Deacon Bob’s Homily for 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B

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

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B

January 23/24, 2021

Jonah 3:1-5, 10; 1Cor 7:29-31; Mark 1:14-2-

 

It may be surprising to hear a Lenten-like gospel at the beginning of Ordinary Time. Repent! Believe! Leave all behind and come follow me! We can imagine what those words of Jesus must have sounded like to the crowds; the crispness of his voice and the sting of his words. Many rejected them, but not all because earlier in the Gospel we are told that Jesus spoke differently than anyone else who had come before him for he spoke with authority, so some people picked up on that and responded. The apostles took it to heart and left all behind and followed him.

The same message continues to be preached.  People today react like so many did 2000 years ago. Some are stung by the words and reject them; others listen and follow.

Whether we like it or not, the world in its present form is passing away, like St Paul said in the second reading, and so we must let it go. We must stop hanging on to old habits and old ways of life. We must let go of all these things and follow the Lord who shows us the way to the Father in heaven. This is what Peter, Andrew, James and John did when they heard the words of Jesus. They let go of the old and grabbed on to the new, and they never looked back.

Perhaps those of us responsible for preaching the Gospel fail to preach repentance and belief well enough. The whole purpose of preaching it is to free people to more firmly grasp the hand of the Lord, and to walk gracefully with him into God’s kingdom. The whole reason why deacons and priests and bishops preach the Gospel of repentance and faith is so you will be free to follow the Lord and inherit his promises; it is not meant to lay undeserved burdens of guilt on anyone. It is preached to free you from such burdens.

It is hard to preach repentance and belief, and hard to hear it. We are caught up in our old ways of living, our old habits, and we are afraid to let go and let God, as the old-timers in AA say. It is hard to repent and believe because we have our “boats and nets to tend and repair.”

Too often the spirit of fear, guilt and shame enters our lives. We are afraid of so many things, including being afraid of God and each other. We approach God and each other with fear. We afraid we are going to become sick and die so we isolate. We are afraid we are going to be condemned by God, so we avoid confessing our sins. We are afraid others will not accept us, so we hide in shame. We too often approach God and each other with fear.

   When we harbor fear in our relationships with God and each other, when we feed the fear, we open the door to sin and evil. We open the door to the very things for which Jesus tells us we must repent!  We must not open that door. We must not live in fear. Rather, as St. John Paul II so famously proclaimed “Do not be afraid! Open wide your hearts to Christ!”

Jesus calls us to repent, believe and follow because he wants us to be free from fear and to live in peace.  He is our Lord. He is our companion. He is our brother. He is our merciful judge. He is our Savior. He wants to take away anything and everything that puts a barrier between us and him. To put it more simply, he wants us to let go of our sins and to grab on to his grace. He wants us to let go of the world and grab on to heaven. He wants us to confess our sins and receive the grace of the sacraments of the Church. He wants us to renounce the spirit of fear and announce our faith. He wants us to be at peace.

Every person I have met who has humbly and sincerely repented and made an act of faith has told me the same story: Fear dissolves away and peace and freedom enters.

We too have nothing to fear when we hear “repent and believe.” We really have nothing to fear in letting go of our old ways of life, our sins, for we have the assurance of God’s forgiveness, mercy, and grace. The thing to be feared is ignoring the call to repentance and faith and remaining in fear.

Will we turn away from what keeps us from grasping the hand of the Lord? Will we follow him? Will we turn away from our sins and turn to the promise of abundant grace given to us in the sacraments? Will we believe in God’s promises, and be confident in his love? Peter, Andrew, James and John did.

For me, this is a never-ending process. I ask myself every day that question. I must make a daily decision to turn to God, let go of old ways of living and embrace the God who loves me. I pray you make the decision Peter, Andrew, James, and John made. Follow Jesus!

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for the Solemnity of the Holy Family 2020

May God bless each of you in his mercy, and protect all our families!

Solemnity of the Holy Family

Sirach 3:2-7, 12-14; Col 3:12-21;  Luke 2:22-40

December 26/27, 2020

 

More and more I have been thinking about the effect society has on our families, on how they live, and are defined. The readings today give us a model for family life that is increasingly being ridiculed in modern society.

Nobody’s family is perfect. We all know that. We are imperfect people in an imperfect world using imperfect means in our attempts to be perfected. If it is perfection we seek, then we must look at the Holy Family to find it. God has given them to us as a model for which to strive, but also He gives us the strength, when the occasion arises, to live as they lived.

St. Joseph was an exemplary father and husband. He protected Mary from public shame and death by taking her into his home as his wife even though he knew he was not the father of the child in her womb. He later sensed an external danger to his family and in the middle of the night took Mary and Jesus on a long journey to Egypt to protect them from Herod.

Mary was a perfect mother. She nourished and fed Jesus. She no doubt caressed him and sustained his humanity. Mary did all in her power to stand by her son during his suffering. She never abandoned him. Her heart and his heart were united throughout his Passion and death. The bond between Mary and Jesus was never severed, not even now they are united in heaven.

We who are parents need to step into the breach, as Joseph and Mary did, to defend and nourish our families. We who are fathers must imitate Joseph and protect them from the dangers to which they are exposed in today’s world. This is our duty in the Lord! It is a serious betrayal of our wives and our children if we fail to make the effort.

Fathers, we are the front-line defenders of family life. We are given, by the grace of God and by human nature, the ability to sense what is externally harmful to our families and we have the strength to move to intercept anything which may pose a serious threat to them.

Fathers, how well are we protecting our families? You know as well as I, that they are under attack by our culture. We have heard of how some children and women have been abused by clergymen, school teachers, and others. We all have the same gut reaction to this. Our children and wives are also being harmed by the trend to normalize abortion, transgenderism, the masculinization of women, and feminization of men, and the redefinition of marriage. How can we protect our families from this? The economy in which we work tempts us to put work first and family second. It often encourages us to divide ourselves and our time, to prioritize money over being present as a father and husband. How are we responding to this?

Fathers, we must know our children! To be known by one’s father is a strong protection against the effects of social and personal evils. Knowing you are known by your dad keeps you safe and secure. Even the behavioral sciences affirm this. Yes, we must know our children and let ourselves be known by them as a way of protecting them.

You who are our spiritual fathers in the Church, this applies to you as well. The willingness to protect, to know and be known, and to nourish your spiritual children, is imperative. Do not fear doing what you must to protect the family God has given you. You must protect your children.

Mothers, you are the inner guard. You are gifted with an intuitive knowledge of what will nourish your children and what will starve them. You know what is necessary for them to become good parents. Mothers, you fight with your lives to meet your children’s emotional needs, and you stand by your husbands in defending your children from external threats.

Mothers, you must remain connected to your children from the moment of conception until natural death intervenes. The cumulative knowledge of the ages has taught us that the strength of the maternal bond with a child (regardless of the child’s age) prevents a multitude of problems in life. Almost always, anything that severs that maternal connection is at best unhealthy and at worst deadly to a son or daughter.

Mothers, remain connected! Fathers, know your children and be known by your children! Through the intercession of Blessed Mary and St. Joseph may all our families experience the peace and security we so very much want for them in this world.

Remember, no family is perfect. God provides what we may lack of our own resources. Faith in Him will give us all we may need to care for the families He has entrusted to us.

 

 

 

 

 

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for December 22, 2020

My homily for December 22 this year.

Homily December 22, 2020

The mark of any spiritually and emotionally mature man is the mark of humility. It is also a mark of contradiction to what our contemporary society says. The world around us seems to identify those who are self-referent and self-noting as ones to be esteemed and having achieved some level of success and maturity; in other words, those who by their lives direct attention to themselves and their “accomplishments.” This was again recently brought to my attention when I opened a People magazine found in a clinic waiting room.

Yet, we so often hear to the demise of such individuals, the sudden fall from their exalted positions. We can think of many such people in society, and, yes, even in the Church, who have taken such a fall after having aggressively promoted themselves. I need not name them; you know them as well as I.

Perhaps we need only to briefly reflect on our own family history to recall the truly great men and women in the world and in the Church; those men and women who realized that it is God who accomplishes great things in and through them. Our Blessed Mother Mary realized this and expressed it so beautifully in her Canticle which I just proclaimed to you. St. John the Baptist knew this when he said, “He must increase and I must decrease.” We know this when we remember family members, former clergymen, and religious sisters who carried the mark of humility and were indeed mature, strong, and holy people. These men and women who taught us that God is the potter and we the clay; that God is author and we the paper; that He is the One who brings about all good things. Any greatness of ours is a reflection of God’s greatness shining through us.

It takes a mature person to understand this, a spiritually and psychologically mature person. Indeed, humility is a sign of health and strength and holiness. It is not weak. It is not fragile. Humility won’t break us; rather, it strengthens us because it is from God and His strength becomes our strength. Every saint that has lived attests to this, most especially our Blessed Mother.

All things must point to God. All things must magnify God’s majesty and glory.  This is always what Mary lived and what she continues to teach us. All things must point to her son Jesus. The greatness that is ours as God’s sons and daughters is His gift to us. To Him be the praise and glory, now and forever. Amen!

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

Wisdom 6:12-16; 1Thes 4:1-18; Matt 25:1-13

November 7/8, 2020

Somewhere in the Bible it says that all of scripture is inspired by God and useful for our instruction, so what we read in the Scriptures in some way can apply to our lives and use for our benefit. So, when we hear today in the Gospel of the wise and foolish virgins, all of whom knew the bridegroom was coming (and knew he was coming soon) but only half of them had prepared their lamps, that is to say, themselves, to meet him, we should ask, “How does this apply to me?” When we hear St. Paul in the second reading tell us that Jesus will return, and when he does, all who believe him will be caught up in him and with all the saints into heaven, we can ask, “How does this apply to me?” Or, when we hear in the responsorial psalm that psalmist’s “flesh pines” and his “soul thirsts” for God, and how he remembers God even in the depths of the night, we can ask ourselves, “How does this apply to my lif e

Perhaps it is best to start with this. The Church teaches that everyone — you included — are called to be holy. All of us, not just the clergy and religious, or a few outstanding individuals we read about in the history books, are called to be saints.

To become a saint is another way of saying to become the person God created you to be. Have you ever thought about that? You will be a saint if you become the person God created you to be whatever your station in life may be. To be a saint is sort of like being the center of God’s attention and having God be the center of your attention. God created us to be the center of his attention for all eternity. In fact, even before we existed, God had an idea of us in his mind and from this idea he created us at a certain moment so that we would keep him at the center of our attention. I personally do not like being the center of anyone’s attention. I don’t like the gaze directed toward me when someone gives me a birthday party. I don’t like all the questions people begin to ask me, all the gifts they give me that I have to open and acknowledge in some way. Also, I have a hard time making God the center of my attention because I am so distracted by other “important” concerns most days and I am uncomfortable with what God may ask of me if I pay attention to him. So, sometimes we just find God interesting, and we are curious about him, but that is as far as we take it.

But God expects more.

He wants us to “pine” and “thirst” for him like the psalmist says. He wants us to love him. In becoming saints, i.e. becoming who God created us to be, we have to find a way to deeply desire God and to be ready when he comes into our lives. We have to find a way to put oil in our lamps like the wise virgins. We have to be ready to go from being curious about God to loving him and be loved by him.

Most of us start out like the foolish virgins. The foolish ones were certainly curious about the bridegroom, but did not pine for him, did not thirst for him, were not yet in love with him. They didn’t have oil in their lamps. They showed up out of curiosity. Most of us start out that way, curious, but not in love. We are not born saints; we become saints with the passage of time and the help of others. The Gospel today warns us that we cannot waste a lot of time with simple curiosity; we must quickly fall in love with God, and to let ourselves be loved by him. Yes, he must become that important to us, and we must realize that we are that important to him — he loves us that much.

We need oil if we are to become saints.

What is the oil that we must have to trim our lamps and to be prepared for the coming of the Lord? If our lamps are not filled with that oil, our souls will not thirst and our bodies will not pine for God; our hearts will not burn with love. The oil we need is life in the Church and the grace of the sacraments, especially Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, and yes, regular recourse to the Sacrament of Penance. The sacramental life of the Church is the oil that fills our lamps and keep the fire of our love for God and God’s love for us burning in our lives. We obtain this oil by receiving the sacraments. Our hearts will not burn with love for God if we have not allowed God to love us in the sacraments. We will not thirst and pine for the living God if we do not gather as a community of faith. We will be like the foolish virgins and not be prepared for his coming if we keep ourselves away from the sacraments and the life of the Church.

None of us are born with this wisdom; it is passed on to us by the Church, by other believers, and by God himself. The oil we need is obtained through our relationships with faithful Catholics and our participation in the life of the Church. Even the foolish virgins realized this at the very end, although far too late, when they asked the wise virgins to give oil to them.

We all begin as curious seekers, but if we remain there and never take the next step, which is to love God, to be awake and vigilant standing side by side with fellow believers and filled with the graces of the sacraments, if we do not take those steps, we will be left out in the darkness. It will be by our choice, not by God’s design or desire. This is what happened to the five foolish virgins.

Yes, we all are called to be saints. God recognizes a heart in love with him, and will call such a person to himself when he comes again in his glory at the end of time. We are all called to be in love with God and to be loved by him, for that is, in the very end of our lives, what will matter and make all the difference in the world.

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

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

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

Ex 22:20-26; 1Thes 1:5c-10; Matt 22:34-40

October 25, 2020

“Do you love me?” Jesus asked Peter three times after the resurrection. “Do you love me above all things?” God asks us today, in this Gospel. “If you do,” God says, “then love those I have put into your life: mother and father, husband or wife, son and daughter, parish and community, and all those strangers you will come across in your life, in other words, your neighbor.” Yes, to first love God is to then love our neighbor.

What does it mean to truly love someone? To love is to choose the good of another. It is to want what is truly good for someone, the highest and lasting good. To love someone is easier to say than to do because sometimes the greatest good is not what we might first think. It is not the most expensive house, car, or birthday gift. It is not a material thing at all. It is not something that passes into disrepair, or corrodes, or disintegrates. Rather, love is, “a pearl of great price” to use a phrase the Lord used.

To love God is something the heart gives, not something money buys. It is to give Him a pearl of lasting value, i.e., praise, worship, honor, respect, and obedience, and then to let him fill us with his love.

We cannot buy obedience, praise, honor, respect and worship and put under God’s Christmas tree. It must come from inside us, from our wills. It is a decision we make.

To love God is to choose and want God as God not as an idol we have made in our own image to which we are slaves. To love God is worth more than any burnt offering, as we hear in the Gospel. To love God is to give God his due: our obedient hearts, joyful praise, highest honor, and respect in every way. All of us, rich and poor, old or young, must give these to Him. All of us must love God with our hearts, souls, and minds, with every ounce of our being. Do we honor his name, or misuse it when we speak? Do we worship him at this altar where he desires to be worshipped, or do we create altars that seem more convenient to us on Sundays? Do we praise him with our words, our songs, and our thoughts, or do we use disrespectful words, songs, and thoughts? Do we obey his commandments, or our own?

Do we love our neighbor as ourselves? We must admit the answer is usually, “No.” How can we want, will, and choose the greatest good for someone when we have neglected the first and greatest commandment — to first love God with all our hearts, minds, and souls? We struggle to love those entrusted to us because we have not first loved God — given Him His due — and thus we deprive ourselves of his love for us which he gives us. How can we live closed off from God and his love for us and expect to truly love others? If we do not have a love for God and the love of God inside of us, how can we really love someone else? I cannot give what I do not have, and if I do not have a love for God and his love for me in my heart, how can I love others?

Love God! Worship only him! Give him the highest honor! Speak his name respectfully! Obey him before all others! If we do these, then loving our neighbor will become second nature, a simple matter, a joyful decision, and something you will deeply desire out of love for God, and love from God.

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

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

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

October 17/18, 2010

Isaiah 45:1, 4-6; 1Thes 1:1-5b; Matt 22:15-21

 

“I am the Lord; there is no other. I have called you by name, giving you a title…. though you knew me not.” (Is 45:4) “It is I who arm you so that from the rising to the setting of the sun, people may know that there is no one besides me.” (Is 45:4-6)

Even before we were born, God called us by name and equipped each of us for a noble purpose and a special task even if it isn’t always clear to us. Every human life, regardless of circumstances, has been given a unique purpose for living.

The dignity of every human life! Yes, the dignity of your life, however you may find yourself, however insignificant you may think you are, however modest your circumstances. God has a plan for you and whatever it may be, it must shine into the world today.

I would like to retell a story I shared with you many years past.

The year was 1918 toward the end of the First World War. The location was aboard the USS George Washington, a troop carrier, sailing to France in the mid-Atlantic. The people involved were a lowly seaman named Byron Bickell, and the president of the United States, Woodrow Wilson. Seaman Bickell was on sentry duty late one night, making his rounds topside. The captain of the ship was very worried about German U-boats, not only because of the all the troops aboard, but because he was carrying the president to France who was to begin peace negotiations between the Allies and Germany. So he had issued orders that night: there were to be no lights on above the waterline. (For, you see, even the smallest of lights can be seen for 10 miles on the open sea.) So Seaman Bickell was vigilant. The president couldn’t sleep that night as he was prone to headaches, so he came out on deck, and, as was his habit, he reached into his coat pocket, took out a cigar and lit it. A big red glow was at the end of that cigar. Seaman Bickell saw the lighted cigar, but didn’t recognize who had lit it. So he approached the man closely and was shocked to see it was the president. Remembering his orders, he summoned his courage and went up to President Wilson, and said, “Sir, throw that cigar overboard!” Startled, the president responded, “What?” “Sir, throw that cigar overboard!” repeated Seaman Bickell. After a moment’s hesitation, the president flicked the cigar into the sea.

This is a true story. Byron Bickell was my grandfather. He told me this story when I was a child. He said it was the last time in American military history that an enlisted man gave a direct order to the Commander-in-Chief, and was obeyed.

With all due respect to my grandfather, I say to you, “Do not throw your light, your life, or the life of any human being overboard. Shine! Break into the darkness!” St Paul says, “You were chosen.” (1Thes 1:4) He goes on to say, “Shine like lights in the world!” (Philippians 2:15d) Every human being is meant to live. So also are you. I beg you, become beacons of life and of hope in a divided conflicted world, an increasingly inhuman world dominated by self-interest, technology, and isolation. Certainly, we all agree our world is divided and people are more isolated than ever, and the human person is diminished in respect and value. We speak of acceptance, tolerance, and mutual respect, but too often live lives of separation, anger, and division. Our world desperately seeks lights of unity and peace, of mutual respect and love.

You have been chosen by God to be the answer to the questions many now have about the dignity of human life.

We must ask ourselves: “What will make us a light to the world? What will the world accept as an answer to its questions? What will make sense to the modern world?”

The answer is love, for God is love. Yes, only love for life will satisfy the hearts of people, nothing else in the long run. No other explanation will suffice. Only love for life will be recognized and accepted in our world: love for each other, love for ourselves, love for God, and love for his people, the Church. Love for each human life, not just those deemed worthy of life. You see, love is the mind of Christ. Love is the light Christians must bring to the world.

To love an unborn child means to choose what is best for the child. To love a dependent elderly person is to choose what is best for him or her. To love the chronically ill or the stranger means to choose what is best for them. Yes, to love the convicted criminal is to choose what is best for them too. Will we choose life for these people, like Jesus did? Will we respect human life from conception to natural death?

Shine like a light in our world today! Even if you are only a flicker, shine nonetheless! Only a small light is needed to break into the darkness of our world. St. Columbanus once wrote, “…O my Jesus, give your light to my lamp…. Light our lamps and may they always shine and be renewed by you who are the eternal light.”

Do not throw your light overboard! Let it shine. The light you bring to a certain situation may be the very reason that God loved you into life.

 

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2020

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

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

Isaiah 55: 10-11; Romans 8: 18-23; Matthew 13: 1-23

July 11\12, 2020

 

“My word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11) “All of creation awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God…” (Romans 8:19)

Do we eagerly await the fruits of God’s work in our lives, the completion of his plan for us and the fulfillment of God’s Word?

God continually reveals himself. He always speaks, or you might say, utters his Word, Jesus, into our lives and into the world. Everywhere, at all time, regardless of the soil conditions (to use the image from the Gospel parable), in good times and in bad, God plants his Word and his plan for us. The farmers and gardeners among us may wonder why he “wastes good seed” on poor soil that produces little or nothing. But this is how God is; he lavishly and abundantly pours out his blessings on everyone all the time. He loves us all, and he has a unique plan for our lives. The mystery of it all is that he promises that all this will be effective and bear fruit, that it is never wasted seed. It will be fulfilled; it will come to completion.

Do we believe this? How confident are we in God’s Word and in his presence, and in his plan? Are we able and willing to wait for the revelation and completion of his plan? Perhaps more importantly, are we open, receptive to the plan he has for us, the promises he has made?

I think everyone wants to be “good soil” that is rich and fertile and receptive. In other words, everyone wants what they think is good, and they sacrifice a lot for it. We all want to have an abundant life and to produce good fruit. The problem is just like Jesus said in the Gospel. What we think is good and what we desire often are affected by worries, cares, anxieties, and fears that come from our world, or worse, from Satan, and not from God. We too often forget that all good things come from God, (not us) and that our hearts will never be at peace until we rest in God. So we end up desiring things passing things, and closing ourselves off from the good seed that God pours out upon us. We have a hard time because of our worldly anxieties and need to be in control of our own lives. We get anxious and impatient, and begin to doubt God’s plan.

The early Christians were initially a bit anxious and impatient. They had been told by the apostles that Jesus had promised the fulfillment of his kingdom, and that he would return “soon.” So they thought Jesus would fulfill his promise within their lifetimes. As the years passed, they began to realize he hadn’t yet returned. Their faith was challenged. Yet, with the help of the Church, and especially the apostles, they believed, and had an eager expectation that his promise would be fulfilled. The importance of faith and staying together as Church became so important to them.

We too, like them, are able to eagerly live in hope of the fulfillment of this promise, and his plan for us, if we believe and if we remain receptive to God’s plan and remain united to the Church which strengthens our faith.

I remember so well a lesson I was taught the hard way by one of my theology professors in Rome, Fr. Jean Galot. I will spare you the details, but he made me understand that human time and God time are quite different. We think of time in terms of days, weeks, and years. God’s time is eternally now. The past, present, and future are all now. We can’t really understand this, but we will someday. The fulfillment of God’s plan has already happened. It is now, though we see it only with the eyes of faith. God always fulfills his promises.

Do we believe that God has a plan for our lives that will be fulfilled in due time? How open are our hearts to God’s Word, his Light, his Love?

Oh, the necessity of faith, hope, love and the Church in our lives! To be able to eagerly await the fulfillment of God’s word and promises, we must be rooted in faith, nourished by hope, and supported by each other and God in love which is why the Church is so vital. Faith allows us to see God. Hope gives us the energy to wait and be patient. Love keeps us open to God and attached to the Church, the People of God.

The Eucharist will strengthen us  if we receive it worthily. The Church will sustain us. Open hearts will receive from God all he showers down upon us. Open hearts will find rest; closed hearts will be anxious and restless until they rest in God.

So let us all open wide our hearts to God’s word and his plan for our lives.

 

 

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 2020

Here is my homily for the weekend. God bless all1

12th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

Jeremiah 20: 10-13; Romans 5: 12-15; Matthew 10: 26-33

June 20/21, 2020

 

Jesus said, “Fear no one!” Later in the Gospel, after the resurrection, he repeatedly said, “Peace be with you!” Pope St. John Paul II said in October of 1978, “Do not be afraid! Open wide your hearts to Christ!”

These commands beg the question, “Can we live without fear and in peace?” Given what has been happening in our world these past months with the pandemic, the riots, and the violence, we begin to wonder if peace of mind or peace in society is possible.

We know that God is aware of all things; nothing happens without his knowledge; nothing is secret from him. We know that God is holding us in his hands every moment, breathing into us the breath of life, willing us into life every moment, over and over again without ceasing. We know we cannot escape God’s notice, or his love for us, whether we are here or there, sailing the seas or the depths of outer space. God simply is. God continually sustains us. God feeds us.

We know these things, don’t we? We were taught them as children and we retain them as adults. Yet, the reality of disease, sin, imperfection, pain, and injustice confronts us on a daily basis. Jeremiah found that out in his life, as we heard in the first reading, and St. John Paul II certainly knew it because he lived through Nazism and Communism, and Jesus knew it also. So do we. Life challenges our faith.

May I ask you a question? Please answer in the silence of your own mind for the moment, and if you wish to share your answer with me later, I would be willing to listen to you.

My question is: “Do you feel you are being fed by God in the Church?” I use that word “fed” deliberately, because it is a word I have heard people use trying to explain to me why they quit coming to Mass or left the Church when they experience sin, injustice, pain, or suffering in the Church.

A couple of weeks ago, many miles from here, I met a woman who had obvious faith. She spoke freely of her faith in Jesus; she even prayed in a public manner, and in an appropriate way. I approached her and commended her faith expression. I asked where she had received the faith, and where she worshipped. She then told me her story, and how she had been raised Catholic, but left the Church and became a Baptist. I asked her why she left and told her I would welcome her back home any time. She answered by saying she had been treated unjustly and was “not being fed” in the Catholic Church. She is a dear woman, and I invited her to further conversation and offered my help should she ever wish to come home to the Church.

But I cannot not help but be struck by her comment about not being fed by the Church at a time of distress in her life. I felt terrible about it. I thought about how she was fed at every Mass with the Body and Blood, the Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ; how she had been fed with God himself in the Eucharist; how she had also been fed at every Mass with the Word of God in the Scriptures. What better food is there than the Word of God and the Body and Blood of Jesus? How much better could she had been fed?”

Yes, we are fed with God himself, in his Word and with the Real Presence of Christ in the midst of our distress, worry, pain, and injustice. Last weekend, we celebrated the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, our food, who is God, by which we are fed. What better food indeed with which to be fed? God feeds us so much always: with the Bread of Life in the Eucharist; with the Word of Life, in the Scriptures, with the Breath of Life at every moment of our lives!

For us to live without fear, and in peace, [like Jesus commands us] in the midst of the things that are happening in our world today, we must, allow God to be God, i.e., allow Him to love and care for us; allow him to feed us every moment of our lives; allow him to come into our lives by receiving worthily Holy Communion. God can only love and care and feed us perfectly and completely. He cannot skimp; he lavishly and abundantly feeds us. It is who He is.

For us to live without fear, and in peace, in the midst of the things that are  happening in our world today, we must also, as Jesus said, be thoroughly convinced of the dignity of every human being. We are worth more that a few sparrows! Even though we may be prodigal sons and daughters, we are sons and daughters of God. We cannot escape our dignity, no matter how prodigal we may be, no matter what color or ethnicity we may be, no matter our circumstances in life.

We have a hard time accepting our dignity because we have a hard time accepting God’s sovereignty in our lives. We have a hard time accepting God as God and each other as his sons and daughters. So we begin to fear. We should be in control, we think. We should be able to protect ourselves; we should be able to manage with our own talents and efforts. We exclude God. We become troubled and restless when we do not rest in God’s care, when we do not let God feed us.

God is constantly feeding us! God is constantly giving himself to us! God is constantly sustaining our lives!

Wherever we are, God is. Whatever we face, God provides. However deep the fear, God’s love is deeper. However unfair life may seem, God’s perfect justice prevails.

Pray for the gift of faith! It will allow you to see all this. Faith casts a light on the presence of God in all things. Faith allows us to see the dignity that is ours as sons and daughters.

Faith gives us peace!

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for 4th Sunday in Lent, 2020

Although public Masses are now cancelled in our diocese, and I will not be delivering this homily in person to the congregations, I do want to offer it to all who may wish to read it via this weblog.

May God bless each of you during this time of uncertainty.

4th Sunday of Lent, Cycle A

March 21/22, 2020

1 Sam 16: 1b, 6-7, 10-13a; Eph 5: 8-14; John 9: 1-41

 

Today’s question is: With Jesus’ help, what might I want to change in my life? How can I begin to see more clearly?

A man was born blind, we are told in the Gospel this morning. If you read the long version of the Gospel passage, you would hear how this man was unexpectedly healed of his blindness by Jesus, and how he gradually regained his spiritual sight also. Gradually….. At first only knowing Jesus’ name, then with the passage of time, he recognized him as a prophet, and then with the passage of more time he saw Jesus as the Messiah and Lord. It is a wonderful story of going from blindness to sight, from darkness to light, from confusion to spiritual clarity.

I would like us to reflect on three other people who have undergone, or are undergoing the same journey from darkness to light, from blindness to sight.

The first is Helen Keller. She was born in the late 19th century. She was born both blind and deaf and because of that, she was angry, confuse, isolated, and rebellious. Uncontrollable in many ways. But Helen, with the help of a tutor, began to see clearly. No, she was never able to see with her physical eyes, but she began to see with her heart. She began to see the world, know the world in which she lived, its beauty and wonder. She began to see even though she never gained physical sight. Helen went from confusion, anger, rebellion and isolation to inner calm, peace, clarity, and relationship with others. The process for her was gradual. It took time.

The second person is Oskar Schindler. Perhaps many of you have heard of him. Oskar was a German entrepreneur during the Second World War. He was a businessman, and a shrewd operator. He loved money, drink, women, and fancy things. He was rich, and he was a Nazi party member. He bought Jews during the war to work in his armament factories as slave laborers. He was very much blind in so many ways, blinded by the evil of Nazism and all it represented. But something began to happen inside him as the war continued. From the darkness of Nazism and anti- Semitism, he began to recognize the dignity of humanity in a sea of inhumanity. He began to recognize the value of every human life in a society in which human life was cheapened and devalued. Oskar Schindler began to regain his sight through the eyes of faith. In the end, he began rescuing Jews from extermination by getting them into his factories and encouraging them to practice their Jewish faith. In the end, he felt great remorse for his life of selfishness and what he perceived to be his failure to rescue more Jewish men and women.

The third person is you. You too are to move from darkness into light; from blindness to sight. I am reminded of what Pope Francis once wrote:

How many times have we felt the need to effect a change which would involve our entire person? How often do we say to ourselves: “I need to change, I can’t continue this way. My life on this path will not bear fruit. I will not be happy.” How often these thoughts come, and Jesus, who is near us, extends his hand and says, “Come, come to me. I’ll do the work; I’ll change your heart. I’ll change your life, I will make you happy.” All we have to do is open the door wide, and he will do the rest. He does everything, but we must open our heart wide so that he can heal us and make us go forward. I assure you that you will be much happier.

For most of us, change comes slowly, especially if we are creatures of habit, which we all are. It takes time and effort to be transformed, to better ourselves. To go from being a couch potato to an ultra marathon runner will take at least 2 years of concentrated daily effort. To play the piano well takes years of practice. To lose 30 pounds and keep it off happens over time and a change of lifestyle. The same is true for us in the spiritual life.

Yet, change we must – Each of us, no exceptions! We all must become who God created us to be, and none of us has yet fully matured. We still are blind in some ways. However much time we have on earth is time God has given us to change, mature, and grow.

We must “take no part in the fruitless works of darkness” and “live as children of light” as St. Paul writes.

We must move from seeing and understanding things from a merely natural, human point of view, to seeing as God sees by “looking into the heart” as God told Samuel. From seeing with our eyes to seeing with our hearts.

We must be washed, anointed in the waters of baptism and recipients of the other sacraments of the Church so we may begin to see with the eyes of faith and no longer be blinded by our sins, like the man born blind in the Gospel account today.

All this, for most of us, takes a lot of time, a lifetime actually. What is important is our desire to change, and our fidelity to God. Desire and fidelity bring about the change. Desire to resist sin and Satan, and to cling to Jesus, will bring us out of darkness, blindness, and into the light of grace.

As Pope Francis said, open wide your hearts to Jesus. Jesus will work great things through you if you are truly open to him. Jesus worked great things in the lives of Helen Keller, Oskar Schindler, and the man born blind in the Gospel; he will work great things in your life also. Open your hearts. Know Jesus. He will heal you and you will experience peace and happiness.

 

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for First Sunday of Lent, Cycle A

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

First Sunday of Lent, Cycle A

February 29- March 1, 2020

Gn 2: 7-9; 3: 1-7; Rom 5: 12-19; Mt 4: 1-11

 

I have often said that Lent is my favorite season of the Church year. It is a time of change, new ways of living, a time of great hope, because we know the end of the story, so to speak, we know how it all comes to a conclusion, how the more somber days of Lent are transformed into the stunningly brilliant days of Easter.

Darkness into Light

Old into New

Slavery into Freedom

Temptations into Victories

Sin into Holiness

Death into Life

The Crucifixion into the Resurrection

Yes, we must embrace Lent fully, not shy away from it, not ignore it, not neglect it, because the only way to Easter joy is through Lent. The only way to maturity in Christ is through Lenten adolescence, Lenten youth. Yes, we mature in Lent if we embrace and practice Lent. Without it, we remain mere children, adolescents at best.

There is a sure way to maturity in our spiritual lives. The Church has always taught this. The saints have always lived this. Jesus himself commanded this. The way to spiritual maturity is the Lenten practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.

What is prayer, if not loving God and spending time with him? Prayer is loving God. If you love God, you are praying. If you do not love God, the way to start loving him is to choose to pray. Pray like you believe even if you struggle to believe. If you aren’t sure about God, then say to him, “If you are real, move my heart a little. Let me love a little more.” If you do believe, then enjoy spending more time with God this Lent and rest in his presence. Say anything to him. Go deep somedays; keep it superficial on other days, but love him regardless and be with the one you love.

What is fasting if not becoming aware of how much we need God, how much we depend on him, how weak we are without him or away from him. One of the great heresies in the world today is a heresy that has been around for over 1500 years. It is the heresy that I don’t need God’s grace, I can make in on my own efforts if I only do the right things and work hard enough at it. We all fall into this error at times. We live as is we are God. We think like we are God. “If only I was more disciplined. If only I prayed more prayers. If only I did more severe penances, I would get to heaven.” All these things – prayers, discipline, penance and the like – are good and necessary in this life, but they alone don’t get us to heaven. Only God’s mercy and grace, and our cooperation with his grace and mercy, will get us home. So when we fast, when we eat simple meals, abstain from meat, refrain from habits we have developed, we come face to face with our weaknesses, our frailties, and we are filled with the awareness that we need God and that he is always with us.

What is almsgiving if not treating others like we ought treat God? In almsgiving, whether it is giving money to the poor, or repaying a just debt, or giving food to the food shelf, or visiting the sick, or sharing our time and talent with our parish family, we are only dong what simple justice would dictate, i.e., to give others what is their due out of love and need, to see in the face of a particular preson the presence of God whom we have first loved in prayer, and to whom we have attached ourselves in fasting.

Do you want the darkness in your life to become light?

Do you want to be renewed?

Do you want to be really and truly free?

Do you want to be fulfilled and have new life?

When you die, do you want to live in eternal happiness?

Then, embrace Lent this year. Grow into spiritual maturity. Pray and love God. Fast from whatever keeps you proud or self-sufficient in the spiritual life. Give to others what is their due out of love for God himself.

Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are the ways to spiritual maturity. They are the traditional practices of Lent.

May God bless each of you abundantly this Lent.

 

 

 

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for 3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time

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

Feast of the Presentation of the Lord

February 1/2, 2020

Malachi 3:1-4; Heb 2:14-18; Luke 2:22-40

 

Two weeks ago, John the Baptist cried out, “Look, there he is! I see him now!” Last week, the prophet called Jesus the Light that has come into the world.This week, Simeon proclaims, “My eyes have seen our salvation… a light of revelation and glory!”

What did the Baptist, and Isaiah, and Simeon have in common?

It was faith.

Imagine the scene. A very nondescript family enters a busy temple filled with a lot of people. Lots of parents bringing their first born sons into the temple that day to perform the required ritual. To almost everyone, they are just a poor family like hundreds of others, but all of a sudden, Simeon, an old man whose physical eyes were no doubt growing dim due to age, bursts out and exclaims, “There he is! The light to the nations. The holy one of God!”

In what was a very ordinary day, Simeon saw something others did not see, except the prophetess Anna, we are told. He saw the presence of God in the face of a child; he saw a light revealed to all peoples, given to all men and women.

On a physical level, we don’t know light, recognize light, unless we have eyes to see. A completely blind man from birth only knows light by way of description, i.e., by attempts others make to describe it to him. He cannot see it himself. He has to use his powers of estimation, imagination, and speculation to try to know light. He can only have a very rudimentary understanding.

A man with eyes that can see, eyes that are healthy, sees light directly.

We don’t really know or recognize Jesus — who is the light come into the world — unless we have faith-eyes. Faith is our spiritual eyes. Faith-eyes apprehend God, see Him, and recognize Him, even in the small and insignificant events of life. A person with faith-eyes is never bored. How could he be if he sees God’s presence wherever he turns? God is too beautiful and interesting to bore someone.

Faith-eyes are illuminated by the presence of God. Faith is like a beam of light which allows us to recognize God. “Look! There he is!”

Do you see Him? Do you have eyes of faith?

Do you see God in the face of a child? Do you see God in the face of a poor man? Do you see God’s presence when you look at yourself in the mirror?

If only we would see him with our faith-eyes. How differently we would treat each other and ourselves.

For me, few things frighten me more than the thought of going blind. It frankly terrifies me to think of not being able to see. I have no real reason to fear this because my eyes are pretty healthy, I am told. Yet, if I let myself think about blindness, I almost panic.

Without the light of the sun, or my house lamps, I’d be lost in a world of darkness and anxiety.

So, I ask myself, “If I fear so much losing my physical sight, losing the light of this world, why do I seem less frightened of losing my spiritual sight? Why do I seem less frightened about losing my ability to see God, who comes into my life and the world as a brilliant Light?

It takes God to know God. Faith is God’s gift; only he can give it. God reveals himself and we don’t reveal him to ourselves. It’s all about God in the end. It’s all God’s gift, and he is not stingy with his gifts. He lavishes his gifts on us, especially the gift of faith. He is a light to all the nations, not just for a few special ones.

The gift of faith-eyes is ours, if we accept it. It’s already been given. Will we accept the gift of faith so we will recognize him, be enlightened by him, know him?

This gift, the ability to see and know light, to recognize the difference between light and darkness, is given to all, the large and the small, the young and the old, the rich and the poor, men and women, the healthy and the ill. God gives faith so we may never be alone, so we can always be with him, always able to see him in whatever circumstance of our lives, to see him in the kitchen, the garage, the farm, the office, the job site, and in the classroom.

Many people today cannot see any difference anymore between spiritual light and darkness. They cannot distinguish between God, who is Light, and the world which they see to be dark. “Where is he?” they protest. This is one reason why it is so important that we take care of our faith, that we nurture it, and attend to it. For we need never to be alone. We never need to be in the dark. With our faith, we can see the presence of God, the light of the world, in all our lives. May God be praised!

 

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for 4th Sunday of Advent

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

4th Sunday of Advent, Cycle A

December 21/22, 20219

Micah 5: 1-4a; Heb 10: 5-190; Luke 1: 39-45

 

I hope we all listened carefully to these Scripture readings today, especially the first reading from the prophet Micah in which we hear described our Lord and God who is coming, and the Gospel from Luke where we hear of how Mary responded to God. If we did, then I think we need to ask ourselves some questions.

“Is this the God we want to come into our lives? Is this the God who we will take into our lives and then into the world? Is this the God we will bring to people who ache for him, but do not recognize him in their lives?”

God is beautiful, is he not? He promises so many beautiful things, does he not? It is so easy for us to say, “Yes! Come Lord Jesus into my life and into the world! Maranatha!” But, are we really prepared to say these things? We need to be careful and hones lest we speak these words without preparation and without prayer. As all the saints will attest, to welcome the coming of the Lord into our lives and into the world requires we be purified and ready.

So, the question is, are we willing to be sufficiently purified and emptied of all that would place an obstacle in his path? Are we willing to empty ourselves of sin and things of this world that keep us from God? Or will we fall back into lives of distraction, isolation, and loneliness which are breeding grounds of sin and keep us from God and each other. Too many of us are lonely, isolated, and distracted from God!

We must remain alert, attentive, and receptive to God’s coming among us. We must be purified of our distractions, our sin, and especially our loneliness.  We cannot be who we are meant to be if we remain isolated from God and each other. We must be purified! We must be willing to let go, to shed all that hinders us and keeps us isolated and lonely. We must be purified, emptied, forgiven, and vulnerable to the coming of God.

Advent, then, is not only a time of anticipation of the coming of the Lord as the Child of Bethlehem, but it is also a time to suffer the emptiness that must be ours if we are to be filled with the Lord at his coming. We must prepare a place for him in our hearts and in our world.

Let us strip ourselves of all that would distract us from his coming. Most of all let us get rid of the loneliness which we have allowed to take root in our lives. We need to be with him. We must allow for a relationship with the Lord who comes. We must pray. We must seek forgiveness. We must also allow for relationship with each other and we must take the risk of relationship with those in need of God’s presence.

We cannot lapse into a lonely self-concern that separates us from God and each other. There are too many lonely hurting people out there. What did Mary do after the Lord came to her? She went out to her cousin Elizabeth to announce the coming of the Lord, to enter more deeply into relationship with Elizabeth, to bring God’s Son, in her very womb, to someone else, to, as we are told later in Luke, magnify and praise God.

We are sons and daughters of God! And so we must remain attentive to God who fills us with his presence, who comes to be one with us, who sends us out to so many others who are lonely and isolated, to bring them the joy of the Gospel, as our Holy Father says.

Yes, we must be attentive, alert and in relationship with the Lord, who has come, is coming and will come again into our lives and into our world. We must be filled with the coming of Christ into our lives, filled after first emptying ourselves of sin and loneliness. Filled with the Word of God, and then going out to people to share what we have been given.

I repeat. We are sons and daughters of God! Let us always be attentive and filled with God’s love and grace.

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

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

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time- Cycle C

Nov. 16/17, 2019

Malachi 3: 19-20a; 2Thes 3: 7-12; Luke 21: 5-19

 

About 9 years ago, a young woman ran into her local church to tell the priest who had married her and her husband that she was going to have a baby. She asked the priest to bless her and her unborn child. He did. This perhaps was the last act of his life and hers, for moments later, a gunman stormed into the Cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation in Iraq and murdered the priest, the woman and her unborn child, and in the end, over 50 Iraqis simply because they were Catholics.

Life can be fragile. Its unfolding uncertain. Jesus says no less than two times in the Gospel today that his followers will be persecuted for believing in him, and some will be put to death.

He tells us to persevere. He tells us that all sorts of attention-getting things are going to happen to us: there will be plagues and wars; there will be famines; we will be hauled into courts and made fun of because of our faith. But none of these things, as difficult as they may be, are of any lasting importance, for he will provide us with whatever words and resources we need to deal with them and he will never abandon us.

Jesus says that the uncertainties, the tragedies, the persecutions we may experience in our lives are not to be feared; rather, they are opportunities for us to “give witness” to what?  To testify to our love for God and his love for us. We are not to live in fear, but simply and patiently go about each day with all it uncertainties living God’s law of love and trusting his love for us; that is what is important.

Yes, life’s unfolding is uncertain, but death’s reality is not. The uncertainties of life often overwhelm us with fear and anxiety, but the certainty of death can bring us peace when faced with faith. In both, i.e., the uncertainty of life events and the certainty of death, we have the opportunity to proclaim our faith.

Jesus does not tell us how our lives will play out, nor does he tell us what hour we will die. It is not for us to know, or to decide. It is a mystery God will reveal in his own time, a time he has known for all eternity. Jesus does not tell us when the world as we know it will end. Only the Father knows.

We must live with uncertainty of life and the certainty of death, and we must die in faith, adhering to Jesus Christ, baptized into his death and resurrection, and in a graced relationship with him at the moment of our deaths, so we can rise to the certainty of heaven.

Our faith teaches us that there are “Four Last Things”: death, judgment, heaven and hell.

We all will die a physical death. This is our common experience.

We all will experience a “particular judgment” at the moment of our death when it will be abundantly obvious to us what we have chosen for our ultimate destination based on how we have chosen to live our lives.

We all will experience a “general judgment” at the end of time when Jesus returns in glory and our bodies will be reunited with our souls.

But the real question is where are we headed? What will be our ultimate destination? Are we moving in the right direction? Will we be with God for all eternity in heaven, or will we be separated from him in hell? The choice is ours. We have the freedom to choose.

I must admit I can get rather anxious about when, where, and how death will come to me. Will it be by disease, accident, old age, or will I die as a martyr for the faith?

But the certainty of death, or even the end of the world, does not much concern me because I believe in the presence of God, and in the resurrection to new life. I believe in life after death. I believe that Jesus Christ has conquered death; that he has made death a portal through which we must pass into eternal happiness. I believe it with all my heart and soul, and I believe it because Jesus has taught it, and I find Jesus to be credible and convincing.

May God bless all of you!

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for All Souls Day

Here is my homily for All Souls Day. May God grant them eternal rest.

Commemoration of All Souls       

November 2, 2019

We struggle with the mystery of life and death at times like today, when we remember those who are deeply loved by us who have suffered and died and now await in purgatory their entrance into eternal glory. We struggle to understand; we ask “Why? Why does a good man or woman die? Why purgatory for so many? Does not God care? Why the pain of such loss?”

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. Yet, that is not the Christian message. What is?

Perhaps we can recall that:

God is Love. The apostle John tells us this.

God’s mercy is infinite. The apostle Paul teaches us this.

God wants all men and women to be perfect like him in eternal glory. Jesus himself told us this.

We cannot change who God is, or what he wills for us. He is faithful. He remains true to himself and to his promise of eternal life for all who accept him. Life is given by God, and will remain with us forever.

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 life may seem snatched from our very midst, taken from us and taken from those we love, we believe that the mortality of human flesh is only a veil, a portal, through which we must pass. Death, with all its imperfections, 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.

We all long see God face to face. We long to see his beauty, his glory and to be fully embraced by him in heaven. God made us this way. It is our destiny to be with him and perfect like him.  God’s desire to fully embrace us in love is so great that he understands that few of us are spiritually perfect at the moment of death, even if we cling to him as best we can. You see, for us to be admitted to heaven, we must depart this world in a state of grace, a state where God’s Spirit in living within us. Without that grace, we will be separated from God in hell. But God’s mercy is such that he provides us the opportunity to reach spiritual perfection after death and before we enter heaven in what we call purgatory where his love and mercy will burn away anything that would keep us from fully seeing him and from the perfect happiness which he promises. Purgatory is an expression of God’s mercy, his love, and his desire that we be with him.

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 imperfections 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, yet

we 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 and grant them quick admittance into heaven.

Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

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Deacon Bob’s Homily to Deacons on Retreat

Here is a homily I will give to deacons on retreat. Blessings in abundance on my brothers!

Homily to Diaconate Community

October 26, 2019

Saturday of the 29th week in Ordinary Time

Remain rooted in Christ! Belong to the Father! Dwell in the Holy Spirit! Immerse yourselves in the People of God so that through your presence, in their midst, they might see Him for whom they long!

For the past 13 years, I have been reflecting on the diaconal vocation. What is its foundation? What is its heart? What are its fruits?

I have come to believe that the foundation of the diaconate is gazing on the face of the Father, a Father who utters His Word, His Son Jesus, into our lives. It is an adhering to and loving that Word; it is being purified by that Word, so that our presence might purify others and, free them from all that enslaves them. The foundation of the diaconate is essentially contemplation, i.e., an undisturbed, purified, pre-occupation with the Word of God, who is Jesus, and the words of Jesus, which are the Gospel of which we are heralds.

I have come to believe that the heart of the diaconate is the Eucharist. It is our diakonia at the altar of sacrifice. Yes, the life of a deacon is a life of suffering: suffering the effect the Word has in our lives and the way it burns away all that is unholy, and suffering with the People of God who are in need. The heart of the diaconate is our witness to and service of what Jesus did that day on Golgotha. We are always to be present at the foot of the Cross, like Mary and John, and never absent ourselves from that position. Never run from it. Never avoid it. The heart of the diaconate, therefore, is the Cross, the Mass, the Eucharistic sacrifice. No, we are not the sacrificial victim, nor are we the ones who offer that sacrifice, but we are the ones who herald it, who bear witness to the Paschal Lamb sacrificed for the salvation of the world. We are heralds who say, “Look there! There is the Lamb of God.” We are the ones who are to tell others, “Look for Him at the Eucharist!” We must not avoid the Mass, the Eucharist. We must minister there and we must do so faithfully and with humility. It is our heart, hearts that are wounded beneath the Cross, the Altar of Sacrifice, just like Mary’s heart was pierced. Our hearts are at the Mass, the Eucharist. We are Simon of Cyrenes who bear the cross with Jesus to the place of the sacrifice; Cheek to cheek, step by step to the altar. We accompany the priest to the altar, and we remain there. We too are to accompany others in their cross bearing and bring them to the Eucharist from the peripheries to the center of all that we are about, the source and summit of our lives.

I have come to believe that the fruit of the diaconate is charity. It is unity with humanity in all its needs. The fruit of a well-founded diaconal heart is solidarity with the poor, with those who experience injustice and oppression. The fruit of the diaconate is a re-ordering of human relationships; it is essentially, a healing. Yes, we are to heal as Jesus healed. Deacons are ones who heal. This is why we deacons are so needed and necessary in our diocese for we are in need of healing. Think of Mary. She held the broken body of her Son. The Pieta’. She held the wounds of Jesus; she was that close and that united to her son. Are we that close to the wounds Jesus now bears in the lives of his people in our diocese?  Mary could not have done what she did had she not first contemplated, accepted and nurtured the Word that had come to her, nor can we.

Remain rooted in Christ! Belong to the Father! Be not distracted from the Cross. Be present and be witnesses to the Paschal Lamb. Immerse yourselves in the lives of God’s people. Dwell in the Spirit.

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