Deacon Bob’s Homily for the 28th Sunday of Ordinary Time – Cycle A, 2017

Here is my homily for the weekend. God bless all!

 

28th Sunday of Ordinary Time – Cycle A

October 14/15, 2017

Isaiah 25: 6-10a; Philippian 4: 12-14; Matthew 22: 1-14

 

“Many are invited; few are chosen.” (Mt 22: 14)

It is tempting to say “Yes” to an invitation to a party, or a gala, or a banquet, when someone says, “Come on in! You will have a great time! It’ll cost you nothing. It is on me.”

God invites us to the heavenly banquet and it is easy to respond, “Yes, God. I will go. I will sing your praises and bask in your love for all eternity” but it is more difficult to live a life that gets us ready. Jesus asks us today if we are willing to prepare ourselves for heaven, whether or not we are willing to prepare ourselves, or do we just want to show up and expect to be admitted? Are we humble enough to acknowledge our need to prepare ourselves for the rewards of heaven, or are we content to remain in our pride living lives for ourselves and not for others.

Pride or humility? Which will we choose? Which garment will you put on?

The garment that will get us into heaven is the garment of humility. Those who have taken off the garment of pride, arrogance, anger, and violence and put on the garment of humility and peace are fit for heaven.

Two weeks ago, our country witnessed again the results of pride, arrogance, and anger. I am referring to the shootings in Las Vegas. Killing, violence, terrorism, disrespect for human life – they all are the result of pride and arrogance. “How can you say that?” you may ask me. “Isn’t it the work of Satan, the effects of evil?” Yes, it is, but Satan’s methods are pride and arrogance and anger. Pride is at the root of every sin; anger at the root of every act of violence and killing.

When will it stop? When will WE stop this madness? It must end!

How can we end this disrespect for human life in our country? By creating new laws? Maybe, but Satan respects no law. We must end this disrespect for human life in our country if we expect to be admitted to the heaven banquet. We must put on the garment of humility, and come to understand that God’s love has been poured into all human life. We must come to understand that we are but the servants of this love, servants of God, and servants of each other. We are not the Masters of Death; we are Servants of Life! We must acknowledge that God loves life, and so must we.

If we are to be one of the chosen, we must put an end to killing, and to the anger and violence that reside in our hearts, an end to the madness that is a result of pride and arrogance.

We must rise in this country and demand an end to the killing around us and to the pride and arrogance within  us. With God’s help, we can do it. Satan uses us when we are proud. Do we want to be used by him? I hope not. Jesus once said, “Get behind me Satan!” and so must we.

We must do what we must do first of all in our own lives to place ourselves at the service of life, not bring about death. We must not directly take innocent human life. We cannot kill bystanders in acts of terrorism. We must not kill the unborn. We must not end the lives of the sick and the aged. We must not be complicit in killing of others by remaining silent. We must end war.

The madness of Las Vegas is Satan’s work; the result of his ability to delude us into thinking that some of us are more valuable than others, that human life is cheap and can be destroyed. Satan wants us to think that we are equal to God. What happened in Las Vegas was evil, the work of pride and arrogance.

How dare we allow the lives of others, lives God created, lives which God has invited to the heavenly banquet, to be destroyed?

God loves the person we dispose of. God cares about the person we condemn to death. God wants fullness of life for every unborn child. Will we put on the garment of humility, and think like God thinks or will we remain in our pride and be used? These are basic questions our nation needs to answer.

We must say, “Enough!” to the violence in our country and in our hearts. We must embrace life, not death; peace, not violence. We must end this madness, this disrespect for human life. We must reject Satan’s temptation to think of others as less important than us; as burdens rather than as gifts; as disposable rather than of infinite value.

We must end this madness, the madness we saw in Las Vegas. It begins with each of us looking at ourselves and asking, “Am I willing to confess the pride that is in my heart, the arrogance that exists there, and am I willing to do whatever is needed to root it out?”

Put on the garment that will get you into heaven, the garment of humility, the garment of respect for others, the garment of peace.

Stop the killing and respect life!

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for the 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle A, 2017

Here is my homily for the weekend.  God bless all!

24th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle A

September 16/17, 2017

Sir 27: 30-28:9; Rom 14: 7-9; Matt 18: 21-35

 

We heard in the Old Testament reading: “Forgive your neighbor’s injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven.” (Sir 28:2) Then, in the Gospel which I just proclaimed, Jesus tells us that not only must we forgive others, but we must forgive over and over again, always showing mercy, and the penalty for not doing so is quite severe.

Challenging for all of us to say the least! Jesus is asking a lot from us, but it is the mark of a true Christian to forgive and to show mercy. In fact, it is awfully hard to call yourself a Catholic Christian if you do not forgive, if you are not merciful, if you carry anger and revenge in your heart. The world is so full of anger and revenge, so unforgiving it seems, and Jesus expects more from us. So, we must ask ourselves the question, “How can I do what Jesus is asking me to do? What are the way?”

Centuries ago, St. John Damascene said there were five ways to forgive and to be forgiven.

The first way is the way of confession. We must admit and confess our own sins, to prepare us to forgive others. Going to confession is sufficient for God to free us from our sins. It also helps us become more merciful to others. It is good for our souls and it is good for the world because it frees us to become merciful to others. Monthly confession is good for everyone.

The second way is the way of decision. What I mean is, making a conscious decision, and intentional deliberate decision to forgive others who have harmed us, even if we don’t feel very forgiving. This is difficult because we have to face our anger and our desire for raw justice. When we are filled with anger, it is nearly impossible to forgive others or to be merciful. So when we decide to forgive, the first thing we face is our anger, hurt, and fear.  Jesus said that if we want to receive mercy and forgiveness, we must be willing to forgive others.

The third way is the way of prayer. Prayer from where? From the heart. If you have no other way at any particular time in your life, no opportunity for confession, not being able to show mercy because of the depth of your hurt and anger, then drop to your knees and beg God for a forgiving heart and a merciful attitude. Beg God!  Prayer from the heart reconciles us to God and to each other.

The fourth way is the way of almsgiving. You cannot buy your way into heaven, but giving alms is an act of mercy. We are merciful when we give to the needy. We atone for our sins when we take care of the poor. When we give alms, we are giving to Jesus who lives in the poor. It is an act of reconciliation.

The fifth way is the way of humility. Be humble before God and others. Humble yourself before God and your conscience will be free from the weight of your sins and you will be more merciful to others. It is easier when we are humble. It frees you from pride, which is the root of all sin. Remember the Gospel story of the publican and the Pharisee? The publican or tax collector knelt in the back of the temple, beating his chest and praying, “Be merciful to me, a sinner.” The Pharisee was up front, praying God and recounting all he did to follow the laws of his religion. Who went home forgiven?  Who experience God’s mercy? It was the humble one, not the Pharisee.

Confession; forgiving others; praying from the heart; almsgiving; humility. Which of these ways do you need to work on in your life?

Do you need to use the Sacrament of Reconciliation more frequently?

Do you need to work on being more forgiving because of the anger in your heart?

Do you need to pray more from your heart, or do you ignore your need for prayer and a relationship with God?

Do you need to be more generous with the poor, or are you like the ungrateful debtor in today’s Gospel?

Are you humble before God and others, or are you locked in pride?

A true Christian knows mercy and forgiveness by being merciful to others, by being humble, by acknowledging his own sins, by sharing what he has with others, and by praying constantly from the heart. These are the marks of a disciple of Jesus Christ. These are the ways we are reconciled with God and others. These are the roads to heaven. They are gifts from God, and we must use them.

 

 

 

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for the 20th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle A

Here is my homily for the weekend. God bless everyone.

20th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle A

August 19/20, 2017

Isaiah 56:1, 6-7; Romans 11:13-15, 29-32; Matthew 15: 21-28

 

How important is it to know God, the one true God? How important is it to approach God, to search him out, to believe in him, to have faith in him, to follow him?

Many people today believe that what is most important is whether or not you are a good person, whether or not you just do your best to get along with others, don’t violate any laws, don’t offend anyone. Many today are not really looking for God and searching him out, but are looking elsewhere for meaning and answers. They look to the world, created things, the moon and the stars, to “Mother Earth” and science and technology for answers, or even to secular philosophies in which they put their faith. In other words, many worship false gods.

We all do, actually, if we look at ourselves closely.

We must put our faith in the one true God. We must search for him, reach out to him. We must come to understand that searching for God, approaching God, asking him for what we need begging him to heal us and give meaning to our lives… this is what is most important. Our gospel today seems to indicate that in the end, what matters most is that we have faith in the one true God, that we search for him and beg him to heal us. That is more important than whether we are just good people, do the right things, follow the rules, and never offend anyone.

It is not that rules and being nice to others is unimportant, because they are important. They keep us united as a community in our efforts to live peaceful lives. They demonstrate to God and others that our faith has consequences and that to know God and believe in him demand change and the building of a peaceful community.

What is Jesus telling us, then, by his seemingly harsh rebukes of the Canaanite woman in the gospel? Jesus is saying, I believe, that what comes first is faith in God, being in relationship with the true God, seeking him out, and not false gods that we have put into our lives: the world, nature, money, sports, careers, and so on. We all have our false gods. WE must let them go and approach the one true God. The woman in today’s gospel shows us the importance of persevering in our search for and reaching out to God.

We must reach out for the living God, the one God, the true God. We must reach out to Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit so he can lead us to the Father to be healed. We must put our trust in him and not in the things of this world.

Many ask why there is so much despair and hopelessness in the world. They ask why so many people seem to be afraid. I think the reason is we have closed ourselves off from God’s love.

Too many of us don’t approach God and really believe he can heal our lives. If we don’t have faith in him then we are no longer open to his love. God is love. If we exclude God from our lives by replacing him with something created, then we are closed off from his divine love, and when we are close off from him his is love, we no longer are open to his love being poured into our hearts through faith in him. When that happens, we lose hope and become afraid. Yet this is exactly what so many people are choosing every day.

Without faith, hope, and love, we are lost. We lose our way. We become anxious and distressed.

The Canaanite woman in the gospel began to believe. She searched out God whom she recognized in the person of Jesus. She approached him. She begged him. She persisted in her search for healing. She had had false gods in her life, but when she heard Jesus, she put them aside. Her rudimentary faith led her to experience unwarranted, unmerited love from Jesus. Certainly, she had broken a lot of the rules and norms of Jewish law, and could in no way say she merited the miracle she needed. She was a pagan. She didn’t live right. Jesus’ sharp rebuke of her underscored the importance of knowing the true God and following him. Jesus said essentially that it does matter which religion you practice, that not all religions are equally true, but God’s love is available to anyone who believes and searches for him in faith. Jesus is saying clearly that is was her faith in him that brought her love and hope. It was Jesus, the Son of God, who would give meaning to her life and life to her daughter.

We must not fall into the trap of thinking we can abandon our faith in God and still be at peace, still have hope, still experience love. We must not replace God with something created. We must not have false gods. We must recognize in Jesus Christ the presence of the one true God, and turn to him, have faith in him, approach him, beg him every day to heal us, put ourselves at his feet in full awareness that we do not deserve his healing but we can expect it if we put ourselves into his hands. We must come to know that through faith, we open ourselves to divine love, for God is love, and through his love we can live in hope no matter what the circumstances of our lives may be.

Faith in God, experiencing God’s love, living in hope. This is the life of a disciple of Jesus. This must be how we live. Approaching God through Jesus, finding live through him, being healed, and finding reason for enduring hope.

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for the Solemnity of the Assumption

Happy Solemnity everyone. God bless all!

Solemnity of the Assumption

August 14/15, 2017

Humble and bold. Two words we don’t often associate in our minds. Humble and bold… we find them both in the person of Mary.

The humble virgin Mary, the Mother of God, docile to God’s will, God’s word, yet the most bold of all the witnesses of the Word made Flesh, of her Son and Lord, Jesus. Today, in the Assumption, we recall how she was assumed, body and soul, into heaven. This is what we celebrate today.

No, it was not Peter. No, it was not James or John or Paul who was the boldest yet most humble of all the witnesses of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. No, it was Mary, the Mother of God, for from her heart came these words: My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord! My spirit finds joy in God my savior for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant. The Almighty has done great things for me and holy is his name.

It was Mary who bore the most humble but bold witness to her Son. It was Mary who bore the Word of God in her heart and then conceived that Word in her womb, and then lived faithfully to be assumed into heaven for all eternity.

Only because of her faith in that Word that came to her, a Word she nurtured in her Immaculate Heart, was she then able to conceive and bear the Son of God, her creator and Savior, Jesus. Yes, she is the “God-bearer”, Theotokos, in Greek, as the Church Fathers in 431 professed at the Council of Ephesus, and the one who was assumed bodily into heaven, as defined by Pope Pius XII.

Mary kept close to her heart the Word made Flesh. She said, “Yes.” She said, “Fiat.” She said, “Let it be done to me.” St. Augustine would later write that Mary was more blessed for hearing God’s word and keeping custody of it in her heart than she was blessed because of the flesh she gave to her divine Son. Since this was true, Mary was able to stand by her Son as he died on the cross, stand by Him without staining her Immaculate Heart, and later enter body and soul into heaven to be with him. She knew it was by virtue of her faith in God’s Word that she had been able to conceive that Word in her womb, and it was by faith in that Word that she was able to give bold witness to her Son when he gave up his life on the Cross.

She who surpasses all of us in her sanctity and her fidelity, Mary, the Mother of God himself remains like us, a member of the Church, and a member of the Body of Christ her Son, and a witness to her Son’s death and resurrection.

You too are members of the Body of Christ.  You also carry God’s Word in your hearts and you are to be witnesses to that Word, to Jesus Christ. Just as St. Augustine spoke of Mary, St. Ambrose spoke of us when he wrote:  Blessed are you who have heard and believed; every soul that believes conceives and begets the Word of God. May Mary’s soul be in each of us to glorify the Lord. May the spirit of Mary be within each of us to exalt in God. (Commentary on Luke, CCL 14, 39-42)

You will be more blessed and find greater dignity in the Word you nourish in your hearts and profess with your lips than in any office you may bear. You are first, and most importantly, members of the Body of Christ. Never separate yourselves from this Body, from the Church! Never separate yourselves!

You cannot become witnesses to Jesus unless you first have welcomed the Word in your hearts, treasured it, nurtured it, obeyed it, followed it, and trusted it. Mary would not have become the Mother of God had she not first accepted and kept the Word of God in her Immaculate Heart. You cannot become witnesses to Jesus if you do not first hold in purity of your heart the Word entrusted to you. Mary could not have endured the passion and death of her Son and then enter gloriously into heaven without cradling in her heart the Word that had come to her. You will not be able to endure the trials and difficulties of life without first knowing and nurturing and loving the Word entrusted to you.

Yes, our lives can be modeled after Mary. A Christian is to give humble yet bold witness to the Gospel. Ours is a vocation of humble service to God and to humanity. It is not about power, but rather bearing witness. May our lives magnify the Lord!

 

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for 15th Sunday of Ordinary Time – Cycle A

Here is my homily for this weekend. May God bless each of you.

15th Sunday of Ordinary Time – Cycle A

July 15/16, 2017

Isaiah 55: 10-11; Rom 8: 18-23; Matt 13: 1-23

 

What seed do you sow in your field? I’m not just asking the farmers here today, but all of us. What seed will you sow? God has given each of us a field of some sort in which to sow the seed, e.g., our families, neighborhoods, towns, and parishes.

The seed must be sown regardless of the soil on which it is sown, so I would like each of us to focus today on the sower of the seed rather than the type of soil on which it lands. It must be sown on every type of field. If someone rejects or crowds it out because of worldly concerns, someone else will benefit from our sowing, as we heard in the first reading today. The seed shall not return void, but achieve its end.

No matter how difficult our lives may become, no matter how difficult sowing the seed may be for us, no matter how fruitless it may seem, not matter how many failures we may experience, nothing can compare to the glory to be revealed in us and in our lives. The good we do always bears good fruit even though we may not see it, so we must never become discouraged.

Do you sow? Will you sow seed in your field? Do not say, “It is not my job” or “I cannot talk about faith and God openly where I work or live.” Every man, woman, child can and must sow the seed of love and mercy in the world.

Many give up and ask, “Why do so many bad things happen to me and the world? Why doesn’t God stop all these miseries, sicknesses, wars, divisions, and hatreds if the world, if he is all powerful?” These things happen and remind us over and over again of the power of evil that remains, and Satan’s efforts to keep us from hearing andunderstanding, from looking and seeing, and to discourage us from sowing the seed of love and forgiveness. They are Satan’s attempts to place doubts in our minds, to confuse us and lead us into choices that only give rise to more divisions, distress, and confusion, in other words, to get us to sow bad seed. God knows this. God has known from all eternity that He would enter the world by sending his Son to confront directly, to take on personally, each and every sickness, tragedy, war, misery, sin, and hatred the world has ever known, or will ever know. Why? To completely defeat them through his death and resurrection. Do we think of this, believe this, when we in our failures and distress begin to ask, “Why would God let this happen?”

God does not create sickness or sin. God takes sickness and sin and puts them on himself. He takes them on personally and carries them with you. When we suffer such things, God is present.

Do we look for him there? Do we see him then? Do we hear him at those moments and understand?

There is only one remedy for sin, sickness, failure and defeat. That remedy is love and forgiveness. Love more deeply and forgive more completely. Only love and forgiveness can destroy evil. Only love and forgiveness, not hatred, not revenge; only love and forgiveness. This is what God did in his Son on the Cross.

This is the seed we must sow in today’s world. It will not be accepted by all. Some will not understand. Some will look at it, but not see or recognize it. Some will outright reject it. Yet, we must sow the seed of love and forgiveness constantly.

Why do bad things happen to us and the world? Why does a mother lose her child or a father his son? Why does a young person die of cancer? Because evil and disorder continues to exist in the world and is very real. The question, though, is not, “Why does God not stop it?” but rather, “Do I really believe in what Jesus accomplished on the Cross, that he literally experienced every division, sin, hatred, and sickness the world will ever experience, and conquered them all by dying and rising from the dead, by loving us that much, forgiving us that completely, and by promising that we too will rise to everlasting life.

This is the seed we must sow in our fields, whatever field has been given to us, even if the world rejects it, even though our efforts seem fruitless at times. We must tell everyone that love and forgiveness conquers all evil, every mishap, each misdeed, and every sin.

Love requires sacrifice and forgiveness requires honestly calling sin sin, not excusing or denying it, but rather forgiving it. No excuses, no denials, just love and forgiveness.

May God help us in our efforts.

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for Corpus Christi

Here is my homily for the Solemnity of  Corpus Christi. Blessings on all!

Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ – Cycle A

Dt 8: 2-3, 14b-16a; 1 Cor. 10 16-17; Jn 6: 51-58

June 17/18, 2017

 

Two weeks ago, at Pentecost, we sang, “Come Lord Jesus! Send us your Spirit! Renew the face of the earth!”

Yes, we asked Jesus to come into our hearts, into our minds, into our lives and transform us into his heart, his mind, his life, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to renew the earth and lead others to him.

Catholics throughout the world could renew the earth if every day they fervently prayed that prayer and took Jesus into themselves in Holy Communion and become who they receive. We could change the world for we would be united to Christ and to each other, and Jesus would work through us unhindered. We would become one body in Christ, united to each other and with God the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit.

We celebrate today the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, or Corpus Christi. There are two important aspects of today’s solemnity.

The first aspect is our unity with one another as Church by coming and receiving the Eucharist here at Mass as a parish community united in one faith and belief.

The second aspect is our unity with Jesus in his Real Presence in the consecrated bread and wine, and our unity with God himself.

Unity with each other; unity with God!

We have in common with all Christian denominations the recognition that the Eucharist is a sign of unity for all who partake of it. We believe that in receiving the Eucharist we are publically stating that we are one in mutual concern and love for one another, and embrace the faith that has been given to us. As Catholics, we also know that the Eucharist we share is not only a sign of unity as a community, but it is the true flesh and blood of the risen Savior who sits at God’s right hand in heaven who unites us to God. The Eucharist we share at Mass is the Real Presence of Jesus because Jesus shared his priesthood with his apostles and their successors.

Yes, the Eucharist is the real Body and Blood of Christ, not only a symbol, not just a sign, but Jesus himself, real and true, his body and his blood, his soul and his divinity under the appearance of bread and wine. We do not eat and drink of the physical flesh of the earthly Jesus, but we eat and drink of the real spiritual flesh and blood of the heavenly Son of God. It is a wonderful, miraculous mystery.

His Body and his Blood, his soul and his divinity are completely present in both the consecrated bread and wine. He is truly present in every fragment of the Host, in every drop of wine. This is what Jesus himself said, “This is my Body and my Blood.”All the Scriptures attest to this belief; all the early Fathers of the Church taught it; all the martyrs died believing it; Christians everywhere believed it until the Protestant Reformation. So must we. Many found it too hard to believe when Jesus taught it, as we heard in the Gospel today. There are many today who do not believe it. Our unity as a Church depends on the Real Presence; our eternal happiness and eternal life Jesus says depends on it; the renewal of the world depends on it.

When we worthily receive the Body and Blood of Christ we become more and more like Jesus. We become his body and blood in today’s world because when we receive Holy Communion Jesus takes us into himself as we take him into ourselves. Jesus wants us to be like him. He is already like us in all things but sin, and now he wants us to be like him by giving us his Body and Blood. “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” (John 6: 56)

We become what we receive, and what we receive is Jesus himself. We receive eternal life. “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.” (John 6: 54)

We cannot really live with Jesus in our lives, without worthily receiving his Body and Blood. We cannot renew the world without taking him into ourselves and thus become united to each other and without Jesus taking us into himself uniting us to God by giving us eternal life, God’s life.

Receiving the Eucharist worthily makes us more and more like Jesus, more and more like God, which is another ways of saying holy. Receiving the Eucharist also unites us to each other so that as one people, one Church, united in one faith and one baptism, we can go out and change the world. Receiving the Eucharist gives us divine life, eternal life, the life of heaven and a common life here on earth with each other.

Come Lord Jesus! Send us your Spirit! Renew the face of the earth!

 

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for 6th Sunday of Easter, Cycle A, 2017

Here is my homily for this weekend. God bless all!

6th Sunday of Easter – Cycle A
Acts 8: 5-8, 14-17; 1 Pt 3: 15-18; John 14: 15-21
May 20-21, 2017

Lest we forget, we are still celebrating Easter. The fifty days from Easter Sunday to Pentecost are Easter days, days that are meant to be days of great joy for all Christians. Joy, because we know Jesus lives, that he is among us, that he is risen, that we are now one with him as the Gospel todays says.

Great hope and much joy for all of us. This joy cannot be contained. Like any joy of life, it must be shared with others. It is only natural. St. Philip in our first reading proclaimed his belief in the risen Lord and we are told, “There was great joy in that city.”

Perhaps a good question for all of us today is, “Am I a joyful, hopeful Christian? Am I convinced that Jesus is alive, present, and risen? Do I share this belief with others?”

Many people are asking why so many are leaving the Church. Might it be that we aren’t sharing our joy and hope with them? Why is it that Pope Francis is so attractive and convincing to people who have left the Church or have been critical of her? Because he expresses joy and hope, and does three things that St. Peter teaches us to do in the second reading.

St. Peter teaches us how to share our joy and the reason for our hope by the way we live our lives. It is more about living life well than about preaching words. What does he say? Three things:

Give reason for our hope, but do so gently and reverently! Isn’t this what Pope Francis is always telling us? We must approach others, go to them and not avoid them, and do so with reverence and gentleness because Jesus loves them. They are the face of Jesus. If we act harshly or irreverently, we betray Jesus because we in effect deny that Jesus loves this person. Do we approach each other with reverence, hope, gentleness, and joy?

Keep a clear conscience! Pope Francis over and over again says the same thing. A clear conscience is a joyful conscience in a state of grace. How do we remain in a state of grace? By changing our lives and going to Confession regularly. This is what Pope Francis has been saying for several years, ie, experience the mercy of God in the Sacrament of Penance. Go to Mass every Sunday. If we live with a clear conscience by confidently and regularly confessing our sins and receiving the sacrament of Penance, we will be capable of showing Jesus to others. Pope Francis reminds us that if we as individuals and as a Church acknowledge our sins and change how we treat each other, we will be joyful witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection. The pope tells us that if our consciences are clouded, dark, anxious and heavy, we put a mask on Jesus’ face. We become like people leaving a funeral, downcast and dour. We disfigure the face of Jesus. We put a veil on him. A clear conscience removes that mask, lifts that veil, and renews our hope and our joy. People are attracted to a clear conscience.

Be willing to suffer a little along the way! St. Peter tells us to be willing to suffer with others. Jesus himself said we have to pick up our crosses and follow. Pope Francis reminds us also. Ironically, we cannot share our joy and our hope in the resurrection of Jesus if we are not willing to share in the pain and difficulties of others. Our Holy Father says we must not avoid each other. Jesus wants to be where people hurt the worst. The big question for a lot of us is, “Will I be willing to share other people’s suffering, or will I avoid it?” To share in the suffering of others does not diminish our joy or our hope. It only increases them. This is a great mystery in Christianity.
So, give reason for your hope and joy by approaching others with reverence and gentleness; keep a clear conscience by seeking forgiveness and reconciliation; and be willing to suffer with others.

We who follow Jesus in his Church must be convinced of his life, death, and resurrection. We must be filled with joy and hope. By this conviction and with this joy we will attract others to the Church, even those who have left her. The Scriptures attest to it and our Holy Father demonstrates it.

Jesus lives! He is risen! Embrace it. Live it. Proclaim it!

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for Divine Mercy Sunday, Cycle A

Here is my homily for the weekend. God bless all!

Second Sunday of Easter – Cycle A

April 22-23, 2017,

Acts 2: 42-47; 1 Peter 1: 3-9, John 20: 19-31

 

Today, we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday. This feast was established by Pope St. John Paul II seventeen years ago when he proclaimed that the Second Sunday of Easter would be Divine Mercy Sunday. So today, we reflect on God’s infinite mercy, a divine mercy that flows from the Sacred Heart of Jesus. A heart that heals, forgives, strengthens, and brings us peace.

Our world today stands in need of God’s Divine Mercy. It stands in need of healing, forgiveness, faith and peace. Yet what does the world have to say about mercy? What would the world have us believe about forgiveness? Here are some examples of what we hear.

“The sick are numerous and growing in number. We no longer are able to heal them all, or provide necessary medical care to them. There isn’t the political will or the necessary resources to do so. There are too many of them and we cannot afford to heal them all.”

And, “To forgive your enemy will be seen as a weakness, and vulnerability. If you have been wronged, fight back to protect yourself and your rights!”

And, “The joy and peace that Christianity promises to the merciful is naïve. The only rational response to the reality of this world is anxiety, seriousness, and a dour mood.”

Yes, these are the messages of the world. None of them convey mercy to us or those we are called to serve. These are not new messages. They are the very same messages that the first Christians heard from the Roman world. These are the messages that the Apostles heard after Jesus’ death. Their world and ours are not all that different.

So, what does Jesus say to us? The heart of Jesus, the divine mercy of God, gives us a message that is very different from the message of the world.

Jesus says: “The sick are numerous and they are my body. You will find peace and freedom in serving them. I will give you everything you need to serve them well.”

Jesus says: “There is great power and authority in forgiveness. Forgive those who harm you and pray for them.”

Jesus says: “Your faith in me and in the Church is ancient, yet forever new. Behold! I am sending forth my Spirit to renew the face of the earth.  Have no other god but the one true God.”

Jesus says: “To those who are mature in faith, filled with hope, and fervent in love, I will give a peace and joy that is beyond understanding.”

In what will we put our faith – in the messages of the world, or those of Jesus? What can we do? Our Gospel reading today gives us some clues as to how to begin showing God’s mercy, and receiving it ourselves. What did the Gospel say?

We must approach the merciful heart of Jesus. We must approach that heart very closely. We must approach the Sacred Heart as closely as the Apostles approached it, as Thomas approached it. Thomas gets a bad rap often in our thinking. We call him the “doubting Thomas.” I think there is another way of thinking about him, and the Gospel reading we heard today. Thomas needed, wanted, to get very close to Jesus because he knew he needed mercy. He knew he had to approach Jesus closely enough to:

Be breathed upon by him; Touch his hands and his side; Touch his wounds; Hear his voice.

God’s mercy is not something experienced in the abstract. It is not something that is just a nice thought or an ideal. It is something very real, very tangible, very human as well as divine. We are called to show that mercy and to experience that mercy in our world as we find it. The Apostles went forth and preached the Gospel with fervor. They announced the mercy of God found in Jesus Christ who gave himself for our salvation and rose from the dead. They went forth with trust and confidence, and hundreds were healed; thousands were converted.

We too can go forth and do what they did. God’s love is stronger than death and his mercy is greater than sin. But we must go forth, as Pope Francis tells us, we must go to the peripheries of our world and approach the needy, approach them in a very close way. Close enough to feel their breath upon us, close enough for us to touch their hands and feet, to touch their wounds, to hear their voices. Our mercy must be tangible and real.

The Scriptures tell us, “It is mercy I desire, not sacrifice.” (Hosea 6:6; Mt 9: 13, 12:7)

Yes, our God’s love is revealed in his mercy and it is our duty to put this mercy and love into practice. We must approach Jesus very closely, not only in prayer, but also in serving the needy among us who are the body of Christ, who carry the wounds of Christ.

Let us fix our gaze on our Risen Lord and pray, “Jesus, I trust in you!” Let us draw near to the Sacred Heart of Jesus overflowing with divine mercy, for us, and for the entire world.

 

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for the 8th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle A

Here is my homily for this weekend.  God bless all!

8th Sunday of Ordinary Time – Cycle A

February 25/26, 2017

Isaiah 49: 14-15; 1Cor 4: 1-5; Mt 6: 24-34

 

Jesus tells us today not to worry about money, food, or clothing. These are very basic needs we all have, so he is asking us to not worry about the necessities of life. God knows how hard it is to not worry about these things. He knows how hard it is not to be anxious about life. He knows we live in a world that wants us to be anxious, indeed fearful, a world that wants us to believe that God doesn’t really exist and bad things are happening all the time, and we must, at all costs, be in control of our lives. We must be in control, the world says. These ideas produce anxiety and worry for us because we find out over and over again that we cannot control everything. So, Jesus puts before us choices. Will we trust God, or the world?  Will we believe God exists and will provide for us what we really need, or will we not?

Our faith teaches us that God is in control and that he will provide us all necessary things out of his goodness, and that he never forgets us, never! As our first reading told us, his love for us is stronger than the natural love a mother has for her child.

When Jesus tells us to not worry, what he is saying, I believe, is we must rest in God. Rest in God! What does this mean?

God knows the antidote to chronic worry and anxiety is resting in the presence of someone who is stable, available, accepting, and reassuring. God knows the antidote to worry and anxiety is not numbing our anxiety with frantic activity, drugs, alcohol or pornography, or in building up our bank accounts. God knows the antidote is resting in him, in his presence.

Will we take the chance and start to do this in Lent? We will need to be convinced that it is impossible for God to do us harm It is impossible for God to harm us because God is love. God will not abandon us because he cannot forget us. God can only give what is good because he is perfect goodness. God is always holding us, but we cannot rest in life until we turn around and look at God and let him touch us.

Our task is to turn to him to find the rest we need. In Lenten language, that means we must be converted, give us our sins, turn back to him and away from things that only cause us worry.

God is patient with us in all this. He knows how hard it is to not worry. He knows it takes faith to rest in him, but he expects us to try. He won’t force us, but he expects us to do it.

Many of us don’t know how to rest. We don’t know how to fast from things that keep us from God. We are good at distracting ourselves. We are experts at numbing our worries with material pursuits and momentary pleasures. Lent can be a time for us to learn to rest again in God and fast from those things that only give us momentary pleasure or only numb our pain for awhile.

Here are some ways to rest in God this upcoming Lent:
Come to Mass every Sunday, and during the week if possible.

Come to Adoration and the Stations of the Cross every week.

Take about 10 minutes each day and be quiet and do nothing but be in God’s presence

Look at a crucifix for 5 minutes and say this, “Jesus, I trust in you.”

Say a short prayer throughout the day. My favorite is, “God, help me!”

Jesus said that we cannot add a single moment to our lives by worrying, but we can rest eternally in his arms. He said we must first seek the kingdom of God and then all good things will be given to us.

Finally, having said all this, I want to address all of you who are facing very real and difficult life situations that understandably cause you great worry and anxiety, whether it is money problems, job loss, marital problems, health issues or whatever. Know this: God is with you in your pain and worry. He knows your struggle. He knows you cannot ignore what is going on. He knows your fears are real. He asks you though to trust in him, to turn to him over and over again. Your pain is real, but he shares that pain with you. He does not forget you.

 

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for 2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle A

Here is my homily for this weekend. God bless all!

2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle A

January 14\15, 2017

Isaiah 49: 5-6; 1 Cor 1: 1-3; John 1: 29-34

I was in Green Bay a few years ago, on a Sunday when the Packers were playing a home game. I was with a bunch of faithful Catholic friends, watching the game on television. When the Packers made a great play, all my faithful friends jumped up and down and raised their hands high in praise. When the Packers made a mistake, they literally fell to the floor, prostrate, lamenting. I watched this happen several times, and then commented, “There is only one God, and the Packers ain’t him!”

Who is God? Who are we? What will bring us true joy and happiness? These are questions every one of us tries to answer in our live, whether we realize it or not. Although they may seem like three different questions, they are actually very much related to each other. In fact, you cannot answer one of them unless you are able to answer all three.

Yes, there is only one God, and we ain’t him! This is the first and greatest commandment. “I am the Lord, your God. You shall have no other gods before me!” Who is God, then? God is our creator, and we are his creatures. He made us, we didn’t make him, he made us. God is not our servant to do what we wish; rather, we are his servants to do as he wishes. It is so easy to break that first commandment. Probably the most frequently broken of all the commandments, yet probably not the most frequently confessed. We all like to make idols for ourselves to worship. We try to make God into our image just as much as the ancient pagans did thousands of years ago. We want God to look like us, think like us, feel like us, and act like us. Each time we condemn someone, we have just tried to make God into our image. Each time we think God should be just as angry and vengeful as we are toward our enemies, we have created an idol for ourselves. Each time we think, “If God knew my circumstances, he would be okay with me committing this sin,” we are worshipping a false god.

God is God and we ain’t him. God is right and we all too often are not. Our whole lives are to be lived in such a way as to move away from our idols and toward God. Our whole lives are meant to be a journey away from our preoccupation with ourselves and toward being possessed by God’s love. Our whole lives are meant to be a conversion from worshipping false gods toward becoming servants of the one true God who makes us in his image.

God creates us in his image. God is the one who fashions and shapes us. God is the one who forms each of us into a unique image of himself. He outfits each of us in a unique way with certain talents, gifts, abilities and experiences so we may accomplish something truly good, noble, and beautiful in the world. “You are my servant through whom I show my glory!” we heard in the first reading today. (Isaiah 49: 3) This is why every human life is to be protected. God creates us for a purpose and when we understand that purpose and accept it, we are happy. Accomplishing God’s will for us brings us happiness and joy, not following only our desires and passions, our idols.

John the Baptist understood this pretty well. He said, “Look! There is the Lamb of God (I’m not him!) I am just a voice crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight your lives before the Lord!’ The reason I came was that he might be make known.” (John 1: 31-34)

If this is who God is, then who are we? As John the Baptist reminds us, we are mere voices. We are messengers and God is the message. We are servants and he is Lord and Master. We have no reason to fear who we are or who God is, because he made us into his likeness. We have no need to fear his Kingship over us because he gives us our freedom and loves us as no false god can do. We have no need of idols or false gods. We must let go of them, and let God be God in whose arms we rest, in whose love we live, in whose mercy we heal, in whose plan we find happiness. We all have false gods, our idols in life. We all must let them go and let God be God and become who we were created to be.

This brings us to the third question: What, then, brings us happiness and joy? The answer: Resting in God’s love, his mercy, his care and his plan for our lives and then doing the best we can to remain in his love and come back to him each and every time we stray. Indeed, as St. Augustine said, “We are restless, unhappy, until we rest in God.” This is where the Sacrament of Penance becomes so important. This is where Mass every Sunday is vitally important.

God is creator, redeemer, and sanctifier. Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

We are servants, creatures, messengers – mere voices speaking God’s word, speaking his praises, and blessing his name.

Our acceptance of his will, his plan for us, and resting in his love is our happiness.

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Holy Father’s Urbi et Orbi Message for 2016

(Official English translation from www.vatican.va)

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Happy Christmas!
Today the Church once more experiences the wonder of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph and the shepherds of Bethlehem, as they contemplate the newborn Child laid in a manger: Jesus, the Saviour.

On this day full of light, the prophetic proclamation resounds:

“For to us a child is born,
To us a son is given.
And the government will be upon his shoulder;
and his name will be called
“Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Is 9:6)

The power of this Child, Son of God and Son of Mary, is not the power of this world, based on might and wealth; it is the power of love. It is the power that created the heavens and the earth, and gives life to all creation: to minerals, plants and animals. It is the force that attracts man and woman, and makes them one flesh, one single existence. It is the power that gives new birth, forgives sin, reconciles enemies, and transforms evil into good. It is the power of God. This power of love led Jesus Christ to strip himself of his glory and become man; it led him to give his life on the cross and to rise from the dead. It is the power of service, which inaugurates in our world the Kingdom of God, a kingdom of justice and peace.

For this reason, the birth of Jesus was accompanied by the angels’ song as they proclaimed:

“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!” (Lk 2:14).

Today this message goes out to the ends of the earth to reach all peoples, especially those scarred by war and harsh conflicts that seem stronger than the yearning for peace.

Peace to men and women in the war-torn land of Syria, where far too much blood has been spilled. Particularly in Aleppo, the site of horrendous fighting in recent weeks, it is most urgent that, in respect for humanitarian law, assistance and support be guaranteed to the sorely-tried civilian population, who continue to live in desperate straits and immense suffering and need. It is time for weapons to be still forever, and the international community to seek actively a negotiated solution, so that civil coexistence can be restored in the country.

Peace to the women and men of the beloved Holy Land, the land chosen and favoured by God. May Israelis and Palestinians have the courage and determination to write a new page of history, where hate and revenge give way to the will to build together a future of mutual understanding and harmony. May Iraq, Libya and Yemen – whose peoples suffer war and the brutality of terrorism – be able once again to find unity and concord.

Peace to the men and women in various parts of Africa, especially in Nigeria, where fundamentalist terrorism exploits even children in order to perpetrate horror and death. Peace in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, so that divisions may be healed and all people of good will may strive to undertake the path of development and sharing, preferring the culture of dialogue to the mindset of conflict.

Peace to women and men who to this day suffer the consequences of the conflict in Eastern Ukraine, where there is urgent need for a common desire to bring relief to the civil population and to put into practice the commitments which have been assumed.

We implore harmony for the dear people of Colombia, which seeks to embark on a new and courageous path of dialogue and reconciliation. May such courage also motivate the beloved country of Venezuela to undertake the necessary steps to put an end to current tensions, and build together a future of hope for the whole population.

Peace to all who, in different areas, are enduring sufferings due to constant dangers and persistent injustice. May Myanmar consolidate its efforts to promote peaceful coexistence and, with the assistance of the international community, provide necessary protection and humanitarian assistance to all those so gravely and urgently in need of it. May the Korean peninsula see the tensions it is experiencing overcome in a renewed spirit of collaboration.

Peace to all who have been injured or have suffered the loss of a loved one due to the brutal acts of terrorism that have sown fear and death in the heart of many countries and cities. Peace – not merely the word, but real and concrete peace – to our abandoned and excluded brothers and sisters, to those who suffer hunger and to all the victims of violence. Peace to exiles, migrants and refugees, to all those who in our day are subject to human trafficking. Peace to the peoples who suffer because of the economic ambitions of a few, because of sheer greed and the idolatry of money, which leads to slavery. Peace to those affected by social and economic unrest, and to those who endure the consequences of earthquakes or other natural catastrophes.

And peace to the children, on this special day on which God became a child, above all those deprived of the joys of childhood because of hunger, wars or the selfishness of adults.

Peace on earth to men and women of goodwill, who work quietly and patiently each day, in their families and in society, to build a more humane and just world, sustained by the conviction that only with peace is there the possibility of a more prosperous future for all.

Dear brothers and sisters,
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given”: he is the “Prince of peace”. Let us welcome him!

 

To you, dear brothers and sisters, who have gathered in this Square from every part of the world, and to those in various countries who are linked to us by radio, television and other means of communication, I offer my greeting.
On this day of joy, we are all called to contemplate the Child Jesus, who gives hope once again to every person on the face of the earth. By his grace, let us with our voices and our actions give witness to solidarity and peace. Merry Christmas to all!

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for the 4th Sunday of Advent, Cycle A, 2016

Here is my homily for this weekend. God bless everyone!

4th Sunday of Advent

4th Sunday of Advent, Cycle A

December 17/18, 2016

Isaiah 7: 10-14; Romans 1: 1-7; Matthew 1: 18-24

 

God’s message to St. Joseph was given to him in a dream. “Do not be afraid! Open wide the doors of your heart and your home to Jesus, and to his mother, Mary!”

Open wide your heart and your home!

The angel Gabriel gave Mary a similar message at the Annunciation when he said, “Do not be afraid Mary, you who are full of grace. Open wide the doors of your life to receive your savior, Jesus.”

God gives us a very similar message. “Do not be afraid to take Jesus into your life and then take him into the world.”

Do not be afraid to take Jesus into your life, and once you have taken him into your life, and then bear him into the world. Open wide the doors to receive him! Open wide your heart and your home to Jesus this Christmas. Bring him into the world. This is our Catholic, our Christian vocation!

The question is do we have the faith necessary to do this? Do we have enough love in our hearts to welcome him this Christmas?

Let’s take a step back in fill in the story we heard in the Gospel today. Can you imagine the scene? Mary coming to her betrothed husband, Joseph, and saying, “I’m pregnant, but I am still a virgin.” Joseph must have thought, “Mary, you can’t have it both ways. It doesn’t happen that way.” Then Mary, sensing his anxiety, saying, “It’s not what you think, Joseph. God did this to me. I simply said, “Yes”. It is a real baby. I can feel him moving inside me. He is God’s Son, and no man’s. He is my son too. I can’t explain it except to say it is real. It really happened. Believe me!”

This was a real test of Joseph’s faith.  This was a real test of his love for God and Mary. Mary had taken Jesus into her and was now bearing him into the world, first to Joseph. Joseph must have been the first to hear it. What Mary told him demanded faith. He had to either believe or not believe her. “How can this be?” he must have thought. Joseph replaced his fear and uncertainty with faith. He chose to believe and to love Mary, both in his desire to not shame her and by his taking her into his home and marrying her. He cared for and protected Mary and her child.

Jesus comes into our world today through the sacraments. He comes today through the Church. Jesus also comes today through us. Indeed, he comes today just as certainly as he came back then. Will we have the faith and love of Joseph and Mary to accept him into our lives and bear him into the world?

He continues to come as innocent children needing love and acceptance and nurturing. He still comes wanting our acceptance, wanting to be taken into our homes, wanting us to believe.

He comes every day in the Mass, asking us to take him into our hearts, into our souls, even into our bodies by receiving him in Holy Communion.

He comes wanting our acceptance, wanting to be taken into our lives, to be possesed by us. The question is do we have the faith? His coming always demands a faith response, like it required of Joseph and Mary.

At this very moment he is asking you to accept him, believe in him, to change your lives, to be converted, to be purified from all sin, to ask for forgiveness, to be courageous and put aside any fear you may have. He is asking you to stop condemning yourself and others, to rid yourself of any hatred in your heart. He is asking you to embrace the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Confession, to embrace the Church, to embrace his mother, Mary.

Why does he ask this of us? As the Gospel said, “She will bear a son… because he will save his people from their sins.” He asks us this to save us from own sins and so that others may come to know of the forgiveness of their sins by us bringing him into their lives.

Jesus is coming soon. He comes to evoke in us a faith response, a “yes” response like Mary’s¸and a great love like St. Joseph. He wants us to care for him, possess him, treasure him, protect and nurture him like Mary. Like Mary, we are to bear him into the world, prepare a pure heart for him, a clean home for him by receiving the Sacrament of Penance and then receiving him worthily in Holy Communion.

We bear Jesus in our bodies when we receive him in Holy Communion. We must receive him worthily! He must bear him. We must be able to tell other what he has done for us. We must tell them he is real.  We must ask to believe that he has come into our live and will come into theirs’ also.

Do we have the faith needed to do this? Do we have the love?

Do not be afraid to accept Jesus into your hearts, your bodies, and your homes this Christmas!

 

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for the Solemnity of Christ the King

Here is my homily for this weekend. God bless all of you!

Solemnity of Christ the King

November 19/20, 2016

2 Sam 5: 1-3; Col 1: 12-20; Lk 23: 35-43

Who or what is your most valuable possession? Who or what do you treasure most in your life?  Is it your home? Or your job and career? Or maybe your health? Perhaps it is your retirement plan? Is it an old family photograph?

Another question: Who or what possesses you? Who or what rules your life? Are you truly free? Do you have lasting freedom?

Jesus wants to be possessed by us as your most valuable possession. He, who is God, wants to be possessed by you and acknowledged by you as your King. Jesus wants to be your most valuable possession because you are his most valued possession.

God is our most valuable possession because he is our king, and we are his most valuable possession. He wants to possess us and to be possessed by us in every way possible and we don’t need to fear that he will take away our freedom if we let him be our King. Yes, the things of this world, e.g., money, fame, property, prestige, and people tend to possess us and take our freedom away. Ask anyone who is addicted to substances or other things, and they will tell you this. Ask anyone who has lived under a dictatorship, and they will tell you the same. But Jesus our King is different.

Our King wants to completely possess our every though, word, and deed and in return he promises true freedom, not slavery, because he is a kin who wants not only to possess us but to become one with us so much so that we become his image. He became one with us so we could become one with him.

Kings of  this world possess all in their kingdoms, every acre of land, every building, the army, and even the people who live in their kingdom. They own it all, but no one dare possess the king. Indeed, in the Old Testament, we read how people were put to death just for appearing unannounced before the king. Their lives were his, but the king’s life was his own.

Jesus, our King, like the kings of  old, has a claim on everything and everyone in his kingdom, but unlike earthly kings he gives himself to all who ask, all who approach him, from the greatest to the least of us.  Jesus gives himself to all and beseeches us to let him penetrate  every moment of our lives, occupy our every thought, control all our actions, and all our decisions so that we may be truly free.

We are told in our second reading today that Jesus is King because all things and people came to be through him. “All things were created through him and for him,” St. Paul writes. Jesus our King has brought us into being, into life. Through him we were created and it is because of him that we are alive now. He possesses us because we are marked as his when we were baptized. At baptism, the deacon or priest says, “I claim you for Christ by the sign of the cross, which I trace on your forehead.” The Holy Spirit then enters that child when the water is poured and he is baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is poured into the child’s life and forms him into Jesus and leads him to the Father. We, too, have been given the Holy Spirit, and we are then possessed by Jesus who wants to rule our every thought, word, and deed. In other words, he wants to be your king in every way possible. God is a jealous king. He wants nothing      else, no one else, to possess us. We are his. He will never reject what he has taken to himself. He wants no one to take us away from him. He guards and protects us like all good kings do. He will move mountains for us if we believe and ask.

Will we let him be our King? Will we let ourselves be possessed by him? Do we really want to possess our King and to become like him?

Yes, Jesus is King of the universe, of all creation, and this includes you and me. He wants us for himself, but gives us true freedom if we become his. He wants to possess all of us, every moment, every thought,  every desire, and every deed. He knows our every thought, he knows our every decision; he guards us in all our ways. He not only wants to possess us, but to be possessed by us. Jesus our King is not a distant king, an unapproachable king. No! He wants to one with us,  loved by us.

That is what his kingdom is all about: freedom and love. Just as lovers in this world want to possess and be possessed by the one they love, so it is with Jesus our King. Genuine unselfish love always frees. Jesus loves genuinely and unselfishly.

May Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, rule our lives forever!

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for the 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle C, 2016

Here is my homily for this weekend. God bless all!

29th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle C
Ex 17: 8-13; 2 Tim 3: 14-4: 2; Lk 18: 1-8
October 15/16, 2016
“Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night?” Luke 18: 7

Have you ever been afflicted with a nagging problem, maybe a physical disease that won’t go away, or perhaps an emotional problem, or an addiction that gets the best of you over and over again, or maybe a spiritual problem that only leaves you in a spiritual darkness and God seems so far away, absent?

Have you ever prayed, “Why don’t you take this away from me, God! Why have you not answered my prayers and healed me, if you love me and are all-powerful?”

Have you ever wondered why people seem to pray more in times of distress, sickness, set-backs, loneliness and disappointments than they do when things are going well?

Over and over again, people have asked me, “If God is good and powerful, why does he let this bad thing continue?”, and so often their faith begins to waiver.

Our readings today give us a clue as to the answer to these questions. The answer lies in prayer and being open to God’s touch.

We are told in our first reading today that Moses prayed without ceasing, and as long as he held his hands aloft in prayer, supported by others, good overcame evil. When he stopped praying, the battle was lost.

In the Gospel, we hear of the unceasing prayer of an afflicted woman, and the eventual response.

We too must pray without wearying in our lives. In other words, we must be open to God’s touch! God touches us in prayer. All our suffering are invitations to be touched by God, to feel the touch of Jesus!

We know now that St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta lived most of her adult life in a profound spiritual darkness. God seemed absent. We have always known that she was surrounded every day with sickness, injustice, pain, and death. Surely, she of all people had reason to doubt God’s love and power and existence, but she didn’t. Instead when asked how she did it all, she said, “I have a secret. I pray.” Mother Teresa prayed, and she prayed without ceasing or wearying.

When we were baptized, God put a mark on our souls, the indelible mark we learned about in our catechism. It is a mark that will never go away, but a mark that we can desensitize and make numb. That mark is the place where God touches us. We must keep that mark sensitive. We cannot let it scab over or be covered by scar tissue. We cannot put a coat of armor over it. Scabs and scar tissue and armor are sins. Sin desensitizes the mark, and results in us turning away from God. We have to let the mark remain open, sensitive, pure, tender so when God touches it, we will feel it and turn to him.

God allows bad things to happen, but he doesn’t will them. He is not the cause. He allows them to happen so we might keep open that mark, so we will remain sensitive to his touch, and turn to him in our need. These illnesses, set-backs, disappointments, and addictions are not willed by God, but used by him to say to us: “Come closer to me.” God invites us into a deeper relationship. “Come to me!” he says. “Let me touch you! Do not be afraid! Have faith!”

That is why St. Mother Teresa had to touch the sick and the dying. She wanted to be touched by God whom she recognized in their faces. Every time she touched a sick person, she realized it was her God-given opportunity to return to God once again, to be touched by him. That is why everyday she went to God in a holy hour before the Blessed Sacrament and why she went to confession so frequently, i.e., all the sickness and injustices she saw every day that refused to go away was her opportunity to grow closer to God and feel his touch at that mark on her soul.

When we suffer and God seems far away, he is saying something to us. He is saying, “Have faith in my response to your prayers. Come closer to me. Be faithful. I will never abandon you. Let me touch you where you hurt. I have poured out my Spirit into your life. Have faith in me. I am here.”

The suffering we endure are our opportunities to say “Yes” to God’s presence and goodness, our opportunities for conversion, to be cleansed once again.

Finally, everything I have said today requires faith. It is not accepted by anyone who lacks faith. That is why at the end of today’s Gospel, Jesus ends by asking, “When the Son of Man returns, will he find faith on the earth?”

Be faithful! Never stop praying! Remain open to his touch! God will secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night. He calls you to come closer. He will not leave you alone in times of suffering and distress.

 

 

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for the 25th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle C, 2016

Here is my homily for this weekend. God bless all!

 

25th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle C
September 17/18, 2016
Amos 8: 4-7; 1Tim 2: 1-8; Lk 16: 1-13

“Make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth so that when it fails you, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” Lk 16: 9

What does Jesus want to tell us by saying this? Is he encouraging us to accumulate wealth in a dishonest way and making friends with it as a way to get to heaven? Of course not. But what does he mean?

Jesus is reminding us of something that has proven itself over and over again in human history: Material wealth tends to corrupt whoever holds onto it for themselves, and will eventually disappoint and fail its owner, because such wealth is to be shared with others.

Jesus is telling us to use rightly what we have been given in life, for indeed all has been given to us and thus nothing is ours alone. God gives in abundance so we can give in abundance. God gives us all that we have and all that we are so we can give all we have and all we are back to Him and to each other.

If all is gift, then in whom should we place our trust? In the one who gives the gift, not in the gift itself. We must not trust what we possess, but trust in God who has gives it to us. We must have our faith squarely centered on God, not any material or spiritual gift we may have been given.

Why do we cling to the gift as if it were God who has given it? We must cling to God who gives eternal life to us, who has never and will never fail us.
All that we have is to be used to love God and each other. God talks to us when he gives things to us and makes us who we are. He talks to us, telling us something we are to do and this always involves using his gifts for the benefit of others. This is true both with our material possessions and our spiritual gifts. Our money, our property, our education, our talents and skills, our health (or lack thereof), even graces he give us, all are given to us so we may set things right in the world, so that we may experience eternal life in heaven.

What does it take for us to live this way? We must come to understand that possessions are to be used, and people are to be loved. Let me repeat that: possessions are to be used and people are to be loved! All too often, we get it backward; we love our possessions and use people. This is a good definition of sin! We must be convinced that what we have been given really isn’t ours to keep, that we are mere stewards. It requires that we trust God and his providence, that he will take care of us. It requires we trust his will when he gives us the gifts in the first place. If we hang on to the belief that our wealth is only for our own benefit, or fail to believe that God is good, or if we only use people, then we will be corrupted by our wealth, our gifts, and we will dishonest stewards!

The prophet Amos railed against mistreatment of the poor by those who were rich, by those who put their trust in “mammon” as the Scriptures say, and cheated others. We cannot serve two masters we are told. The word “mammon” in Hebrew means something other than God in which one puts his faith. We cannot serve God is we are selfish. We cannot serve God if our trust is in mammon.

I knew a man once who had known what it was like to be homeless. He had lived on the streets of Denver for a period of time in his life, but with the help of others got on Social Security, obtained a small apartment and had the beginnings of normalcy in his life. He told me of walking through a park in a nearby town and seeing another man on a park bench in the winter, shivering in the cold without a coat. He told the man to stay put and he would return. He went to his apartment and retrieved a winter coat he had just bought for $40 and gave it to the homeless man. I have never forgotten this incident in which someone used his “wealth” in a just manner, just as Jesus is telling us we must do. I have no doubt God will credit him with an act of righteousness on judgment day.

We are mere stewards. Will we be good stewards? God wants us to use his gifts to build up his Kingdom, not ours. We always are tempted to build our own kingdoms according to our plans, monuments to ourselves, but these efforts alway eventually fail us.

Trust God. Trust his plan. Trust not your gifts and possessions but trust God who never fails us or corrupts us. Never. Be good stewards, wise stewards, prudent stewards of what he has given to you in this life. The reward is eternal happiness with him in heaven!

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