climb down from the tree and the Lord invited Himself to dine with Him. Each day the Lord invites Himself into our lives much like He invited Himself to dine with Zacchaeus. In today’s Gospel having heard the Lord, Zacchaeus quickly climbed down from the sycamore tree and “received Him with joy.”  This was Zacchaeus’ second initiative…the initiative of accepting the Lord’s invitation.

Those in the crowd witnessing this interaction were perplexed and they complained that Jesus was going to go dine “in the house of a sinner.” Truth is we are all sinners and each day the Lord takes the initiative to invite Himself into our hearts and the question we must ask ourselves do we allow ourselves to welcome Him into our hearts. Jesus takes the initiative to invite Himself but are we taking the initiative to welcome His invitation.

Brothers and sisters…thanksgiving is almost upon us and the Lord is walking in our midst. He is present in the Eucharist, He is present in the Sacred Scriptures, and He is present in each one of us through our baptism. Are we prepared and ready to welcome Him into our hearts. Today may we mediate on the meaning of the word initiative and may we pray for the grace and strength to make the initiative to accept the Lord’s initiative to dwell within us.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Homily for the 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time

 

As we mediate and ponder upon the readings today, let us give thanks to God for the gift of the changing seasons. We are familiar with a couple different kinds of seasons for we have the change of seasons…spring, summer, winter and fall…but we also have a change of liturgical seasons…Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, and Ordinary Time.

Keep this mind with the change of seasons whether it be liturgical seasons or nature’s seasons they provide us an opportunity to mediate on the mysteries of God. The liturgical season much like natures seasons goes in a cycle. Each time we experience a change of season we are given a new opportunity to stop and ponder on the mysteries we have before us. Personally I am always in awe when we have the change of seasons. Back in September when I had the opportunity to take a little vacation to Nashville on the way back we stopped in Gatlinburg in the smoky mountains and I was amazed at the scenery. That’s one thing about driving you have the opportunity to stop and take in the surroundings. Most of us are in awe with the change of nature’s seasons…seeing the blossoming of the flowers and trees in the spring and the changing of the leaves in the fall but when was the last time we can honestly say we were in awe of the changing of the liturgical seasons.

The changing of seasons whether it is nature’s seasons or the liturgical seasons keeps things new. Most of us while we take some time to absorb and take in the changing of nature’s season many times we fail to take in the changing of liturgical calendar. Often times we tend to simply go with the flow…well brothers and sisters when it comes to our faith it is just unacceptable to go with the flow. You and I cannot become nonchalant when it comes to living out our faith. In only two short weeks we will enter into a new liturgical season…well as a new liturgical year. My challenge to each of us including myself is to take the time to stop and ponder…not just simply going through the motion but really taking the time to enter into the new liturgical season the new liturgical year. That is something that is often hard for us to do, but we must strive each day to do it.

How many of us need constant reminders? I know I do. That is why most of us keep a calendar so we know where we are supposed to be at a certain time. The same thing goes for our faith. Advent provides a time for us to prepare a place in our hearts for the Lord and each Christmas we are reminded of the great gift of God’s love by sending us His Only Begotten Son. Every Lent we are once again asked to make room for the Lord by removing those obstacles known as sin that get in the way of living our faith. Holy Week we are reminded of the extent of the Lord’s love for us as He laid down His life on the cross and on Easter Sunday and the entire Easter Season we are given hope in the Resurrection. Finally Ordinary Time just gives us an opportunity to meditate on various aspects of the Lord’s teaching and our faith. We need to be thankful brothers and sisters of the reminders we are given through the changing of the seasons.

Today as you leave here I want you to spend some time reflecting on how God communicates His presence to each of us in the world. Look to change of seasons. Our Lord’s love for us goes in a constant cycle like the changing of the seasons. Now with the changing of the seasons we are reminded of our responsibility to live our faith. In the first reading from the book of Daniel we heard, “But the wise shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament, and those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever." As we enter into the mysteries we must be reminded of how we are called to act. May we strive to use the opportunities of the changing of the liturgical season to grow in the wisdom of God and work hard to proclaim the Gospel of Christ! Take the time to thank the Lord for the changing of the seasons giving us an opportunity to renew ourselves in the faith!

 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Homily for the 32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B 2012

 

No good need goes unrewarded. In both the first reading from the first book of Kings and the Gospel of Mark we are given the example of two widows. Both widows offered something and in the first reading we hear clearly what her reward was for we heard proclaimed, “She left and did as Elijah had said. She was able to eat for a year, and he and her son as well; the jar of flour did not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry, as the LORD had foretold through Elijah.”

Now in the Gospel we don’t hear clearly what the poor widow’s reward was, but we get a hint at what her reward could be in the very words spoken from the mouth of the Lord. Jesus said after observing the crowd and noticing specifically the poor widow, "Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood." What reward could there possibly be awaiting her? The answer is the gift of eternal life.

How many of us and we have to be honest with ourselves, how many of us desire to do things to be recognized. One of the mistakes we tend to make is that we look for worldly affirmation, praise, and recognition for the things that we do. From the account of today’s first reading and the Gospel the two widows weren’t seeking those things. In the first reading the widow was minding her own business collecting sticks when the prophet Elijah stopped her and asked her for a cup to drink and some bread to eat. Without rehashing the first reading word for word we know she had a concern about feeding herself and her son, but the prophet reassured her that the Lord will repay her kindness and guess what…He did! Although it wasn’t clearly stated in today’s Gospel there should be no doubt in our minds that the poor widow at the well wasn’t rewarded for her kindness. Her reward is something that is not seen by the human eye like a trophy, but rather is something that is much more significant and is unseen which is as I mentioned eternal life with God.

Don’t do things with the intent to be seen by others as we were warned not to do by the Lord. Jesus said beginning today’s Gospel, “Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and accept greetings in the marketplaces, seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets.” This isn’t the way we are called to live our lives for when we start to do things for the purpose of being seen then rapidly we begin to start losing our sight of the true prize…our heavenly reward that awaits us.

I want to say something about the Second Reading. The last several weeks our Second Reading has been taken from the letter to the Hebrews. This letter to the Hebrews is a good reflection on the priesthood. While Hebrews gives us a good meditation on the priesthood it gives us a good opportunity to briefly reflect on the share of the priesthood of Jesus Christ we all have in common through our common baptism. As an ordained priest I am ordered towards serving each one of you administering the Sacraments to bestow upon you God’s grace and giving guidance to help you live out the Christian life. My brothers and sisters in sharing the priesthood of Jesus through baptism you are called to be living witnesses of the Gospel. You are the hands and feet of Christ in the world. The brunt of the work of proclaiming the Gospel does not belong to Father Quinlan, Deacon Forrester, Deacon Wrabel, and myself but rather the really heavy lifting is upon your shoulders. No pressure! 

Truth is we the ordained can only go so far, but you my brothers and sisters can go much further. In fact in this year of faith you have an important role to play. This year of faith has been called by our Holy Father to help build and grow the faith. Our faith in God can bring us so much joy, happiness, and peace of mind. There are so many individuals out there in the world who are absolutely miserable because they themselves don’t have faith. Perhaps you know many of them…perhaps they are members of your own family. If you know people who have been away from the Church, perhaps a family member or neighbors simply invite them to come to Church. Don’t put any unnecessary pressure or an overly religious front but say simply this, “Hey I am going to Church or my family and I are going to Church would you like to join us.” Simply leave it at that and keep repeating that simple invitation each week. If you leave it at that and keep it simple eventually they may accept the invitation. Also if you know someone who is ill a family member, a friend, or a neighbor offer to see if they need anything. If you know a Catholic who hasn’t been to Church in a while because of an illness make sure we know about it. Sometimes when people get sick they themselves or members of the family don’t notify us. As a priest there is nothing that brings me greater joy then taking our Lord to those who are unable to come to Him! If you know any one in this situation please let us know.

For the next several weeks I have chosen the theme of thanksgiving, let us all take sometime this week to give thanks to Almighty God for the gift of our priesthoods. For us as Catholics this year of faith we are invited to deepen our knowledge of the faith in which we all share. Take advantage of the opportunities which will be provided to learn more about the faith. Be aware of those around you and invite them to join in and participate. If you know someone who has been away from the Church…invite them to come home or if you know someone who is sick and would benefit from a visit please let us know. We are indeed blest with this great opportunity in this year of faith that can help each of us and in turn we can help each other reach our true destination…eternal life with the Father in heaven.

 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Homily for the 31st Sunday of Ordinary Time 2012

For the last several weeks my theme was generosity. In this new month the theme I have chosen to reflect upon is this notion of thanksgiving. Giving thanks to God for all that He is given us.

If we paid close attention to the readings today we should have picked up the reference to God’s law. Our first reading comes to us from book of Deuteronomy. Listen carefully once again, “Fear the LORD, your God, and keep, throughout the days of your lives, all his statutes and commandments which I enjoin on you, and thus have long life.” In the Book of Deuteronomy we are invited and encouraged to follow the law of the Lord. Then in today’s Gospel from Mark we have once again a presentation of the law of Lord by Jesus Himself but this time the invitation is slightly different. In His dialogue with the scribe, Our Lord isn’t just merely listing the importance of the law to love God and ones neighbor, but His invitation is this to come to a greater understanding of the law. What we must understand brothers and sisters that with the law of the Lord there is two interpretations there is the literal interpretation of the law, and there is also the spirit of the law. When it comes to understanding the law of the Lord both must be looked at.

We know this to be true with sins against the sixth commandment thou shall not commit adultery. That commandment includes any engagement of the marital act outside the sacrament of marriage. The commandment thou shall not kill includes not just the direct taking of human life but goes onto include ridicule and slander that kills an individuals spirit. Brothers and sisters we have a law or precept of the Church that requires us as Catholics to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation. Now it is important and necessary for us to gather on those days, but a situation could arise that would dispense you from that obligation. For the record being on vacation is not a valid reason. When we go on vacation we are expected to plan ahead and go to Mass, keeping with our responsibility as Catholics. Valid reasons for missing Mass on these days would include dangerous travel conditions and illnesses. Now I want you to keep in mind what the scribe said in response to the Lord, “You are right in saying, 'He is One and there is no other than he.' And 'to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself' is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices." Let’s say you and your family are on your way to Church and it’s the last Mass of the day and you encounter and witness a bad accident. Would it be a sin for you and your family to miss the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in this instance stopping to help someone in desperate need? Of course not! My hope would be that all of us would go out of our way to stop and be the Good Samaritan. Always remember there is a letter of the law and there is a spirit of the law.

Today we have been focusing on the law of the Lord and the purpose of a law is to bring about order in society and to protect individuals from harm. There is something unique with following the law of the Lord and that is it brings about true freedom. Brothers and sisters we should be thankful for the law of the Lord and for those just laws that are meant to keep order and peace as well as those laws that are meant to protect individuals from harm. Yet many of us are not appreciative of laws and sometimes we simply choose to ignore them or worse yet think that they are meant for us. I mentioned that the Lord’s law is that when it is followed it brings about true freedom. If one understands freedom to be the ability to do what one wants then their notion of freedom is flawed. We know as sinners when we are stuck in a pattern of sin then we are slaves and that we experience true freedom only when we experience the love and mercy of God in the forgiveness of those sins. Just think about the last time you got something off your chest that has been weighing you down. That notion of freedom is only brought about when we embrace and live God’s law.

God’s law isn’t meant to hinder or weigh us down…it is meant to help us. We should be thankful and appreciative every single day for the law that God has given us. While it is tempting for us as individuals to look at laws in a negative light it is important for us to look at God’s law not as something that is restrictive but as something that in which is truly freeing. As we sang together in the responsorial psalm, “I love you, Lord, my strength,” may we show our love for the Lord by embracing and living out the laws in which He gave us! May we always be appreciative and thankful for His law which serves as a guide and a light that leads us to everlasting life!

 

All Saints Day Homily 2012

 

Have you ever stopped to think about how many saints there are in heaven? John tells us in a vision he had in the first reading from the book of Revelation, “After this I had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue.” Truth is we don’t have an exact number but what we do know is that there are a lot. Holy Mother Church has canonized Saints from all over the globe “from every nation, race, people, and tongue.” Yet there are other Saints we are not numbered in the official canonized list, for a Saint is anyone who has fully reached their true end…a life with God in heaven.

Today as we gather we honor all the Saints in the heavenly kingdom. Why it is that God has called men and women from all over the world to be Saints? Again we find the answer in John’s vision in the Book of Revelation as “They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice: "Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne, and from the Lamb." Brothers and sisters the Church has declared Saints from all over the globe and we have saints in our own lives that help lead us and point us in the direction of God. Saints help us by their intercession through difficult periods in our lives and help give us strength so that we may one day experience what they are experiencing right now.

Brothers and sisters we are to strive each single day to be saints. I know that is a very high bar for us to set and many times we fall short because of our human condition. However, we should never set the bar low which many of us tend to do! If we set the bar low to the point where it is easy for us to reach then there is no way we are eventually going to get better. Set your eyes high, look to the Saints as your example. Many of them weren’t always perfect for they too had there flaws, but what makes them the saints they are today is their willingness to place their faith and trust in Christ. They experienced God’s love and mercy and now share the gift of eternal salvation in the presence of their God. As they experience that gift they long to share it with us.

Lord, we are a people that longs to see your face. Today we look to the Saints to help and guide us in the ways of faith. Help us to put aside our waywardness so that we can one day experience when that time comes eternal glory with you forever. Amen.