All Saints Day Homily

I think of St. Padre Pio sitting in a confessional for up 16 hours a day, extending God’s forgiveness and grace to souls in need of God’s forgiveness and grace. Also, his incorrupted body that lies in a glass case in the chapel at San Giovanni Rotondo since his death in 1968.

            I think of St. John Vianney, patron saint of diocesan priests, who also heard confessions in a hot and cold box – depending on the season outdoors – reading souls and bringing God’s mercy to thousands upon thousands.

            I think of St. Catherine Siena, the 25th of 25 children,  and her brilliance and fortitude, telling the Pope to pack up his bags in the 14th century, get his luggage together as he lived in fear in Avignon in France, and return to Rome where the Seat of Peter belonged, and don’t let them chase you out of town ever again.

            I think of Mary Magdalene who waited outside of Jesus’s tomb after Peter and John returned to the Upper Room, where the door was double-bolted, with chairs, couches and televisions stacked against the door in fear of the Jewish leaders. Well, not really, but if they had such furniture, that’s how they would have used them at that moment in time. Mary’s loitering paid off. Jesus met her in the garden. She rejoiced.

            I think of St. Augustine in the 4th-5th centuries; a wise-guy and a smart-aleck if there ever was one. Whose wisdom and smarts – through the grace of God alone – shifted from sinful choices to profound holiness. And whose homilies and theology have stood the test of 16 centuries.

            I think of recently canonized St. John Paul II, a priest ordained underground because of Nazi threats; who brought into the open the incredible faith of a country named Poland; whose writings on marriage and the dignity of the human person will be around for centuries and centuries.

            Who are these people? They are human beings, simple human beings whom God has used to accomplish some pretty amazing spiritual feats. They are just like us, open to God’s presence in their lives, who loved God with all their hearts, minds, souls, and beings. They are people who answered the bell that rang in heaven, and responded freely to dedicating their short, quick lives to God’s will. They are saints in the truest form of the word “saint.” And they belong to us.

            Yes, they belong to God first. They are proclaimed by the authority and certainty of the Church to be in heaven, beholding the face of God for all eternity. But from their place in heaven, they also happily belong to us. It’s a serious business and responsibility they have until Jesus returns. But they love praying for us. And representing us to Jesus. They love their role. Their role is a natural continuation of what they did here; except there they converse with Jesus face to face.

            As the Book of Revelation states today, “Who are these wearing white robes, and where did they come from?” They are our dearest friends before the throne of God, and they come from our countries, our cities, our neighborhoods, and our homes.

            They were poor in spirit, yet were rich in faith; they mourned for many whose lives were cheated by life, whether by terrorism, persecution, or some tragedy; they were meek and humble in their worldly service; they hungered for righteousness, for the kingdom of God to be established over the false and finite power of human beings; they were merciful and understanding, and compassionate to grieving souls; they were clean of heart, for they lived and embraced God’s purity over the world’s physical sins; they were peacemakers who stood in for the Prince of Peace, who went to the slaughter as an innocent Lamb; and, without question, they were persecuted in their respective eras for the sake of righteousness, for the leaders of this world, both Catholic and non-Catholic, have many times refused the true message of Jesus Christ.

            They are All Saints, and today we commemorate their friendship.        

All Saints Day Mass, Saturday, November 1

This year All Saints Day falls on a Saturday, thus it is not a day of obligation. Our parish, however, will still be celebrating this high feast day with an 8:00 a.m. Mass on Saturday, November 1 for those in our community who wish to commemorate the Communion of Saints. We look forward to your presence for this special Mass.

29th Sunday Ordinary Time Cycle A October 19, 2014

The way of entrapment is a vicious game that many people, including Catholics, play today with another’s person’s life. We see much of this in the realm of politics, especially now in the midst of midterm elections and so much power being at stake. Commercials that try to portray another candidate as “out of touch,” or show them as weak and indecisive in areas of leadership or decision-making. It’s a form of entrapment where the one who is doing the portraying – be it through the medium of 30 second television blurbs or having a microphone in their face, where they are attempting to rattle the cage of the person they attack. The hope is to ruffle some feathers, possibly get a reaction that will make the one being condemned look foolish, or make them look appear as an angry person.

In the game of entrapment, the one attempting to entrap the other is the weaker person. In the world of politics, or maybe even in the Church, we can just say that this is the way the game is played. This is the way of politics and the path many voters enjoy and even decide who to vote for. Entrapment is persuasive. So persuasive that I can gather a group of people together, watch them grow in numbers over a short period of time, and eventually get them to say loudly, “Crucify him, crucify him! We want Barabbas for our leader, for our governor, for our senator, for our president! We want the murderer, the criminal, because I believe everything that person told me about the one who is going to lose his life on the tree!”

Sometimes, maybe more times than we care to admit, bad decisions are made based on faulty, intentionally false, deceptive information. As Christians, we are to guard against associating our lives with such individuals and groups.

And this is the Gospel this week. A blatant attempt at trying to entrap and snare Jesus in his words and ways. The game of entrapment revolves around a coin. The coin is at the center of an attempt to hijack the reputation of Jesus, with an image on the coin that represents more than Caesar. Caesar may have his bold image on the coin, like honest Abe on the $5.00 bill, and the inventor Ben Franklin on the $100.00 bill, and the great Civil War General Grant on the fifty. Caesar’s image may be on the coin, but the coin is representative of much more than the Roman Emperor who thinks he is a god, expecting all to worship and bow down before his majesty.

Let’s follow the path of the coin and see where it goes. The Pharisee’s plot to entrap Jesus. They come up with their brilliant idea for a 30-second commercial; “Let’s see if we can get this Jesus guy to give some level of allegiance to Caesar. Then we’ll have him! We’ll get the crowd to slowly, softly, and under their breath begin to murmur ‘Crucify him.’ Quietly. Shh. ‘Crucify him.’ We’ll plant the seed of doubt in the hearts of the people concerning that Rabbi.” The game of entrapment is meant to eventually crucify the One being entrapped.

So, the coin is taken out of someone’s pocket. It comes from the pocket of an entrapper and placed into their hand. Jesus says, “Show me the coin… They handed him the Roman coin.” From someone’s pocket of entrapment to the holy hand of Jesus Christ. From someone’s pocket who had evil intentions with the coin to the hand of God. That’s quite a difference. Very different worlds. Entrapment and holiness are extreme opposite choices.

When the coin is in the pocket of a person with evil intentions, the coin is spiritually worthless. Caesar is worthless. He represents all that is wrong with a sinful world. Normally I would say the coin is better off staying in the dirty pocket of the entrapper, but it really isn’t. The best thing the coinholder could do was to take that coin out of their deep, dirty pocket and hand it to Jesus. When our Lord accepts that coin into his holy hand that was formed in the womb of Mary, Caesar is no longer worthless. Because Caesar becomes someone else. When Jesus holds that coin, the image of Caesar on the coin becomes all that God has created, and He saw that it was very good.

What’s our role as Catholics in this Gospel of entrapment, but also a Gospel of infinitely good potential? Of the two people who hold the coin, the choice is ours of which one we choose to follow. In the pocket of the person who initially has the coin, the image of Caesar remains an image of Caesar alone. What does that image look like? Well, we see others as enemies; people are worthless and disposable; life is lived for oneself; we look for ways to entrap the dignity of others, such as this false campaign today called “Death With Dignity,” where killing a person is the outcome. That all belongs to Caesar. It’s a way of life absent the love and compassion of God, where “I control my own destiny.”

Or, we are the hand of the Lord holding the coin. If that is our daily choice, then the image of Caesar on the coin is no longer worthless, because that image becomes the image of people in need. It becomes an image of value, great worth, and dignity because those who need us are made in God’s image and likeness. In many encounters, the opportunity to increase a person’s worth is within our reach. We are to be Christ holding that coin.

Games of entrapment are for people who seek power and glory in this world. They want to be worshipped by human beings, like Caesar. And in the process of doing so, their lust for power and glory does its best to bring down those who get in their way.

As Christians, we follow the way of Christ, the Light of the World. We transform the world in ways of goodness and right. When we do so, we are Jesus’s hand that holds the coin; the hand of holiness and love.

Sharing Our Faith With Joy Gathering

For the next 2 Wednesdays our parish will be hosting a wonderful program called “Sharing Our Faith With Joy.” The presentation will be given by members of the Diocesan Parish Renewal and Evangelization team (PRAE). The program on the nights of October 22 & 29 will begin at 6:30 p.m. and will be held in the Church basement. All are invited to attend.

28th Sunday Ordinary Time Cycle A October 12, 2014

We just heard another parable for this Sunday spoken by Jesus to the Chief Priests and elders where, similar to last week’s parable, there is a lot of action taking place. It’s almost like Jesus is describing a movie set with actors and actresses, various roles being played out such as the king, servants, invited guests, and one poor guest who, because he’s not wearing the proper clothing for the banquet, is thrown into the outer darkness. A lot of action on this movie set, except this movie set provides us with scenes that address our faith lives.

The invitation is always before us. The invitation to the banquet of life is before us as along as we are living and breathing.

Our role in this parable most resembles that of the servants who are sent out to invite others into the banquet. On a number of occasions I’ve had conversations with people I run into out on the streets and in the stores I frequent, such as one conversation I had last week with someone I ran into in the Halloween candy aisle at Wal-Mart. Many times it’s a conversations with fellow Catholics that touches on their coming to worship, or “going to Church” as they like to say. And the best I can do in the end is simply invite them back to the banquet. To let them know the door is always open. Maybe to help them understand with a small verbal push the importance of what happens here, and how it does affect the whole of our lives into eternity. And to just simply say, as we stand there in the Halloween candy aisle, “ God is inviting you to his banquet.”

Now if I stood there in the middle of the Halloween candy section at Wal-Mart and said, “”If you don’t return before you die, if you don’t respond to the king’s invitation to come back to the earthly banquet of life that leads to the heavenly banquet of life, then you may wish to bring your psychologist and dentist with you to the afterlife, because you will be wailing and grinding your teeth.”

That would not go over well because we know how stubborn and prideful we can be when challenged in our lives by the path of God. The path of God doesn’t reconcile with my path, so “go fly a kite Fr. Riley.”

Still, the invitation is ever-present. And we are not just the servants who go out to invite by instruction of the king. We are also the king or queen who have the solemn responsibility on our own to invite those in the streets and sport fields on Sunday mornings to the banquet that feeds our souls. Sometimes all it takes is a gentle, heartfelt invitation for those who are absent from Sunday morning “class.”

How about for those of us who are already here? What’s the message for those of us who come to the banquet each week, accepting God’s invitation in our lives?

Well, we know that what we do here does not stand on its own. We bring it to others in our lives. The full invitation acted upon out there. Which means that what we do here, where all these angels and saints show up at the altar, and where God’s word is heard and studied and contemplated, and where the food we feast on is really and actually the One who knit us together in our mother’s womb and sustains our lives with his very Spirit, we bring it forth. Or, does the experience of all that touches us here for just a short time get left behind when we walk out the glass side doors or those lovely blue doors in the front?

If I gave each of you a million dollars during this liturgy, and I said, “Here, take this wad of cash and do with it what you will; feel free to spend it on whatever you want; a new home, a new sports car, buy your own golf course, lots of fine clothing like the poor guy in the parable forgot to wear; buy some stocks and bonds that will make you even richer. Whatever you want!” Would you walk out the doors of this holy place and leave behind your money? Or, would we take it with us so we can spend it out there on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, etc.?

Leaving it behind here would be like the servant who buried the master’s talent, making no interest on what was entrusted to him. Being spiritually shy and giving in to political correctness ensures that the value of our faith will live only on Sundays. Jesus is embarrassed by political correctness and any hesitation on our part to share his good name with others. This is what happens if we leave the money behind. We become Sunday-only religion people. But that’s not who we’re meant to be.

For us to take up the invitation each week, live out the 3rd commandment of keeping the Lord’s Day holy, much is entrusted to us. We are the Lord’s disciples. Much has been entrusted to us. Such as our faith in Jesus Christ being a 7-day investment that has its source of strength and perseverance in this holy celebration. Where else do so many angels and saints show up all at once? It’s probably not going to be in Halloween candy section at Wal-Mart. That would be more like ghosts and goblins. Although we never know. God has a great sense of humor!

There are those in need of an invitation. There is us, who present ourselves to Jesus each week in his word and Eucharist. And then there’s the guy thrown out by the king, the guy who simply responded to the invitation. Who is that person? Who does the one rejected represent today? Everyone who reads this Gospel asks the question, “Why does the king throw that guy out for simply wearing the wrong clothing? He invited him from off the street. Did he expect everyone to be dressed like they just came from the Gentleman’s Wearhouse? Or JC Penny?

Honestly, it’s a tough answer to figure out. The best I can do is to say the guy who was tossed was a pretender. He wasn’t there for the right reasons. And the king knew it. Jesus says the king tossed that guy because he was not dressed properly for the wedding banquet. It’s more like the king could read that person’s heart and soul. And he did not like what he saw. He saw someone going through the motions. The result was condemnation; self-chosen condemnation.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       That’s not us, I pray. Accept the full invitation of Jesus Christ in today’s secular world. By doing so, there is much joy now, and indescribable joy in what is to come at the greatest banquet of all.