Homily for Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Leviticus 13: 1-2, 44-46; Corinthians 10: 31 – 11: 1; Mark 1: 40-45

Hearing the first reading for today’s liturgy, how many of us are thinking, “Gee, this sounds familiar!” Now, leprosy, as experienced by the Jews of Moses time, of even the time of Jesus, was and umbrella term, that covered a whole slew of skin diseases. There were people who might develop a severe skin rash or infection, that would be considered leprosy, but that the sufferer could recover from. We see in the Book of Leviticus, that there was a ritual that had to be followed for that recovered person to perform in order to be readmitted into the community. Unfortunately, there were a lot of people who developed actual leprosy, the disease we associate with Damian of Molokai and his people; with Mother Theresa of Kalkuta in India. It was back then an incurable disease, a living death sentence, a disease that made a sufferer an outcast from his or her community forever. We may be able to identify a little; maybe a lot, with the fear that might strike a family, a community, a people, when a deadly, unseen disease threatens our health, our lives.


And maybe, like the people of Jesus time, we raise our eyes up to heaven and cry out “Where is God, with all this fear, this illness, with all this death! I am no theologian, who can give a deep thought that explain all this. What I can say is this; God is with us! His Spirit is with the scientists, who are finding and developing the vaccines to keep us safe. Jesus Christ is with the doctors, the nurses, the hospital staff, who care for our loved ones who may be ill, putting their own lives at risk. And the Spirit is within each one us, inspiring us to comfort a person going through hard times, to give of our time, talents, and treasure, to help those out of work, struggling with to keep a roof over their heads. And Jesus is with anyone who reaches out us, when we feel this pandemic weighing down on us.


I have a story to tell. One of my favorite saints is Francis of Assisi, there is a story of him and an encounter with a leper. Francis was dedicated to caring for lepers, as his brother friars shared that same dedication. In this shelter they had for housing local lepers, they would feed them, wash them, make them as comfortable as possible. Now, there was this one leper who did not appreciate the quality of care they were trying to provide them. He would swear at the friars, calling them incompetents, and some other words that should be mentioned in public. Francis heard about this, and went to meet with the leper. When he entered the room he was in, he gave his usual greeting; “Peace be with you! “ “Peace?” The leper snarled, “How can I know peace when you send me brothers who cannot help!” “Well” Francis replied, “I am here now, How may I serve you?” The leper said “I stink! I need to be bathed!” So, Francis ordered a tub of warm water be prepared; with fragrant herbs added. He lowered the leper into the water and to began to wash him. And wherever his hand touched the leper’s skin, the leprosy disappeared! The leper was so moved by the miracle, he went to the friars, and begged their forgiveness for the way he treated them. He was said to have lead a very holy life from that time on!

In myriad of ways, Jesus reaches out to touch us, to comfort us, to heal us in whatever way we need it. He, in turn, expects us to share that grace with anyone else in need that may cross our path. God is with us, in many mysterious ways! Rejoice, and be at peace!

2021 AD begins!

The first day of 2021 is almost over! Outside our apartment window, I can hear rain falling. A storm is sweeping over us! It has been a quiet day, dinner was leftovers from an earlier meal. I have been sending “Happy New Year” to relatives and friends over Messenger and Facebook! Now I am wondering what the year 2021 has to bring.

The pandemic is still roaring across the country! I have been fortunate to be able to work at home, earning an income and maintaining my health benefits. But after all this time working my computer, on a folding card table, it is getting old! I miss coworkers, a change of scenery. And I am sure my wife would love to get my workstation out of her living room!

My ministry as a Deacon has sort of become more internal. I do get to assist at Mass once a month and am able to preach. But the parish congregations are sparse, social distancing and mask wearing are mandatory. Virtual meetings and prayer gatherings are becoming the new normal. Yes, I am a Zoomer!

As year 2020 comes to close, and year 2021 is just getting started, things do not look that great! Besides the already mentioned pandemic, there are other issues affecting the nation and the world at large. In this country, we have just been through a largely divisive elections season. And the the results are still being challenged by factions among our politicians. The question of U.S. democracy surviving has been raised.

Within our Catholic Church, there are signs of cracks in the Bark of St. Peter! Persons who claim to be loyal to the Papacy, are questioning the legitimacy of the current Pope! The Church is still struggling to justly react to child sexual abuse. And the Church has to deal with issues of women’s role within it’s structure; the role of the laity in Church governance. And among all other issues, are the questions about how we are to be Church in the world.

And sadly, the discussion about the above matters, both secular and religious, has been quite divisive (to put it mildly)! The internet, the World Wide Web, blogs, Facebook, Tweeter; gives everyone an unfettered platform to argue, sometimes violently.

We have forgotten that we are called by Jesus to love one another, even those we call our enemies! We need to return some sort of civility to the discussions. There may never be a total accommodation, but at least we can part, recognizing that while we may disagree, we are still part of the same community!

This blog has been silent for a long time. I cannot say I will always be able to overcome this writer’s block, but I will try! I will try to be civil and respectful in my writing. Let’s see what 2021 brings! Blessings!!

“Unto Us a Child is Given!”

Merry Christmas! Although, this has been the most, shall we say, “unique” Christmas Day we have ever had. There have been Christmas Days we have celebrated during times of conflict, hard economic times, times of disasters, both as individuals, families, communities, and nations! But never, in my memory, have we a time of such as this Corvid pandemic!

We are in grave situation that affects the whole world. Millions of people have been stricken! Millions have died! Economies have gone south, thousands unemployed! And our political leaders seem incapable of breaking out of their ideological strait jackets; arguing, stonewalling, while millions suffer. And we are all getting worn down by it all. It is coming to a point where saying, “Merry Christmas;” sounds very hollow.

Yet, for the Church, the community of believers, this day the cry goes out “Rejoice!” For “ unto us a child is given;”on this day God fulfilled His Promise to send a Savior, His Son! On this day, we are reminded that God has not left us alone, He is with us in our times of suffering, of doubt, of feeling hopeless! We may not be able to acknowledge His Presence, but Jesus is with us, around us, within us. He shares His Spirit through Scripture, prayer and other people we come in contact with! He shares Himself in the Eucharist, Holy Communion, Bread for the hard journey, whether within ourselves or without, that we are on!

So this day, whether it is clear and sunny or cloudy and stormy; remember what this day is truly about. Rejoice!! For “unto us a child is given!”

Gaudete Sunday, “Rejoice!”

Today is called “Gaudete Sunday;” it comes in the middle of Advent. “Gaudete” which is a Latin the that translates into “Rejoice.” The penitential season of Advent is almost over! So, Gaudete! Rejoice!


But I can almost hear the thoughts, the whispers, the outraged complaints! “Rejoice? Are you kidding me? We are in a world wide pandemic! Cases of COVID are surging again! Millions have gotten sick world wide! Over a million have died! Businesses have in this country, have closed, people have been laid off. The economy is suffering! Rejoice? There is turmoil in our government, our politics. The country is sharply divided, people cannot agree to disagree civilly; the word “secession” has been voiced! In the land of Jesus and John the Baptist, the Children of Abraham are each other’s throats! Even in our churches, there is fierce disagreements over liturgy, doctrine, pastoral approaches! How can we rejoice!?!

To which the Church responds, in the words of St. Paul; “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks,…”. Because God has been fulfilled His promises to His people. He has sent His Son, the Messiah, Jesus Christ; who showed us how we are live as children of God. By His death and resurrection, he has broken the chains of sin and death, and freed all of us. We are all now children of God, brothers and sisters, members of the Body of Christ. What the prophet Isaiah proclaimed in the first reading “The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners,…!” It is a mission call for all of us, guided by the Holy Spirit!


So rejoice, because we have been given new life in Christ! Rejoice, because Christ is still with us, as the Word, in the Good News we read and hear proclaimed. Rejoice, because Christ is with us in the Eucharist. Rejoice, because Christ is with each us here and now, during these troubled times; that are in our world, and also within us, as we try come to terms with the stresses of life during a pandemic! And above all, rejoice, because Jesus has promised to come again, to bring all us into the Kingdom of his Father. So I say again, Rejoice!,

Giving Thanks!

Happy Thanksgiving!,

Alleluia!

I will thank the Lord with all my heart, in the meeting of the just and the assembly. Great are the works of the Lord, to be pondered by all who delight in them

You give food to those who revere you; you are mindful of your covenant forever. You have shown mighty works to your people by giving them the heritage of nations!” Psalm 111

Thanksgiving 2020! This will be a holiday that few will ever forget! A national holiday taking place during a deadly worldwide pandemic, in the midst of political turmoil, and a worsening economy! Yet, we would do well to remember this holiday, it’s roots and how it has developed. And why we should celebrate it.

The first recorded celebration of a day of Thanksgiving was said to be by the small group of Pilgrims at Plymouth colony. We forget that they were a religious group, dissenters of the Church of England, persecuted by officials of the Crown. They came to America, not for economic reasons, but for religious freedom. They found their way to Massachusetts Bay by accident. They had to build a settlement by scratch. Their first harvests were poor, many died by starvation and illness. They had a good harvest in 1621, and declared a day of thanksgiving to God for it. Yes, there was feasting, but also prayer.

During the Civil War, shortly after the Union victory at the Battle of Gettysburg, Lincoln declared a national day of giving thanks to God for preserving the Union. President Ulysses S. Grant signed an Act of Congress that made Thanksgiving a National Holiday.

The current pandemic is challenging us as a country; we long to be with family, yet, we need to do all we can to keep each other safe. That may mean being physically separated from each other. But whether we are able to communicate through the Web, by telephone, or by old fashion letter; we must not forget that we are united as a family.

And we must remember that we are all united in Jesus Christ. We are all tightly embraced by the Father. And He will give us the strength, the hope, and the faith to get through this. For this, we should give thanks!

“Most high, all powerful, all good Lord! All praise is yours, all glory, all honor. And all blessing.” The Canticle of Brother Sun – St. Francis of Assisi

Happy Feast Day of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, Patroness of the Secular Franciscan Order

“Father, you helped Elizabeth of Hungary to recognize and honor Christ in the poor of this world. Let her prayers help us help us to serve our brothers and sisters in time of trouble and need.

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.”

From the Franciscan Supplement for Liturgy of Hours.

In times like the ones we are going through right now, we need St. Elizabeth’s example to inspire us; and her intercessions to strengthen us!

Feathered Parishioners

Waiting!

Feathered parishioners waiting for the 4:00 PM Mass to begin last Saturday at St. Peter’s Church in Plymouth, MA!

“All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small, all things wise and wonderful, the Lord God made them all.

Each little flower that opens, each little bird that sings, God made their glowing colors, and made their tiny wings.

All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small, all things wise and wonderful, the Lord God made them all.

All Things Bright and Beautiful, Text by Cecil Frances Alexander

Homily – Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

A long time ago, when I was in college, a group of us decided to go on a trip to climb one of the White Mountains. We rented a cabin and got an early start in the morning. I soon learned that I was not in shape for mountain climbing! I soon learned that I was not in shape for mountain climbing! I sat down on a rock outcropping, and told my companions to go own ahead, I would wait for them when they came back down. My classmates were not going to allow it. They literally dragged me up to the summit! And what a view awaited us, the beauty of the White Mountains range, it was breathtaking, it was a spiritual experience.

In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah is revealing a special mountain, the mountain of the Lord of the hosts. He calls on the people to climb the mountain, to reach the summit, and experience the joy of the Lord. There is promise of healing, the promise of a feast! Something like the feast Jesus described in his parable about the king and the wedding feast. He tells of a powerful king who is having a wedding feast for his son. He invites the important people of his kingdom to come, but they “diss” the king, they insult him by not coming. The king makes those people pay for their insults. And he then calls the common folk to come to the feast.

Many writers of the spiritual life use the metaphor of one climbing the mountain of the Lord, striving reach the summit. Climbing a mountain can be hard, very hard some. The same with striving to live the Gospel, it can be hard, full of challenges spiritually! Some of us may not bother, just stay where we are, live where we are. But if we open our hearts to the Holy Spirit, we can feel the pull to move on, we will have Jesus walking besides us helping us forward. Every moment we take the time to read and reflect on Scripture; every moment we enter into prayer, every time we come here to worship, to receive the Eucharist and experience intimately the presence of the Lord; we continue the journey upward, towards the summit. There have been those who gone before us, some living, some deceased, who have recorded the experience of their own climb, who can teach, but mostly inspire us onward. Jesus Christ, the King, calls out to us, “Behold, I have prepared my banquet, everything is ready, come to the feast!”