Homily for the Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Rough seas ahead!

1st Kings 19: 9a, 11-13a; Romans 9: 1-5; Matt 14: 22-33

I grew up in the North Shore of Massachusetts. Now, while I was a young boy, my father and one of my uncles’s co-owned a small, wooden outboard motor boat. We would bring it up with us to the Sebago lakes region, where we usually rented adjoining cabins. Now they also used to take the boat out into Lynn Harbor, where they, myself, my brothers and cousins would sometimes go fishing. Now one Saturday, it started out to be a beautiful day. We were just at the entrance of the harbor, almost into the ocean, when suddenly, this squall hit! I mean the waves started getting very big, the boat was bouncing all over the place, as my father and uncle tried to get the boat to an anchorage. After one big bounce, the rear bench we kids were on, suddenly broke, and we were sprawled on the bottom of the boat. What had been an adventure, was turning into something very scary. We finally made it safely to the Nahant town dock. But I will never forget how scared; how really scared I was.

In today’s Gospel, we see the disciples going on ahead of Jesus, by boat on the Sea of Galilee, they also, run into very rough weather, they too were being tossed about by the waves. The fishermen of the group were probably concerned, the landlubbers in the group were probably scared out of their wits. On top of everything else, there is this figure moving towards them through the stormy water, so they think, it’s got to be a ghost, right? Then Jesus calls out “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Now, Peter, wanting proof, asks Jesus to command him to come out and meet him on the water. He probably also wants to show Jesus that he has the right stuff, unlike these landlubbers. And Jesus calls him to come out to him. And he is doing it, up to a point. He suddenly realizes he is walking on water, in the middle of a squall, and he thinks “Holy “bleep!!”; what am I doing out here!!” He begins to sink into waves, and Jesus has to rescue him! So what happened? He had begun to looked at the storm around him, losing sight of Jesus, and giving into his fears! What was it Jesus said to the disciples when they first saw him, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”

We are living in frightening times! We see a threat to our health, to our lives that appears invisible, but is very, very real. We see an economy that was once the envy of the world, come crashing down. We have people out there in our community, who are afraid, because they do not know how they will pay bills, buy food, pay rent or mortgage! No matter how much we may deny it, I am willing to bet that everyone one of us feels something of the fear that is abroad in this country, in this world.

“Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught Peter, and said to him, O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” Peter ran into trouble because he was not focused on Jesus! We can give into fear, if we are not focused on Jesus Christ, the Son of God! We need to become aware of His Presence in our lives, in every moment. We need to really listen and focus on His Word! We are all called to look to the altar, where we see ordinary bread and wine, that will soon become the Body and Blood of Christ! And we will receive Him, and be strengthened by Him for the times that ahead. The problems may not disappear, they may get better, they may get worst. But we are not alone in our struggles, we not alone with our fear; Jesus is with us in this journey. He will always be with us, supporting us in the midst of whatever storm we are in!

“At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”

“Where is the Newborn King…?”

On this January 6, 2019, many Christians will be in church, celebrating the Epiphany of the Lord. We are celebrating the moment, when three magi, wise men, came from the east and proclaimed to the leaders of Jerusalem that the birth of the Messiah had been revealed to them. They had traveled from a far land, to see with their own eyes, this wonder. Their belief in this revelation was so strong, that they were willing to make this risky journey, guided only by a unique star, to a foreign land. And the Gospel gives no indication that they were disappointed at what they found. Finding a small child, with his peasant mother, in a simple village house; they “did him homage.”

We are all seeking that intimate encounter with Jesus Christ, with our God and Savior. Sometimes, that life journey may take many years; sometimes, the encounter can happen in just an instant. We find that we need to give up our own preconceived images of Christ; let the Holy Spirit guide us on our journey; and be open to what the Scriptures will reveal to us. And above all, open ourselves to the experience, the wonder of the Eucharist; which in a real sense, is food for the journey we are on.

There have been others, who have also been on this journey before, who, by sharing their own experiences, can help guide us on ours. Some of my favorites, Francis and Clare of Assisi, who made living the Gospel of Jesus Christ an intimate part of their lives. Teresa of Avila, founder of monasteries and mystic. Caryll Houselander, laywoman, artist and mystic; who had a vision of Christ in every passenger of a train she was on. Thomas Merton, author, monk, and mystic. Despite being in a monastery, he was always on a journey, seeking our Risen Lord. And finally, I would recommend Sister Wendy Beckett, who recently passed away. Hermit, art historian, media star; she brought a fresh look at art, with both a scholar’s and mystic’s eye.

I am still very much on journey, seeking the Lord. I have sometimes gone off course, sometimes felt like not going any further. But always, I feel that tugging to continue on; something many pilgrims feel, to finish the journey. I still am not sure what I will find; I have faith that when I truly see the Lord, with eyes of faith; I will bow and do him homage.

Source of Life

In the Scriptures for this past Sunday, we read from the Book of Wisdom, that God creates life, only life. He meant for humanity to be immortal. It is only because humanity allowed evil into its hearts, that death came in.

In the reading from the Gospel of Mark; we see Jesus as the source of healing and life. A woman needed only to touch his cloak, and she was healed of her illness. Jesus restores a little child to life. And he will, by his death and resurrection, will free all from the power of death.

But death can take many forms. There is physical death, and then is the slow death of one’s spirit, one’s soul. Sometimes, the harsh circumstances of life can grind us down. So much so, that we begin to to feel dead inside to the beauty of creation; the love of others; the love of God.

It is in moments like this, that we need to turn to Jesus, through Word and Sacrament; through prayer and meditation. In encountering Jesus Christ, we encounter the healer, both of body and soul. Now this does may not mean an instantaneous healing. But if we remain open to the Spirit of Christ, working within us; we may feel a little more peace, a little more hope. And a new dawn will break open for us.

Tough Love!

Love thy neighbor untitledThere has been a school of thought that when raising our children, we need to be strict, uncompromising about standards of behavior. This “tough love” school was particularly popular some years ago. And among many parents, it still is.

I want to talk about another type of “tough” love. The type of love that Jesus calls us to have for one another. I have been deeply troubled by what has been going on both politically and socially in our nation. Racism is raising it’s ugly head. Splits between poor and rich; blue collar and white collar; liberal and conservative, are becoming more fractious and angry.

This is not completely a new thing, one needs only read about the life and incidents that occurred leading up to the Civil War. In 1854, abolitionist Senator Charles Sumner was beaten by a Southern Congressman, on the floor of the Senate Chamber itself. Fast forward, we have a Democratic Congresswoman calling for the harassment of any supporter of President Trump. And his supporters are doing the same to anyone who opposes his policies. And the social media of both sides are egging their followers on. And the country appears to be fracturing.

Jesus taught that there are two prime commandments from which all other commandments come from: You shall love your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind. And the second commandment: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. This is the “tough” love I am speaking about. A love we experience when we open our hearts, our inner selves to God. A love that asks us to change, but also to accept who we are at that moment. And if we can accept ourselves because God does; so must we accept other persons, because God loves them too. They are due at the least respect; even if they do not offer it in return. We can never dehumanize another, turning them into an object of our anger.

Now that does not mean we just standby and remain silent. We are still called to the prophetic role of speaking truth to power. We speak out against those who spread bigotry and hatred of others. But we do not use their own tactics. Look tothe work of Martin Luther King Jr., and Dorothy Day, their movements used protests, and civil disobedience; but using non-violence, in word and action, to win people to their side.

So we are challenged by the Spirit, to be faithful to the commandment to love our neighbors; even when they are being asses. Gospel love is “tough” love.

The Catholic Worker – 85th Anniversary!

CW

Dot and PeteOn May 1, in the year 1933, a Socialist group was holding a May Day demonstration in New York City. The Great Depression had the nation in it’s grip. The demonstrators were protesting very strongly against the bankers, and capitalists they blamed for this economic disaster. On the edges of the demonstration, a small group of men and women were selling copies of a newspaper, for a penny. It was “The Catholic Worker,” and it heralded the beginning of a Catholic social movement by the same name. Co-founded by Dorothy Day, a Catholic convert, single mother, reporter, author and socialist; and Peter Maurin, former religious brother, philosopher, and traveling vagabond. They introduced a radical way of living the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

They established “houses of hospitality,” where the poor would be received as friends, brothers and sisters, fed and given shelter. They spoke out for the poor, powerless and downtrodden. They and their followers, down through the years, have worked to make the world a place “where it was easier to be good.”

The Catholic Worker continues this work, through autonomous Houses of Hospitality scattered throughout the country and the world. They have a different measure of success. If only one person is welcomed, clothed, and fed, it has been a good day. If they have gathered together for prayer, to reflect and discuss what it means to radically love the Gospel of Jesus Christ, it has been a good day.

The Catholic Worker continues, inspired by the words of Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin. May we all be inspired by them.

First Sunday of Lent – 2017


Since last Wednesday, “Ash Wednesday,” the Catholic Church, along with other Christian churches, began a 40 day period of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving.  This leads up to Holy Week, and the commemoration of the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Today, the First Sunday of Lent, the sanctuary of our church is decorated in somber, purple; with no flowers.  We process in, not with hymns, but chanting prayers, begging for God’s mercy; and for the intercession of the saints.

The scripture readings for today, first tell of how our first parents, gave into temptation, and brought sin and death into the world.  Then  we hear the Gospel, the “Good News,” of how Jesus resisted temptation, and began the journey that would lead to our liberation.  

So how will we spend these days of Lent; will we intensify our spiritual lives? Will we “repent and believe the Good News?”  Will we be lights to a world so threatened by darkness, by hate, and violence.  Let us “prepare the way of the Lord, and be witnesses of the power of His Love!

Feast of All Saints – 2016

Blessed be God, in His angels and in His Saints 

Today, the  Church recognizes all those unknown individuals, unknown,  except by the Father, as saints.  These are those persons who strived to lead a lives of holiness; living the Gospel life.  Their struggles and their successes, maybe seen by only a few; still can provide quiet inspiration for us all.

Passionate for the Way of the Lord!

fireThe parish in which I serve as a deacon has been blessed with a strong attendance at our Sunday services.  However, a good number of our congregants are getting on in years; there will come a time when they will no longer be with us.  And I do not see many young people joining us.  This situation is becoming common throughout this country; this is true in Europe.  There has been a call for a “New Evangelization;” but what does that mean?

There is already out there a plethora of programs, “how to” books, DVD’s and CD’s; all offering an approach that is sure to draw new members.  Most are based on experiences of pastors, lay teachers, and other speakers.  And many of them are fine, and may offer a short term solution.  However, no approach will offer long term success, if it does not awaken a passion for God; a passion for the Word and Sacrament; a passion to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ, right here,right now.  To ignite that passion, and more importantly, sustain it; we must open ourselves the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ.  Have a passion for reading and meditating on Scripture frequently, let it speak to us, let it excite us, let it inspire us.  Then, be passionate in prayer, both as an individual, and as part of a worshiping Eucharistic community.  Because, only in Christ, will we experience the great love  of the Father for ea h of us.  Only in Christ, will we find the strength to change our lives.  And through the Holy Spirit, will we receive the grace which set our hearts on fire.

It is then that we will have the passion to go out and “make disciples of all nations.”  However, most of us will not be called to preach with words, but by actions.  Like Francis of Assisi, we must have within us, a passion for healing the sick; giving care to those stressed out by life; welcoming the stranger.  In other words, we must be passionate about giving mercy to a suffering, alienated society.  We may be called in many different and various ways to do this; we may not be very good at it at first, but it only takes small steps, that will grow into bigger steps.

The first followers of Jesus, inflamed by the Holy Spirit, were passionate for living and proclaiming the Good News.  And they drew thousands into the faith.  Let us have the courage to become flame, to become passionate for Christ; and see what miracles we can achieve!

Passionate

Burn And Beat Back the Darkness

Burn

 

The tragic events of the past few weeks, give the impression of a creeping darkness enveloping our world, our country, our communities, our very lives.  And we appear to be powerless to beat it back.

The darkness of terrorism is creeping into our world; whether individual acts of terror, like in Orlando, Florida; or the organized terrorist attack at the airport of Istanbul and the restaurant in Bangladesh.  Violence is casting a pall over the world.  And it is causing another type of darkness to grow and spread; the darkness of fear and intolerance.  We have politicians painting one ethnic group, one religious group, as the breeding ground for terrorists, and calling for denying them the human rights that belong to every human being.  We see citizens attacking both immigrants and native born, all because of the faith they subscribe to.  We see fear mongering, name calling, and personal attacks becoming standard practice among our politicians; and causing a darkness to creep into our political process.  And the darkness is creeping into the hearts of all us; as we see a world plunging into chaos.  The stress of daily life, in uncertain economic times, is putting out the light of hope; leaving depression, sadness, darkness.

In times such as these I find my hope in words that, though written thousands of ago, still have the power to move my heart, to set my heart aflame:

“In the beginning, the Word already existed; the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  From the very beginning the Word was with God.  Through him God made all things; not one thing in all creation was made without him.  The Word was the source of life, and this life brought light to people.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never put it out.”  (John 1: 1-5)

In Christ, when I; when any of us, encounter Him in Word and Sacrament, hope can rekindled in our hearts.  And if Christ can enflame our hearts, we in turn must share that flame of hope with others, and dispel the darkness.

There is story about a Desert Father, one who spent most his life as hermit, who was approached by a disciple for guidance.  The disciple had been fervent in prayer, diligent in fasting and meditating on the Scriptures.  He wanted to know what more he needed to do?  The Desert Father raised his hands over his head, and spread his fingers.  Each finger became a tongue of fire.  He said: “You can become flame.”  When we have an encounter with Christ, we are called to share that experience with all those we come in contact with.  We are to share the light of Christ; we are to become flame and light to the darkness around us.  Let us burn with the fire of Christ.

 

Burn

Feast of All Saints

“After this I had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue.  They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.  They cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne, and from the Lamb.”  (Revelation 7: 9-10)

All SaintsToday, the Christian world, especially the Catholic Church, celebrates the Feast of All Saints.  The Church remembers all those who are saints; those officially recognized by the Church and those who are unknown but to God.  The Church believes that when we die, our souls are in need of purification before we can enter into heaven.  This purification takes place in purgatory.  There are those, however, because of how well they lived the Gospel life, are admitted into heaven; come face to face with God, and experience perfect happiness.  These individuals are considered saints.

How does one become a saint; the Gospel reading for today’s Mass, the Beatitudes shows a starting point for one to begin the process.  So is living the two greatest commandments, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the greatest and the first commandment.  The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  (Matt 22: 37-39).  To become a saint is no easy task; it requires a radical interior change, a conversion.  Trying to do it on our own is impossible.  But we are not alone, God is with us.  If we open our hearts to him, he will give us the strength, the grace, to achieve the goal of sainthood.  Jesus Christ, coming to us in the Eucharist, gives us the food for this journey; the Holy Spirit gives us the guidance, the inspiration to continue the journey.

There is no measure that will tell us how successful we are.  We can only continue to strive to live the teachings of Jesus, to strive, through prayer, to be in a close relationship with God.  And we must accept the fact, that there will be times when we will fail.  There will days of dryness, disappointments, feelings of failure.  It is at moments like these, that the lives of saints can be a source of inspiration for us.  In particular, those biographies that reveals both the successes and failures of a saint trying to live the Gospel; because we can identify with them.  We can learn how they overcome their obstacles, and begin thinking about starting again.

I like to think of the communion of saints, something like those crowds of people gathered at the end of a race.  They have run their race; and now they are calling out to us, urging us on to the finish line.

“Who can ascend the mountain of the Lord?

or who may stand in his holy place?

One whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean,

who desires not what is vain.

He shall receive a blessing from the Lord,

a reward from the God his savior.

Such is the race that seeks him

that seeks the face of the God of Jacob.  “(Psalm 24)

Finish Line