Homily for Thursday, 5th Week of Lent, 2015

Here is my homily from this morning’s early Mass. God bless each of you!

Today’s Gospel from John is a stunning account of Jesus’ encounter with the Jews. It is an account of contrasts, i.e., Jesus and the Jews, Jesus and Abraham, and Jesus and his Father. There is so much packed into this Gospel account that several homilies could come from it alone.

I would like us to take one thing home with us today from this Gospel, and it is this: We are never alone! No matter how dark the day, how lost we may be, how lonely we may feel, we are never alone, for God is always present. The divine presence never leaves us and never will. Yes, this is what we can take from the Gospel this morning. God is with us! Jesus is I AM, and not only does that mean he is God, but it also means he is present.

Abraham is known as our father in faith. Indeed, Abraham had real faith, and as Jesus tells us this morning, because of Abraham’s faith he saw the day of Jesus even during his life. Faith allowed Abraham to see God’s presence, not only at that moment in his life, but also in the ages to come. We, my friends, need our faith to recognize the presence of God in our lives too. God is here, but only our faith will enlighten us to recognize his presence, especially in the darkest times we experience. We are never alone!

Isn’t it interesting in the Gospel how the Jews claimed they were Abraham’s children, but they did not have Abraham’s faith. The Jews of the time did not recognize the presence of God in the person of Jesus. Even when Jesus explained to them who he was, in very certain terms – I AM. The Father glorifies me. The Father and I are one. – they did not recognize him. They were in the dark and overcome by that darkness and that is why Jesus called them liars. Only in faith do we see God in the midst of our lives. Only in faith, which God gifts us, which God enriches in us, which God offers us in so many ways.

My friends, let us this day go forth to witness to each other the faith which is ours, the faith which enlightens us to the presence of God, a presence which will never leaves us, which God will not retract. God has revealed himself and has given us the faith needed to recognized him. Let us not blind ourselves by our unbelief.

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for Saturday, Fourth Week of Lent, 2015

Here is the homily I gave to the deacons and their wives from the Diocese of Winona at a workshop addressing widowhood and celibacy in the diaconate. I hope all of you are blessed richly in the Lord!

 

Saturday, 4th Week of Lent, Cycle B

Homily to Deacons and Wives

March 21, 2015

Albert Lea, Minnesota

Jeremiah 11: 18-20; John 7: 40-53

 

“So a division occurred in the crowd because of him…”

Our Gospel this morning presents the question to all of us, “What causes divisions among us, among the people of God, indeed among humankind throughout our world?”

Not a question easily answered. Not a question that can be dismissed with a response like that of the Pharisees:

“Look and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.”

Indeed, when we are confronted with divisions in our world, in our Church, in our communities, in our families, even within ourselves as individuals, we need to know why. Why the rancor, the separation, the quick answers, the fall back into facile responses that blind us to the truth.

A recurrent theme in my own spiritual life this past year has been on this. I have been reflecting on Faith ever since our Holy Father, Pope Francis issued his encyclical Lumen Fideii - The Light of Faith – and the various aspects of faith the Holy Father describes, especially the unitive aspect of Faith.

Pope Francis reminds us:

Unity is superior to conflict and the whole is greater than the part.

Do we consider this when faced with conflict? Why do we choose division? What ultimately unites us? These are important questions for us in ministry, indeed in all of life.

Only love will unite us, nothing else.

Think of it: What is it that unites a husbands to a wife? Love. What is it that unites a parent to a child? Love. Every breath, every heartbeat, every moment of your existence is held together by divine Love. It is God’s gift and his gift is love. Without love, the only thing that unites us is sin, and the unity of sin is deceptive. Only love keeps us together, only divine love. It is God’s great gift to us.

But genuine love requires faith and shared faith enables love to endure. Again, think only about your marriages. Faith in each other enables the love that is present to endure through all the difficulties of life.

Faith identifies the presence of love.

Faith allows one to recognize the presence of love. Love in this way is united to faith.  Without faith, we are blinded to the presence of love. Isn’t this what happened in today’s Gospel reading? The Pharisees were without faith, and because of this they could not recognize the love of God right in front of them. Instead, they were in darkness, a darkness that comes only from faithlessness. Sin is darkness and faith is light. The unity of darkness is deceptive; it may seem seamless yet it is obscure and false. The unity of sin is fragile for it results in fragmentation, divisiveness, entropy. The unity of love is strengthened by faith, faith in God, faith in Church, faith in our wives and husbands, faith in our bishop, faith in us and our calling.

Faithlessness is a choice for disunity.

To “break faith” is the choice to be in conflict. Do we consider this when we are faced with such a choice? Do I have faith in myself? Do I have faith in my spouse? Do I have faith in my bishop? Do I have faith in the Church? Do I have faith in God?

Our choice for or against unity is a choice for or against faith. It is a grave matter really, for it is a choice for or against love, ultimately divine love, a love which never leaves us. The choice of faithlessness is a choice to be blind to the presence of God, the divine presence, and divine gifts that are extended to us in so many ways each and every day.

Let us go forward, filled with faith! Let us remain united in the love which is ours by the gift of the Holy Spirit. Let no divisions exist among us.

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Catholics and Evangelicals Together in Defending Marriage

I read with interest an article this morning co-authored by a large group of Catholic and Evangelicals on the sanctity of marriage and our need to defend it. It is a splendid piece of writing that says so much to all of us. I would ask each of you to take the time to log on to First Things (link below) and thoughtfully read this article.

http://www.firstthings.com/article/2015/03/the-two-shall-become-one-flesh-reclaiming-marriage-2

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Memorial of Perpetua and Felicity and Contemporary Christian Martyrdom

Today is the commemoration of Saints Perpetua and Felicity, both of whom were martyred under the persecution of the Emperor Septimus Severus in the early third century. Perpetua was a noblewoman and Felicity was her slave. They, along with others, including Rusticus and Saturnus, were martyred in the arena. A beautifully moving account of their deaths is provided for us this morning in the Office of Readings.

In praying this office today, I cannot help but reflect on how so very similar their deaths were to the deaths being experienced by contemporary Christians in the Mideast. We hear in the news of Christians being thrown from high places, being decapitated with knives and swords, being burned alive. How can we not be moved, deeply, in our spirits, when we read of the Coptic Christian men martyred en masse recently?

What Felicity and Perpetua and so many others experienced in the third century is being repeated, almost identically, in our world today. I see no difference at all. The Romans may be gone, but another empire has replaced them, and is persecuting Christians once again.

My friends, do not fall into lethargy. Do not assume you are insulated and far from such persecution. It could well be the case that you too may face persecution and death for your faith. We deacons, priests and bishops must especially be prepared. There are no blood martyrdoms (yet) in this country, but spiritual ones will be required each and every day. We all have a choice to make, i.e., do we offer our lives for the sake of the Gospel and our faith and love of Jesus Christ OR do we abandon him and pursue what the world would want us to pursue?

Here in the United States and the western world we are constantly being pressured to abandon our faith, to deny the truth of the Gospel. So many of us are doing just that in our pursuit of New Age religions, paganistic practices and philosophies, Buddhism, secularism, and hedonism. Each time we are confronted with those subtle or not so subtle demands from society, we must remain strong in faith and in our knowledge of the truth. To do so is not being fundamentalist or rigid; it is being faithful and true. The devil and his companions are busy at work setting the stage for more intense tests and trials. Resist him.

I only can hope that my readers never have to face a blood martyrdom. (I am aware that people from all over the world log on to this weblog, so perhaps some of you might have to face such a martyrdom.) I do know, though, that all of us who remain faithful will be faced with a spiritual martyrdom. I pray we remain close to the Lord when this time comes.

Saints Perpetua and Felicity, pray for us!

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for 3rd Sunday of Lent, Cycle B, 2015

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

Third Sunday of Lent, Cycle B, 2015

Ex 20: 1-17; 1Cor 1: 22-25; John 2: 13-25

March 7/8, 2015

 

“We proclaim Christ crucified; a stumbling block and foolishness to some, but to those who are called, the wisdom of God!”

Fr. Havel told us the first Sunday of Lent during his homily that we are to embrace the cross this Lent. He wants us to embrace it all, to try at least even if we fail to do so perfectly. Then, last Sunday, we heard of the Transfiguration of Jesus, how he revealed his glory as the Son of God to Peter, James and John as they gazed upon him on Mt. Tabor.

So today, I want us to embrace the cross and gaze upon Jesus as part of our Lenten journey.

I’d like you to look at the crucifix behind the altar. Gaze at it; don’t take your eyes off it.

What do you see? Is there anything that moves as you? Is there anything that challenges your faith? Is there anything or anyone there you love, or admire, or in which you believe?

Do you see in Jesus glory or shame?

Do you see in that crucifix the destruction of a temple or the destruction of sin?

Do you see salvation won for you, or do you see condemnation?

Do you see something to be pitied, or someone to be loved?

Do you see it as an opportunity to mock the God who promises so much and yet seems so far from us all too often, or do you see the wisdom and glory of God revealed in human flesh?

“God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him might have eternal life.” (John 3: 16)

Can you imagine what Mary saw and must have thought as she took in the cross, as she gazed at the crucifixion of her Son? What did she see? Did she see her son’s failure, or his victory? What did she think? That her whole life had been for naught or that it had been brought to fulfillment?

We can model ourselves after Mary this Lent. We can embrace the cross of Christ as she embraced it. Mary was the boldest of all the witnesses to her son’s life, death and resurrection, and she embraced the cross. We can embrace it too. No, it was not Peter or John, it was not James or Paul who was the boldest witness to the cross of Christ; it was Mary, Mary, the Mother of God and our mother, who boldly and faithfully embraced the cross of her Son that day on Golgotha and continues to do so to this day.

Mary would not have been able to faithfully embrace the cross and follow her son had she not first embraced the Word of God that had come to her from the angel Gabriel. She could not have embraced the cross had she not first nurtured that Word in her Immaculate Heart and only then conceived that Word in her womb giving human flesh to God himself. Mary would not have been able to endure the suffering she experienced with her son at the cross had she not first cradled the Word of God in her heart, nurtured it, and sustained it. Mary’s greatness indeed lay in her faithfulness in embracing the Cross, in her being a sinless follower of her Son. Her greatness lay more in that than in her having given flesh to the Son of God. St. Augustine would write about this many years afterward about Mary. Mary’s greatness has more to do with her being a perfect follower of Jesus her son, more so than in her having given flesh to her son in the womb.

We are to embrace the cross this Lent. On Good Friday, we will embrace and kiss it in our liturgical commemoration. We cannot endure the crosses in our lives if we have not first embraced, received, accepted and nurtured the Word of God given to us, the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ our Lord! We must hear and accept God’s Word, Jesus, in our lives, hold him, protect him, guard him, love him, cultivate that Word, and welcome him if we are to embrace the cross this Lent.

Meditate on the cross, for there you will find the love of God outpoured for you. There on that cross you will see God’s total commitment to us his people, his total commitment to humanity. There you will see your opportunity to accept God’s call to be converted, redeemed, sanctified, loved, embraced, lifted up in glory, healed, protected from evil, empowered, refreshed and renewed. There you will find the reason why the saints all have said we will see the face of Jesus in the poor and the suffering.

Jesus took upon himself the guilt of us all and he crushed Satan and sin and ultimately death itself. From the cross he now lifts us up in glory with him. The cross transfigures you and me!

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for Thursday, Second Week of Lent, 2015

Here is my homily from this morning. God bless!

There are a lot of Lazaruses in our lives. Lots of people whom we pass by, unaware of their presence and their needs. There are a lot of  people we exclude from our awareness and from our lives and our Church.

We have to be careful not to exclude by not paying attention to them. In so many ways, in the manner of his life and with his words, our Holy Father Pope Francis has brought this to our attention in the past two years. We must not be self-absorbed, self-focused, closed  in on ourselves. We must not be that way as individuals; we must not be that way as a Church. Rather, we are to be inclusive by reaching out to all people in their need and bringing them into our lives and our Church, first by our awareness and attention then by our service to them in their need.

My people, there are a lot of  Lazaruses out there in our local community. Many people who are homeless, hungry, struggling, trying to believe. We must not walk by them blindly. We must not ignore  them through our self-concern. We must not exclude them by our blindness and inattention. If we do, we will become tormented as that rich man was tormented in the Gospel this morning.

The great unbridgeable divide of which our Lord speaks this morning, the chasm between the rich man and Lazarus, must not exist here on this earth, now during our terrestial life. It exists only in the afterlife and confirms forever that reality that we create for ourselves here on earth,  if that truly is what we create. Let us not risk experiencing eternally such torment by our exclusion of others now.

 

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Homily for Thursday, First Week of Lent 2015

Here is my homily from yesterday morning’s Mass. Sorry it took me so long to post it. May God bless each of you!

May  I suggest something? If you have not yet decided on what to do for Lent, or if you are reconsidering your Lenten practice this year, I would ask you to pray morning and evening each day our responsorial psalm for today’s Mass. It is Psalm 138. Commit it to memory, if you would so you may pray it from your heart. Remember what we just now prayed?

I will give thanks to you, O  Lord, with all my heart

for you have heard the words of my mouth;

in the presence of the angels I will sing your praise;

I will worship at your holy temple

and give thanks to your name.

Because of  your kindness and your truth;

for you have made great above all things your name and your promise.

When I called, you answered me; you built up strength within me.

Your  right hand saves me.

The Lord will complete what he has done for me;

Your kindness O Lord, endures forever; forsake not the work of your hands.

Yes, we all need to pray this psalm frequently in our lives. Just like Queen Esther, we too are faced with fears and challenges. Life sometimes is really scary and we feel alone and we need to  call out to God to give us what we need to do what we must. In our Gospel reading today, Jesus tells us that we are to ask and we will receive, knock and the door will be opened to us.

We must ask and knock. This psalm does just that with a healthy dose of praise in the mix.

God is our Father. He knows what we need even before we ask. God is so close to us, right here, right now, that we really cannot comprehend his intimacy and his benevolence. God has in his hands everything we will ever need in our lives and he so very much wants to lavish us with it all, but we are to ask and knock. God doesn’t want to force his gifts on us, even in our necessity.

God does not give snakes when we ask for fish. He doesn’t give stones when we need bread. He readily gives us exactly what we need each and every time we ask.

Abba! Father! We come to you in our need. We come and ask to bear us up in our Lenten journy. We come and knock on the door of your heart and seek the outpouring of your love and grace that flow from your Sacred Heart. Your kindness, O Lord, endures forever; forsake not the work of your hands!

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Attention All Deacons and Priests! Why Deacons Chant the Exultet

I have provided below a link to a blog post by Deacon Bill Ditewig in which he describes some of the history and theology of the deacon’s presence and function during the Easter Vigil. It speaks of the “why” a deacon chants the Exultet and carries the Easter Candle and other very interesting items. PLEASE READ ALL DEACONS AND PRIESTS!

One of the things I am face with every year as Assistant Director of Deacon Personnel is one of more deacons who are not allowed to fulfill their diaconal responsibility to chant the Exultet. This proclamation is meant for the deacon. It is not meant to be a theatrical performance given to the person with the best voice. The deacon is also given other roles int he Vigil Liturgy that often are deprived him for various stated reasons. I would hope Ditewig’s essay will go a long way to clearing up confusion regarding the matter, even though the deacon’s role is clearly spelled out in the GIRM.

Here is the link:

https://billditewig.wordpress.com/2015/02/23/christ-cross-candle-and-gospel-an-early-lenten-reflection-on-the-deacon-and-the-exsultet/

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Quote for the Day

“How marvelous is divine wisdom, for it brought salvation through the cinders of humanity.” — St. Bonaventure, OFM

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for Thursday after Ash Wednesday

Here is my homily from this morning’s Mass. God bless each of you!

As we begin Lent, we are given this Gospel passage in which we are reminded that if we gain the whole world, but lose ourselves, we gain nothing, and that everyone who calls himself Christian must pick up his cross.

I am reminded of the great little treatise John Henry Newman wrote at the end of the 19th century, which he entitled, “The Venture of Faith.” In this writing, Newman poses the question, “What have you ventured for the Faith?” Indeed, what have we risked, put on the line, because of our commitment to Jesus Christ and the Church? What have we given?

You know, God takes us at our word, even though we often do not understand the full implications of our words, our promises, our commitments. He takes us at our word, and then only promises that he will be there to help us carry it out, whatever it may be that we have promised.

All of us here this morning have, by virtue of our baptisms and our presence around this altar, made the public promise and commitment to follow Jesus Christ. We call ourselves Christians. God takes us at our word, even though we do not know what this commitment will mean for us in our lives. God says, “So be it! You are my follower!”

When a man and woman approach the Church and publicly declare their vows to each other, promising a life together, God says, “So be it! You are man and wife!” and promises to help them, even though they do not fully understand the implications of their marital promises.

When a man kneels before his bishop and is ordained a deacon, promising to become an Icon of Jesus Christ the Servant, he knows not what this promise will bring him in life, but God takes him at his word and says, “So be it! You are my deacon.” God promises only to be there to help him.

My friends, Lent is a good time for us to reflect on the promises and commitments we have made to God, to each other, and to the Church. God takes us at our word in these commitments. We don’t really know the full implications of our promises, what we will have to carry to fulfill them, but he will be there to help us carry those crosses.

I will conclude with this: I do not recommend you watch it, but in that video of the 21 men who were killed in Libya this past week by ISIS because they were Christian, if you watch their last words before death, they confessed, “Lord, Jesus Christ!” Yes, they professed Jesus. They carried their cross, and fulfilled their commitment made at baptism, even though at that time they knew not what that baptismal promise would require of them. May God richly reward them now.

Let us this Lent examine our promises and commitments, knowing God accepts those promises at face value even if we do not fully comprehend the implications of making those commitments. He does so assuring us he is there to help us fulfill them in the power of his  Spirit.

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Holy Father’s Homily to the Cardinals

I have to pass this on to all of you. Below, you will find the Holy Father’s homily to the Cardinals. It is a wonderful homily to read and upon which to reflect. I will let it speak for itself. (Official English translation from the Vatican’s website www.vatican.va)

 

“Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean”… Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched out his hand and touched him, and said: “I do choose. Be made clean!” (Mk 1:40-41). The compassion of Jesus! That com-passion which made him draw near to every person in pain! Jesus does not hold back; instead, he gets involved in people’s pain and their need… for the simple reason that he knows and wants to show com-passion, because he has a heart unashamed to have “compassion”.

“Jesus could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed in the country; and people came to him from every quarter” (Mk 1:45). This means that Jesus not only healed the leper but also took upon himself the marginalization enjoined by the law of Moses (cf. Lev 13:1-2, 45-46). Jesus is unafraid to risk sharing in the suffering of others; he pays the price of it in full (cf. Is 53:4).

Compassion leads Jesus to concrete action: he reinstates the marginalized! These are the three key concepts that the Church proposes in today’s liturgy of the word: the compassion of Jesus in the face of marginalization and his desire to reinstate.

Marginalization: Moses, in his legislation regarding lepers, says that they are to be kept alone and apart from the community for the duration of their illness. He declares them: “unclean!” (cf. Lev 13:1-2, 45-46).

Imagine how much suffering and shame lepers must have felt: physically, socially, psychologically and spiritually! They are not only victims of disease, but they feel guilty about it, punished for their sins! Theirs is a living death; they are like someone whose father has spit in his face (cf. Num 12:14).

In addition, lepers inspire fear, contempt and loathing, and so they are abandoned by their families, shunned by other persons, cast out by society. Indeed, society rejects them and forces them to live apart from the healthy. It excludes them. So much so that if a healthy person approached a leper, he would be punished severely, and often be treated as a leper himself.

True, the purpose of this rule was “to safeguard the healthy”, “to protect the righteous”, and, in order to guard them from any risk, to eliminate “the peril” by treating the diseased person harshly. As the high priest Caiaphas exclaimed: “It is better to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed” (Jn 11:50).

Reinstatement: Jesus revolutionizes and upsets that fearful, narrow and prejudiced mentality. He does not abolish the law of Moses, but rather brings it to fulfillment (cf. Mt 5:17). He does so by stating, for example, that the law of retaliation is counterproductive, that God is not pleased by a Sabbath observance which demeans or condemns a man. He does so by refusing to condemn the sinful woman, but saves her from the blind zeal of those prepared to stone her ruthlessly in the belief that they were applying the law of Moses. Jesus also revolutionizes consciences in the Sermon on the Mount (cf. Mt 5), opening new horizons for humanity and fully revealing God’s “logic”. The logic of love, based not on fear but on freedom and charity, on healthy zeal and the saving will of God. For “God our Saviour desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:3-4). “I desire mercy and not sacrifice” (Mt 12:7; Hos 6:6).

Jesus, the new Moses, wanted to heal the leper. He wanted to touch him and restore him to the community without being “hemmed in” by prejudice, conformity to the prevailing mindset or worry about becoming infected. Jesus responds immediately to the leper’s plea, without waiting to study the situation and all its possible consequences! For Jesus, what matters above all is reaching out to save those far off, healing the wounds of the sick, restoring everyone to God’s family! And this is scandalous to some people!

Jesus is not afraid of this kind of scandal! He does not think of the closed-minded who are scandalized even by a work of healing, scandalized before any kind of openness, by any action outside of their mental and spiritual boxes, by any caress or sign of tenderness which does not fit into their usual thinking and their ritual purity. He wanted to reinstate the outcast, to save those outside the camp (cf. Jn 10).

There are two ways of thinking and of having faith: we can fear to lose the saved and we can want to save the lost. Even today it can happen that we stand at the crossroads of these two ways of thinking. The thinking of the doctors of the law, which would remove the danger by casting out the diseased person, and the thinking of God, who in his mercy embraces and accepts by reinstating him and turning evil into good, condemnation into salvation and exclusion into proclamation.

These two ways of thinking are present throughout the Church’s history: casting off and reinstating. Saint Paul, following the Lord’s command to bring the Gospel message to the ends of the earth (cf. Mt 28:19), caused scandal and met powerful resistance and great hostility, especially from those who demanded unconditional obedience to the Mosaic law, even on the part of converted pagans. Saint Peter, too, was bitterly criticized by the community when he entered the house of the pagan centurion Cornelius (cf. Acts 10).

The Church’s way, from the time of the Council of Jerusalem, has always always been the way of Jesus, the way of mercy and reinstatement. This does not mean underestimating the dangers of letting wolves into the fold, but welcoming the repentant prodigal son; healing the wounds of sin with courage and determination; rolling up our sleeves and not standing by and watching passively the suffering of the world. The way of the Church is not to condemn anyone for eternity; to pour out the balm of God’s mercy on all those who ask for it with a sincere heart. The way of the Church is precisely to leave her four walls behind and to go out in search of those who are distant, those essentially on the “outskirts” of life. It is to adopt fully God’s own approach, to follow the Master who said: “Those who are well have no need of the physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call, not the righteous but sinners” (Lk 5:31-32).

In healing the leper, Jesus does not harm the healthy. Rather, he frees them from fear. He does not endanger them, but gives them a brother. He does not devalue the law but instead values those for whom God gave the law. Indeed, Jesus frees the healthy from the temptation of the “older brother” (cf. Lk 15:11-32), the burden of envy and the grumbling of the labourers who bore “the burden of the day and the heat” (cf. Mt 20:1-16).

In a word: charity cannot be neutral, antiseptic, indifferent, lukewarm or impartial! Charity is infectious, it excites, it risks and it engages! For true charity is always unmerited, unconditional and gratuitous! (cf. 1 Cor 13). Charity is creative in finding the right words to speak to all those considered incurable and hence untouchable. Finding the right words… Contact is the language of genuine communication, the same endearing language which brought healing to the leper. How many healings can we perform if only we learn this language of contact! The leper, once cured, became a messenger of God’s love. The Gospel tells us that “he went out and began to proclaim it freely and to spread the word” (cf. Mk 1:45).

Dear new Cardinals, this is the “logic”, the mind of Jesus, and this is the way of the Church. Not only to welcome and reinstate with evangelical courage all those who knock at our door, but to go out and seek, fearlessly and without prejudice, those who are distant, freely sharing what we ourselves freely received. “Whoever says: ‘I abide in [Christ]’, ought to walk just as he walked” (1 Jn 2:6). Total openness to serving others is our hallmark, it alone is our title of honour!

Consider carefully that, in these days when you have become Cardinals, we have asked Mary, Mother of the Church, who herself experienced marginalization as a result of slander (cf. Jn 8:41) and exile (cf. Mt 2:13-23), to intercede for us so that we can be God’s faithful servants. May she – our Mother – teach us to be unafraid of tenderly welcoming the outcast; not to be afraid of tenderness. How often we fear tenderness! May Mary teach us not to be afraid of tenderness and compassion. May she clothe us in patience as we seek to accompany them on their journey, without seeking the benefits of worldly success. May she show us Jesus and help us to walk in his footsteps.

Dear new Cardinals, my brothers, as we look to Jesus and our Mother, I urge you to serve the Church in such a way that Christians – edified by our witness – will not be tempted to turn to Jesus without turning to the outcast, to become a closed caste with nothing authentically ecclesial about it. I urge you to serve Jesus crucified in every person who is emarginated, for whatever reason; to see the Lord in every excluded person who is hungry, thirsty, naked; to see the Lord present even in those who have lost their faith, or turned away from the practice of their faith, or say that they are atheists; to see the Lord who is imprisoned, sick, unemployed, persecuted; to see the Lord in the leper – whether in body or soul – who encounters discrimination! We will not find the Lord unless we truly accept the marginalized! May we always have before us the image of Saint Francis, who was unafraid to embrace the leper and to accept every kind of outcast. Truly, dear brothers, the Gospel of the marginalized is where our credibility is at stake, is discovered and is revealed!

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for Wednesday, 5th Week in Ordinary Time, Year I

Here is my homily from last night’s Mass. God bless all!

So often nowadays we hear the admonition, “Beware! The world is a dangerous place! Be careful what you are exposed to in the world! It will corrupt you!”

Well, I suppose there is some common sense wisdom in all of that. Not everything out there is good for our health and safety. But here all week in the first readings at Mass we hear of God creating things “good.” Indeed, a central teaching of our faith, a teaching founded on the truth of the Scriptures and the self-revelation of God, is that all that God has created is good. He has created this world of ours for us to use and to sustain us here.

And in our Gospel tonight from St. Mark, we hear Jesus tell us that it is not what comes into us that defiles us but what comes out of us. Jesus is affirming the goodness of creation. He also acknowledges that man corrupts the goodness of that creation.

Yes, my friends, if we have anything to fear in this world it is not what God has created the world to be, but rather what we have corrupted by our own devices, what we have taken and misused. Indeed, we ourselves who are created, and created good, take that goodness which is ours and we all too often defile it.

Careful we need to be… not of the world, but of what we have done to the world.

The Gospel tonight ends with a list of sins that we commit. Perhaps we need to reflect on our own sin (none of us are free of it) and the ways we have brought fear and corruption into a very beautiful and good world.

God is good, and he always provides for us in abundance the good things we need to live. He only gives us what is good and what is needed by us.

Let us thank him tonight for his goodness to us, and resolve to not be afraid.

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Quote for the Day

“Put aside your garments, that is worldly riches, so that you may not fall victim to the adversary and that you may enter the kingdom of heaven by the rough road and narrow gate.” — St. Clare of Assisi

 

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle B, 2015

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

Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time 2015

Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time

February 7/8, 2015

Job 7: 1-4, 6-7; 1Cor. 9: 16-19, 22-23; Mt 1: 29-39

 

 A few weeks ago, I gave a vocation talk to our students over at the school. It was a great time to be with all those kids and to speak about my vocation as a married deacon. Their questions were spot on in many cases. One of those questions, the same one that often comes up in any conversation about the diaconate is, “What does a deacon do?”

My answer to the kids’ question was, “Deacons are to do what Jesus did for other people, like we read about in the Gospel.” Who is Jesus? He is the Word of God, as we hear in the Gospel of John. Deacons then preach the Word of God. And what did Jesus do in his life on earth? He fed the hungry, healed the sick, instructed the ignorant, preached the Gospel, told parables, gave homilies, and went out to the people where they lived and worked and touched their lives.

Our second reading and our Gospel today are good descriptions of what deacons are to do and what their ministry should look like. Read over these readings again later this week. Reflect on them. These are descriptions of the diaconate.

Many people ask Deacon Trocinski and me the same question the students asked so I will try to describe for you who we are and what we are to be doing.

Deacons are men who are ordained. They receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders, a permanent sacrament that marks them for eternity. Once a deacon, always a deacon. And when a man is ordained a deacon, the bishop sends him out to proclaim the Gospel, and to preach that Gospel here at this pulpit and out there in the world, as we heard in the second Reading today. He is given the Book of the Gospels at his ordination and is told by the bishop to preach the Gospel with a clear conscience. The bishop reminds him he has become a “Herald of the Gospel.” After ordination, the bishop gives him his faculties which say he is to baptize, to marry, to bury and to teach the faith.

Deacons, priests, and bishops are all ordained, but there is only one Sacrament of Holy Orders. A man may receive this sacrament three times, each time being ordained to another rank or responsibility in the Church. The bishop is ordained to shepherd a diocese. He is a successor of the Apostles. He is our chief priest and our chief deacon. He possesses the fullness of the priesthood of Jesus Christ and the fullness of the diaconate of Jesus Christ, but he cannot possibly be everywhere all the time. He cannot be with us every Sunday to celebrate Mass. He cannot sit in every confessional every Saturday to forgive our sins. He cannot anoint every person who is ill. So, the bishop ordains some men to celebrate Mass, hear confessions, anoint the sick, and shepherd parishes in his diocese. He shares his priestly ministry with these men we call priests.

Likewise, the bishop cannot proclaim the Gospel at every Mass, or preach every homily, baptize every person, marry every couple, bury every person who dies, feed every hungry person in the diocese, visit all the sick and imprisoned, or instruct everyone in the faith. So, he ordains men to baptize these people, to marry them, to bury them, to care for them when they are sick, to go out to their homes and business places, to the jails and prisons to minister to the people there. He ordains men to read and proclaim the Gospel in the parishes and to preach that Gospel. He ordains these men to serve in his name, serve in the name of the Church, and serve as Jesus served. He shares his diaconal ministry with these men whom we call deacons.

A bishop has two have two legs to stand on: His deacons and his priests. A bishop really cannot fulfill his ministry without his deacons or his priests.

You may say, “But priests do all the things deacons do.” Yes, they do, because when they do the things deacons do, they are living out their diaconate. Every priest is ordained a deacon before he is ordained a priest. For centuries, there were only a few deacons and so all men destined for the priesthood had to be ordained deacons first so they would be both deacon and a priest after their ordination to the priesthood, so they would take care of the diaconal aspects of the bishop’s ministry. As priests they offer the Sacrifice of the Mass and forgive sins in the name of Jesus Christ. In their diakonia,  they serve the bishop and the People of God in the ways deacons do.

Yes, as we hear in our readings today, deacons are a slave of all. They are weak with the weak. They are immersed in the human condition. Deacons are one with families for they are family men too. As St. Paul said in our second Reading, it is our obligation to preach and teach the Gospel, to baptize, marry and bury. As deacons, it is our obligation to heal the broken hearted, bind up the wounded, reach out to those on the fringes of society, and sustain the lonely and the depressed. Deacons are immersed in the world in a way priests and bishops are not, and yet we are attached to Jesus and the Church. Deacons must be men of prayer and men of the Church.

Deacons must do what Jesus did for the people. As St. Paul said, we must become all things for all people to save at least some. As our Gospel said today in the beginning, we are to leave the church buildings and enter into peoples’ lives. This is a tall order for any deacon. But with God’s grace, and the support of our wives, we live out our vocations.

Never be hesitant to approach us when you have a question about the Faith. Don’t hesitate to ask us to baptize your children, to marry you, or to bury your loved ones. Don’t hesitate to ask us to bless your rosaries, your homes, your cars, your pets, or bless you. If you need us, we will come.

My dear people, I conclude with the same words our Lord used at the end of today’s Gospel: “For this purpose have I come to you.”

 

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for Thursday, 4th Week in Ordinary Time, Year 1, Memorial of St. Agatha

Here is a summary of my homily this morning.

Our God invites us into a relationship with him, an intimate relationship. He invites us to be close to him, to touch him, to approach him. Unlike the years gone by when the Israelites were making their Exodus and were forbidden to even touch Mt. Sinai, and were terrified by the presence of God on that mountain such that only Moses could approach God and be intimate with him, ever since the Incarnation, God has invited us to be close to him, to touch him and to have no fear, as we read in our first reading this morning from the Letter to the Hebrews.

Those of us here this morning, most of us daily communicants, approach this altar each day and we receive and touch our Lord who is God and we receive him into us. Not only that, but we are to recognize his presence in each of us who believe. Yes, God is present in our brothers and sisters of faith.

But with every invitation to intimacy there is vulnerability. There is the opportunity for Satan to induce us into sin  and neglegence. We need to ask ourselves whether we approach God, here at this altar with a real awareness of his Presence, or do we approach him carelessly. We need to ask ourselves whether we approach each other reverently or carelessly. We who repeatedly are at the altar of God can easily lapse into neglegence and disrespect of God and each other.

I am reminded of a story my pastor has told of when he invited a Methodist pastor over to the parish church. As he was giving the tour, Father passed by the tabernacle and genuflected. The Methodist pastor asked him, “Why do you do that?” Father answered, “Because we believe that God is truly present in that tablernacle.” The Methodist pastor responded, “If I believed that, I would never get off my knees.”

He had a point.

I am not suggesting we never get off our knees, but we need to ask ourselves whether we respond to God’s invitation to closeness and intimacy with a sense of reverence or do we respond carelessly. Do we approach each other disrespectfully or do we approach each other reverently?

May we this day approach this altar with reverence and respect. May we approach each other with a reverence due the Lord himself!

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