Memorial Garden

We invite you to purchase a personalized garden stone in honor of a loved one. The stones will be placed along the flower beds as a lasting reminder of those who have touched our lives. Each garden stone is a natural tan/brown bluestone, 2″ thick and 10-12″ across, deeply engraved and painted with 30 year stone paint. The cost per stone is $45.00 and order forms are at each entrance.
These beautiful stones are provided by Adirondack Stone Works. Please visit their website at Engraved Stone.net.
Completed order forms can be placed in the marked box at the Rectory side entrance or mailed to the Parish – Attn: Our Lady’s Garden. Please include payment with the form – with checks payable to Immaculate Conception Parish.   Thank you!

 

Homily 20th Sunday Ordinary Time Cycle B August 16, 2015

We all have our morning voice. You know, the one that’s scratchy, raspy, scraggly, filled with all kinds of voice fluctuations. But as the day goes on, we recover our real voices. The voice gets stronger after an hour or two, after a coffee or two, after a donut or two, after a Mass or two. And our voices move from being raspy and inconsistent to consistent and much more solid. Only a drill sergeant has a strong voice from the moment they wake up. Notice they don’t hold operas and concerts at 7:00 in the morning. There are good reasons for that connected to the voice. The human voice is an interesting part of our makeup, and how it can change over a short period of time.

We’ve been listening to a Voice over the past four Sundays speak about a topic that goes right to the heart and soul of our faith. It hasn’t been an early morning voice that can be difficult to understand, although there are some who would wrongly consider it such. “What did he just say? Did he just say ‘Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life within you?’ Why does he speak to us with his early morning voice where we cannot understand what he’s saying? Why is he talking so raspy about himself?”

Misguided questions they are. Jesus, when speaking about his flesh and blood, is using his 6:00 p.m. voice that he’s been belting out for 4 weeks now. A Voice that is strong, certain, filled with insight and power. It’s like he has the lead role in the Phantom of the Opera. Or Les Miserables. Remember when the crowds said, “No one has ever spoken like this before. Where did he get all this wisdom? How does he have a 6:00 p.m. opera voice at 8:00 in the morning?”

This is what the Eucharist is for us Catholics. It’s a 6:00 p.m. opera voice at whatever time of day we receive him.

As we gather each week, as many of us come forward to receive the Lord in our movements reserved for Sunday, we believe in our hearts and minds that we receive the real presence of Jesus. However, statistics don’t back that up. Statistics say that at least half of you don’t believe this Eucharistic truth. That you believe it’s purely symbolic.

I’ve been rattling my brain for some years now in the priesthood as to why even one Catholic does not place total faith in the truth of Who we receive a few moments after (singing) the Lamb of God. I must admit I have a difficult time understanding why that is. I wish that everyone, not just Catholics, but everyone, could visibly see the effects of the Eucharistic miracle that happened at a Mass I was presiding at just over five years ago. Where these words became visible: “My flesh is true food, my blood is true drink.”

We don’t want to part of the Catholic crowd who doubt these so powerful and reassuring words of Jesus. These loving and intimate words of our Lord. These words that are meant to be sung at an opera, and not treated as if they are mumbled and jumbled early morning words. “What did he say? Did he just say ‘My flesh is true food and my blood is true drink?’ It’s too early in the morning for me to understand that stuff! Jesus must have just woken up from sleep!” No, he didn’t just wake up. He’s wide awake!

In the 2nd reading today, St. Paul writes at the heart of this reading, “Try to understand what is the will of the Lord.” Thank you St. Paul. And this is where many good people get lost. To try to understand God’s will, at least in reference to the gift of the Eucharist, a lot of people end up giving up on God’s will. Probably because they want some hard proof that would water down the awe and mystery of the Eucharist. To understand God’s will in relation to Jesus’ words in John chapter 6 is to have the understanding that his body and blood is connected to our resurrection.

“Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life.” These are strong words from a strong Voice for any time of day. And they get even stronger; “And I will raise him on the last day.” That’s like the moment of the opera the entire audience has been waiting for to be sung with the strongest voice. That’s the hit song, the one everyone showed up for! Where everyone is tuned in and focused on that line belted out for the entire world to hear.

This is my prayer for all of us as we continue on this journey of faith that will culminate in our Lord’s presence. That we believe that Jesus’ words about the Eucharist were not spoken with an early morning raspy voice that is hard to understand, but instead the strongest Voice possible accepted with faith in our hearts. Don’t be part of the crowd, the Jewish authorities and religious leaders, who miss the moment that appears in front of them because the words are too difficult to understand. May we never treat our Lord like his words are raspy and broken. His teaching about himself comes directly from heaven, where all truth finds its starting point. Where the best operas are performed.

“Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.” We might be breathing, but if we don’t eat and drink the Lord, we don’t have life within us. Those words caused the Jewish leaders to quarrel amongst themselves and with Jesus himself. And next week’s Gospel we will see how these words caused many souls to walk away from him.

Those words have caused many Catholics to become unbelieving Catholics and ex-Catholics. They have been cause for Catholics to quarrel within our hearts and allow doubt to settle in. But Jesus is not speaking symbolically, with a rusty, uncertain, morning voice. He’s speaking with a Voice of love and intimacy. This is how we become one with him. What makes the oneness possible is faith. Faith that Jesus is singing an opera to us with those moving words. An opera that leads to eternal life.

Reject the crowd of quarrelers and doubters. Love them for being made in the image and likeness of God. But reject their claim of Jesus having an early morning voice in John Chapter 6. Embrace the power of Jesus’ words and bring them with you, even through the gates of death, where he promises to raise us on the last day.

19th Sunday Ordinary Time Cycle B August 9, 2015

As I was sitting in the doctor’s office the other day having a kidney stone treated, I couldn’t help but think, “Did Jesus ever have a kidney stone?” As he was curing those who were sick and suffering, raising the dead and forgiving sins, how many of his own ailments did he have as a result of the physical exertion and toll on his body going from town to town over the course of three years?

In Israel, where the Lord spent his entire life, (sort of like Worcester people – they spend their entire lives here) outside of a couple years when his parents were told to escape to Egypt because of the nutty King Herod, it gets pretty hot there. There’s not much snow in Israel. There are areas of desert Jesus undoubtedly passed through, and going from one town to another you just know he got thirsty and dried out. It’s safe to assume Jesus ate a lot of dust during his public ministry, the same Middle Eastern dust he told his disciples to shake off their feet if they were not welcome into a town. Also, the story of the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s Well and Jesus’ words to her, “Give me a drink.” So, from lack of water and a case of dehydration, Jesus, before carrying his Cross, could very well have had a kidney stone. My Lord can relate to me! How good is that?

I offer an understanding and image of Eucharist you may not have heard before. But one that is most essential to our reception each week.

The contentious point in the Gospel in this conversation between Jesus and the Jewish leaders is Jesus’ self-proclamation that he is the bread come down from heaven. The Jewish leaders have no idea what to do with those words. So they revert back to, “Isn’t he the son of Joseph and Mary? Do we not know his parents? If he’s the bread come down from heaven, as he claims, then how can he be born of Mary?”

2000 years out from those words, “I am the bread of life come down from heaven,” we understand exactly what he’s saying. He’s saying that he will be with us until the end of time in the form of Eucharistic Bread. At every Mass, he continues to come down from heaven at the moment of consecration. Jesus is pointing to his real presence until he returns in glory. We cannot expect the Jewish leaders to understand all this 2000 years ago. Heck, there are many Catholics today who fight with Jesus’ words, who cannot wrap their hearts or minds around this teaching. But when he spoke them, that he is the bread come down from heaven, it was language far beyond their capacity to accept in their hearts and place their faith in.

Jesus is going in a number of different directions with the entire Bread of Life Discourse found in John, chapter 6. But as I’m sitting in a doctor’s office addressing the issue of a kidney stone with all their wonderful, talented, dedicated medical personnel, or if you’re doing the same for some other medical or non-medical reason, I want the Bread of Life come down from heaven in that office with me.

This goes right to the heart of the fullness of Jesus’ humanity – the thirst, the tiredness, the aches and pains, the diseases, and all the Cross-carrying breakdown of the human body, as it inches closer and oh-so-slowly to its final destination.

The Eucharist is not a pie in the sky Christian teaching. When we receive the Eucharist, yes we receive our Lord in his resurrected state. We receive the Body of Christ in such a form that – through the eyes of faith – we taste our future condition and see some hope. But that’s not all that it is! We cheat ourselves if we think so! But maybe that’s what so many of us Catholics believe; that the resurrected Christ who comes down from heaven is so far above and beyond my issues and my story and my sufferings and all our challenges that we cannot relate to what it is we truly receive. I’d like to change that!

I’m happy to tell you that the Eucharist we receive is just as much about kidney stones than it is about the resurrected body of Christ. What does Jesus tell us? That he’s the Bread of Life come down from heaven. He comes down to earth. He’s earthy. Meaning, when he was demanding water from the woman at the well, he was probably dealing with the effects of a kidney stone. In the Eucharist, we receive the entire Christ; fully divine, fully human, with all his earthly aches and pains, many of which we confront every day.

May we never “overestimate” or “upgrade” the power and presence of the Eucharist by leaving it as some pie in the sky theology. The Eucharist is most capable of walking into a doctor’s office, or surgical unit, or in the confines of our own homes where we deal with stuff. It’s not just some high dose of theology that we borrow from Jesus’ words at the Last Supper. That would not do us much good right now. The Bread of Life we receive is a necessary gift that sustains us in the serious challenges of our humanity.

Whenever those challenges arise, and for some of us they are every day, take the Lord with you. Yes, Eucharist is a vision of heaven, giving us hope that something better awaits. But it’s also a vision of earth, where all our challenges are played out.

 

18th Sunday Ordinary Time Cycle B August 2, 2015

The sign they were looking for back then will arrive in a few minutes on our holy altar: The food that endures for eternal life.

Our readings this Sunday offer a couple of interesting conversations that take place: between Moses and God, extended to the Israelites in the 1st reading, and Jesus and the large crowd in the Gospel. Let’s follow their words and see what transpires in the ways of our Catholic faith.

First, Moses and God. All I can say is, “Poor Moses.” He must feel like Grandpa Moses, the husband of Grandma Moses, as these ungrateful, demanding, what-have-you-done-for-me-lately people continue to wear down the poor old man.

Moses must have asked, “Lord, is this my punishment for laying low that Egyptian I slew way back when? I can think of easier punishments than dealing with this people of yours and leading them forth to freedom!”

The conversation extends to Moses and the Israelites, where is found a great deal of complaining about bread. Most people like bread. Not all people will eat bread, but I would guess most everyone likes to enjoy some bread minus any bad health connections. The complaint of the people to Moses is the lack of quantity of bread. It’s not that the bread is stale, moldy, hard, and so forth. Instead, there is none. And with zero amount of bread in the camps of the Chosen People of God, there is much grumbling.

How many of us would grumble and complain harshly against God if we arrived here in this camp of Immaculate Conception and there was no Eucharist? What if the sign that Jesus talks about in the Gospel that we know will be present on this holy altar in a few minutes did not arrive? Would we consider something to be missing in our Sunday experience? Or, would we move on without complaint as if it made no difference that the Bread of Jesus was not provided? “Oh well, I didn’t receive any bread from heaven this week. Maybe they’ll have it next week.” Or, would there be a loud complaint coming out of the Immaculate Conception camps?

In one sense, I can certainly side with the at times insidious and ungrateful Israelites. Quite honestly, I like their complaint to Moses, even though their complaints are wearing him down and turning him into Grandpa Moses. Grandma Moses must have been a patient person having to listen to the complaints of Grandpa Moses every night about those people.

I love the complaint, bringing this story forward, because it’s a sign of expectation and belief that what we receive each week is not only a gift, but necessary. It’s a necessary part of our souls being fed. And if we did not have any, for some reason….if we did not have any to consume…if we did not provide for your need for the Living Bread come down from heaven, I would hope you would complain very loudly, because nothing in life is guaranteed. Not even the Eucharist. Just ask all those Catholics who for years had to deal with oppressive, anti-religious, atheistic governments.

And the second conversation is just as pivotal as the first one: Jesus and the crowds. The very first image that comes from this Gospel is the crowd’s intense search for Jesus. They’re chasing after him. The thousands of them have their GPS’s on with the location typed in, “Jesus, where is he?” How I wish everyone would search for the Lord with such determination. That’s my prayer.

And when they find him, what is it that follows? A conversation that begins with Jesus accusing them of looking to satisfy their bellies. He just fed them loaves and fish. Bread and haddock. Jesus must have added some foreign, heavenly ingredient that caused the loaves and fish to be the best loaves and fish they ever ate. Like the wine at Cana. It was the best wine ever put out to drink. So their following him, their chasing after him is connected to their bellies more than their hearts and souls.

But in the conversation, Jesus wants to change that. He wants to shift our hunger from the daily food that perishes – this is why we go to the bathroom , because it perishes – to the food that endures forever. For eternal life. So the question for us is, “Where does the ‘Jesus Shift’ occur?” It occurs in our hearts, not in our bellies. It’s a shift that brings us Catholics from any lack of belief in the Real Presence of the Eucharist, to believing fully in the reception of Who it is we receive. And that’s something for Jesus to grumble about. Jesus grumbles about their desire for physical satisfaction only, when he knows he has something infinitely greater to offer us. It’s a good complaint by Jesus that is meant to draw us deeper into the mystery of his gift that comes down from the altar.

Search for the deeper meaning in this conversation between Jesus and the crowds. And wear Moses down if for some reason there’s no bread on the table here. Sometimes grumbling can be effective, such as these two conversations. But only if they deepen our relationship with the Bread of Life who is raised from the dead.