Homily All Saints Day November 1, 2017

“Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”
Is this a fantastic promise to us who believe and accept Jesus as Lord? ‘We shall see him as he is.” Is seeing him one day as he is worth all sorts of sacrifices rather than selfishness? Is seeing God as he is worth extending a measure of mercy and forgiveness rather than holding on to anger, frustration, and eventually dying with a fractured heart, as so many have chosen to do? Is the promise of seeing the Lord as he is worth all the good works of generosity, kindness, seeing the distress of others and acting on it, rather than imitating the avoidance of the priest and the Levite in the story of the Good Samaritan?
Is seeing Jesus as he is in all his glory one day worth all the crosses we end up carrying along this journey? Is it worth being persecuted for his name, which is a very popular game today? Is every breath we take, every move we make on behalf of him who was crucified worth our steadfast devotion, so that we can see him as he is?
There’s a whole slew of rugged-looking men, women, and children over the centuries who answer all these questions and more with a resounding “Yes.” They’ve come to find out it’s all worth it. If all the sacrifices of all the Saints in the Holy Communion of the Church, sacrifices driven by the Spirit, and made for others, could be gathered into a bushel basket, they would never measure up to the one sacrifice made on Golgotha by one Good Teacher who had few friends at the end of his life. Yet, every good deed by all the Saints ever performed through prayer and action, including ours, is an extension of his sacrifice.
The force behind today’s feast of All Saints is found in the words, “That we will see him as he is.” That’s what drove them to live lives of holiness. To see him one day as he is. But how about the people we’ve known and loved? The ones who are blessed to already see him as he is? Do we rejoice in their vision? Or, do we worry about their eternal state? This is why we have All Souls Day tomorrow, where we pray for those who do not yet see him as he is.
This blessed day of All Saints is a day of commemorating the actions of the Saints, imitating their lives to some measure, and bonding our lives with their Christian virtues. Along with name All Saints Day, I also like the title, “Taking On the Saints Day.” Taking on being a peacemaker, and not a warmonger, which none of them were at the end of their lives.
Or taking on being merciful, and not vengeful. Taking on being persecuted for every truth of Jesus Christ, and not watering it down to satisfy the urges of man. Taking on the poor in spirit, and not seeing riches as paramount that can somehow satisfy our souls. The saints teach us that that’s not possible. Taking on a life of prayer and silence, and not magnetizing ourselves to the endless babble of cable news, nightly news, newspapers, and media who care only for your dollar and nothing for your soul.
There’s 1000 good reasons why our Christian faith invites us to learn more about the Saints, and imitate them, and take them on. They teach us the truest meaning of the Gospel.
But I finish by calling attention to the lesser-known saints, if you will. It’s great to know and imitate John the Baptist, Mary Magdalene, Catherine of Siena, Teresa of Calcutta, John Paul of Poland, and the endless stream of popular Saints who adorn the Church’s history.
But let’s not forget the lesser-known saints who have also influenced and impacted our lives. The ones we’ve lived with, spoken with, hugged and cried with, attended their funerals with both sadness and joy. The ones we miss more than the well-known Saints. What virtue of theirs do we carry forward with us on this day of ALL Saints?
For them, there are some who see him as he is. And there are some who have not yet seen him as he is. Which is which, is a guessing game on our part. But we remove much of the guessing in the Church’s gift of All Souls Day.

Lector and Eucharistic Minister Schedule for November – December 2017

SATURDAY  4:00 PM    SUNDAY 7:30 AM  10:00 AM
Nov 04 F. McGuire   Nov 05 C. Dougherty C. Klofft
Nov 11 R. Lapid   Nov 12 K. Shaughnessy M. Greene
Nov 18 W. Stanton   Nov 19 W. Borek L. Morin
Nov 25 F. McGuire   Nov 26 K. Shaughnessy M. Martella
Dec 02 R. Lapid   Dec 03 W. Borek L. Morin
Dec 09 F. McGuire   Dec 10 C. Dougherty M. Greene
Dec 16 W. Stanton   Dec 17 A. Huffman C. Klofft
Dec 23 F. McGuire   Dec 24 K. Shaughnessy L. Morin
Dec 29 W. Stanton   Dec 30 A. Huffman M. Martella
SATURDAY  4:00 PM    SUNDAY 7:30 AM  10:00 AM
Nov 04 D. McGuire   Nov 05 W. Borek M. Gonyea
J. Wine   P. Powers W. Evanowski
Nov 11 K. Stiles   Nov 12 D. Huffman D. Greene
L. Vigeant   C. Huffman C. Grady
Nov 18 R. Lapid   Nov 19 J. Hester M. Gonyea
J. Wine   B. Hester W. Evanowski
Nov 25 K. Stiles   Nov 26 C. Dougherty L. A. Branche
W. Stanton   S. Dougherty D. Greene
Dec 02 L. Vigeant   Dec 03 D. Huffman J. Morin
J. Wine   C. Huffman W. Evanowski
Dec 09 D. McGuire   Dec 10 W. Borek L. A. Branche
J. Wine   P. Powers C. Grady
Dec 16 R. Lapid   Dec 17 J. Hester J. Morin
D. Greene   B. Hester M. Phaneuf
Dec 23 K. Stiles   Dec 24 C. Dougherty M. Greene
W. Stanton   S. Dougherty W. Evanowski
Dec 30 L. Vigeant   Dec 31 D. Huffman M. Gonyea
J. Wine   C. Huffman D. Greene

Homily 29th Sunday Ordinary Time Cycle A October 22, 2017

So they try to entrap Jesus with a question about paying a tax to Caesar, who, by the way, was roundly hated by the Jewish leaders and the people, because Rome had their boot on the necks of the nation of Israel. And in their attempt to entrap the One who is untrappable, they end up eating crow. Have you ever eaten crow? Neither have I. I bet it doesn’t taste as good as a Coney Island hot dog.
In their attempted entrapment of Christ, the disciples of the Pharisees, who are simply an extension of the religious power in Judaism, we find a certain lack of respect for the Lord. Who in their right mind would try to entrap someone who you think is smarter and wiser than us? We would do that only to someone who we think is less smarter and wiser than us, which is where they place Jesus on the scale of intellect. They believe they have the capacity to put him into an intellectual corner, back him against the wall, put the fear of God in him (no pun intended), and make him admit some mistake.
But in the entire life of Jesus Christ, there are no mistakes made. Not a one. If there was even one, there would be no Godness, no divinity in him. He would be a mere mortal, unless we think that God is somehow capable of making a mistake when placed aside our limited human wisdom.
So, in this familiar Gospel story, this real event that took place in the course of Jesus’ ministry, right away it proceeds with the wrong assumption; that the Son of God is capable of being entrapped and being in error in his teaching. Granted, they don’t see our Lord as the Second Person on the Trinity. If they did, they would be bowing before him, offering him praise and worship, and not condescension. But to them, he’s just another human being who’s capable of being beat intellectually. And if that doesn’t work, which it won’t, then beat him physically, which they will do.
This is important for our faith lives because it sets a proper path in our relationship with God, leading us to the truth of who he is, and accept the many gifts he desires for us along the way. The disciples of the Pharisees, and the Pharisees themselves, leave no doubt as to whether they want the gifts of God, or the gifts of Caesar. And that can be a spiritual battle for us. Do we claim first in our lives the things of God; be it sacrifice, redemption, life with Michael, Raphael and the rest of them? Do we want mercy and forgiveness as part of our lives, the will to love our neighbor, the joy of performing good works for a worthy cause, such as Visitation House, a house grounded in the love and ministry of God? And so much more as connected to claiming God first.
Or, do we claim first allegiance to Caesar, the things of Caesar; which are greed, pride, no respect for human life, especially when it’s most vulnerable in the mother’s womb, or the elderly who are sick and dying? And so much more as connected to being a soldier for Caesar.
The contrast between our Lord and Caesar is sharper than a 2-edged sword. One is God; the other one thinks he is. We know this in our hearts and minds. Our challenge is to not allow the waters of our Baptism to get muddied when it comes to who we offer allegiance to.
As people of faith, what is it that can draw us away from our allegiance to Christ, and give some or all of our allegiance to Caesar? With the understanding up front that Caesar doesn’t deserve any allegiance? What can cause us to take the first step toward watering down our faith and take on the looks of a ruthless, filthy Roman Emperor?
One cause is actually God himself. Don’t tell the Bishop I said that.
When God created the world, when God created Caesar, he saw that it was very good. Even Caesar was probably cute as a baby. God made no mistakes on his blueprint of creation. Not a one. The first mistake didn’t come from God. It came from our parents, Adam and Eve. The mistake of disobedience, which the disciples of the Pharisees are perfecting in the presence of Christ.
So, when God created this incredibly beautiful world and allowed for all this human potential to thrive in the midst of all its beauty, in a sense God set up the possibility of our strong attachment to his beautiful creation. Unless we’re hiding in a monastery, it’s hard to say no. What made that attachment possible, this allegiance to Caesar, is disobedience. Temptation in the garden of this world. We’re surrounded by it. If God made an ugly world, with lots of people with no talent and no potential, where they couldn’t win $50 on Jeopardy, we wouldn’t have this problem of allegiance to the wrong person. We wouldn’t be able to get to heaven quick enough.
In the Gospel of the Caesar coin, of the disciples of the Pharisees, and of Jesus the Good Teacher, we learn this one understanding of our relationship with the Lord; that we’re either all for God, or that we make him a secondary Person. The present-day African Cardinal in the Church, Robert Sarah, said it best in the title of his awesome book a few years back; God or Nothing.
Allegiance is a central part of our daily faith lives. We live in a time with countless distractions, some of them very attractive. But whatever parts of the world we use for our benefit, whatever part of Caesar we incorporate, may we be ever cognizant of the side of the coin that has the face of Christ imprinted on it. This allows us to see Jesus for who he is, a Savior and Redeemer, with no need to entrap him in his own words, because we humbly trust his ways.

Homily 28th Sunday Ordinary Time Cycle A October 15, 2017

In today’s parable as told by our Lord, we have a King who is blessed with a very generous heart. A social heart, if you will. He wishes to hold a wedding feast for his son, and when the time and place are set, he wants the hall filled to capacity. He doesn’t care what the fire laws say. He wants lots of people to attend, to celebrate the wedding of his son. He’s the King; he can do whatever he wants.
He has a long list of invitees. The servants are sent out to invite the guests who are called to attend, but one by one the guests disappear back into the busyness of their lives. By doing so, they reject the King. They reject his power, his influence, his generosity and kindness, and his friendship. They have to go home and walk the dog at the very same time of the wedding feast. Whatever lame excuse they could come up with, they used it in order to avoid the blessings and the love of their King. In the same way that many reject the King of the Universe today. There’s no time for him, or his wedding feast. We give thanks that you make time.
In his being rejected by his subjects, the King goes above and beyond the role of a King and sends out servants to personally invite those he has chosen to the feast, giving them a second chance, as God has given us many second chances. The King gives his subjects the chance to convert, to change their minds, to appear at the great wedding banquet of food and drink. He didn’t get the answer he was looking for. Instead of accepting the invitation to a joyful celebration, those being invited took the opposite approach and killed the servants. They chose to commit murder rather than “eat, drink, and be merry.”
The King’s reaction is predictable. He becomes enraged that they killed the Prophets, I mean the servants he sent out with invitations. The reaction to their death was not only anger, but also grief. The King’s further reaction to the killing of his servants is to open the wedding feast to anyone out in the streets, meaning the rest of the world. “Invite everyone. Invite the Gentiles who worship false gods, the tax collectors and prostitutes who have no gods but money and their bodies. Invite them. Who knows, maybe they’ll convert and worship the one true God.”
Out the door the servants merrily go, inviting this person and that person, this family and that family. “Am I hearing you right,” they say? “An invitation to the wedding feast of the King’s Son? Is the King losing his mind? What’s the catch? This is too good to be true. This is like receiving Red Sox playoff tickets at no cost.” The inviters say back, “Just show up and enjoy the game, and we’ll cover the cost of all your Fenway Franks.”
With God, my friends, there is never a catch. “I’ll do this for you if you do this for me.” There’s no washing each other’s hands, no political motives, nothing written in fine print, no unspoken expectations. God invites us into his banquet with no strings attached, except the string of loving him, which many find so hard to do. Loving God should be the most natural thing we ever do in this world.
Honestly, we’re the people on the street invited to work in the Lord’s vineyard. We entered about 3:00 in the afternoon, the same time the Crucified One succumbed to his injuries on the Cross so that we may have life. We are the Johnnies-come-lately of salvation, as Gentiles.
So, we arrive at the wedding feast of the King by way of invitation through the Cross, and through the King’s servants, the Apostles. Just make sure you wear a wedding garment. Look what happened to the guy who didn’t wear one. The King asked him, “Where’s your wedding garment?” “It’s still at the cleaners. I thought dungarees were good enough. My dog ate it.” All sorts of dumb excuses. For forgetting the wedding garment, he’s bound hand and foot, tossed into the outer darkness, where he will wail and grind his teeth forever. All for forgetting to wear a wedding garment. The punishment doesn’t seem to fit the crime.
You must be asking, “What’s the wedding garment? What does it really represent in the parable?” It can represent many things as connected to our faith, depending on where our spiritual lives happen to be. In our faith, I see it as representing the gifts of the sacramental life of the Church.
The garment of Baptism, which for most of us our parents in their responsibility took care of for us. Now we are to live out that Baptism for the remaining years of our lives. And don’t forget to wear the garment of Reconciliation. Sometimes the garment gets dirty and soiled. Confession makes it white again before the King.
The wedding garment is also the Eucharist. To receive the Lord for real is to wear him. Like those 9th Division soldiers wore their infantry uniforms, with a certain color patch, signifying who they belonged to. Wear the garment of Confirmation to the feast. The garment that pledges total devotion to the King of Kings, and not to a passing world. Confirmation is a garment of full devotion to Christ.
Wear the garment of Matrimony, for those are called. Catholics are to wear this garment to the Church, and not to a civil ceremony where God’s presence is minimal at best, if at all. Make sure you wear the garment of the beautiful Sacrament of Anointing, where we seek God’s healing right now, as well as the end of our lives. So many Catholics forget this garment today, especially at the end.
And lastly, put on the garment of Holy Orders for those to whom God is whispering, “Feed my sheep.”
The guy who entered the King’s banquet without a wedding garment was void of the sacramental life of the Church. He had no active faith. No faith leads to the outer darkness.
But we have faith. Which is why we come here dressed in sacramental garments, as we celebrate the wedding of the King’s Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

Homily 27th Sunday Ordinary Time Cycle A October 8, 2017

No one likes an ingrate. And we like even less a person who steals someone else’s idea and pretends like it’s their own. And that’s the parable of the vineyard as told by our Lord. This is why we have copyright laws; so that one person doesn’t steal from another person’s brain, without giving credit to the original owner.
An individual buys a vineyard to plant and grow some good foods. Grapes to make delicious wine. Corn to feed the masses, and probably the hogs too. Blueberries for your cereal. Because of the size of the vineyard, the owner hires workers to care for his big patch of land. Groom it, cultivate it, reap and sow on it. They’re given the best of machinery to bring forth the best crop for the owner. The owner entrusts them to do so. They perform their labor, and they do it well. They love what they do. They love the results of all this tasty food going out to market to make a profit. Everything is going along just swimmingly, as the British would say. But somewhere along the way, they lost sight of the fact that they work for someone else. Someone else owns the vineyard. Someone who knew precisely when the crops would be ready for market. An owner full of wisdom regarding the collection of his investment.
The laborers hadn’t seen the owner since the time their hiring. Since the time of their birth on the job. Because of the owner’s apparent absence, they falsely come to think they were now the owners. Maybe this is why it would give many people immense joy if Jesus visibly showed himself to the entire world; just once a week would do. To remind us that we are not in charge. That we don’t own the vineyard, but rather the vineyard has been entrusted to us to produce a good crop over the short decades of our lives. And his weekly appearance would do away with the prevailing mindset today that says we own the world., instead of the One who called it into existence.
We do live in a time where this is the predominant attitude of the laborers in the vineyard. We live in a time of rejecting the Owner. When the owner sends servants of his to the vineyard of the world, there is much persecution of them. And sometimes they even get killed. If not, they’re made to feel like they are the odd ducks, and not the laborers who tried to steal something that doesn’t belong to them. Such is the danger when people with power live like God didn’t create the world. That the Big Bang just banged on its own power, that God is absent from his creation, and that what we see and produce is of our own doing, and all the credit belongs to us. This approach is rampant in our culture, and it’s a big reason – if not the biggest – for why we have the cultural mess we do. It’s our call to transform this attitude.
So, what do we do about the whole vineyard mess? What do we do about the humble, God-fearing Israelites coming out of Egypt, and growing into wild grapes over the centuries, as Isaiah says today, when they were called by God to be sweet-tasting grapes. They were called from Egypt to stand in for God, as we are today. Instead, they stole the vineyard from God, set up their own false gods of stone and plaster, so when the owner came back one more time and saw their wretchedness, he threw them out of Jerusalem and into a 70-year retreat within the walls of Babylon. As us today, they reaped what they sowed.
The first humble admission any Christian will make about our lives is that the vineyard out there is not ours. It never was; it never will be, no matter how much pretending may be going on. The truth of who the Creator is can never be changed. For those who pretend like they own the vineyard, they have a knack for making life difficult for other people. Look at the parable of Jesus; the tenants were hired laborers. They didn’t own the company. But by pretending they did, they opened the door for violence. They became wild grapes of violence.
The servants, on behalf of the owner, showed up for the crop; one got beat, another they killed, a third they stoned. The hired tenants didn’t like the message that there’s another owner. Their pride led to violence, as many times it does. The humble admission that we are in the hands of God from birth to death, that he owns the vineyard and he owns us, removes the potential of violence. Just holding fast to that one awesome truth of God as Creator sets a path of righteousness for our lives. Remove it, and we find ourselves in the mess of Babylon.
St. Paul offers some of the best machinery regarding what to do about cultivating the vineyard, and how to avoid the vineyard mess. Whatever is honorable, he writes, do it. If there’s any question as to whether something is honorable or dishonorable, check with an honest person you trust. Whatever is just, he writes. As followers of Christ, we uphold what is just, not according to the lowly standards of the world who gets it wrong at times, but according to the teachings of our faith.
Whatever is pure, says St. Paul. Seek the cleanliness of God and his Saints, and avoid the filth of the world. Whatever is lovely, the Apostle next writes. Lovely, meaning, a reflection of God, and avoid being reflections of the unloveliness of the devilish power. Whatever is gracious, writes Paul to the Philippians from prison. The Christian form of graciousness says thank you to God for the gift of our lives, and thank you for the free gift of eternal life that will be ours. The contrast is to miserable, like Red Sox fans used to be all the time, having no hope that God has something greater for us than the limitations of this world.
St. Paul offers a list of Christian virtues to live each day. A list of working machinery. A list that helps us to understand we are not the owners of the vineyard, but the hired workers in it. We work for the owner, Jesus Christ. This truth keeps our heads on straight in this world, avoiding the craziness and violence, and enjoying the fruits of our labor now and in the life to come.