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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Deacon Bob’s Homily for the 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle C, 2016

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

21st Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle C
August 20/21, 2016
Isaiah 66: 18-21; Heb 12: 5-7, 11-13; Lk 13: 22-30

Where is the passion of your life? How closely do you follow Jesus, go where he goes? Do you fear tight places, the “narrow gates” of life through which you must pass? Are you willing to become like children and learn through the discipline of faith, or do we only want our own way?

Passion for life…. love for Jesus and the Church….. passionate love…. this is what will hold us tightly to God and keep us in relationship with him. Passion for Jesus, passion with Jesus. This passion, this love for him and the Church wraps us into a union with God and gets us through the narrow gate. It is what keeps us on the less travelled road of our Catholic faith and off the freeways of the world that tempt us with their speed and ease of passage. Indeed, living out our Catholic faith today is difficult and often seems like a long trip on the back roads, the less travelled and more hazardous routes. Not many travel these roads anymore, preferring the ease and speed of the interstates highways of the world.

Last weekend, I ran in the Paavo Nurmi marathon up in Hurley, Wisconsin. Marathons are 26 miles, 385 yards long. Living our Catholic faith is like running a marathon. Marathons demand a lot from the runner. The training and discipline are long and difficult. The gates are narrower just like in our faith. If you don’t have a passion for running, you are not going to finish a marathon. If we don’t have a passion for Jesus and with the Church we won’t make the difficult journey with him and go to Jerusalem. To go to Jerusalem is a way of saying that we must die with Jesus so as to live with Jesus; we must give our lives to God and accept his will, his plan, his kingdom, and stay off the wide open freeways and stay on the road less travelled.

The readings today challenge us to ask ourselves whether we truly and passionately love God and our neighbor, whether we truly obey those first two great Commandments. Loving God and our neighbor is the narrow gate. To enter it, we must love God with all our minds, hearts, soul, and strength. We must love our neighbor as we love ourselves. This is the narrow gate! This is the way of Jesus! It is easy to refuse to love, to dampen our passion, to go quickly on freeways that keep us from noticing God and those around us, that keep us distracted from God and those who need us and want to enter our lives. It is so easy to choose the wide gate, not the narrow one.

What does the narrow gate look like in your life? Do you love God? Who is your neighbor? What does it mean for you to love God and the Church? How narrow is the gate for you?

Jesus seems to be saying that not everyone makes it through the narrow gate, that some will be left outside, especially those who may have eaten and drunk with him but did little else to follow him. He also seems to be saying that many who now are far from him will eventually pass through and be saved. His words are hopeful — for we never need despair or become discouraged when we fail to follow Jesus close enough, when we sin no matter how great or small, because forgiveness is always possible if we but ask for it by approaching the Sacrament of Penance and confessing our sins. His words are also a warning that we who eat and drink of his Body and Blood at this altar every Sunday must not rest or become complacent, lukewarm or presumptuous.
We must never stop loving God and neighbor with a passion. Whatever we do in life, we must do with a passionate love for God and others. Whatever the narrow gate may look like we will pass through it if we love from the heart, love to the point of suffering as Jesus loved. Passionately loving God and neighbor is the narrow gate! Cling to Jesus and follow him! He will get you through.

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for the 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle C, 2016

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

16th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle C 2016

16th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle C
July 16/17, 2016
Gen 18: 1-10a; Col 1: 24-28; Lk 10: 38-42

How do we discern “the better part”? We want what is good in life. We always want what we perceive to be good, yet how do we know what is truly good, the “better part”, when so many good things are possible?

Which job should I take? Which woman should I marry? Which religion should I practice? Which house should I buy? Which school should I attend? Which doctor should I consult? Which movies should I watch? What food should I eat? How do we discern “the better part” in all of this?

There are many good things, good people, good activities, good jobs, good careers from which to choose. There are many good ideas and opinions, good tastes, sounds, sights and smells. If we are honest with ourselves, we have to admit that if they present themselves to us, we want them all, every last one of them! But we find we cannot have all of them, some of them are kept from us. This distracts us, upsets us, frustrates and worries us, and leaves us anxious.
Martha in the Gospel was choosing to do a lot of very good things and was anxious and worried about them all. What were those good things? She welcomed Jesus into her home. She made him comfortable. She provided for his physical needs. She fed him. These are indeed very good things, as any of us would agree. Yet we are told she was anxious and worried, and she became critical of Mary who chose something, someone else. She was distracted from the “better part” which Mary chose.

Jesus said in the Gospel, “There is need for only one thing.” How can this be when there seems to be a need for so many things in life? What did Jesus mean? Why are we so distracted and worried by small matters that seem to demand our attention yet leave us anxious and dissatisfied? Why do we tend to choose the good of today and not the good of eternity?

St. Augustine wrote in his famous Confessions, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.” Our hearts are restless until, in other words, they rest in God, who alone is truly good. God is the good, the “better part”. God is a greater good than life itself, we are told in the Scriptures. He ultimately, is the only Good in life. Remember in the Gospel story which we read at Mass sometimes when Jesus said to a man, “Why do you call me “good”? Only God, my Father, is good.” There is need only for God in our lives, in the last analysis. Everyone who has faith, at the moment of death, understands this.

I am convinced most of our disappointments and anxieties in life result from not having discerned well “the better part”. To make that discernment in life, we have to begin with the discipline of faith.

We need faith’s discipline in our lives, don’t we, if we are to discern “the better part”. We have to discipline ourselves to pay attention to, to focus on, the better part of things of daily life. It is in our very nature as humans to choose the better part if we but learn to recognize it. God is our teacher. He is our better part. We always will choose what we think to be the good, but so often what we choose are smaller, lesser goods because we have not disciplined ourselves, trained ourselves, to recognize the greater good and choose it over smaller, passing goods that only temporarily satisfy. What teaches us such needed discipline? God is our teacher. He will show us the better part in all things if we listen to him. We must put aside our worries and anxieties and stay focused on God,to be in a relationship with God, to gaze upon him in prayer every day, like Mary did. God knows this, so he gives us a tremendous gift, the gift of faith. When we accept this gift, a gift we do not deserve but is pure grace, we become able to see God’s presence in our lives and in our world. We no longer remain blind to “the better part”, to the greater good. The gift of faith, if we accept it and nurture it, enables our souls to gaze upon the presence of God, like Mary was able to do in the Gospel today. God is always present, teaching us “the better part” of life. The gift of faith sharpens our focus, disciplines our choices, clarifies our knowledge so we come to know that which is truly good in life and to choose it. It enables us to know God and the better course of action to take in life. Choices made from the eyes of faith are always choices for the “better part” because they are choices made for God and as God would have us choose, as God sees things and as he would want.

Our hearts are indeed restless until they rest in God, until what we choose in life is in accord with God’s design, with his vision for us, until we choose as that which will make us as God would have us be.

Without the eyes of faith, without gazing upon God presence all around us, we will be left to the ups and downs of things that seem good at the moment, but pass away quickly and leave us anxious and worried, restless for something or someone better, something only God can provide us, someone only God can be for us.

Look and see with the eyes of faith! God is all around you, always! He wants the best for you. He wants you to choose the better part. He wants you to choose him and his plan for your life. You have only to look and listen with the eyes and ears of faith, like Mary did. Once you have come to know God, you cannot help but love him and choose him, for he is the better part of life, the greatest of all goods, the true desire of your souls.

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for 12th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle C, 2016

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

12th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle C
June 18/19, 2016
Zech 12: 10-11; 13:1; Gal 3: 26-29; Lk 9: 18-24

To whom do you turn when you are thirsting for peace and unity?

The world is a troubled world. There is so little peace in the world, much violence, war, death. We all recall with sadness the ISIS shootings in Orlando this week. The world promises peace but seems to deliver the opposite. It says it desires peace and unity, but seems to bring division and war. Indeed, many have lost their faith in a merciful God because of this.

To whom can we turn in our thirst for peace and unity? To whom can we turn when those we have trusted have failed to deliver and seem unable to provide us the peace we need? Or should we just give up our faith and live without hope of things getting better?

What is it that will ultimately unite us all? Only love, God’s love! The love of God the Father. Not simply human affection or fondness, for these are

very fragile and do not long unite; no, it is the Father’s love that over and over again offers us mercy and forgiveness, and asks us to have faith in his mercy. Jesus tells us that we have a common Father who loves us. Indeed, the Father’s love keeps us alive, our hearts beating. We are told by Jesus himself that the Father’s heart is so sensitive and loving that He knows our every moment, our every experience, our every setback and defeat, success and challenge. The Father’s heart is revealed in the heart of his Son Jesus, whose Sacred Heart was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins. The Sacred Heart of Jesus reveals to us the heart of our common Father who alone will unite us and give us peace. The heart of Jesus is the heart of the Father who pours out on us his infinite love and mercy.

The heart of Jesus reveals to us the heart of the Father and it was pierced. Blood and water flowed from the heart of Christ on the Cross, signs of mercy, signs of unity, signs of the Church.
We are told in the Scriptures today that the Spirit of God is released into the world, the love of God is poured out through the piercing of the Heart of the Son. Mercy is given to all, a love that ultimately will unite us and bring us peace.

But we must have faith! We must believe in the Father’s love if we are to recognize God’s merciful heart beating in this world. Without faith, we won’t see it. We must hold fast to our faith.

We all thirst for the same mercy. We all look for the same love. We all have the same Father. We all are offered the same gift of eternal life, the very gift we all so desperately need and for which we thirst.

Do not let your thirst go unsatisfied! Drink from the fountain of mercy. Don’t look for things in this world that may promise satisfaction but only bring more thirst! It is in loving as the Father loves that we will find what we are looking for. It is in being merciful to others that we will find what we are looking for, the mercy and peace we want. Jesus taught us this.

Today is Father’s Day. On Father’s Day, we fathers can ask ourselves whether we have led our families with the Heart of the Merciful Father or not.We who are fathers know both the joys and the sufferings in being the father of children. Do we show our families the Heart of the Father? A heart of mercy and forgiveness, a heart that suffers for our children? Not a heart that offers false hope by excusing the wrong, but rather a heart that forgives the wrong, a heart that brings not division but unity and peace within our families?

The vocation of fatherhood is indeed a noble one, for we are to be men who know mercy and then give it to our wives and children, men who have come to know the love of the Father and can show it in the way we love our families.

Every father is also a son. We can only show a father’s love if we ourselves have seen it in our own fathers. For those of us who had an absent father, or a father whose heart was cold and hard, we have to all the more turn to our heavenly Father and see there what we have always needed and sought so we can imitate it and share it with our children.

What will ultimately unite us? What will bring about peace in our troubled violent world? In the end, only one thing: the loving merciful Heart of the Father revealed to us in the Sacred Heart of Jesus his Son. God’s love will unite us and bring us peace. The sooner we learn this, the faster we will be at peace and in unity with each other. But to see such love in our world, to recognize the mercy of the Father, we must believe, for faith opens our eyes to see the very Heart of God.

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for Trinity Sunday, 2016

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

Trinity Sunday – Cycle C
May 21/22, 2016
Prov 8: 22-31; Rm 5: 1-5; Jn 16: 12-15

I was up early this morning, drinking my coffee and saying my morning prayers, and it occurred to me that we are a very curious people, we human beings. One of the first, if not the first question, children ask is, “Why?” Why this, why that. We humans really want to understand, to know things, how they are and how they work. The older we get, the more we usually end up appreciating something, though, i.e., that life is not a problem that needs to be solved; rather, it is a mystery to be lived and embraced.

Today, we celebrate the ultimate mystery in many ways. For two thousand years, we have been trying to put words to the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity, but we will never be able to adequately describe Him: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God, three persons, one divine being yet three distinct persons who act in our world and in our lives — that is what “person” means, really, i.e, one who can act and live — all three persons in unity, never in disagreement or conflict, distinct in action yet perfectly one in being, no defect, no imbalance, no diminishment, complete love, not three gods but one God who is all powerful, always present everywhere, all knowing, one God. This is the great revelation of Christianity.

The Gospel today describes the Trinity, three persons acting in unity as one God. It may be difficult to recognize at first but Jesus does describe it. He said, “The Spirit hears what the Son speaks, who only speaks what he has heard from the Father, and the Spirit gives witness to this relationship between Father and Son as God himself.”

Jesus describes this relationship of Father, Son, and Spirit, a relationship in which they speak and listen and are heard as one. A relationship in which they speak to each other the truth in love. Jesus said, “The Spirit of truth will guide you to all truth.” The Trinity is a relationship of love between Father, Son, and Spirit, a relationship that is completely holy and pure, begotten of the truth and from pure love.

Remember the scene in our Lord’s passion when Jesus tells Pilate that he has come to testify to the truth? Like Pilate, we are tempted to ask, “What is truth?” Pilate rejected and condemned the Truth because he condemned and rejected God who was standing right in front of him in the person of Jesus. God alone is truth and the source of all that is true. So the question isn’t so much “What is truth?” but rather, “Who is Truth?”

We know, don’t we, as God’s people and sheep of the flock of Christ that God is Truth. The Father is the source of all truth, and Jesus is the expression and revelation of the truth, and the Holy Spirit gives witness to this and teaches us the truth who he has witnessed in the Father and the Son. The Holy Trinity is the Truth the world needs to know! The Holy Spirit guides us to this Truth, and God asks us to become one with him in his life and his truth!

St. Paul says in the second Reading, “The love of God has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” God has been given to us! God has brought us into his life and love. We are caught up in a certain sense in the mystery of the Holy Trinity.

When we are baptized, God gives us his life. The grace of God is poured into us in immeasurable ways. We become new creatures, we are told, radically changed into God’s image and likeness. We become like God in our baptisms, pure and holy, and we lose that purity only when we sin and refuse to ask for forgiveness and mercy.

Every human being was given a chance to share in God’s life and love because Mary said “Yes” to the angel, and Jesus was conceived in the womb of Mary, and God assumed our human nature. Jesus did not leave his human nature behind when he ascended into heaven, but rather brought it with him and he now sits at the right hand of the Father. Where Jesus is, we hope to be. Because Jesus took our human nature, all of humanity has a chance to share in the life of the Trinity.

This is the reason for our responsorial psalm today: “You have crowned him with glory and honor even above all of creation, the moon and the stars, the earth and the sea.”

This is why we must go out and teach others about God’s love for them, teach them about Jesus and his Church, teach them about baptism and God’s offer of divine life in that sacrament. All of us must teach others the faith and the mystery of the Trinity. We must love each other because we share in the life of the Trinity. Just as the Father love the Son, and the Son loves the Father, and their love is so perfectly pure that the Spirit is present, so too we are called to love each other with a love that comes from God given to us and to be shared with each other. That is why we must respect the elderly, the disabled, the foreigner, the immigrant, and the unborn, because God’s life is to be shared and honored in each other. That is why St. John would say, “You cannot say you love God if you hate your neighbor.” When we love others, we worship God.

The Holy Trinity is not only “out there” wrapped in mystery in the heavens (although indeed he is all of that and more), but he is right here. The Trinity touches our lives right here and now each and every time we listen, love and respect each other. The great mystery of Father, Son, and Spirit breaks into our world when we worship God, in the sacraments, in prayer, and serve our families and communities, in other words, when we love from the heart.

We indeed share in the mysterious life of the Trinity. We share in God’s life. The great mystery of the Trinity lives in you!

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for the 5th Sunday of Easter, Cycle C, 2016

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

5th Sunday of Easter, Cycle C
April 23/24, 2016
Acts 14: 21-27; Rev 21: 1-5a; Jn 13: 31-33a, 34-35

Do you remember last Sunday’s Gospel? Jesus told us that his gift to us is eternal life, and this gift he does not take back. Jesus said, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. (John 10:28) He also said, “I am the good shepherd; I lead them to eternal life, and all who believe in me shall not perish!” In today’s Gospel, Jesus commands us, “If you are to be my disciple, love one another!”

So the question is, “Do you really believe that Jesus has given you eternal life, not just an earthly life? Do you really believe that Jesus is the Good Shepherd and only he can lead you into eternity? Do you really follow him by sincerely loving one another as he has commanded? Do we really believe and do we really love?”

It is awfully easy to say, “Yes! I believe!” but then live in ways that say just the opposite, i.e., live in unloving ways! Yes, do we really believe in God’s gift of eternal life? If we say we believe, then we have to back it up with our lives. We may even have to die believing.

If someone were to challenge you and say, “Prove to me that Jesus is the Good Shepherd and he gives you eternal life and leads you into eternity!” Could you meet the challenge by showing that person a life of love for others? Could you demonstrate your belief and your gratitude for the gift of eternal life by a loving life?

Let’s admit it.. we profess our belief in eternal life, but then go about living our daily lives in ways that bear no witness to this belief, i.e., in ways that put the emphasis on our earthly lives and not our eternal lives. If you accept the gift, then you must obey the Shepherd by loving each other!

The Apostles believed in eternal life, and lived the law of love. The early Christians believed in God’s gift of eternal life and thousands died witnessing to that belief and that gift, by loving God and others. Christians today in the Mideast believe in the gift and follow the Good Shepherd even to death.

Remember, eternal life is the gift of God himself, and God is love. God, who is love, is eternal life. God gives himself, both life and love, and he does so without any reservation. He gave us his Son, Jesus! Nothing is greater than this gift; no command more important than the commadment to love as Jesus loved! If we say we believe in eternal life, the gift of Jesus Christ, then how can we live in ways that deny him by refusing to love one another? How can we raise families with little conversation about God and faith and the Church, or live with the injustices rendered to the poor and the unborn, or turn a cold heart to the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of the poor?

If we really accept God’s gift of eternal life, and acknowledge Jesus as the Good Shepherd of our lives, then we must respond with love and courage. His gift to us demands a courageous response from us. It requires great courage, great love today, because there is a battle out there in the world, a battle for souls, a battle for the integrity of our families and our parishes.

I challenge all parents with young children. God has given the gift of eternal life to you and your children in baptism. Are you diligently working to preserve that gift in your children, like you promised you would at their baptisms? Are you nourishing the faith, teaching them the faith, protecting your children from the influences of the world that will offer only false love? Many will offer them false gods to follow; we must present to them the truth and demonstrate it by love.
I challenge all men to step up to the task at hand, all men but especially fathers. Be men of courage, love, and strength! Our children need strong, loving and courageous fathers who are willing to make the necessary sacrifices to show their families and the world what real love is. We need men of love and courage to “step into the breach,” plug the holes in the lines, and be willing to fight to protect God’s gift in their children and their wives; men willing to protect their families from harm.
We need men who, as our second reading said, “persevere in the faith… and undergo many hardships.” (Acts 14: 22) We men must be willing to step forward and lead with love and courage, like Barnabas and Paul. We already have countless women who are doing so.

It all ends up back at that essential question for every human being, i.e., “Do we really believe that God loves us, has given us eternal life in his Son, Jesus who alone leads us to eternal happiness? Are we willing to accept this gift of eternal life, i.e., the gift of God himself, and God’s commandment to love one another?

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A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

If only we would all be so blessed and willing to bless!


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“A Dignified Shame, and a Shamed Dignity” and the call for Gratitude before God

The Holy Father’s homily in today’s Chrism Mass at the Vatican once again offers us much upon which to reflect. It is addressed, of course, to priests, especially to those priests that were in attendance, and can be taken for reflection by all priests throughout the world. Additionally, all of us would do well to heed his words and attempt to put them into fruitful practice.

I was struck by the phrase he used, i.e., “a dignified shame, and a shamed dignity” when approaching our sins, God’s infinite mercy, and the depth which should mark our gratitude to God. I always like placing words that seem in contradiction in apposition, like the Pope has done here. It speaks volumes about our relationship before God, how God dignifies our lowliness as his creatures, and our awareness of our lowliness in his calling us his sons and daughters by adoption, coheirs to the Kingdom, taken up into Trinitarian life with his Son Jesus.

Here is the Pontiff’s homily:

Vatican Basilica
Holy Thursday, 24 March 2016

After hearing Jesus read from the Prophet Isaiah and say: “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Lk 4:21), the congregation in the synagogue of Nazareth might well have burst into applause.  They might have then wept for joy, as did the people when Nehemiah and Ezra the priest read from the book of the Law found while they were rebuilding the walls.  But the Gospels tell us that Jesus’ townspeople did the opposite; they closed their hearts to him and sent him off.  At first, “all spoke well of him, and wondered at the gracious words that came from his mouth” (4:22).  But then an insidious question began to make the rounds: “Is this not the son of Joseph, the carpenter?” (4:22).  And then, “they were filled with rage” (4:28).  They wanted to throw him off the cliff.  This was in fulfilment of the elderly Simeon’s prophecy to the Virgin Mary that he would
be “a sign of contradiction” (2:34).  By his words and actions, Jesus lays bare the secrets of the heart of every man and woman.

Where the Lord proclaims the Gospel of the Father’s unconditional mercy to the poor, the outcast and the oppressed, is the very place we are called to take a stand, to “fight the good fight of the faith” (1 Tim 6:12).  His battle is not against men and women, but against the devil (cf. Eph 6:12), the enemy of humanity.  But the Lord “passes through the midst” of all those who would stop him and “continues on his way” (Lk 4:30).  Jesus does not fight to build power.  If he breaks down walls and challenges our sense of security, he does this to open the flood gates of that mercy which, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, he wants to pour out upon our world.  A mercy which expands; it proclaims and brings newness; it heals, liberates and proclaims the year of the Lord’s favour. The mercy of our God is infinite and indescribable.  We express the power of this mystery as an“ever greater” mercy, a mercy in motion, a mercy that each day seeks to make progress, taking small steps forward and advancing in that wasteland where indifference and violence have predominated.

This was the way of the Good Samaritan, who “showed mercy” (cf. Lk 10:37): he was moved, he drew near to the wounded man, he bandaged his wounds, took him to the inn, stayed there that evening and promised to return and cover any further cost.  This is the way of mercy, which gathers together small gestures.  Without demeaning, it grows with each helpful sign and act of love.  Every one of us, looking at our own lives as God does, can try to remember the ways in which the Lord has been merciful towards us, how he has been much more merciful than we imagined.  In this we can find the courage to ask him to take a step further and to reveal yet more of his mercy in the future: “Show us, Lord, your mercy” (Ps 85:8).  This paradoxical way of praying to an ever more merciful God, helps us to tear down those walls with which we try to contain the abundant greatness of his heart.  It is good for us to break out of our set ways, because it is proper
to the Heart of God to overflow with tenderness, with ever more to give.  For the Lord prefers something to be wasted rather than one drop of mercy be held back.  He would rather have many seeds be carried off by the birds of the air than have one seed be missing, since each of those seeds has the capacity to bear abundant fruit, thirtyfold, sixtyfold, even a hundredfold.

As priests, we are witnesses to and ministers of the ever-increasing abundance of the Father’s mercy; we have the rewarding and consoling task of incarnating mercy, as Jesus did, who “went about doing good and healing” (Acts 10:38) in a thousand ways so that it could touch everyone.  We can help to inculturate mercy, so that each person can embrace it and experience it personally.  This will help all people truly understand and practise mercy with creativity, in ways that respect their local cultures and families.

Today, during this Holy Thursday of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, I would like to speak of two areas in which the Lord shows excess in mercy.  Based on his example, we also should not hesitate in showing excess.  The first area I am referring to is encounter; the second is God’s forgiveness, which shames us while also giving us dignity. The first area where we see God showing excess in his ever-increasing mercy is that of encounter.  He gives himself completely and in such a way that every encounter leads to rejoicing.

In the parable of the Merciful Father we are astounded by the man who runs, deeply moved, to his son, and throws his arms around him; we see how he embraces his son, kisses him, puts a ring on his finger, and then gives him his sandals, thus showing that he is a son and not a servant.  Finally, he gives orders to everyone and organizes a party.  In contemplating with awe this superabundance of the Father’s joy that is freely and boundlessly expressed when his son returns, we should not be fearful of exaggerating our gratitude.  Our attitude should be that of the poor leper who, seeing himself healed, leaves his nine friends who go off to do what Jesus ordered, and goes back to kneel at the feet of the Lord, glorifying and thanking God aloud.

Mercy restores everything; it restores dignity to each person.  This is why effusive gratitude is the proper response: we have to go the party, to put on our best clothes, to cast off the rancour of the elder brother, to rejoice and give thanks…  Only in this way, participating fully in such rejoicing, is it possible to think straight, to ask for forgiveness, and see more clearly how to make up for the evil we have committed.  It would be good for us to ask ourselves: after going to confession, do I rejoice?  Or do I move on immediately to the next thing, as we would after going to the doctor, when we hear that the test results are not so bad and put them back in their envelope?  And when I give alms, do I give time to the person who receives them to express their gratitude, do I
celebrate the smile and the blessings that the poor offer, or do I continue on in haste with my own affairs after tossing in a coin?

The second area in which we see how God exceeds in his ever greater mercy is forgiveness
itself.   God does not only forgive incalculable debts, as he does to that servant who begs for mercy but is then miserly to his own debtor; he also enables us to move directly from the most shameful disgrace to the highest dignity without any intermediary stages.  The Lords allows the forgiven woman to wash his feet with her tears.  As soon as Simon confesses his sin and begs Jesus to send him away, the Lord raises him to be a fisher of men.  We, however, tend to separate these two attitudes: when we are ashamed of our sins, we hide ourselves and walk around with our heads down, like Adam and Eve; and when we are raised up to some dignity, we try to cover up our sins and take pleasure in being seen, almost showing off.

Our response to God’s superabundant forgiveness should be always to preserve that healthy tension between a dignified shame and a shamed dignity.  It is the attitude of one who seeks a humble and lowly place, but who can also allow the Lord to raise him up for the good of the mission, without complacency.  The model that the Gospel consecrates, and which can help us when we confess our sins, is Peter, who allowed himself to be questioned about his love for the Lord, but who also renewed his acceptance of the ministry of shepherding the flock which the Lord had entrusted to him.

To grow in this “dignity which is capable of humbling itself”, and which delivers us from thinking that we are more or are less than what we are by grace, can help us understand the words of the prophet Isaiah that immediately follow the passage our Lord read in the synagogue at Nazareth: “You will be called priests of the Lord, ministers of our God” (Is 61:6).  It is people who are poor, hungry, prisoners of war, without a future, cast to one side and rejected, that the Lord transforms into a priestly people. As priests, we identify with people who are excluded, people the Lord saves.  We remind ourselves that there are countless masses of people who are poor, uneducated, prisoners, who find themselves in such situations because others oppress them.  But we too remember that each of us knows the extent to which we too are often blind, lacking the radiant light of faith, not because we do not have the Gospel close at hand, but because of an excess of complicated theology.  We feel that our soul thirsts for spirituality, not for a lack of Living Water which we only sip from, but because of an excessive “bubbly” spirituality, a “light” spirituality. We feel ourselves also trapped, not so much by insurmountable stone walls or steel enclosures that affect many peoples, but rather by a digital, virtual worldliness that is opened and closed by a simple click.

We are oppressed, not by threats and pressures, like so many poor people, but by the allure of a thousand commercial advertisements which we cannot shrug off to walk ahead, freely, along paths that lead us to love of our brothers and sisters, to the Lord’s flock, to the sheep who wait for the voice of their shepherds.  Jesus comes to redeem us, to send us out, to transform us from being poor and blind, imprisoned and oppressed, to become ministers of mercy and consolation.  He says to us, using the words the prophet Ezekiel spoke to the people who sold themselves and betrayed the Lord:  “I will remember my covenant with you in the days of your youth…  Then you will remember your ways,
and be ashamed when I take your sisters, both your elder and your younger, and give them to you as daughters, but not on account of the covenant with you.  I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the Lord, that you may remember and be confounded, and never open your mouth again because of your shame, when I forgive you all that you have done, says the Lord God” (Ezek 16:60-63).

In this Jubilee Year we celebrate our Father with hearts full of gratitude, and we pray to him that “he remember his mercy forever”; let us receive, with a dignity that is able to humble itself, the mercy revealed in the wounded flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Let us ask him to cleanse us of all sin and free us from every evil.  And with the grace of the Holy Spirit let us commit ourselves anew to  bringing God’s mercy to all men and women, and performing those works which the Spirit inspires in each of us for the common good of the entire People of God.

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Congratulations, Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis!

Photo courtesy of The Catholic Spirit

Photo source: The Catholic Spirit, Archdiocese of St. Paul & Minneapolis

At six o’clock this morning, local time, Pope Francis named Bishop Bernard A. Hebda the archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Archbishop Hebda has been serving St. Paul and Minneapolis for several months as administrator following the resignation of Archbishop John Neinstedt last summer.

This appointment surprises some for two reasons: 1. The day of its announcement. To announce such an appointment on a day of  the Triduum is very rare; 2. Archbishop Hebda had been the coadjutor bishop Newark for a few years and was widely expected to return there to assume responsibility for that diocese this summer.

It has been told to me by several people in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis that Hebda has been well received and doing much to heal the wounds that exist there following the bankruptcy of the archdiocese largely due to law suits arising from clergy sexual abuse claims.

We all hope for true and lasting healing for everyone in the archdiocese, and we offer our congratulations on their new archbishop!

Here is a brief biography of  the new archbishop, courtesy of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis website.

Archbishop Bernard Hebda

The son of Bernard and the late Helen Clark Hebda, the Most Reverend Bernard A. Hebda was born on September 3, 1959 in Pittsburgh, PA.
Bernard Hebda attended Resurrection Elementary School in Brookline, PA, and then graduated from South Hills Catholic High School in Pittsburgh in 1977. He continued his education at Harvard University in Cambridge, MA, receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1980 followed by a juris doctor degree from the Columbia University School of Law in 1983. He was admitted to the Bar of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 1983 and worked as an associate in the law firm of Reed, Smith, Shaw and McClay.

In 1984, he enrolled at St. Paul Seminary in Pittsburgh and pursued the required studies in philosophy at Duquesne University before being sent to North American College in Rome in 1985 where he completed his theological studies and earned his S.T.B. from the Pontifical Gregorian University in 1989.

He was ordained a deacon on April 6, 1989 at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome by Archbishop John Quinn, and was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Donald W. Wuerl on July 1, 1989 in St. Paul Cathedral in Pittsburgh. After his ordination, he served briefly as Parochial Vicar Pro Tem at Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Elwood City, PA, before returning to Rome to complete his licentiate in canon law, which he received in 1990 from the Pontifical Gregorian University.
Upon returning from Pittsburgh, Fr. Hebda served in the bishop’s office as Master of Ceremonies from 1990-1992, in team ministry at Prince of Peace Parish on Pittsburgh’s South Side from 1992-1995, and as director of campus ministry at the Slippery Rock University Newman Center from 1995-1996. He also served on the Canonical Advisory Council, the Priest Council and the Priest Personnel Board of the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

In 1996, he was appointed to work in the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts in Rome, which is responsible for the interpretation of the Church’s laws, especially the Code of Canon Law. In 2003, St. John Paul II named him Undersecretary of the Council.
While in Rome, he also served as an adjunct spiritual director at the North American College and as a confessor for the postulants of the Missionaries of Charity (founded by Blessed Mother Teresa) and for the Sisters of that community working at a home for unwed mothers.
He was named Fourth Bishop of the Diocese of Gaylord on October 7, 2009 by Pope Benedict XVI. His Episcopal ordination took place on December 1, 2009. Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron was the Principal Consecrator, with Archbishop Francesco Coccopalmerio and Bishop Patrick R. Cooney as co-consecrators.

On September 24, 2013, Pope Francis named Bishop Hebda Coadjutor Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Newark.

On June 15, 2015, Pope Francis named him Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis.

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for Palm Sunday – Cycle C, 2016

Palm Sunday – Cycle C
March 19/20, 2016

Isaiah 50: 4-7; Philippians 2: 6-11; Luke 22: 14- 23: 56

We must take a moment to pause here, after hearing the Passion of our Lord proclaimed. We cannot do much else but pause and reflect on the magnitude of what Jesus did for us that day, in obedience to God the Father. God the Father asked Jesus his divine Son to suffer and die for our sins, and Jesus did.

I mentioned in my homily several weeks ago that if you follow Jesus closely enough, and not just at a safe distance, you will experience the Cross in your life. If you follow Jesus closely, you will suffer in your life, suffer as Jesus suffered. So, how closely have you followed Jesus this Lent? How much did you risk? Where does he want you to be on Easter morning? How has God grasped you and led you? Will you accept or reject the Cross?

The theme of my Lent this year has been on the reality of the Cross in our world, the reality of suffering. Why do people suffer? Why would God let suffering be a part of the life of all Christians?

I have thought, “For nearly 34 years, I sat in an office and hour after hour people would come to me and talk about their suffering.” I have been and continue to be surrounded by suffering. No doubt, all of you have witnessed suffering also. We have seen it in the lives of those we love most. We have seen it in those with chronic and painful physical or emotional diseases, and we ask “Why? Why suffering? Is if really necessary, Lord?” Yes, it seems so, doesn’t it?

Perhaps suffering is necessary so that we will let go of all that, ultimately, doesn’t really matter. Perhaps suffering is necessary so we will allow ourselves to be grasped by God, grasped by Jesus, and allow him to lead us where he wants us to go. Perhaps it is necessary so we grasp on to that which is vitally important in life, our faith in Jesus Christ, and let go of all else in the end. Isn’t this what the saints have called “purification” and “conversion”?

Jesus showed us that there is meaning in our suffering. Jesus showed us that our suffering can lead to the Resurrection and new life. Jesus has shown us that our suffering transforms us into his image. This we take on faith, don’t we, when we suffer. It isn’t easy to believe.

In my 34 years as a therapist, I have seen how suffering for some people leads to a deeper faith. I have seen how for these people, their suffering inspires others. The suffering of the Good Thief brought him to faith and inspires us even today. We can also think of Mother Teresa who was surrounded by suffering every day and every day her faith grew stronger and was an inspiration to all of us. I can well imagine you could tell me of some family member who suffered well, and inspired you.

I have also seen how suffering leads others to a loss of faith and despair. They say, “There cannot be a God if there is this suffering.” Remember the other thief crucified with Jesus? His suffering only led him to ridicule Jesus’ faith in his Father, and the faith of the Good Thief. Remember Judas, who suffered terribly after he betrayed the Lord, but despaired and lost his faith.

It then comes down to us. It is up to us. How will we respond to suffering? What will we believe? Will suffering bring us closer to Jesus and each other, to the Resurrection and new life, or will it lead us to condemnation and death? Do we really believe in the Cross of Jesus and what he did for us, because if we do, we embrace the core of the Christian faith, and will come to understand suffering in our own lives. If we really don’t believe, we are lost.

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for the 2nd Sunday of Lent, Cycle C, 2016

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

2nd Sunday of Lent, Cycle C
Gen 15:5-12, 17-18; Phil 3: 17-4:1; Lk 9: 28b-36
February 20/21, 2016

In the Transfiguration, Jesus reveals his divinity and his glory as the Son of the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit. Immediately preceding today’s passage, Jesus had revealed to his Apostles that he would suffer and die. He wanted the Apostles to know that his life would consist of suffering and glory, of the Cross and the Resurrection.

I would ask you now to recall those times of your life, those pivotal times which seemed to have really changed you. I would like you to think of those high points, those crucial times, those times that defined who you are today.

Were these times of pain and suffering, or times of joy and glory? Were they setbacks and defeats, or times when you succeeded and shined?

You see, if we follow Jesus, suffering will change us and joy will change us. If we follow Jesus closely, we will experience both suffering and glory. We will experience both the Cross and the Resurrection.

The key question is: “Are we following Jesus closely, or at a safe distance? Are we following him closely enough to find ourselves at the foot of his Cross and at the empty tomb on Easter morning? Will we be with him in his suffering and will we be with him in his glory? Are we willing to follow Jesus where he has gone?”

We cannot be in the presence of Jesus, that is, we cannot follow him closely, without in some way being changed, purified of our faults and imperfections, indeed even from the effects of our sins. If we closely follow Jesus, we will be transformed and transfigured. If we follow Jesus closely enough, we will experience both suffering and joy. If you want to know how to follow Jesus that closely, just read the Scriptures and look to the Church to guide you.

Lent is a time for us to walk with Jesus, to live with Jesus, to experience with Jesus what he experienced. Lent is a time for us to be like Jesus so much that we come to share in his glory, to radiate his love to others like Jesus did in the Transfiguration. Lent is a time for change, for conversion, for transformation, for a real rending of our hearts as Fr, Havel reminded us in his Ash Wednesday homily. Walking close to Jesus and being converted, transfigured into his image- this is Lent.

The real purpose of our prayer, fasting, and almsgiving is not to inflict pain or distress or suffering on ourselves; rather, it is to bring others and ourselves to glory. The purpose of our fasts, prayers and works of charity is to prepare us to reach out to the glory promised us by God. In Lent, we always have our sights fixed on Easter Sunday; we always have the Resurrection in mind. We eagerly run to the glory of Easter when we experience Good Friday. The Cross is foolishness to those who do not believe in Easter. Suffering in life is worthless to those who reject the Resurrection, but to those who follow Jesus closely, who believe in the Gospel, who are members of his Church, the sufferings of life, the penances of Lent, are embraced as forerunners to the glory of Easter and the glory of God.

So, do you fast so as to magnify God’s glory? Do you pray, do you come to Mass and go to Confession so as to walk ever closer to Jesus and to be purified of your sins? Do you give alms, do acts of charity to demonstrate what will happen in eternity when we will give back to God all we have and receive glory?

Join me in fasting this Lent in order to shine with the glory of God. Join me in prayer here at the Stations of the Cross on Tuesdays, at Eucharistic adoration on Thursdays, Confession on Saturdays, and the Mass offered every day, in order to walk more closely with Jesus through the Cross to the Resurrection. Join me in giving alms and acts of charity in order to taste here on earth what will be eternally ours in the glory of heaven.

Yes, even in Lent, we reach out to the glory of the Resurrection.

I began by asking you to mentally review your lives, to recall those pivotal periods when your lives seemed to have changed, when you seemed to have been defined in some way. I asked whether those times were times of suffering or times of joy, whether they were times of setback and defeat or times of glory and success. What did you remember about your life? If you did not remember both the Cross and the Resurrection, if you could not recall both times of suffering and times of joy that had transfigured you, then you need to embrace this Lent even more enthusiastically and chang! Rend your hearts before Easter comes!

Walk with Jesus this Lent! Walk closely with him! With him, you will die and you will rise. With him, you will suffer and that suffering will bring you glory. You will be converted, purified, and God will say to you Easter morning, “Come, share in my joy!”

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The Holy Father’s Homily at the Mexican-U.S. Border

I have to admit that I have not been paying close attention to the Holy Father’s pastoral visit to Mexico this week. There have been multiple responsibilities that have kept me from such an attendance. He has, I am finding, given several rather powerful speeches and homilies during his time there, preceded by a face-to-face encounter (the first time ever for a pope) with the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church when they met in Cuba.

You would do well to log on to the Vatican to read the Holy Father’s statements. Indeed, they are challenging to us.

I do want to represent here Pope Francis’ homily yesterday at the Mexican-U.S. border Mass. His presence there caused a bit of an uproar in the political world, especially among some contenders for the presidency, but one could expect nothing less, I suppose.

Let us try to take to heart the words and example of our Holy Father. Here they are.


Ciudad Juárez Fair Grounds
Wednesday, 17 February 2016

In the second century Saint Irenaeus wrote that the glory of God is the life of man. It is an expression which continues to echo in the heart of the Church. The glory of the Father is the life of his sons and daughters. There is no greater glory for a father than to see his children blossom, no greater satisfaction than to see his children grow up, developing and flourishing. The first reading that we have just heard points to this. The great city of Nineveh, was self-destructing as a result of oppression and dishonour, violence and injustice. The grand capital’s days were numbered because the violence within it could not continue. Then the Lord appeared and stirred Jonah’s heart: the Father called and sent forth his messenger. Jonah was summoned to receive a mission. “Go”, he is told, because in “forty days Nineveh shall be overthrown” (Jon 3:4). Go and help them to understand that by the way they treat each other, ordering and organizing themselves, they are only creating death and destruction, suffering and oppression. Make them see this is no way to live, neither for the king nor his subjects, nor for farm fields nor for the cattle. Go and tell them that they have become used to this degrading way of life and have lost their sensitivity to pain. Go and tell them that injustice has infected their way of seeing the world. “Therefore, go Jonah!”. God sent him to testify to what was happening, he sent him to wake up a people intoxicated with themselves.

In this text we find ourselves before the mystery of divine mercy. Mercy, which always rejects wickedness, takes the human person in great earnest. Mercy always appeals to the goodness of each person, even though it be dormant and numbed. Far from bringing destruction, as we so often desire or want to bring about ourselves, mercy seeks to transform each situation from within. Herein lies the mystery of divine mercy. It seeks and invites us to conversion, it invites us to repentance; it invites us to see the damage being done at every level. Mercy always pierces evil in order to transform it. It is the mystery of God our Father: he sends his Son who pierced into what was evil, he made himself sin in order to transform evil. This is his mercy.

The king listened to Jonah, the inhabitants of the city responded and penance was decreed. God’s mercy has entered the heart, revealing and showing wherein our certainty and hope lie: there is always the possibility of change, we still have time to transform what is destroying us as a people, what is demeaning our humanity. Mercy encourages us to look to the present, and to trust what is healthy and good beating in every heart. God’s mercy is our shield and our strength.

Jonah helped them to see, helped them to become aware. Following this, his call found men and women capable of repenting, and capable of weeping. To weep over injustice, to cry over corruption, to cry over oppression. These are tears that lead to transformation, that soften the heart; they are the tears that purify our gaze and enable us to see the cycle of sin into which very often we have sunk. They are tears that can sensitize our gaze and our attitude hardened and especially dormant in the face of another’s suffering. They are the tears that can break us, capable of opening us to conversion. This is what happened to Peter after having denied Jesus; he cried and those tears opened his heart.

This word echoes forcefully today among us; this word is the voice crying out in the wilderness, inviting us to conversion. In this Year of Mercy, with you here, I beg for God’s mercy; with you I wish to plead for the gift of tears, the gift of conversion.

Here in Ciudad Juárez, as in other border areas, there are thousands of immigrants from Central America and other countries, not forgetting the many Mexicans who also seek to pass over “to the other side”. Each step, a journey laden with grave injustices: the enslaved, the imprisoned and extorted; so many of these brothers and sisters of ours are the consequence of a trade in human trafficking, the trafficking of persons.

We cannot deny the humanitarian crisis which in recent years has meant migration for thousands of people, whether by train or highway or on foot, crossing hundreds of kilometres through mountains, deserts and inhospitable zones. The human tragedy that is forced migration is a global phenomenon today. This crisis which can be measured in numbers and statistics, we want instead to measure with names, stories, families. They are the brothers and sisters of those expelled by poverty and violence, by drug trafficking and criminal organizations. Being faced with so many legal vacuums, they get caught up in a web that ensnares and always destroys the poorest. Not only do they suffer poverty but they must also endure all these forms of violence. Injustice is radicalized in the young; they are “cannon fodder”, persecuted and threatened when they try to flee the spiral of violence and the hell of drugs. And what can we say about the many women whose lives have been unjustly robbed?

Let us together ask our God for the gift of conversion, the gift of tears, let us ask him to give us open hearts like the Ninevites, open to his call heard in the suffering faces of countless men and women. No more death! No more exploitation! There is always time to change, always a way out and always an opportunity, there is always the time to implore the mercy of God.

Just as in Jonas’ time, so too today may we commit ourselves to conversion; may we be signs lighting the way and announcing salvation. I know of the work of countless civil organizations working to support the rights of migrants. I know too of the committed work of so many men and women religious, priests and lay people in accompanying migrants and in defending life. They are on the front lines, often risking their own lives. By their very lives they are prophets of mercy; they are the beating heart and the accompanying feet of the Church that opens its arms and sustains.

This time for conversion, this time for salvation, is the time for mercy. And so, let us say together in response to the suffering on so many faces: In your compassion and mercy, Lord, have pity on us … cleanse us from our sins and create in us a pure heart, a new spirit (cf. Ps 50: 3,4,12).

And now I also want to greet from here all our beloved brothers and sisters who are joining us simultaneously from the other side of the frontier, especially those who are gathered in the Stadium of the University of El Paso, known as The Sun Bowl, under the guidance of your Bishop, Monsignor Mark Seitz. Thanks to technology, we can pray, sing and celebrate together that merciful love which God gives us, and which no frontier can prevent us from sharing. Thank you, brothers and sisters of El Paso, for making us feel one single family and one same Christian community.

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for the 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle C, 2016

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

3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time-Cycle C
Neh 8: 2-4a. 5-6, 8-10; 1Cor 12: 12-30; Lk 1: 1-4; 4: 14-21
January 23/24, 2016

Can you imagine what it would be like if we all knew God existed, but we had no way of knowing what to do with him, how to live with him, how to connect with him, or what he wanted of us? This was in many ways what had happened to the Israelites in our first reading today. It is, in many ways, the way it is for those in today’s world who have turned their hearts from the Church and God’s Law.

We have to understand the context of what had happened to the Israelites. They had had a lot of really difficult things happen to them, including having lost all copies of the law of Moses (or so they thought). None of them had ever seen or heard it for over a generation. They knew it had existed, because their ancestors had told them. They knew God existed because they had passed down by word of mouth all that God had done for the Hebrew people, how he had freed them from slavery, parted the water in the Red Sea, how God had fed their forefathers with manna and quail, how God had provided water from a rock, and how God had revealed himself to Moses on Mt. Sinai. They knew God existed because of all that, but they didn’t know anymore how to be in a good relationship with God because the law of Moses was lost to them. They didn’t know how to live with God and each other in the way God wanted them to live. But, one day a priest, Ezra, found a copy of the law of Moses behind a wall in the temple building that was being remodeled. This was the scroll that we hear of today in the reading. The people, all of them from the greatest to the least, were called together to hear aloud this law so they would know once more how God wanted them to live with him and with each other. And the people, we are told, rejoiced.

Then in our Gospel today, we hear how Jesus breaks open the Scriptures and reveals to the people what they had not understood about God’s law, about how they were to live with God and each other. Jesus declared that the law was fulfilled in him. He was the way we were to live with God and each other. Jesus was the guidebook, you might say, the new law revealed to us that shows us how to live.
Finally, in our second reading, we hear that beautiful reading from St. Paul describing the Body of Christ, the Church. We hear that the Church is the mystical presence of Jesus living and true through which we learn how to live and love God and each other, and how inseparable Jesus is from his Church, and how important all of us are in God’s plan.

My friends, we are not just individuals in search of meaning. We are a people on a pilgrimage as a community, as a Church, toward the Truth who is God, and our destination is heaven. We are Jesus’ mystical Body, the Church, and the Church shows us the way to live with God and each other. This is so important for us to remember as Catholics: We are the Church, and the community of the Church, the Body of Christ, shows us the way to heaven because Jesus teaches us in the Church.

Some people say that the Church has too many laws. Actually, she has very few hard and fast ones. She does have a lot of two things though: Mercy and Freedom! The Church is all about the Truth that sets us free from sin and death, and keeps us close to God who is a God of mercy. We see this throughout the Scriptures, how God frees his people from slavery to sin and Satan, from bondage and tyranny of all sorts. The Church is on the front lines in the battle for social justice and human dignity because Jesus lives in his Church, and Jesus is the Way,the Truth and the Life.

Jesus promised us he would be present in his Church until the end of time. He promised also that he would send the Holy Spirit into the Church, into our hearts, and he would write his law in our hearts. He promised that we would never be in the same situation that the Israelites were in in our first reading. He promised that everyone, from the greatest to the least, would be a member of this Church, his Body, that everyone was important, that no one was to be left out, that all could be included, if they would only be willing to listen to his law living in his Church and follow that law of love and freedom in their hearts as a member of his Body. He also promised that he would send out his followers to bring back all who wander away. Jesus showed us that in the Old Law God seemed distant, but in the New Law God is near, very near, within us, even in those who seem insignificant.

That is why the Church is so pro-life, because God loves the addict, the unborn, the elderly, the disabled, and so must we. We must not ignore them. Jesus lives in the person next to you today. He lives in me, and you, and you. He lives in the person in the pew ahead and behind you. He lives in the unborn, in the elderly, the terminally ill, the immigrant, the disabled, the mentally ill, the addicted. Jesus lives in his Church, in the People of God, in each one of us, and that is why we are pro-life and we preach the dignity of every human person, without exception! We must walk with God and each other; we must value all human life! Last Friday, I and many of you traveled to St. Paul for the March for Life to express our belief in the sanctity of all human life, and I thank all of you who came, especially those who organized it and funded it!

Let us this day renew our dedication to respecting each other as brothers and sisters of Jesus, sons and daughters of the Father. Let us renew our love and commitment to Jesus Christ present in his Church. Let us never forget that God lives in each of us, and in serving each other, we praise Him!

Posted in homilies | Comments Off on Deacon Bob’s Homily for the 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle C, 2016

Beware! From the Experience of an Exorcist

I read with interest over at Catholic News Agency an interview with a Spanish exorcist during which he spoke of the Satan’s favorite sin (pride) and the danger of  “New Age” practices, such as Reiki and Yoga.

I have often said the same thing to well meaning Catholics who get into Reiki and Yoga. They always tell me the same thing, i.e, it is good for their health, their ability to relax, and their overall well-being. I always respond with the same response, i.e., “Do you know there are healthy and holy practices that come from the saints (and our Lord himself) that have those same benefits? Have you studied and tried them?”

A nearby spirituality center, sponsored by a Catholic order, regularly offers classes very similar to, if not in reality, New Age philosophies and practices. I always cringe.

I agree with the priest interviewed in the article. To engage in New Age practices are invitations to the devil to enter you life in some way. He is always studying us, and looking for ways. His temptations always look good at first, for he knows we are incapable of choosing anything that doesn’t look good at first sight.

Log on to the article and read. Here is the link:  The Devil’s Favorite Sin

Posted in General Interest, Health Care, Sin and Temptation, Spirituality | Comments Off on Beware! From the Experience of an Exorcist