Deacon Bob’s Homily for 2nd Sunday in Lent, Cycle C

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

2nd Sunday in Lent, Cycle C

March16/17, 2019

Gen 15: 5-12, 17-18; Phil 3: 17-41; Lk 9: 28b-36

 

Today’s homily will begin with a reflection since the Gospel is about a vision Peter, John, and James had on Mount Tabor when they saw the divinity of Jesus Christ.

What is the first thing you see when you enter this church? It is the crucifix. The question is whether we look at it or not, whether we meditate on it or distract ourselves from it every Sunday when we come to Mass. I would ask you to please look at it now. You can listen to me and look at the Cross. What do you see when you gaze on that Cross? A man to be pitied or someone you love? Someone from whom you, out of fear, want to turn away your attention or someone to whom you turn in faith? Do you see someone like you, or unlike you? Do you see a failure, or a victor?

A Christian sees beyond the Cross, beyond the darkness of Calvary, beyond the ugliness of Golgotha and on to the glory and light that follows. God allows the Cross, but he gives us the resurrection. God allows the Cross and gives us the transfiguration of our lives.

The Cross is the portal, the door, through which we must pass in this life in order to enter into the glory promised us in heaven where we shall see God as his is. Pope Francis said, “The Cross is the door to resurrection.” Whoever struggles alongside Jesus will triumph with him.

So, what is the Cross in your life? Lent is a time to confront whatever it is and change.

Lent is a time to change our lives, real change of our hearts, a time to embrace whatever the Cross may be in our lives, by doing the small necessary things over and over again without losing hope. Maybe your cross is family matters; maybe it is health issues; maybe it is being more charitable with your finances; maybe it is about confronting an addiction from which you suffer and get help to obtain a more sober and clean life. Maybe it is about admitting your doubts and asking for greater faith.

All of us want to change external things but not many of us want to go through the process of internal change, which can be difficult, which is the Cross for us. Letting go of well known attitudes, behaviors, sins, lifestyles, all of that can be hard. Ask anyone who is addicted to whatever, and he will tell you that unless you keep doing the small things over and over again, never losing hope, you will not become who you were created to be. Am I becoming more and more like God, or am I just changing the small things to become who I want to be? Do I want to embrace the Cross in my life, or do I deny and avoid it? Do I only want the glory?

It is about doing all the little things over and over again, more than it is about doing a big thing once. It isn’t really about “doing” more as it is about “becoming” more. Becoming more like Jesus.

We cannot enter into God’s glory – radiant with the light of God – until we pass through the Cross. We cannot be resurrected until we have stood at the foot of the Cross and received God’s mercy and forgiveness.

Peter, James, and John were given a glimpse of God’s glory, and their future glory, in the Transfiguration when Jesus revealed himself as true God and true man. In the Transfiguration, Jesus showed them what lay ahead for them, for all his followers, you and me, if we but pass through the Cross and remain faithful, hopeful, and loving. At the Transfiguration, Jesus reveals himself as God and extends to all of us a tremendous promise: “You too will be transfigured into the glory of God if you follow me.”

“Follow me. All the way to Calvary; all the way to Golgotha; all the way to the Tomb, then all the way to heaven itself. Jesus says, “Remain faithful throughout all of Lent so you will be ready to celebrate Easter.”

Jesus knew that the Cross was going to be difficult for himself and for his followers. That is one reason he let them see his glory in the Transfiguration, so they would not become discouraged, so that we don’t become discouraged.

During this Lent, we can ask ourselves whether we will be faithful until the end. Whether we will remain faithful at the foot of the Cross so as to pass through it to new life. We can ask ourselves whether or not we will let fear of change, fear of the Cross, keep us from inheriting God’s promise of glory with him in heaven.

St. John Paul II said, “Non avete paura. Spalancate le porte a Cristo!” which means, don’t be afraid, open wide your hearts to Christ. May all of us trust Jesus to be with us now as we embrace the crosses of our live, and forever with us in glory in the life to come.

 

 

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

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

2nd Sunday on Ordinary Time, Cycle C

Isaiah 62: 1-5; 1 Cor. 12: 4-11; John 2: 1-11

January 19/20, 2019

As a bridegroom rejoices in his new bride, so God rejoices in you! Isaiah provides us a beautiful description of God’s  love for his people in our first reading. In our Gospel, we see how Jesus chose to reveal himself as the divine Son of God at a wedding feast in Cana and how God provides what is needed — in this case, lots of good wine which is a symbol of grace— to ensure that the love of marriage may be enjoyed and shared with the whole community who gather to celebrate. Even in our first reading, Isaiah describes God as a young man who is like a bridegroom rejoicing in his new bride and he refers to marriage as an image of God’s love for us.

Thinking about marriage and the world, I am left with the question, “What will ultimately unite our marriages, our parishes, communities, and our world today?”

I believe it will be love. Only God’s love will ultimately unite us. God is love. Nothing and no one else, I think, will long unite us and bring peace to our marriages, families, and world. We often try to use the world’s strategy to bring unity and peace, and it doesn’t work for long. The strategy of the world is utility, or usefulness to each other. We tend to think that as long as we are useful and suitable for someone’s’ needs or desires, we will have peace and unity. We do this in our marriages, with our employers, with our neighbors, and with others. But the unity of utility is very fragile and the cause of many divisions, conflicts and divorces in our world today.

No, only true love will unite us, nothing else in the long run, for love is the mentality of Jesus. Love is the presence of God in our lives. Love is indeed divine. Without love, only usefulness, or the lack thereof, remains. Without love, conflict, darkness, and sin quickly take over.

We must not forget, though, that true love for others — whether in marriage and family or in our communities — requires faith and fidelity: faith in each other, faith in God. Faith and fidelity are the keys that unlock the door of love. Faith that is shared with others enables love to endure even in the most difficult of times. A shared faith, mutual fidelity, sustains our marriages, our families, or communities. That is why married couples need to give each other gift of faith.  They must keep faith in each other. The same is true with our parishes. That is one reason why as a parish community we must gather every week to worship together and to share our faith with each other.

Faith, given to each other, enables us to see the love that is present in our relationships. Faith illuminates the presence of God who is love. It sheds a bright light on the presence of God in our marriages and families and parishes. Faith allows us to see God’s presence and action in our lives. Oh, how much we need to increase our faith in each other because the world so desperately needs to see genuine love.

Do we realize, brothers and sisters in Christ, that the love we have for our husbands and wives, for our children and grandchildren, for our parish and community, if it is to endure, requires faith and fidelity? Do we see how love within marriage between a man and a woman raises marriage up to such a dignity in God’s eyes that it becomes a sacrament, which means God reveals himself and gives abundant grace through the love of marriage? Mutual love, grounded in faith and fidelity, becomes the way God reveals loves his people. This is what happened at the wedding feast of Cana; he revealed himself and his love through a marriage celebration, and gave abundant, overflowing grace to all the people. Jesus does the same each time a couple enters into a sacramental marriage. Jesus does the same in this parish when we gather with a shared faith, by giving us abundant grace in the Eucharist.

Only love will long unite us, not mere usefulness to each other, not simply meeting each others’ needs. We must come to Eucharist, not simply to get our needs met or to meet the needs of others, but rather to express our faith with each other so that we may see the love of God among us and especially in the Eucharist. To come to only get our needs met or to meet someone else’s needs would be the mentality of the world. The mentality of Christ is of love and fidelity. Faith in each other and in God allows love to endure.

If we remain faithful to each other our love will be pure and maintain its integrity and it will become a bright light shining in our world today, a world desperately needing to see the real meaning of love.

Yes, God love us as a bridegroom loves his new bride. Jesus revealed himself as the Son of God at a wedding. God abundantly blesses the love we have for one another, as husbands and wives, as neighbors and friends, as fellow parishioners. Our love must endure. It will if we maintain faith and fidelity to each other and to God. Our love, grounded in faith, will become a bright light that reveals to the whole world the love of God for his people.

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Holy Father’s Letter to the US Bishops on Retreat

The Holy Father has issued a letter to the US bishops on retreat at Mundelein near Chicago. It is worth all our time to read. Here is the link:

http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/letters/2019/documents/papa-francesco_20190101_lettera-vescovi-usa.html

Here is the text:

LETTER SENT BY THE HOLY FATHER
TO THE BISHOPS OF THE UNITED STATES CONFERENCE
OF CATHOLIC BISHOPS

 

Dear Brothers,

During my meeting on 13 September last with the officers of your Conference of Bishops, I suggested that together you make a retreat, a time of seclusion, prayer and discernment, as a necessary step toward responding in the spirit of the Gospel to the crisis of credibility that you are experiencing as a Church. We see this in the Gospel: at critical moments in his mission, the Lord withdrew and spent the whole night in prayer, inviting his disciples to do the same (cf. Mk 14:38). We know that, given the seriousness of the situation, no response or approach seems adequate; nonetheless, we as pastors must have the ability, and above all the wisdom, to speak a word born of heartfelt, prayerful and collective listening to the Word of God and to the pain of our people. A word born of the prayer of shepherds who, like Moses, fight and intercede for their people (cf. Ex 32:30-32).

In that meeting, I told Cardinal DiNardo and the other bishops present of my desire to accompany you personally for several days on that retreat, and this offer was met with joy and anticipation. As the Successor of Peter, I wanted to join all of you in imploring the Lord to send forth his Spirit who “makes all things new” (cf. Rev 21:5) and to point out the paths of life that, as Church, we are called to follow for the good of all those entrusted to our care. Despite my best efforts, I will not be able, for logistical reasons, to be physically present with you. This letter is meant in some way to make up for that journey which could not take place. I am also pleased that you have accepted my offer to have the Preacher of the Papal Household direct this retreat and to share his deep spiritual wisdom.

With these few lines, I would like to draw near to you as a brother and to reflect with you on some aspects that I consider important, while at the same time encouraging your prayer and the steps you are taking to combat the “culture of abuse” and to deal with the crisis of credibility.

“It cannot be like that with you. Anyone among you who aspires to greatness must serve the rest; whoever wants to rank first among you must serve the needs of all” (Mk 10:43-45). With these words, Jesus intervenes and acknowledges the indignation felt by the disciples who heard James and John asking to sit at the right and left of the Master (cf. Mk 10:37). His words will help guide us in our shared reflection.

The Gospel is not afraid to mention certain tensions, conflicts and disputes present in the life of the first community of disciples; it would even appear to want to do so. It speaks of seeking places of honor, and of jealousy, envy and machinations. To say nothing of the intrigues and the plots that, whether secretly or openly, were hatched around the message and person of Jesus by the political and religious leaders and the merchants of the time (cf. Mk 11:15-18). These conflicts increased with the approach of the hour of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, as the prince of this world, and sin and corruption, appeared to have the last word, poisoning everything with bitterness, mistrust and resentment.

As the elderly Simeon had prophesied, difficult and critical moments can bring to light the deepest thoughts, tensions and contradictions present in the disciples individually and as a group (cf. Lk 2:35). No one can consider himself exempt from this; we are asked as a community to take care that at those times our decisions, choices, actions and intentions are not tainted by these inner conflicts and tensions, but are instead a response to the Lord who is life for the world. At times of great confusion and uncertainty, we need to be attentive and discerning, to free our hearts of compromises and false certainties, in order to hear what the Lord asks of us in the mission he has given us. Many actions can be helpful, good and necessary, and may even seem correct, but not all of them have the “flavour” of the Gospel. To put it colloquially, we have to be careful that “the cure does not become worse than the disease”. And this requires of us wisdom, prayer, much listening and fraternal communion.

1. “It cannot be like that with you”

In recent years, the Church in the United States has been shaken by various scandals that have gravely affected its credibility. These have been times of turbulence in the lives of all those victims who suffered in their flesh the abuse of power and conscience and sexual abuse on the part of ordained ministers, male and female religious and lay faithful. But times of turbulence and suffering also for their families and for the entire People of God.

The Church’s credibility has been seriously undercut and diminished by these sins and crimes, but even more by the efforts made to deny or conceal them. This has led to a growing sense of uncertainty, distrust and vulnerability among the faithful. As we know, the mentality that would cover things up, far from helping to resolve conflicts, enabled them to fester and cause even greater harm to the network of relationships that today we are called to heal and restore.

We know that the sins and crimes that were committed, and their repercussions on the ecclesial, social and cultural levels, have deeply affected the faithful. They have caused great perplexity, upset and confusion; and this can often serve as an excuse for some to discredit and call into question the selfless lives of all those many Christians who show “an immense love for humanity inspired by the God who became man”.[1] Whenever the Gospel message proves inconvenient or disturbing, many voices are raised in an attempt to silence that message by pointing to the sins and inconsistencies of the members of the Church and, even more, of her pastors.

The hurt caused by these sins and crimes has also deeply affected the communion of bishops, and generated not the sort of healthy and necessary disagreements and tensions found in any living body, but rather division and dispersion (cf. Mt 26:31). The latter are certainly not fruits and promptings of the Holy Spirit, but rather of “the enemy of human nature”,[2] who takes greater advantage of division and dispersion than of the tensions and disagreements reasonably to be expected in the lives of Christ’s disciples.

Combatting the culture of abuse, the loss of credibility, the resulting bewilderment and confusion, and the discrediting of our mission urgently demands of us a renewed and decisive approach to resolving conflicts. Jesus would tell us: “You know how among the Gentiles those who seem to exercise authority lord it over them; their great ones make their importance felt. It cannot be like that with you” (Mk 10:42-43). Loss of credibility calls for a specific approach, since it cannot be regained by issuing stern decrees or by simply creating new committees or improving flow charts, as if we were in charge of a department of human resources. That kind of vision ends up reducing the mission of the bishop and that of the Church to a mere administrative or organizational function in the “evangelization business”. Let us be clear: many of those things are necessary yet insufficient, since they cannot grasp and deal with reality in its complexity; ultimately, they risk reducing everything to an organizational problem.

The loss of credibility also raises painful questions about the way we relate to one another. Clearly, a living fabric has come undone, and we, like weavers, are called to repair it. This involves our ability, or inability, as a community to forge bonds and create spaces that are healthy, mature and respectful of the integrity and privacy of each person. It involves our ability to bring people together and to get them enthused and confident about a broad, shared project that is at once unassuming, solid, sober and transparent. This requires not only a new approach to management, but also a change in our mind-set (metanoia), our way of praying, our handling of power and money, our exercise of authority and our way of relating to one another and to the world around us. Changes in the Church are always aimed at encouraging a constant state of missionary and pastoral conversion capable of opening up new ecclesial paths ever more in keeping with the Gospel and, as such, respectful of human dignity. The programmatic aspect of our activity should be joined to a paradigmatic aspect that brings out its underlying spirit and meaning. The two are necessarily linked. Without this clear and decisive focus, everything we do risks being tainted by self-referentiality, self-preservation and defensiveness, and thus doomed from the start. Our efforts may be well-structured and organized, but will lack evangelical power, for they will not help us to be a Church that bears credible witness, but instead “a noisy gong, a clanging cymbal” (1 Cor 13:1).

In a word, a new ecclesial season needs bishops who can teach others how to discern God’s presence in the history of his people, and not mere administrators. Ideas can be discussed but vital situations have to be discerned. Consequently, amid the upset and confusion experienced by our communities, our primary duty is to foster a shared spirit of discernment, rather than to seek the relative calm resulting from compromise or from a democratic vote where some emerge as “winners” and others not. No! It is about finding a collegial and paternal way of embracing the present situation, one that, most importantly, can protect those in our care from losing hope and feeling spiritually abandoned.[3] This will enable us to be fully immersed in reality, seeking to appreciate and hear it from within, without being held hostage to it.

We know that times of trial and tribulation can threaten our fraternal communion. Yet we also know that they can become times of grace sustaining our commitment to Christ and making it credible. This credibility will not be grounded in ourselves, our statements, our merits or our personal or collective good name. All these are signs of our attempt – nearly always subconscious – to justify ourselves on the basis of our own strengths and abilities (or of someone else’s misfortune). Credibility will be the fruit of a united body that, while acknowledging its sinfulness and limitations, is at the same time capable of preaching the need for conversion. For we do not want to preach ourselves but rather Christ who died for us (cf. 2 Cor 4:5). We want to testify that at the darkest moments of our history the Lord makes himself present, opens new paths and anoints our faltering faith, our wavering hope and our tepid charity.

A personal and collective awareness of our limitations reminds us, as Saint John XXIII said, that “it must not be imagined that authority knows no bounds”.[4] It cannot be aloof in its discernment and in its efforts to pursue the common good. A faith and consciousness lacking reference to the community would be like a “Kantian transcendental”: it will end up proclaiming “a God without Christ, a Christ without the Church, a Church without its people”. It will set up a false and dangerous opposition between personal and ecclesial life, between a God of pure love and the suffering flesh of Christ. Worse, it could risk turning God into an “idol” for one particular group. Constant reference to universal communion, as also to the magisterium and age-old tradition of the Church, saves believers from absolutizing any one group, historical period or culture within the Church. Our catholicity is at stake also in our ability as pastors to learn how to listen to one another, to give and receive help from one another, to work together and to receive the enrichment that other churches can contribute to our following of Christ. The catholicity of the Church cannot be reduced merely to a question of doctrine or law; rather, it reminds us that we are not solitary pilgrims: “If one member suffers, all suffer together” (1 Cor 12:26).

This collegial awareness of our being sinners in need of constant conversion, albeit deeply distressed and pained by all that that has happened, allows us to enter into affective communion with our people. It will liberate us from the quest of false, facile and futile forms of triumphalism that would defend spaces rather than initiate processes. It will keep us from turning to reassuring certainties that keep us from approaching and appreciating the extent and implications of what has happened. It will also aid in the search for suitable measures free of false premises or rigid formulations no longer capable of speaking to or stirring the hearts of men and women in our time.[5]

Affective communion with the feelings of our people, with their disheartenment, urges us to exercise a collegial spiritual fatherhood that does not offer banal responses or act defensively, but instead seeks to learn – like the prophet Elijah amid his own troubles – to listen to the voice of the Lord. That voice is not to be found in the tempest or the earthquake, but in the calm born of acknowledging our hurt before the present situation and letting ourselves together be summoned anew by God’s word (cf. 1 Kg 19:9-18).

This approach demands of us the decision to abandon a modus operandi of disparaging, discrediting, playing the victim or the scold in our relationships, and instead to make room for the gentle breeze that the Gospel alone can offer. Let us not forget that “the collegial lack of a heartfelt and prayerful acknowledgment of our limitations prevents grace from working more effectively within us, for no room is left for bringing about the potential good that is part of a sincere and genuine journey of growth”.[6] Let us try to break the vicious circle of recrimination, undercutting and discrediting, by avoiding gossip and slander in the pursuit of a path of prayerful and contrite acceptance of our limitations and sins, and the promotion of dialogue, discussion and discernment. This will dispose us to finding evangelical paths that can awaken and encourage the reconciliation and credibility that our people and our mission require of us. We will do this if we can stop projecting onto others our own confusion and discontent, which are obstacles to unity,[7] and dare to come together, on our knees, before the Lord and let ourselves be challenged by his wounds, in which we will be able to see the wounds of the world. Jesus tells us: “You know how among the Gentiles those who seem to exercise authority lord it over them; their great ones make their importance felt. It cannot be like that with you”.

2. “Anyone among you who aspires to greatness must serve the rest; whoever wants to rank first among you must serve the needs of all”

God’s faithful people and the Church’s mission continue to suffer greatly as a result of abuses of power and conscience and sexual abuse, and the poor way that they were handled, as well as the pain of seeing an episcopate lacking in unity and concentrated more on pointing fingers than on seeking paths of reconciliation. This situation forces us to look to what is essential and to rid ourselves of all that stands in the way of a clear witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

What is being asked of us today is a new presence in the world, conformed to the cross of Christ, one that takes concrete shape in service to the men and women of our time. I think of the words of Saint Paul VI at the beginning of his pontificate: “If we want to be pastors, fathers and teachers, we must also act as brothers. Dialogue thrives on friendship, and most especially on service. All this we must remember and strive to put into practice on the example and precept of Christ (Jn 13:14-17)”.[8]

This attitude is not concerned with respect or success and garnering applause for our actions; instead, it requires that we as pastors really decide to be a seed that will grow whenever and however the Lord best determines. That decision will save us from falling into the trap of measuring the value of our efforts by the standards of functionalism and efficiency that govern the business world. The path to be taken is rather one of openness to the efficacy and transformative power of God’s Kingdom, which, like a mustard seed, the smallest and most insignificant of seeds, becomes a tree in which the birds of the air make their nests (cf. Mt 13:32-33). Amid the tempest, we must never lose faith in the quiet, daily and effective power of the Holy Spirit at work in human hearts and in all of history.

Credibility is born of trust, and trust is born of sincere, daily, humble and generous service to all, but especially to those dearest to the Lord’s heart (cf. Mt 25:31-46). It will be a service offered not out of concern with marketing or strategizing to reclaim lost prestige or to seek accolades, but rather – as I insisted in the recent Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate – because it belongs to “the beating heart of the Gospel”.[9]

The call to holiness keeps us from falling into false dichotomies and reductive ways of thinking, and from remaining silent in the face of a climate prone to hatred and rejection, disunity and violence between brothers and sisters. The Church, as the “sign and instrument of communion with God and of the unity of the entire human race” (Lumen Gentium, 1), bears in her heart and soul the sacred mission of being a place of encounter and welcome not only for her members but for all humanity. It is part of her identity and mission to work tirelessly for all that can contribute to unity between individuals and peoples as a symbol and sacrament of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for all men and women, without distinction. For “there does not exist among you Jew or Greek, slave or freeman, male or female. All are one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28). This is the greatest service she offers, all the more so today, when we are witnessing a resurgence of inflammatory rhetoric and prejudices old and new. Our communities today must testify in a concrete and creative way that God is the Father of all, and that in his eyes we are all his sons and daughters. Our credibility also depends on the extent to which, side by side with others, we help to strengthen a social and cultural fabric that is not only in danger of unravelling, but also of harboring and facilitating new forms of hatred. As a Church, we cannot be held hostage by this side or that, but must be attentive always to start from those who are most vulnerable. With the words of the Eucharistic Prayer, let us ask the Lord that, “in a world torn by strife, your people may shine forth as a prophetic sign of unity and concord” (Masses for Various Needs, I)

How sublime is the task at hand, brothers; we cannot keep silent about it or downplay it because of our own limitations and faults! I recall the wise words of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, that we can repeat, both as individuals and together: “Yes, I have many human faults and failures… But God bends down and uses us, you and me, to be his love and his compassion in the world; he bears our sins, our troubles and our faults. He depends on us to love the world and to show how much he loves it. If we are too concerned with ourselves, we will have no time left for others”.[10]

Dear brothers, the Lord was well aware that, at the hour of the cross, lack of unity, division and dispersion, as well as attempts to flee from that hour, would be the greatest temptations faced by his disciples – attitudes that would distort and hinder their mission. That is why he asked the Father to watch over them, so that at those times they would be one, even as he and the Father are one, and that none of them would be lost (cf. Jn 17:11-12). Entering with trust into Jesus’ prayer to the Father, we want to learn from him and, with firm resolve, to begin this time of prayer, silence and reflection, of dialogue and communion, of listening and discernment. In this way, we will allow him to conform our hearts to his image and help us discover his will.

On this path we are not alone. From the beginning, Mary accompanied and sustained the community of the disciples. By her maternal presence she helped the community not to lose its bearings by breaking up into closed groups or by thinking that it could save itself. She protected the community of the disciples from the spiritual isolation that leads to self-centeredness. By her faith, she helped them to persevere amid perplexity, trusting that God’s light would come. We ask her to keep us united and persevering as on the day of Pentecost, so that the Spirit will be poured forth into our hearts and help us in every time and place to bear witness to the resurrection.

Dear brothers, with these thoughts I am one with you during these days of spiritual retreat. I am praying for you; please do the same for me. May the Lord bless you and Our Lady watch over you.

Fraternally,

FRANCIS

Vatican City, 1st January 2019

 

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Pope Francis’ Words to the Curia

I think this is worthy of the time it will take to read. Our current ecclesial situation vis a vis clergy and laity, requires a great conversion and purgation. Our Holy Father is eloquent in the following address he gave to the Curia of Rome.

 

CHRISTMAS GREETINGS TO THE ROMAN CURIA

ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS

Clementine Hall
Friday, 21 December 2018

[Multimedia]


 

“The night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness
and put on the armour of light”
(Rom 13:12).

 

Dear brothers and sisters,

Filled with the joy and hope that radiate from the countenance of the Holy Child, we gather again this year for the exchange of Christmas greetings, mindful of all the joys and struggles of our world and of the Church.

To you and your co-workers, to all those who serve in the Curia, to the Papal Representatives and the staff of the various Nunciatures, I offer my cordial good wishes for a blessed Christmas. I want to express my gratitude for your daily dedication to the service of the Holy See, the Church and the Successor of Peter. Thank you very much!

Allow me also to offer a warm welcome to the new Substitute of the Secretariat of State, Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra, who began his demanding and important service on 15 October last. The fact that he comes from Venezuela respects the catholicity of the Church and her need to keep expanding her horizons to the ends of the earth. Welcome, dear Archbishop, and best wishes for your work!

Christmas fills us with joy and makes us certain that no sin will ever be greater than God’s mercy; no act of ours can ever prevent the dawn of his divine light from rising ever anew in human hearts. This feast invites us to renew our evangelical commitment to proclaim Christ, the Saviour of the world and the light of the universe. “Christ, ‘holy, blameless, undefiled’ (Heb 7:26) did not know sin (cf. 2 Cor 5:21) and came only to atone for the sins of the people (cf. Heb 2:17). The Church, however, clasping sinners to her bosom, at once holy and always in need of purification, follows constantly the path of penance and renewal. She ‘presses forward amid the persecutions of the world and the consolations of God’”, – amid the persecutions of the spirit of this world and the consolation of the Spirit of God – “announcing the cross and death of the Lord until he comes (cf. 1 Cor 11:26). But by the power of the risen Lord, she is given the strength to overcome, in patience and in love, her sorrows and her difficulties, both those from within and those from without, so that she may reveal in the world, faithfully, albeit with shadows, the mystery of the Lord until, in the end, it shall be manifested in full light” (Lumen Gentium, 8).

In the firm conviction that the light always proves stronger than the darkness, I would like to reflect with you on the light that links Christmas (the Lord’s first coming in humility) to the Parousia (his second coming in glory), and confirms us in the hope that does not disappoint. It is the hope on which our individual lives, and the entire history of the Church and the world, depend. Without hope, how unsightly the Church would be!

Jesus was born in a social, political and religious situation marked by tension, unrest and gloom. His birth, awaited by some yet rejected by others, embodies the divine logic that does not halt before evil, but instead transforms it slowly but surely into goodness. Yet it also brings to light the malign logic that transforms even goodness into evil, in an attempt to keep humanity in despair and in darkness. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it” (Jn 1:5).

Each year, Christmas reminds us that God’s salvation, freely bestowed on all humanity, the Church and in particular on us, consecrated persons, does not act independently of our will, our cooperation, our freedom and our daily efforts. Salvation is a gift, true enough, but one that must be accepted, cherished and made to bear fruit (cf. Mt 25:14-30). Being Christian, in general and for us in particular as the Lord’s anointed and consecrated, does not mean acting like an élite group who think they have God in their pocket, but as persons who know that they are loved by the Lord despite being unworthy sinners. Those who are consecrated are nothing but servants in the vineyard of the Lord, who must hand over in due time the harvest and its gain to the owner of the vineyard (cf. Mt 20:1-16).

The Bible and the Church’s history show clearly that even the elect can frequently come to think and act as if they were the owners of salvation and not its recipients, like overseers of the mysteries of God and not their humble ministers, like God’s toll-keepers and not servants of the flock entrusted to their care.

All too often, as a result of excessive and misguided zeal, instead of following God, we can put ourselves in front of him, like Peter, who remonstrated with the Master and thus merited the most severe of Christ’s rebukes: “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on the things of God but on the things of men” (Mk 8:33).

Dear brothers and sisters,

This year, in our turbulent world, the barque of the Church has experienced, and continues to experience, moments of difficulty, and has been buffeted by strong winds and tempests. Many have found themselves asking the Master, who seems to be sleeping: “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” (Mk 4:38). Others, disheartened by news reports, have begun to lose trust and to abandon her. Still others, out of fear, personal interest or other aims, have sought to attack her and aggravate her wounds. Whereas others do not conceal their glee at seeing her hard hit. Many, many others, however, continue to cling to her, in the certainty that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against her” (Mt 16:18).

Meanwhile, the Bride of Christ advances on her pilgrim way amid joys and afflictions, amid successes and difficulties from within and from without. Without a doubt, the difficulties from within are always those most hurtful and most destructive.

Afflictions

Many indeed are the afflictions. All those immigrants, forced to leave their own homelands and to risk their lives, lose their lives, or survive only to find doors barred and their brothers and sisters in our human family more concerned with political advantage and power! All that fear and prejudice! All those people, and especially those children who die each day for lack of water, food and medicine! All that poverty and destitution! All that violence directed against the vulnerable and against women! All those theatres of war both declared and undeclared. All that innocent blood spilled daily! All that inhumanity and brutality around us! All those persons who even today are systematically tortured in police custody, in prisons and in refugee camps in various parts of the world!

We are also experiencing a new age of martyrs. It seems that the cruel and vicious persecution of the Roman Empire has not yet ended. A new Nero is always being born to oppress believers solely because of their faith in Christ. New extremist groups spring up and target churches, places of worship, ministers and members of the faithful. Cabals and cliques new and old live by feeding on hatred and hostility to Christ, the Church and believers. How many Christians even now bear the burden of persecution, marginalization, discrimination and injustice throughout our world. Yet they continue courageously to embrace death rather than deny Christ. How difficult it is, even today, freely to practice the faith in all those parts of the world where religious freedom and freedom of conscience do not exist.

The heroic example of the martyrs and of countless good Samaritans – young people, families, charitable and volunteer movements, and so many individual believers and consecrated persons – cannot, however, make us overlook the counter-witness and the scandal given by some sons and ministers of the Church.

Here I will limit myself to the two scourges of abuse and of infidelity.

The Church has for some time been firmly committed to eliminating the evil of abuse, which cries for vengeance to the Lord, to the God who is always mindful of the suffering experienced by many minors because of clerics and consecrated persons: abuses of power and conscience and sexual abuse.

In my own reflections on this painful subject, I have thought of King David – one of “the Lord’s anointed” (cf. 1 Sam 16:13; 2 Sam 11-12). He, an ancestor of the Holy Child who was also called “the son of David”, was chosen, made king and anointed by the Lord. Yet he committed a triple sin, three grave abuses at once: “sexual abuse, abuse of power and abuse of conscience”. Three distinct forms of abuse that nonetheless converge and overlap.

The story begins, as we know, when the King, although a proven warrior, stayed home to take his leisure, instead of going into battle amid God’s people. David takes advantage, for his own convenience and interest, of his position as king (the abuse of power). The Lord’s anointed, he does as he wills, and thus provokes an irresistible moral decline and a weakening of conscience. It is precisely in this situation that, from the palace terrace, he sees Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite, at her bath (cf. 2 Sam 11) and covets her. He sends for her and they lie together (yet another abuse of power, plus sexual abuse). He abuses a married woman whose husband is absent and, to cover his sin, he recalls Uriah and seeks unsuccessfully to convince him to spend the night with his wife. He then orders the captain of his army to expose Uriah to death in battle (a further abuse of power, plus an abuse of conscience). The chain of sin soon spreads and quickly becomes a web of corruption. He stayed home and took it easy.

The sparks of sloth and lust, and “letting down the guard” are what ignite the diabolical chain of grave sins: adultery, lying and murder. Thinking that because he was king, he could have and do whatever he wanted, David tries to deceive Bathsheba’s husband, his people, himself and even God. The king neglects his relationship with God, disobeys the divine commandments, damages his own moral integrity, without even feeling guilty. The “anointed” continues to exercise his mission as if nothing had happened. His only concern was to preserve his image, to keep up appearances. For “those who think they commit no grievous sins against God’s law can fall into a state of dull lethargy. Since they see nothing serious to reproach themselves with, they fail to realize that their spiritual life has gradually turned lukewarm. They end up weakened and corrupted” (Gaudete et Exsultate, 164). From being sinful, they now become corrupt.

Today too, there are consecrated men, “the Lord’s anointed”, who abuse the vulnerable, taking advantage of their position and their power of persuasion. They perform abominable acts yet continue to exercise their ministry as if nothing had happened. They have no fear of God or his judgement, but only of being found out and unmasked. Ministers who rend the ecclesial body, creating scandals and discrediting the Church’s saving mission and the sacrifices of so many of their confrères.

Today too, there are many Davids who, without batting an eye, enter into the web of corruption and betray God, his commandments, their own vocation, the Church, the people of God and the trust of little ones and their families. Often behind their boundless amiability, impeccable activity and angelic faces, they shamelessly conceal a vicious wolf ready to devour innocent souls.

The sins and crimes of consecrated persons are further tainted by infidelity and shame; they disfigure the countenance of the Church and undermine her credibility. The Church herself, with her faithful children, is also a victim of these acts of infidelity and these real sins of “peculation”.

Dear brothers and sisters,

Let it be clear that before these abominations the Church will spare no effort to do all that is necessary to bring to justice whosoever has committed such crimes. The Church will never seek to hush up or not take seriously any case. It is undeniable that some in the past, out of irresponsibility, disbelief, lack of training, inexperience – we need to judge the past with a hermeneutics of the past – or spiritual and human myopia, treated many cases without the seriousness and promptness that was due. That must never happen again. This is the choice and the decision of the whole Church.

This coming February, the Church will restate her firm resolve to pursue unstintingly a path of purification. She will question, with the help of experts, how best to protect children, to avoid these tragedies, to bring healing and restoration to the victims, and to improve the training imparted in seminaries. An effort will be made to make past mistakes opportunities for eliminating this scourge, not only from the body of the Church but also from that of society. For if this grave tragedy has involved some consecrated ministers, we can ask how deeply rooted it may be in our societies and in our families. Consequently, the Church will not be limited to healing her own wounds, but will seek to deal squarely with this evil that causes the slow death of so many persons, on the moral, psychological and human levels.

Dear brothers and sisters,

In discussing this scourge, some within the Church take to task certain communications professionals, accusing them of ignoring the overwhelming majority of cases of abuse that are not committed by clergy – the statistics speak of more than 95% – and accusing them of intentionally wanting to give the false impression that this evil affects the Catholic Church alone. I myself would like to give heartfelt thanks to those media professionals who were honest and objective and sought to unmask these predators and to make their victims’ voices heard. Even if it were to involve a single case of abuse (something itself monstrous), the Church asks that people not be silent but bring it objectively to light, since the greater scandal in this matter is that of cloaking the truth.

Let us all remember that only David’s encounter with the prophet Nathan made him understand the seriousness of his sin. Today we need new Nathans to help so many Davids rouse themselves from a hypocritical and perverse life. Please, let us help Holy Mother Church in her difficult task of recognizing real from false cases, accusations from slander, grievances from insinuations, gossip from defamation. This is no easy task, since the guilty are capable of skillfully covering their tracks, to the point where many wives, mothers and sisters are unable to detect them in those closest to them: husbands, godfathers, grandfathers, uncles, brothers, neighbours, teachers and the like. The victims too, carefully selected by their predators, often prefer silence and live in fear of shame and the terror of rejection.

To those who abuse minors I would say this: convert and hand yourself over to human justice, and prepare for divine justice. Remember the words of Christ: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of scandals! For it is necessary that scandals come, but woe to the man by whom the scandal comes!” (Mt 18:6-7).

Dear brothers and sisters,

Now let me speak of another affliction, namely the infidelity of those who betray their vocation, their sworn promise, their mission and their consecration to God and the Church. They hide behind good intentions in order to stab their brothers and sisters in the back and to sow weeds, division and bewilderment. They always find excuses, including intellectual and even spiritual excuses, to progress unperturbed on the path to perdition.

This is nothing new in the Church’s history. Saint Augustine, in speaking of the good seed and the weeds, says: “Do you perhaps believe, brethren, that weeds cannot spring up even on the thrones of bishops? Do you perhaps think that this is found only lower down and not higher up? Heaven forbid that we be weeds! … Even on the thrones of bishops good grain and weeds can be found; even in the different communities of the faithful good grain and weeds can be found” (Serm. 73, 4: PL 38, 472).

These words of Saint Augustine urge us to remember the old proverb: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”. They help us realize that the Tempter, the Great Accuser, is the one who brings division, sows discord, insinuates enmity, persuades God’s children and causes them to doubt.

Behind these sowers of weeds, we always find the thirty pieces of silver. The figure of David thus brings us to that of Judas Iscariot, another man chosen by the Lord who sells out his Master and hands him over to death. David the sinner and Judas Iscariot will always be present in the Church, since they represent the weakness that is part of our human condition. They are icons of the sins and crimes committed by those who are chosen and consecrated. United in the gravity of their sin, they nonetheless differ when it comes to conversion. David repented, trusting in God’s mercy; Judas hanged himself.

All of us, then, in order to make Christ’s light shine forth, have the duty to combat all spiritual corruption, which is “worse than the fall of the sinner, for it is a comfortable and self-satisfied form of blindness. Everything then appears acceptable: deception, slander, egotism and other subtle forms of self-centeredness, for ‘even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light’ (2 Cor 11:14). So Solomon ended his days, whereas David, who sinned greatly, was able to make up for his disgrace” (Gaudete et Exsultate, 165).

Joys

Let us now turn to the joys. They have been many in the past year. For example: the successful outcome of the Synod devoted to young people, as the Cardinal Dean mentioned. Then, the progress made in the reform of the Curia. Many people are asking when it will be finished. It will never finish, but the steps forward have been good. For example, the efforts made to achieve clarity and transparency in financial affairs; the praiseworthy work of the Office of the Auditor-General and the AIF; the good results attained by the IOR; the new Law of the Vatican City State; the Decree on labour in the Vatican, and many other less visible results. We can think, speaking of joys, of the new Blesseds and Saints who are “precious stones” adorning the face of the Church and radiating hope, faith and light in our world. Here mention must be made of the nineteen recent martyrs of Algeria: “nineteen lives given for Christ, for his Gospel and for the Algerian people … models of everyday holiness, the holiness of “the saints next door” (Thomas Georgeon, “Nel segno della fraternità”, L’Osservatore Romano, 8 December 2018, p. 6). Then too, the great number of the faithful who each year receive baptism and thus renew the youth of the Church as a fruitful mother, and the many of her children who come home and re-embrace the Christian faith and life. All those families and parents who take their faith seriously and daily pass it on to their children by the joy of their love (cf. Amoris Laetitia, 259-290). And the witness given by so many young people who courageously choose the consecrated life and the priesthood.

Another genuine cause for joy is the great number of consecrated men and women, bishops and priests, who daily live their calling in fidelity, silence, holiness and self-denial. They are persons who light up the shadows of humanity by their witness of faith, love and charity. Persons who work patiently, out of love for Christ and his Gospel, on behalf of the poor, the oppressed and the least of our brothers and sisters; they are not looking to show up on the first pages of newspapers or to receive accolades. Leaving all behind and offering their lives, they bring the light of faith wherever Christ is abandoned, thirsty, hungry, imprisoned and naked (cf. Mt 25:31-46). I think especially of the many parish priests who daily offer good example to the people of God, priests close to families, who know everyone’s name and live lives of simplicity, faith, zeal, holiness and charity. They are overlooked by the mass media, but were it not for them, darkness would reign.

Dear brothers and sisters,

In speaking of light, afflictions, David and Judas, I wanted to stress the importance of a growing awareness that should lead to a duty of vigilance and protection on the part of those entrusted with governance in the structures of ecclesial and consecrated life. In effect, the strength of any institution does not depend on its being composed of men and women who are perfect (something impossible!), but on its willingness to be constantly purified, on its capacity to acknowledge humbly its errors and correct them; and on its ability to get up after falling down. It depends on seeing the light of Christmas radiating from the manger in Bethlehem, on treading the paths of history in order to come at last to the Parousia.

We need, then, to open our hearts to the true light, Jesus Christ. He is the light that can illumine life and turn our darkness into light; the light of goodness that conquers evil; the light of the love that overcomes hatred; the light of the life that triumphs over death; the divine light that turns everything and everyone into light. He is the light of our God: poor and rich, merciful and just, present and hidden, small and great.

Let us keep in mind this splendid passage of Saint Macarius the Great, a fourth-century Desert Father, about Christmas: “God makes himself little! The inaccessible and uncreated One, in his infinite and ineffable goodness, has taken a body and made himself little. In his goodness, he descends from his glory. No one in the heavens or on earth can grasp the greatness of God, and no one in the heavens or on earth can grasp how God makes himself poor and little for the poor and little. As incomprehensible is his grandeur, so too is his littleness” (cf. Ps.-Macarius, Homilies IV, 9-10; XXII, 7: PG 34: 479-480; 737-738).

Let us remember that Christmas is the feast of the “great God who makes himself little and in his littleness does not cease to be great. And in this dialectic of great and little, we find the tenderness of God. A word that worldliness is always trying to take out of the dictionary: tenderness. The great God who becomes little, who is great and continues to become small” (cf. Homily in Santa Marta, 14 December 2017; Homily in Santa Marta, 25 April 2013).

Each year, Christmas gives us the certainty that God’s light will continue to shine, despite our human misery. It gives us the certainty that the Church will emerge from these tribulations all the more beautiful, purified and radiant. All the sins and failings and evil committed by some children of the Church will never be able to mar the beauty of her face. Indeed, they are even a sure proof that her strength does not depend on us but ultimately on Christ Jesus, the Saviour of the world and the light of the universe, who loves her and gave his life for her, his Bride. Christmas gives us the certainty that the grave evils perpetrated by some will never be able to cloud all the good that the Church freely accomplishes in the world. Christmas gives the certainty that the true strength of the Church and of our daily efforts, so often hidden – as in the Curia, with its saints –, rests in the Holy Spirit, who guides and protects her in every age, turning even sins into opportunities for forgiveness, failures into opportunities for renewal, and evil into an opportunity for purification and triumph.

Thank you very much and a Happy Christmas to all!

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

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

4th Sunday of Advent – Cycle C

December 22/23, 2018

Micah 5:1-4; Heb 10: 5-10; Luke 1: 39-45

He is almost here! Soon we will see him, God coming in the flesh, in a manger, in the child Jesus. We have been awaiting him, each Sunday we have been waiting, praying, and singing:

Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel – God is with us!

On Jordan’s bank the Baptist’s cry: Make straight the way of the Lord!

Level the mountains of sin!

Fill the valleys of temptation!

Let all mankind see the salvation of our God!

Yes, we have waited for, we have prayed for, and we have sung of his coming!  Yes, soon, Jesus is coming!

Yes, so long ago, he came in the flesh, in the child of Bethlehem and there was no room for him in the inn.

Yes, today he comes, he still comes, never ceases to come, at every moment in our lives he comes knocking on the doors of our hearts, asking to be let in, asking to enter our lives asking if there is room for him in our inn, asking if he can make his home within us.

Yes, someday in the future he will come again, in glory with salvation for his people, and the living will shine with his glory, and the dead will rise to be united with God forever.

That is our faith. It is the faith of the Church. We hold on to this faith with every hope and sure knowledge of its completion.

On this last Sunday of Advent, we joyfully await to celebrate the day in which God, Emmanuel, took on our human nature and entered our world as a man, to bring humanity back to God, to grasp us firmly and lift us up to share in his divinity, to make us like him, to make us sons and daughters of God. God reached down to the depths of the earth to raise humanity up and take us back to the Father, to our heavenly home.

On this last Sunday of Advent, we have a final chance to try to open our hearts and our minds to God who is all around us, who wants at every moment to become one with us, to become intimate with us, who wants to share our every joy, our every sorrow, our every triumph, and to soften every defeat. God who continuously knocks at the doors of our hearts and asks: “May I enter? May I be not only your God, but also your brother? Is there room for me in your inn?”

On this last Sunday of Advent, we impatiently wait for Jesus’ coming, most especially his glorious coming someday when all of humanity, yes, all of creation, will see the God who has created, and loved, and cared for us all, will see him in all his splendor and glory.

Open wide your hearts to Christ! For he comes, he has come, and he will come again!

Open wide your hearts! Do not fear! Look at Mary, the Mother of God. She opened wide her heart. She kept God close to her heart. She said, “Yes” to God. She said, “Fiat.” She said, “Let it be done to me.” Mary would not have become the Mother of God had she not first had an open heart that waited for her Savior, and trusted in him. She welcomed and treasured, she nurtured, obeyed, followed and trusted God’s Word who became her son. She opened her heart to the coming of the Lord.

Open wide the doors of your life to Jesus! Do not fear him! Let him enter; let him be with you when you have no place to stay, when you are lonely and frightened, alone and afraid.

Do not fear, but rejoice that Jesus has come into our world to redeem us, to forgive us, to fill in the valleys that have swallowed us up, to knock down the mountains that block our path.

Do not fear, but with undying hope, look for him to come again, renewing everyone and everything, and to all who are just, all who have sought and waited for him, he will bring to glory!

Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus!

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception

Here is my homily for the Holy Day. Blessings on all!

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception

Gn 3: 9-15, 20; Eph 1: 3-6, 11-12; Lk 1: 26-38

December 7-8, 2018

Toward the end of my first semester as a freshman at St. Mary’s College, I was sitting in a large classroom waiting for Fr. Taylor to begin a lecture on Western Civilization. It was to be one of those days that for whatever reason remains permanently imprinted in my memory. It was December 8, 1973, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. He asked the class, “Today we are celebrating the Immaculate Conception of Jesus in the womb of Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit, correct?” I should have known by the look on his face, the fact that he had advanced degrees in theology, and the unusualness of such a question given the class material, that something was up, but I fell for the bait and responded, “Yes it is!” “Wrong answer!” he said, as he threw his handkerchief at me like a referee throwing a flag. I had made the same mistake most of us make about this feast day. Most people think the Immaculate Conception is about how Mary became pregnant.

Today, we celebrate not the conception of Jesus in the Mary’s womb (we celebrate that on the Feast of the Annunciation). Rather, we are celebrating the conception of our Blessed Mother in the womb of Anna, her mother, and the doctrine that Christians have always believed that Mary was conceived without the stain or original sin. She had a human father and a human mother, and her birth was like ours in every way, but because God knew from all eternity that Mary would say “yes” to his invitation to become the Mother of God, God granted her a grace she and only she would receive, the grace of being preserved from original sin so she could be a spotless temple of God’s very presence as he assumed our humanity, a grace won for her by her son Jesus. The Immaculate Conception is all about preparing Mary for the coming of the Son of God into her very being, into her heart, and into her body. It is about preparing Mary to become the Mother of God and a proper dwelling place for God made man. Mary’s vocation was unique, unrepeatable and holy.

Mary’s conception was without sin and she preserved her purity throughout her entire life. She did this even though she was entirely and thoroughly human, and as such, needed to be redeemed like all of us by the Cross and Resurrection of her son. God foresaw it, and willed it for her in a special way.

What a gift she was granted, and what a vocation she lived out! Mary excelled all of us in her holiness and faithfulness, yet she was like us, completely human, and a redeemed member of the Church, and a witness to her son’s life, death, and resurrection.  All that happened and was promised to Mary can happen and is promised to us, if we are faithful to God and his plan for our lives.

We too can be freed from sin! We too can be holy in life! We too can say “yes,” “Fiat!” to God’s plan for us. We too can bear God into the world, both in our hearts and by our physical presence to those in need by the prayers we say and the good works we do. We too can give birth to new life and love which are gifts of God above. We too are human beings and God has chosen to a special vocation for us and he gives us every grace, perhaps even singular graces, that we need to live our vocations.

Why would anyone doubt the Immaculate Conception? It is completely consistent with God’s love for all of us. God gives to all his children every grace necessary to live out their unique vocations, vocations only they can accomplish, so he gave Mary a singular grace that she needed to become the Mother of God, the grace of freedom from sin from the moment of her conception until the end of her life on earth.

We all have reason today to rejoice in God’s great gifts to us. God’s unique gift to Mary only confirms what is true for us also, that each of us is special and unrepeatable in history. Each of us has special graces and a special call. Each of our lives matter! Each of us is necessary and needed. God loves us all.

 

 

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B

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

 

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B

November 17/18, 2018

Daniel 12: 1-3; Hebrews 10: 11-14,18; Mark 13: 24-32

 

Every year, as we approach the end of the Church calendar, we hear about the second coming of Jesus, i.e., end times. We hear of stars falling out of the sky, heavens being shaken, the sun darkening, and angels being sent to gather the people. It can sound scary, and we can become anxious about it all. “Will I be one of the chosen ones?” we ask ourselves. Maybe rather than being afraid of the future, we can focus today on how God is always helping us to be ready for these future events.

We face life as it comes to us, and we make choices as to how to respond to it. It is not easy many times. Most decisions in life have a certain moral quality to it which we cannot ignore. We either will choose to accept what is good and reject what is evil, or just the opposite.

Our choices are very important. Will I choose what is good or what is bad? Will I choose what is true or what is false? Will I choose what will make me a better person or a lesser one?

Life is an accumulation of choices that forms our characters and molds our lives. The choices we make determine our reputations in this world and lead to our eternal destiny in the world to come, and God helps us all along the way. How? I think he helps us in three ways.

First, God has created us with an inborn desire to want good and avoid evil. God has built into our very beings the desire for truth, love, and all good things. All human beings are naturally religious, and desire God, whether they recognize him or not. We are inherently a religious people, not just “spiritual.”

Second, God has also given us supernatural help, which we call grace. Grace is very difficult for us to wrap our minds around, but it is present. God is continually gracing us, gifting us, making available to us what we need to choose what is good. His grace never fails us; it is never absent. We are constantly drenched with God’s grace whether we realize it or not. Without God’s grace we will not get to heaven. Grace is freely given.

But our cooperation with God’s grace is also important. Will we accept and cooperate with grace, or turn against it? Will we accept, choose, and cooperate with the graces God gives us, will we choose life, truth, love, honesty, gratitude, joy, forgiveness, and justice, continually, every day, choose to accept God’s grace?

Finally, God has given us the Church to give us practical direction as how to apply in our lives the natural and supernatural gifts he gives us. All of the Church’s moral teachings on life issues, marriage, society, sexuality and so much more, are taught not to enslave us but to free us to be who we were created to be. They are road maps to freedom and ways to cooperate with the grace of God. They show us what real freedom means, i.e., the freedom to choose to live as God created us to be, freedom to live in grace and love and holiness.  Yes, some of them are difficult to accept and live, and too many of us reject those teachings to our own peril, but anyone who embraces them and lives them will tell you they experience a freedom they never knew before.

But the choice is ours to accept or reject the help he offers. We have free will. We can go against our natural desire for God, reject grace, and choose to do what is evil. No, we cannot earn our way to heaven, but we can choose our way to hell. Heaven is God’s gift and promise to us; hell is our choice for ourselves.

Just think of it…… why be afraid of the end times, of Jesus coming among us again in his glory?  God has given a natural tendency to choose life and all good things. God has given us supernatural help by means of grace to remain in his love. He has revealed to us through the Church’s moral teachings how to live. Will we accept his gifts, be bathed in his grace, and respond in gratitude to his teachings and become who we are meant to be?

In the end of time, when Jesus returns in glory, when “heaven and earth will pass away” we will have no need for fear if we live our lives as best we can choosing the good and avoiding the evil. If we have accepted God’s grace and gifts and responded with gratitude. If we remember that all good things come from God, not us, and we live in faith, with enduring hope, and in the love of Jesus Christ.

 

 

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for All Souls Day 2018

Here is my homily for All Souls Day this year. God bless all!

All Soul’s Memorial Homily   

November 4, 2018

 

We struggle with the mystery of life and death at times like today, when we remember those who are deeply loved by us yet have suffered and died. We struggle to understand; we ask “Why? Why does a good man or woman die?” Without our faith, we can easily conclude that it is all just terribly unfair, that death has had the last word after all and is the final destination for everyone.

The gift of life, once given by God, is not taken back. God is not the author of death. He transforms death into life. Indeed, though it may seem absent, snatched from our very midst, taken from us and taken from those we love, we believe that the mortality of human flesh in this world is only a veil, a portal, through which we must pass. Death is only the onset and promise of renewed life in heaven for those whose hearts remain faithful to the Lord’s call, accepting of his grace, and attentive to his presence in the world.

God never takes back his gifts or his call. He does not take our lives for once given, God makes permanent that life which he wills and gives. God’s call and his gifts are irrevocable. Not only irrevocable, but he sustains those gifts, especially the gift of life. He always, without ceasing, holds our lives in his hands, conceiving us over and over again by his will, over and over again saying, “I give you my Spirit. Live in my love. I desire you, I will you to live. I will you into life” over and over again, without ceasing. This is God’s original plan, his ultimate desire for us, i.e., for us to live with him, be in relationship with him, see him. God wills it.

Yes, the effects of sin and the deception of Satan undoubtedly have brought sickness and death into our lives and into all of creation. It is a stain on God’s original plan, and this stain’s effects are experienced by each of us, all of humanity, indeed the whole of creation, but God has broken the back of Satan, shattered the chains of death, and destroyed the grip of evil. God says to Satan, “You will never have the last word, for I have given all men and women the freedom to choose, to speak, and to live. They have the last say. I offer them life and happiness and peace. I offer them joy. You, O Satan, offer only darkness, despair, loneliness, selfishness, and separation.”

We struggle with the mystery of life and death at times like today, yetwe know that we live! We know that from nothing we became living breathing human beings. We witness the death of others but we live life and experience it directly. We cannot deny our life, that it exists, that it is ours and we cannot deny others their lives. This is a great temptation in our world today, i.e., to deny someone their life, to take life from them rather than giving and sustaining life in them.

The choice is ours when faced with the mystery. God gives us life and he will not take it from us even when we experience the mortality of hour human flesh in this world.

The people we honor today, I truly hope and believe, chose well, and may God in his mercy bless them abundantly.

I would like to conclude with a prayer:

God of all blessings

Source of all life,

Giver of all grace:

We thank you for the gift of life

For the breath that sustains us,

For food that nourishes us

For the love of family without which there would be no life.

We thank you for the mystery of creation: for the beauty that the eye can see; for the joy that the ear can hear.

We thank you for families, for friends who love us, for companions who share our burdens, and for strangers who welcome us into their midst.

We thank you this day for the lives of our loved ones who have died to this world for they loved us and sought to work for our well-being.

Be with us.

You are our God.

You have given us salvation.

For these men and women whom we now will name, indeed for all your gifts and blessings, we give you thanks, eternal, loving God.

Through Jesus Christ we pray. Amen

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Here is my homily, given to deacons, candidates, and wives at our annual diaconate retreat. God bless all!

 

Homily to Deacons, Candidates, and Wives

Annual Retreat 2018

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B

October 28, 2018

Jeremiah 31:7-9; Heb 5:1-6; Mark 10:46-52

 

“Master, I want to see!” (Mk 10: 51)

This was the cry of Bartimaeus. He wanted to see the “Master” who would then lead him in accomplishing God’s plan for him in his life. This cry, this outburst of faith from an utterly poor outcast of society followed the question Jesus put to him, “What do you want me to do for you?”

Does that question sound vaguely familiar? Indeed it should, for it was the same question we heard in last Sunday’s Gospel, the same question Jesus had put to James and John when they wanted the right and left seats in the kingdom.

James and John thought they had a plan and they were eager to accomplish it. They thought they knew the best way to advance their plan. They thought they would need power and influence to be successful, so they asked to sit on the right and left of Jesus in his kingdom.

Bartimaeus had an equally urgent plan. He wanted to see and to follow. He left all behind, casting aside his one possession in life, his cloak, the only thing he had to warm and shelter himself, in order to follow the plan of God for him in his life.

There is the contrast. Who do you resemble?

James and John desired power and influence to accomplish their plan. James and John wanted the right and the left, the places of honor. James and John told Jesus that they wanted him to do for them what they wanted, to accomplish their plan.

Bartimaeus wanted to see the Master and follow. Bartimaeus wanted to know his Master’s plan for him and make it his plan for life. Bartimaeus, blind though he was, saw more clearly than James and John the true nature of Jesus’ authority: to serve, not to be served.

When we develop a grand plan for our lives, we are tempted to James and John and not Bartimaeus, to be Caesar and not the carpenter’s son, to desire power and avoid crucifixion.

Like James and John, we snuggle up to powerful people or places of influence hoping to increase the chances of success, but we end up playing an exhausting game. We approach God with our plans and say, “God do what I want you to do for me. Make my plan your plan!”

We all reach a point in life when we admit, “God, I need your help; I need your guidance; I need your grace. I want to see!” At those moments, we begin to realize that our plans are limited and God’s plan is eternal, and we react, “Who me? You want me to do what? To live how in the realities of this world?”  Ought we not, rather, pray, “Master, I want to see! I want to know your will for me. Teach me your way.”

The clearer we see the Master, the more we accomplish, the greater the mark we leave. The more we have the faith of Bartimaeus, the less we give in to our pride and the desire for power and prestige, the right and the left, and the more we hope and trust in the future. We all know how much the world and our Church needs an increase of faith and hope at this time!

The attitude of James and John is strong in us because it demands less of us. The humility of Bartimaeus requires great faith. But let us not fear! We can confidently approach the throne of grace, as Bartimaeus did, to receive all the help we need. We can trust God with our lives because he understands everything about us. Jesus has shown us the way. He was like us in all things but sin; he always did the will of his Father. His plan and the plan of the Father were one. He willing experienced everything we go through. Jesus now sits at the right hand of the Father, and he has reserved a spot for us there with him if we are obedient to his will for us in our lives.

Yes, Jesus already has gone ahead of us to prepare a place for us in heaven. Our spot is reserved! Will we occupy it? Will we accept it? Will we remember what Jesus has done for us when we are tempted to follow our own plans, when we are tempted to go our own way, when we are tempted to sin? Perhaps remembering that Jesus has experienced everything we will experience and has secured our spot in heaven if we are faithful to God, maybe remembering this will help us say no to sin, to those choices to go our own way, to go away from God.

When we face life’s challenges, may we not demand power or position. May we not snuggle up to the rich and powerful. May we ask God to make his plan known, ask God for his mercy and fill us with his grace so his will, not ours may be accomplished. May we fervently pray and beseech the Lord, “Master, I want to see!”

 

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B

October 20/21, 2018

Isaiah 53:10-11; Heb 4:14-16; Mark 10:35-45

 

James and John in the Gospel today thought they had a plan and they were eager to accomplish it. They thought they knew the best way to move their plan forward so they asked to sit on the right and left of Jesus in his kingdom.

When we develop a grand plan for our lives, it is tempting to be a Caesar and not a carpenter’s son, to be an emperor not a citizen, to be rich and powerful and avoid a crucifixion.

We all want to make a difference. We want to have an impact, leave our mark on the world, so we develop plans for our lives. We think we have good plans, good intentions, and sincere efforts and for that reason, like James and John, we want to sit at the right or left of God. We snuggle up to powerful people or places of influence hoping to increase the chances our plans for life will succeed. We end up playing an exhausting game.

We often approach God with our plans, and say, “God do what I want you to do for me. Make my plan your plan!” If we think that way, God will ask us in return, “Can you drink the cup I will drink? Will you do what I will ask you to do?”

What is God’s plan for us and how does that fit with our plans?

We can only see a certain amount and tolerate a limited amount of stress before we reach a point when we admit, “God, I need your help; I need your guidance; I need your grace.” We begin to see that our plans are short-sighted and God’s plan has eternity in mind. When God makes his plan known to us, we often react, “Who me? You want me to do what? To live how in this world?” We really don’t have to look very far or hard to know it. The general outline is obvious because he makes it known in the Scriptures; he makes it known in our prayer life; he makes it known in the faith of the Church handed down to us by the apostles.

The closer we get to God, the more we accomplished, the greater the mark we leave. The closer we are to God the more we make a positive difference in the world and in the lives of others. The more faith we have in God’s plan the less we give in to our pride and our desire for power and prestige, the right and the left, and the more we hope and trust in the future.

Which plan will we follow, God’s plan or ours? The Scriptures tell us that we can confidently approach the throne of grace to receive all the help we need to follow God’s plan. We can confidently, in other words, trust God with our lives because he understands everything about us. The divine Son of God, Jesus, was like us in all things but sin, in other words, he had a human nature and experienced human things, but he always did the will of his Father, never had his own plan but only the plan of the Father. Jesus trusted in the Father. Jesus was God, but did not cling to sitting at the right of left of God the Father; rather, he willing became a man and experienced all we go through. Jesus now sits at the right hand of the Father, and he has reserved a spot for us there with him if we are willing to be obedient to his will for us in our lives.

Yes, Jesus already has gone ahead of us to prepare a place for us in heaven. Our spot is reserved! Will we occupy it? Will we accept it? Will we remember what Jesus has done for us when we are tempted to follow our own plans, when we are tempted to go our own way, when we are tempted to sin? Perhaps remembering that Jesus has experienced everything we will experience and has secured our spot in heaven if we are faithful to God, maybe remembering this will help us say no to sin, to those choices to go our own way, to go away from God.

When we face life’s challenges, may we not demand power or position; may we not snuggle up to the rich and powerful, but rather, may we ask God to make his plan known; ask God for his mercy and fill us with his grace so his will, not ours may be accomplished.

 

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B

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

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B

October 13/14, 2018

Wisdom 7:7-11; Hebrews 4:12-13; Mark 10:17-30

 

“Why do you call me good? There is only one who is good, God alone.” (Mk 10:18) We all want what is good in life: a good home, good health, a good husband or wife, good children, good food to eat, a good education. God has created us this way, with a strong desire to choose good things and avoid the bad.

In our desire for goodness, we can get caught up in putting lesser goods in front of the greater good. We can fill our lives with what you might call necessary but lesser good things. Jesus reminds us that the ultimate good is God.

Have you ever considered that God loves you so much that he is calling you to live an excellent life, not a mediocre one, not merely following the commandments, but to love with all your heart and mind and soul?

We heard a wonderful story in the Gospel today of the young man who came running up to Jesus, fell to his knees and blurted out, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

It seems he was a very good man who had worked hard in his life and enjoyed the fruits of his labor. He earned what he possessed. He obeyed the commandments. He was an upright man and probably had a good reputation. His life was filled with good things. But he knew he lacked something; he wanted something more, something far more excellent. He was held back in some way that he couldn’t understand.

The man lacked, and Jesus knew it, the freedom to love deeply. He had chosen and obtained many good things. He had made plenty of good choices, but he lacked the freedom to pursue what was most excellent . He was held back by his possessions.

Despite his efforts and good intentions, he was a slave to his possessions. He was unable to pursue what was truly excellent, to freely love God and neighbor.

Notice the Jesus looked at him and “loved” him. Jesus challenged him to become free. Jesus said, “If you seek perfection, go, sell what you have and give to the poor and then follow me.”

What happened? The man couldn’t do it. He couldn’t let go. He lost his focus on Jesus, which he had for a moment, and he went away sad, “for he had many possessions.” He settled for lesser goods when he could have had the greater.

Yes, all of us are called to excellence, to union with God in the love of Jesus Christ. God is looking at you, as he looked at the young man, and he loves you. He is calling you to an excellence that is beyond your imagination. He is asking you to put aside anything that would distract you, hold you back from keeping our focus on him. He wants you to look at him and to consciously orient what you do, what you say, and what you think to the ultimate good in life.

No, we do not have to go and empty our bank accounts, or give away everything. But we do have to ask ourselves what is there that distracts us from God. What is it in our lives that we hold so dear that we would hang on to it rather than to hang on to God’s love. What is so important to us that we cling to it as if it were God himself? What ever that may be, we may need to let it go.

I would offer you a challenge: for just 5 minutes a day, every day, consciously set aside all you possessions, all your distractions, and as completely as you can focus on the greatest of all goods, the real excellence in this world – the love of God in Jesus Christ. For 5 minutes give everything you have to Jesus. See what happens. In time, you will experience a freedom unlike anything you’ve experienced before.

For just 5 minutes a day, every day, pray in that way, love in that way. It will change your life.

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Deacon Bob’s Homily 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle B

Here is my homily for the weekend.

24th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle B

Isaiah 50: 5-9a; James 2: 14-18; Mark 8: 27-35

September 15/16, 2018

 

Jesus could not be clearer: If we are to be his followers, if we are to become credible witnesses to what he has done for each and all of us by dying and rising from the dead so that we might be with him forever, then we must carry each other’s crosses, just as he carried his cross for us.

No one is exempt from this obligation, especially those who shepherd flocks, and by that I mean we deacons, and priests and bishops of the Church who are to lead, strengthen and protect the flock of Christ, the Church, the Family of God, from all harm.

All of us who are fathers and mothers, shepherds of domestic churches, particular families, are also included.

We must become “cross-carriers,” bearing not only the crosses in our own personal lives, but also the crosses of those for whom we are responsible.

There is no greater love that to lay down one’s life for another. To carry the cross of someone you love so they will live, this is a noble thing, and a great obligation.

Nothing is more noble than to carry the same cross that Jesus carried on the way to Calvary, and Jesus continues to carry that cross whenever one of his people suffers and is in need.

Two thousand years ago, two people carried Christ’s cross: Simon of Cyrene, and our Blessed Mother Mary. They both carried Jesus’ cross, each in their own particular way.

Simon carried a physical, tangible cross. He saw, touched, smelled, and tasted it. Forced into carrying the cross with Jesus, he bore it side by side, cheek to cheek, with Jesus. He walked with Jesus, step by step. He felt the same whip, and labored under the same weight. He accompanied Jesus all the way to Golgotha. Simon of Cyrene bore the wood of the cross and accompanied Jesus so closely he no doubt touched his face. His sweat and blood mingled with the sweat and blood of Jesus.  Are we willing to get that close to someone in need, and carry their cross with them?

Mary’s carried a spiritual and very emotional cross. She, in a profound and intimate way, as only a mother could, experienced her Son’s cross. Mary carried in her Immaculate Heart the cross of her Son, and as we are told, seven swords pierced that heart of hers. Her heart and his were united. Are we willing to care and love someone so much as to feel their pain and know their need, as Mary felt and knew?

Will we, in our lives, bear our physical and spiritual crosses, the crosses of others, crosses that Jesus continues to carry in their lives? Will we be like Simon? Will we like as Mary?

Jesus says we must be.

We must be “cross-carriers” and become the kind of witnesses that are so desperately needed at this time in the Church, now badly wounded by those who were responsible for caring and protecting and guiding her.

We who are fathers know instinctively what cross-carrying means. We are life givers. We are protectors of life, sustainers of life, and guardians of our families. We have an inner sense that alerts us to those who would harm our wives and families. We move against any such threat to them. We safeguard our flocks, our families.

Mothers, you already know what cross-carrying means. You bear life into the world, then hold it, feed it, care for it and nurture it. You suffer when your families suffer. You would gladly substitute your life for any of your family members if you could when they are in danger. You instinctively feel the pain of your children. You know when your husbands are in trouble.

Deacons, priests, and bishops need to begin to learn from us fathers and you mothers what cross-carrying is all about, for you are their families. We must learn to protect and support you much better. We must become more like Simon, more like Mary. We must carry your crosses, not put them on you.

Fathers, continue to carry the crosses of your wives and children, and in doing so be close enough to them to see in their crosses what Simon saw in the cross of Christ.

Mothers, continue to carry the crosses of your husbands and children by keeping your hearts open and loving, even should your hearts be pierced seven times, as was Mary.

Will the clergy of our Church be willing to learn from all of you how to become better “cross-carriers,” how to accompany you, lead you by serving you, and never ever harming you?

I would like to conclude with this prayer:

God our Father, protect us from all harm.

God the Son, walk with us each step of the way.

God the Holy Spirit, inspire us to newness of life and of love.

Triune God, send forth your holy angels to surround us with their care.

Amen.

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B

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

 

20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B

August 18/19, 2018

Proverbs 9: 1-6; Eph 5: 15-20; John 6: 51-58

“The Jews quarreled among themselves saying, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’”

Yes, we, like they, tend to quarrel among ourselves even as the Lord asks us all to become one with Him in his own flesh and blood, and one with each other as a family of one flesh and blood.

When we quarrel with God, or quarrel with each other, where does it lead us? Those who quarrel with God or their neighbors and bicker and create divisions end up sinning and are left with mere human ideas and perceptions. Divisions lead to narrow-mindedness, minds unable to see the deeper realities, the greater truths. Angry people have tunnel vision and are often blind and foolish.

Our first reading admonishes us to forsake the foolishness of quarrels and divisions and advance in understanding. Our responsorial psalm tells us to “taste and see the goodness of the Lord.” Jesus in the Gospel tells us that if we are to live, we must be one with him in the Eucharist by eating his Body and drinking his blood.

When Jesus told the people of his time to be united to him and each other and told them this is possible because he was the Bread of Life and they could have eternal life if they partook of his Body and Blood, many chose to walk away and quarrel among themselves and remain divided. For them, the Eucharist was a cause of division, not unity. In our world today, this unfortunately remains true too often. There are many divisions among us Christians, too many quarrels. There is too much blindness and foolishness.

Jesus said that whoever eats his flesh and drinks his blood remains united to him and to all who worthily eat and drink. It is the Eucharist which will ultimately unite us. It is Jesus’ Real Presence in the Eucharist that even now binds us to God and to each other. It must not divide us.

We must believe this. We must see with the eyes of faith. It is really Jesus himself who calls us. He is really and substantially present in the Eucharist – his Body and his Blood, his soul and his divinity under the appearance of bread and wine.

Reconcile yourselves with me, Jesus says. Reconcile yourselves with each other, he insists. As me for forgiveness and reconciliation and they will be yours. Ask for forgiveness from your brother and sister for any divisions you may have created. Then, come to the Eucharist and receive me.

All of this speaks to the reality of the Body and Blood of Jesus in the Eucharist. It speaks of the unity which must be ours if we worthily eat and drink his Body and Blood. It speaks of the need for reconciliation with him and with each other if we approach the altar for Holy Communion. No divisions, no quarrels, no serious sins should exist.

There is great peace and consolation offered to us. A person of peace sees clearly and deeply. “Be still and know that I am God,” says the Lord. “I am really and truly present in the Eucharist,” he says. “Look with the eyes of faith. See beyond what appears as bread and wine and know that it is me. Feed on me.”

Yes, a person of peace, a person reconciled with God and with neighbor, is able to see clearly and understand. He or she is not clouded by sin. A person in conflict and divided from God and others cannot.

Let no divisions exist among us. Let us not quarrel with God or with each other about the Body and Blood of the Lord. Let us not divide the Body of Christ. We must not divide Jesus. We must not separate ourselves from him by our sins.

Let each of us seek forgiveness for our sins, reconciliation with others, and then come and receive our Lord Jesus, really and truly present, in the Eucharist.

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B

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

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B

Amos 7: 12-15; Eph 1: 3-24; Mk 6: 7-13

July 14/15, 2018

In the Old Testament, once in a great while, God would chose some one specific person and enter into a special relationship with him or her. He would have a special task for them to accomplish. People like Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah and others. Just a few select people, not many. Amos was one of them. Did you catch that sentence in the first reading where Amos says, “The Lord took me from following the flock.”? (Amos 7: 15) Anytime in the Old Testament you read that line, “he took me from following the flock” it is a code phrase that means God took someone and turned him inside out, upside down, and completely reoriented his life, turned him around and made him a new person, changing him to the core, and giving him a new mission for life.

You see, in the Old Testament, there was no baptism. To be chosen was a special gift for the few. But when God sent his Son Jesus into the world, what did Jesus say? He told his disciples to go into the whole world and baptize everyone. Everyone was now chosen, redeemed, and destined for a special relationship with God. All were to be sealed by the Holy Spirit. Jesus told us that his Father wanted to do to everyone what he once did for a select few. What he had once done for a small nation, he now would do for the entire world, and we were to go out and tell the world about this. Everyone was to be baptized. Everyone was to to be “taken from following the flock” and to be turned upside down, inside out, and made a new person, and then tell others what God did for them. Everyone, you and me included, were to be reborn, re-made into God’s children, and all of us were to be given a special calling in life.

St. Paul gives us almost a litany today, if we listen closely to the second reading, litany describing who we have become in Jesus Christ through our baptism.

In his love, you were destined for adoption

In him, you have been redeemed by his blood

In him, you were chosen for his purpose, not our own

In him, you were sealed by the Holy Spirit

Destined, redeemed, chosen, and sealed – all of us who are baptized!

If you have been baptized, you have been taken from “following the flock” and have become a new person. What you once were no longer exists. You are no longer your own person, you belong to God. You are his now. Maybe you were your own person before baptism, but now you are a new creature, no longer merely human, but a child of God. Each of us must tell the world what God has done for us.

Do not say, “I’ve got a flock to follow.” Do not say, “I’ve got other work to do,  a career to develop, a business to tend, problems to solve first, bill that need paying, so I will just practice my faith on Sunday mornings and live the rest of my life the other days.” Say, rather, “God, I am yours. Do with me as you will.”

Yes, we all have jobs to do, problems to solve, and things to care for an about. We all have obligations we must meet, but we must never forget that we have been destined, redeemed, chosen, and sealed by God himself through our baptisms, and we must tell the world what has happened to our lives.

The Christian life is a difficult life. That cannot be denied. It is not just about trying to be a good person or just doing our best. It is about being someone recreated by God’s grace, his grace which enables us to do great things in accord with his will. We can do extraordinary things because of God’s grace. Even heroic things. It is difficult to be a Christian just as it was difficult to be a prophet in the time of Amos. We are always tempted to just “follow the flock.” Difficult as it may be, anyone who has live the Christian life well will always say, it is a life filled with joy.

You have been chosen, redeemed, and sealed. Embrace the Christian way of life. Tell others what God has done for you and wants to do for them, indeed, the whole world.

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B Father’s Day 2018

Here is my homily for the weekend. Happy Father’s Day to all you guys!

 

11th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B

June 16/18, 2018

Ez 17: 22-24; 2 Cor 5: 6-10; Mk 4: 26-34

 

Today is Father’s Day, and I would imagine that nearly all the men present here are fathers, so I would like to speak to them all. Hopefully, what I say will also be of benefit to all the women and children.

Men, do you remember your son or daughter newly born? Of course you do. He or she was so small, helpless, and pleading, crying to be fed, to be held, to be warmed and wanted. You held your child in your arms, and at that moment you realized you had given life, the gift of life, and you anticipated fullness of life for your newborn. You prayed that day, over and over again, that your son or daughter would live happily, contentedly, and securely. As the days passed, there was never a time in which you stopped wanting what was good for your child. Deep in your heart, somewhere, you kept thinking, “I want you to live. I love you. I will give you a good life.” Over and over again you wanted that small seed to grow into a majestic tree, as we heard in our readings today. You asked God to bless your child and to help you be a good father, a good giver of gifts.

As the years passed, what happened? You kept giving and giving to your son or daughter. You gave and didn’t take your gifts back. You kept up your efforts. You kept sowing good seed, as the Gospel says, on to the field of your child’s life. You kept sowing, and pruning, and fertilizing the soil. You kept nurturing your son or daughter. You kept loving and sacrificing and giving. You kept giving the gift of your life so your family would live, and you never asked for it back. You knew that one day you would appear before the judgment seat of Christ to render an account of your fatherhood. You did your best.

When your child became a man or a woman, and began and began to reach out to bad fruit in the world, you winced. You hurt for them. You worried. When faced with ingratitude, you felt hurt, but you continued to do what you thought was right, and you held on to that original hope you had for your child the day he or she was born. You continued to hope your son or daughter would experience a full and happy life.

Is not all of this true? You can identify with it, can’t you?

Men, what I have just described is not only our experience as fathers, but it is God’s experience as Father. We are to be the kind of fathers to our children that God is to us. God is Father, and he constantly is fathering us. Never a moment passes when he is not fathering.

Just as we gave the gift of life to our children through our unity with our wives and in cooperation with God’s will, so too God gives life to all his sons and daughters in union with us, and he supports the life he gives. God’s gifts, once given, are irrevocable. He never takes them back. God’s greatest gift is the gift of life, and he will never take that gift from us. He is not the author of death, but he transforms death into eternal life. There is a great temptation in our world today, and it is an attack on fatherhood: to take someone’s life rather than give and sustain it. We fathers, like God, are to give life and sustain it.

God always, without ceasing, holds our lives in his hands, fathering us over and over again, saying “I give you life. I give you my Spirit. I desire you. I will you into life. I will you to live.” Over and over again, without ceasing. This is God’s fatherhood. This is his ultimate desire for us: fullness of life with him in eternity, to see him and know him.

God’s fatherhood is the model for us men to follow. He has written into our very DNA all the natural tools and dispositions. It is natural to be a good father. Not only that, but God has given us supernatural gifts to help our natural ones, especially the sacraments, the Church, our wives, and our friends.

Yes, we see the effects of our mistakes and failures and our sins. We are pained when our children drift away, and we ask “Why?” Without our faith in God’s fatherhood, we could easily conclude it is all just terribly unfair.

Yet, when we first saw our child that day, we experienced not failure or disappointment, but life. We had given the gift of life, a life which would extend into eternity. We knew that day that from nothing our child became a living, breathing human being. We could not deny our child’s life, or our own.

Fathers, defend the life you have given. Defend all human life, as God wills. Defend the life of your family; it is your responsibility. Continue to give life, never taking it. Sustain life, preserve it, and fight for it. Continue to be good fathers!

 

 

 

 

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