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.

Physician Assisted Suicide

My homily today is not on the readings, which happens about once in a blue moon. With this Sunday being Respect Life Sunday, and the issue of Physician Assisted Suicide coming before our state legislature as it came before Massachusetts voters a few years back in 2012, when the question was defeated by the smallest margins, it’s imperative that we be made aware again of those who are trying to establish this horrible practice in our state. It’s back upon us, like a bad tasting meal.
Some state lawmakers are trying to legalize PAS, and doing so with financial backing from national organizations that have made Massachusetts a top priority. It’s essential that we be informed against the threat assisted suicide poses to the elderly, my favorite people in the world, to the disabled, also my favorite people in the world, and those who are dealing with serious illnesses, and how this all undermines the dignity of human life God has entrusted to us.
If a friend said to you, “Life is too hard for me, so I’m going to end it tonight,” would we just go along with it? Would we say, “Okay, if that’s what you want to do, let me help you accomplish the end of your life.” May God have mercy on my soul. This is not love by any stretch. And it’s not the answer God desires. We’re called to care for those are suffering, especially those with mental or physical disabilities, and not to leave them in despair.
Present in PAS is the potential for abuse of the elderly, my favorite people in the world. Imagine someone in your family telling you that you’re a burden, that you’re going to die soon anyway, and you need to make things easier for everyone and accept assisted suicide?
Or being diagnosed with a deadly disease, which some of us here have dealt with already, and the disease is very expensive to treat, your insurance company is not going to cover the cost of treatment, but they will cover the cheap cost of suicide drugs.
We’re a culture increasingly turning to suicide to end our suffering. In 2012, 4 states had suicide rates higher than 19 per 100,000 people; in 2016, the number jumped from 4 to 11 states with rates that high. And this does not include PAS, because those deaths are nor recorded as suicides. Which is just a dangerous mental game we play with ourselves to make ourselves look better. And not recording a suicide as suicide is part of the false narrative put forth by those who support it. Anytime the numbers have to be fudged, whether you’re buying a car, or with PAS, it’s a bad idea.
With advances today in medical technology and caring for levels of pain, it can be managed to the satisfaction of all involved, and I’ve witnessed this many times as priest. At the heart of PAS is the dignity of the human person. A disabled or frail person has equal dignity with a healthy person. Why is it that if a physically healthy person says they are suicidal we help them to live, thanks be to God. But if a disabled or frail person says the same thing, then we should help them to die? They also are people in need of caring, our support, and our compassionate love as well, love that mirrors the love of Christ. He went so far as to bring people back from the dead, rather than assist in their dying. They all have the same dignity.
We said “No” to assisted suicide back in 2012. Because of that, God allowed the Red Sox to win the World Series in 2013. I have no idea what’s gonna happen this year. But presently there are some state legislator who are trying to make PAS legal without asking the people of Massachusetts. They won’t do it, however, if we remind them that we said no once already, and we continue to advocate for better care of the seriously ill.
This practice must never be legalized in our state. We need to step up and contact our state legislators to let them know we do not want this horrendous practice legalized.
There are brochures about this attached to this week’s bulletin, as well as each entrance to the Church.
And we ask St. Joseph, the patron of a happy death, to intercede in this effort and for all of our prayers. Like the Red Sox, may we all step up to the plate and be willing to stop assisted suicide.

Homily 26th Sunday Ordinary Time Cycle A October 1, 2017

In today’s Gospel reading, our Lord is in full defense mode on behalf of his relative John the Baptist. The one who came in the name of righteousness and not to be forgotten after having his head chopped off by the forces of evil. And the consistent message that has been passed down over the centuries as connected to John has been the message of repentance.
Repentance, however, takes a certain set of eyes to see our lives and viewpoints on social issues in an honest manner and say, “I like this about myself, but I don’t like that about myself. I love the fact that God has graced me with a genuine love for the poor, and has provided us the capacity to care for the sick, to pray for the sick, to be attentive to their needs. But, I don’t like the fact that I get angry, or jealous, or envious of those who have the things I want, or the fame I seek, or the talent I wish I had. Therefore, I’m going to ask the Lord for the grace of conversion, or the blessings of a simple, uncomplicated life.”
The virtue so connected to John the Baptist, repentance, cannot be realized without the virtue so connected with Christ, humility. Humility comes easy to a few people, out of 7.5 billion people in the world, according to Wikipedia (and we know they’re never wrong). The rest of us, about 7.49 billion, need to work at humility really hard. To pray for the vision to see what can be changed by way of conversion, and what reflects God within us.
When in Ireland last week, our group had a wonderful tour leader loading us up with all sorts of information about the Emerald Isle. From how many pubs there are in Dublin, to the oldest pub, as well as information about the Irish Civil War that began in 1916 in the same city, while World War I was going on, to information on Belfast in Northern Ireland where a tourist can touch the wall that continues to separate the Catholic from Protestant neighborhoods in that northern city, to the meaning of many of the murals on the wall that made statements of peace and not war, as well as information that Belfast is the only city on the entire island of Ireland where a wall separating people has been built for any purpose, never mind one that separates religious believers who supposedly accept the one Savior of the world as their Redeemer.
Our tour leader was loaded with information about Ireland that would be hard to come by otherwise. One would have to read many books. And fortunately, there was no one on the tour who pretended to know more than she did. We were humble enough to know our place and listen and ask some questions along the way. We knew our role, and appreciated the expert knowledge of Ireland she shared with us.
Our Lord is pointing out the same to the Chief Priests and Elders of the People about John the Baptist. Jesus was an expert on the life of John the Baptist, and what his life meant. John was the tour leader of repentance and conversion. John was the expert, sent by God, on how we can be in a good relationship with God. And he shared his wide breath of knowledge on repentance and conversion, much of which never made it into the Scriptures, but enough for us to understand what the island of repentance requires on our part. What it looks like in the city of our families; what it looks like in the world of labor, our Church, and with our neighbor. John the Baptist was the consummate tour guide on the topic of continuous conversion.
The leaders in front of Jesus were not humble enough to heed his teaching. To absorb it, reflect on it, and apply it for the purpose of spreading peace and not confusion. If there’s a lack of peace in our lives, one of the major reasons is that we haven’t sought out the virtue of repentance enough. It takes humility to repent and convert. When we do so, we draw deeper into the humility of Christ, who humble himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a Cross.
The Chief Priests and Elders wanted nothing to do with humility. They had too much power and the material goods of the world to lose. The same goes today for Church leaders and others in the political world. Someone who lacks humility, and holds no capacity to repent for past and present mistakes, I wouldn’t follow that person to Honey Farms. But I would follow a converted prostitute all the way to heaven. So, if you see me following a prostitute, it’s because she’s converted to Christ, taking on the repentance and conversion of John the Baptist, and the humility of her Lord and Savior. My priestly advice is don’t ever follow someone who has no capacity to repent, and no disposition towards humility.
Jesus is rightfully defending John because John was of God. He was a godly Prophet who spoke the truth of conversion and repenting our sins. His way is the way of righteousness, which means to be in a good, productive relationship with the Lord. A relationship that is alive in the Spirit of Christ, and not dead in the spirit of this world. We are called to transform the spirit of this world into the Spirit of Christ, who came not to be served, but to serve.
As the Chief Priests and the Elders standing before Christ take on the look of the second son in the parable, who lied about going to work in the vineyard of the Lord, the one who never showed up for honest work, we instead take on the look of the first son, who changed his mind and went to work in the Lord’s vineyard. The son who had a well-formed conscience and true humility.

Homily 24th Sunday Ordinary Time Cycle A September 17, 2017

There are only a handful of people who can perfect the virtue of forgiveness. The ones I know about, they go by the first name of Saint. It’s rare the person you will find who will fulfill the perfection that Jesus is seeking in this parable. But this doesn’t mean we don’t put in the effort.
Forgiveness is a virtue that confounds many Christians. We understand why it’s a virtue that Christ commands. We also understand it’s level of difficulty. How do I go about it? Should I meet with them, talk with them, or is it best to avoid them? How can I forgive anyone who has hurt me so strongly? And if by chance I do forgive them from the heart, do things have to be the same way before all the ugliness happened? Do I have to pretend like I want to be their friend, when it’s best for my safety and peace of mind not to be in their presence?
The thing about being successful with the virtue of forgiveness is that there’s not one set blueprint, no one format or process for bringing about forgiveness in a broken situation. We’re all different people, with different ideas, moved by the things of life and love in countless ways. The method of forgiveness for one person, say, addressing a hard issue face to face, may not be possible for another person. Whereas such an approach may be safe for one individual, the same approach may present danger for another.
The one constant with the virtue of forgiveness is what Jesus speaks at the very end of this parable that contains all ranges of emotions: “Unless each of you forgives your brother/sister from your heart.” My visual of these words of our Lord is one of taking place from a distance. The setting of forgiving from one’s heart may be one of being in prayer, in the morning or the evening, reflecting in the quiet of your own home in a spiritual safe space where the noise and craziness of the world are out of your reach, beyond your hearing, where cable and nightly news are shut off, reflecting in the presence of the Spirit on what it takes to be rid of the anger, frustration, or fear that accompanies us, and ask God to remove the hurt so that you may experience some of his peace.
In case you haven’t noticed, there’s some angry people in our world. Sometimes we have the luck of the Irish and they happen to find us. I talk about people who imitate the first servant in the Gospel story who weasels out of not paying back what he owes the king. His pleading was fake. His tears, if there were any, were crocodile. He would have won an Oscar for the acting job he put on in the presence of the king, pretending like he was really worried about the punishment meted out for not paying back what he owed. He was a phony seeker of mercy, a trap we need to avoid in our own lives. The proof, of course, is in how he treated his fellow servant when he, the first servant, was in the position of playing the role of the king.
Much of the virtue of forgiveness is either successful or not successful by how we approach difficult situations when we are in the position of being the king or the queen. When we have power and influence over another person. Do have them thrown into prison until the whole debt is paid, to use the words of Jesus? Meaning, no mercy shown at all. Or, do we have the heart to forgive the entire debt?
Which brings us to the issue of face to face, or from the heart, or both. As I said, there’s no one format where one size fits all with regard to practicing the virtue of forgiveness. There’s big hurt and there’s little hurt. If you call me lazy, I’m gonna be a little hurt, but I’ll get over it soon. But if you speak lies about me intentionally, and try to destroy my reputation, that’s a much bigger hurt that you don’t get over soon. One size does not fit all with forgiveness and moving on. What matters to our Lord is that we put in the effort, have a disposition, to forgive from the heart. And this can be done face to face, or in your morning prayer in the silence of dawn in the chair with your name on it in the comfortable setting of your home.
Truthfully, there are not enough kings and queens in our world, or even in the Church. I’ve read of Bishops and Cardinals getting even with people. Breaking the Curse of the Bambino was a piece of cake when compared to practicing the virtue of forgiveness. Many of the Saints in the Communion did not perfect this fundamental Christian virtue. They were very good at it, but not perfect. They perfected some other virtue, such as humility of caring for the sick, which is why they are Saints. But struggled with perfect forgiveness. Yet, that’s what Jesus commands in this Gospel.
Our Lord calls us to the ultimate form of Christian perfection because he knows that with God’s grace, nothing is impossible. We can be successful with forgiving from the heart. But it takes the will to so desire that possibility.
It doesn’t mean everything has to be the same as it was before. Actions have consequences. You live, you learn, you make changes that need to be made, you move on. We are never to be the first servant, the one who won the Oscar for his false performance of mercy who then shows none in return. We do our best to forgive from the heart, which makes more room for God’s Kingdom here on Earth.

Homily 23rd Sunday Ordinary Time Cycle A September 10, 2017

In a number of the Gospels the Church gives to us on any given Sunday, there’s a mixture of both the difficult and the comforting to be found within each story of the Good News. Such can be seen with the Gospel setting where our Lord and Savior teaches his Disciples, thus teaching us, the importance of being proactive against the vice of sin in order to bring about a situation of peace.
It’s necessary to remember that our faith is grounded in the search for peace, for peaceful solutions to life’s problems, as well as the problems of society, be they political, cultural, or otherwise. The Christian is never to settle for anger, or frustration, for hating individuals and groups who attempt to draw us away from the love found in Christ, and toward worldly solutions that solve nothing peacefully, because the presence of God is intentionally absent from any attempts at peace.
Abraham Lincoln came to understand this over the course of four years of an American Civil War. When someone mentioned to him that God seems to be at the heart of much of his thinking, his humble response was that God is always in the right, and we’re not. His awareness of God’s presence and guidance being necessary to bring about peace to national disaster was always before him as President. There is much wisdom in that approach.
“If your brother/sister sins against you, makes Civil War against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.” Don’t hold a grudge is what the Lord is saying. Be the mature one and address the situation like an adult, and not like a child in adult clothing. This is the start of the difficult part of this Gospel, as well as Christian teaching. It’s not my job to tell fluffy stories. That’s not what I get paid for. Jesus didn’t get paid for that either. He got paid by his Father for telling difficult stories, and teaching difficult teachings, first of all because he believes in us.
He knows we have the capacity within us to proceed with the search for peaceful answers to difficult problems. And someone sinning against us personally, or offending us personally, or as a community or nation, is difficult.
And second, his difficult teachings are solutions meant to lead to peace. He desires peace for us in our lives. “Peace I leave you; my peace I give you.” At least as much as we can attain in a broken world. For we always carry within us the words of St. Augustine, that our hearts are restless until we rest in God. And he was talking about after death, not in this world.
From the initial difficult teaching of Christ to talk one on one, the Gospel story then gets even more difficult. When your brother/sister doesn’t listen, meaning they’re probably Irish, get 2 or 3 witnesses to assist you in your quest to unsin the sin. 2 or 3 people with good reputation, and not 2 or 3 people you don’t know who hang out at Panera Bread. How many of us have actually tried to proceed with this process of getting 2 or 3 people of good reputation to help solve a personal problem? Maybe a few of us. That’s how difficult it is.
And then the process moves on in the Gospel if they still don’t listen. If 2 or 3 people of good reputation doesn’t persuade your brother/sister, tell the Church. Don’t tell the clerk at Honey Farms. They don’t solve anything. Tell the Church. Who’s the Church? The priest, the deacon, and all you who are baptized are the Church. Why tell the Church? Because we’re meant to be a band of brothers and sisters who are honest with each other, deal with each other respectfully, not favoring one over the other…the wisdom of Solomon. To be a fair judge when asked to be.
I’m sure some of us have gone to the Church – to the priest, deacon, or any of the baptized – for advice and answers to difficult relationships or personal problems. And if you have, then God bless you for doing so. God bless you for caring so much about some difficulty, where you trusted your brothers and sisters in the Lord to be kind and patient enough to listen and offer meaningful advice. Mature advice meant to help and not make worse the difficult portion of this Gospel teaching of Christ.
Then, if they don’t listen after these far-reaching efforts at bringing about peace, you treat them like a Gentile or tax collector. In the 21st century, this means you pray each day for their conversion of heart. A sustained prayer of conversion to be rid of any hardness of heart.
Why all this effort and hard work that Jesus commands his disciples to go through when things are not kosher? A couple reasons.
First, what we heard today from St. Paul, “Love is the fulfillment of the law.” Of the law of Christ. Love is the end goal. If we’re not working towards love in difficult relationships, then we’re working toward Purgatory or Hell, and not towards Heaven. Above all, love is the virtue that defines the Christian. Healthy love, that Paul writes about. Not sinful ways and practices that we define as love in order to satisfy our selfish ambitions. Healthy love is not grounded in emotion. Healthy love is grounded in the Natural Law and the use of our reason.
And second, all this effort to be put forth in difficult relationships, when approached for good reasons, invites a Special Guest into our thinking and process of peace. That Special Guest is Jesus Christ. May we never try to solve any difficulty while leaving the Lord’s presence aside. He yearns to be in our hearts when difficult moments and difficult situations arise. He’s not the reason for them; he’s the solution to them. He’s the way to peace, understanding, and forgiveness. He’s always the good mixture of any difficult Gospel Who is not to be left out.

Homily 20th Sunday Ordinary Time Cycle A August 20, 2017

This past Tuesday the Church celebrated the Solemnity of Mary’s Assumption into heaven, body and soul. We await the same upon Jesus’ Second Coming, which for some can’t be soon enough.
In that celebration of the Mother of God, we rejoice in the Christian truth that someone other than Jesus, being Mary, a mortal and creature like us, has been safely delivered to the joys of heaven in the fullness of what has been promised by God.
If Jesus were the only one resurrected, all would still be okay and right on track for all believers. For God’s promise of resurrection is irrevocable. But our holy belief that God has brought his Mother to her place of honor and repose should be comforting and exciting for the rest of us who are not the Word made flesh, which would be everyone except for the carpenter’s Son from Nazareth.
But it’s not like Mary is just hanging around up there, praying for world peace, praying for our general requests, fighting against the wiles of the Devil who counts Mary as his number one enemy because she leads so many souls to her Son. She’s not loitering up there, but remaining busy on our behalf; some proof being in the many apparitions over the centuries that have the seal of approval of the Church regarding authenticity. Mary is active between heaven and earth.
I contrast Mary’s busyness in heaven on our behalf to the busyness of the mother on earth in the Gospel who is seeking intercession from Mary’s Son for her ill daughter. And quite a contrast it is! On the surface, these two mothers are a universe apart. Jesus has given his Mother various holy assignments over the past centuries; that she appear to Juan Diego at Guadalupe; to Bernadette at Lourdes; to 3 young ones at Fatima. These among other places and people. Jesus sends her forth with love. Mary goes forth with love and a message, or secrets.
In the Gospel, it’s the mother who is requesting the intercession instead of performing it. And instead of speaking to her, Jesus initially remains silent to her. His response to her request is silence. Some folks struggle with the same today in our relationship with God. He seems to be way too quiet. I say with certainty that Jesus never was silent to his Mother; while growing up in Nazareth; while bringing forth his ministry; while in heaven together.
There’s the greatest difference in how Jesus deals with his own Mother, and how he deals with the mother in this Gospel. One gets his attention and voice, the other one doesn’t. She wants her daughter healed… silence. Mary wants water turned into wine at Cana… action. They get more good wine than they know what to do with. They could take a bath in all the wine he changes from water.
But the scene in the Gospel begins to change for the better; the same way it will for us when we come before our Savior as this mother does. What changes it for the better? Persistence; nagging; a mother’s love; determination; pleading; and our Lord’s compassion being challenged. What the Gospel mother does is to push Jesus way ahead of where he wants to be at this time with salvation. His concern is with Israel. The people of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, John the Baptist. Jesus must bring them to his Father first, so they in turn can bring the rest of the world to him. The Gospel mother pushes Jesus way beyond his present boundaries, and causes him to heed the voice of a lowly Gentile. What is it that can move our Lord beyond the boundaries he wishes to keep? The answer is always faith.
By the end of this Gospel, the Gospel mother catches up to the Mother of God regarding a mother’s voice being heard for the purpose of interceding on behalf of another. It’s an incredible story of faith. But it only comes around through persistence and determination. Mary of Nazareth would have been persistent with her Son at Cana if she had to. It wasn’t necessary. He already knew her faith was pure. The Gospel mother had to prove her faith through nagging, and Jesus loved it and accepted it.
Where do we stand in all this, with two mothers and a Divine Physician?
First, from the 1st reading: “For my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” It would be right and just to say that the Gospel mother whose daughter is dying would be a model on how to keep the lines of communication open between us and our Savior. She does it through direct petition; “Heal my daughter. Don’t give me this Israel-only stuff! Even the dogs eat the scraps that fall off the table of Israel. Heal my daughter!”
Jesus loves that. He responds to it. He can no longer remain silent. How many of us Catholics are afraid to speak to God like that? “Oh, I can’t do that. I don’t want to get God mad at me. I don’t want to use up all my big favors when I still have years to live. I might need one or two down the road.” My priestly advice… Talk to him in a direct tone at times. He loves it, and he doesn’t get offended.
And second, from the 2nd reading: “For God delivered all to disobedience, that he might have mercy on all.”
God’s mercy has many faces and many looks; forgiveness, of course; peace in heart and mind, is a form of his mercy; salvation itself, a result of his mercy; and healing, the touch of his mercy. As Mary gave the world the Son of Mercy, the Gospel mother brings out the healing mercy in Mary’s Son ahead of schedule for Gentiles. The message for us… bring forth God’s mercy in whatever form is needed through prayerful intercession for others and ourselves.
By the end of this Gospel, the Gospel mother looks more like the Mother of God than a mother who is silenced by God. Persistence in faith and prayer will cause this to happen. Join her brigade. The Brigade of Persistent Gentile Christians, and pray for all that is good.

Homily Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary, August 15, 2017

“The Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”
Talk about someone recognizing the goodness of God, and then proceeds to give proper adoration to his name and being. This is one of the countless marvelous parts of the life of Mary of Nazareth. The Almighty did so many great things for her, that it would be difficult to put them all into any segment of time, and begin to understand and embrace them into our faith lives.
Just today’s celebration alone, our Blessed Lady being assumed body and soul into heaven at the time of her death, is an event that goes far beyond greatness where not enough books could ever be written to describe this incredible act of God’s generosity.
And then there’s her Immaculate Conception, a great thing given to Mary to prepare her for the next great thing in her young life; giving birth to the Savior of the world. The Incarnation. And how many great things can we suspect happened to Mary as Jesus was growing up in Nazareth all those years before he left for the desert around the age of 30? How many great things did a Son do for his Mother that never made it into the Good Book?
Great thing after great thing after great thing. The word “great” can never be overused when it involves God and Mary. Not only is God great, but God made his Mother great too. Mary is a great Mother, because she’s not only the Mother of Jesus, the Anointed One, but she’s your Mother also, as well as mine.
We all have our earthly mothers whom God has used so gracefully, along with our earthly fathers, to give us the gift of life. But in Mary we all have in common a Heavenly Queen, whom God has done great things for. It’s right there in Luke’s Gospel. And I pray that you do the same as I; accepting her 100,000 percent as your spiritual Mother. She loves you like she loved her Son. If we were crucified, she would hold our dead bodies in her arms also. She prays for us as she prayed for her Son as he underwent his Passion. And, like any good mother, she keeps us on our spiritual toes, pointing us always toward the worship and adoration of her Son, as she did the same.
In the Assumption of Blessed Mary, the Lord has accomplished the greatest of all his great things extended to this one Jewish Lady from an obscure northern village in ancient Israel. The Assumption of Mary is an event that is not distant from us, where we say what happened at the time of Mary’s death is so far above and beyond us. We are most certainly not disconnected from that holy moment and holy act of God given to Mary.
That’s like saying we have nothing to do with the Red Sox because we can’t play baseball the way they can. Yea, we can go out in the backyard and play catch. We can play wiffle ball on the street or in some rundown park. But their ability to play the game is so far above and beyond ours, that we can think we have nothing to do with them. When in fact, the role of a fan and supporter is a central role in the success of the team. Do you know how difficult it would be for the Red Sox to play game after game in a very long season with no fans in the stands.? Their egos wouldn’t be able to deal with it. They would pay for our tickets if it came to that.
And so it is with Mary being assumed into heaven, the one who has no ego, but perfect humility. This great thing God did for his Mother touches our lives, and in many more ways than being a fan in the stands. Because what God did for Mary at the end of her life, he will do for us at the end of time. We just have to wait a little longer, and be more patient.
We honor this most blessed Lady of Heaven with all the Christian joy we can call forth from our hearts. The Lord has done great things for her. Things that impact our eternal well-being.
May the one assumed body and soul into heaven continue to pray for us on our journey home. And may she pray also for our world to turn to her Son, who is generous in doing great things for those for whom he died.

Homily 19th Sunday Ordinary Time Cycle A August 13, 2017

This Gospel is certainly one of the more action-filled, gripping events in the lives of Jesus and his Apostles. You have to love a Gospel story and readings where the imagery of our relationship with the Lord is so strong in both message and effect. I offer for your spiritual pondering a couple of those images.
First, I get asked at times if God will test us in some way, to find out if our faith is solid or weak. I answer that it may be the case. But any testing, if there is any, if not for the Lord to gain any knowledge about what’s going on inside of us. Any testing, for those who see their relationship with God in such a way, is for the purpose of deepening our present faith. Remember, the most natural path of our faith in Christ is the path of deepening, whereas the most unnatural path is that of weakening.
So, is Jesus testing the Apostles when, at the start of this Gospel, he sends them in a boat – by themselves – to the other side of the pond? Actually, the Sea of Galilee is a large body of water with a geographical setting where the wind and storms can come out of nowhere and take a boatload of Apostles by surprise. Is Jesus testing them by sending them out there on their own, knowing that Peter and Andrew, James and John are experienced fishermen who are comfortable on the seas? Is the Lord doing this to test if they will go to the other side without him, or is he offering them the chance to walk away from him?
Legitimate questions, but they miss the greater point. The greater point, that still resonates today, is that any type of separation from Christ, be it momentary or for years on end, is fraught with danger. We are not to travel this journey across the sea alone, and the Lord on his part makes certain he does not leave our corpses floating in the water. And that takes trust. One of the more fundamental parts of our faith in Jesus is that we trust he is always beside us, especially when it feels like he isn’t.
I don’t think Jesus was testing the 12 to see if they would leave him. If that thought was in his mind, he would have asked them straight out, “Do you want to leave?” The same way he does to them in the Bread of Life discourse in John, chapter 6. So, this image of separation from the Lord while crossing the storm-filled events of our lives, are events of trusting more than testing. The test may or may not be there for us, depending on how each of us sees this part of our spiritual lives, but trusting in his abiding presence is the greater image here.
And second, there’s the image of the rescue of Peter outside the boat, and the rest of them inside the boat. One is sinking, the others are getting battered by waves.
Remember the Old Testament story of the golden calf, where God said to Moses, “You better head back down the mountain old man, because they’re in a state of revelry and profound sinfulness?” The movement of that famous story, the movement of Moses coming to the rescue before it’s too late, it mirrors the movement of Jesus in this Gospel. While praying on the mountain alone, the Father must have said to the Son, “Beloved Son, this prayer session needs to be interrupted so you can catch up to the 12 in their boat and save them from the approaching storm. And you’re gonna have to walk on water to catch up to them.”

This image of rescue is twofold: first, that God loves us so much, that he will do the impossible for us when we need it most, such as walking on water. I’m sure Jesus has walked on water for us many times, saving us with his mercy and forgiveness. This is a tough image, though. The impossible part of Jesus catching up to them while walking on water happens before death occurs to the 12. He literally saves their physical lives. God still needs them for the building up of his future Church. For us, the seemingly impossible of gaining a sense of peace and comfort may come to us after the death of someone we know and love. That’s an example of Jesus saving us from the weakening of our faith as a result of the loss of a loved one.
And second, this image of rescue shows the essential importance of remaining in the Church. The boat is the Church. There are cultural storms that continually batter the Church. The definition of God-sanctioned marriage is one of them today, the definition of which is found in Matthew, chapter 19, where Jesus is very clear on what constitutes Marriage.
The boat is the Church. Peter leaves the boat. Why does he feel the need to leave the boat to get to Jesus? Jesus is already coming to them. Peter doesn’t need to try to show off, do a dance in the endzone, and upstage the rest of them. The image of staying in the boat, which is big enough for every person God created, cannot be overstated.
Many have left the boat, thinking they can walk on water. We’re not ducks. Human beings were not made to walk on water. Stay in the big boat where it’s safe with her solid teachings, because outside the boat we’ll find human ideologies that will destroy our faith in Jesus Christ.
And, do not be afraid to invite others back to the boat where they belong. This is called evangelization. By doing so, you may do the impossible like Christ; help save a soul from sinking in the deep.
It is a fascinating and gripping event on the high seas of northern Israel. Is the Lord testing them by sending them across the sea alone, to see if they will leave? Or, is trusting in his presence the greater image and statement? And, the rescue. He’s already done the impossible rescue of defeating death for our future benefit. In his love for us he will continue to do lesser impossible things than Resurrection, for nothing is greater than an empty tomb. And the message is always, “Stay in the boat. It is good that we are here.”