Deacon Bob’s Homily for Divine Mercy Sunday

Divine Mercy Sunday

April 6/7, 2024

Acts 4:32-35; 1 John 5:1-6; John 20:19-31

When I was growing up in the fifties and sixties, almost every Catholic home prominently displayed a painting of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and a crucifix somewhere on wall. Nowadays, this praiseworthy tradition has fallen by the wayside. How much I wish it were to return! I would encourage all of you to get a crucifix and a painting of the Sacred Heart and hang them on a wall of your home. Look at them often, because they will help you answer two important questions. The first is, “Who am I?” and the second is, “What am I to do?” These are questions about your identity and your mission.

While it is true that each of us has a unique identity and a unique mission in life, and that God created us for that reason, it I is also true that we all have a common identity and a common mission. What are they?

I believe our common identity and mission can be found meditating on the crucifix and the Divine Mercy flowing from the Sacred Heart. We are to be men and women of mercy. How necessary mercy is in our world today!

In your heart must beat the Sacred Heart of Jesus! Yes, the Sacred Heart of Jesus within you! St Paul said, “It is no longer I who live; Christ lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20) How can this happen in us? Where must we go?

We must go to the sources o f m mercy here on earth. We must go where Jesus’ mercy are most abundantly found. We must go to the Eucharist and to Confession. The merciful, Sacred Heart of Jesus beats in the Eucharist and in the confession of sins, filling us with His mercy! He has a merciful heart, a living heart, a forgiving heart, and He pours His mercy into our hearts at each Mass and each time we confess our sins. We must come to the Eucharist and to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, if we are to live lives of mercy. We must not stay away. We must come to Mass every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation. We must come to the Sacrament of Penance where we will encounter Divine Mercy. We all n need forgiveness and mercy to deeply penetrate our souls if we are to be men   and women of mercy. The Sacred Heart beats in the confessional. God is always ready to remove any sin. That is why we must confess any mortal sins as soon as possible, and to regularly confess even venial sins.

Your heart will beat with mercy if y you soak in the mercy of God. To the extent you accept mercy into your life is the extent to which your heart will be capable of showing mercy to others. Accept God’s mercy, and then show mercy to others.

Do we do this? Do we allow the mercy of God to penetrate our hearts? Will the Sacred Heart of Jesus beat in our hearts for our husbands, wives, children, parents, neighbors, fellow parishioners, and yes, even for our enemies? Will we be merciful to those who do not deserve it? If we are going to be capable of this, then we must be connected to the sources of Divine Mercy that God has provided for us. Mercy and forgiveness are at the center of the Eucharist and at the center or the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Jesus had mercy on the repentant thief.  Will we? Jesus was merciful to the woman caught in adultery. Will we? When Peter denied Jesus three times, He did not ask, “Why did you do that?” but three times he did ask, “Do you love me?” How are we when someone denies us?

Will we have mercy on the man on death row, or will we seek vengeance? Will we wage war or seek peace?  Will we love those who hate us, o r will we hate in return?  These are serious questions. The answers we give will determine our eternal destinies.

To be merciful to those most difficult to forgive, those most difficult to love, we must have a deep faith, and pray, “Jesus, I trust in you.”  If we find it difficult to show mercy, maybe we should look at how open we are to God’s mercy in our lives, how often we really pray the Mass, how often we sincerely repent of our sins in Confession.

If we neglect the Eucharist and Confession, our spiritual lives will dry up and die.  Our   faith will weaken, if we don’t come to these sources of mercy. I dare say we will be unable to show mercy to others.

Jesus, I trust in you! This is our constant prayer. Jesus, make my heart like yours, we beg. Make my heart beat with the mercy you have shown me. Jesus, I trust in you! Amen!

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

3rd Sunday of Lent, Cycle B

March 2/3, 2024

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

How zealous are you? In other words, how much zeal do you have for your souls, and for the souls of others?

Jesus was zealous, we hear today, for His Father’s house, the temple of God’s presence, and he cleansed it of all that would profane it, from all that would diminish it. Jesus is zealous, also, to cleanse our souls from all the sins, distractions, and obstacles keeping us from holiness.

So, maybe a question we all should be asking ourselves this Lent is, if Jesus is zealous for our souls, how zealous are we? How zealous are we for our salvation? How zealous are we for the salvation of others? How zealous are we to rid our souls of all the clutter, all the sins, all the false idols, all the “money tables” and any other obstacle that keep us from holiness? How zealous are we in seeking out the sacraments, giving Jesus an open door into our lives? How zealous are we come to Mass and go to Confession? How zealous are we to we pray and to give alms? Is Confession, and Mass, and prayer, and almsgiving a part of our Lenten practice this year?

Jesus teaches us today by His example that zeal must consume us! Zeal! We must be not merely curious and obedient students of a wise teacher seeking signs or looking for some new teaching from Him; no we must be, as St. Paul wrote, zealous to be in a relationship with Jesus Christ, Who is very power and wisdom of God. Our salvation and the salvation of the world are found in the person of Jesus Christ, not in some new interesting teaching that someone offers.

We look for signs, do we not? We look for some wisdom to teach us what to do, don’t we? We want Father and Deacon to give great homilies so that we will learn something. But, remember, Jesus did not come into this world primarily as a wise teacher or a moralist, or some sage, like so many who came before him and after him. If we think of Him in that way, we are in trouble. If Jesus is only a wise teacher, he is only another Confucius or Buddha or Mohammed or some other wise man in history. Christianity, our faith, is built, not on a set of precepts or teachings, but on a Person, the person of Jesus, the Son of Mary and the Son of God.  Jesus came into our world as a divine Person to be our Savior, not a just a wise teacher, and zeal filled him to the brim to do just that! Jesus came as the only Son of God to be given in sacrifice so we may have eternal life in Him, and only in Him.

Jesus did not say, “My teachings will raise you up!” What He said was He would raise us up. He, Jesus, will do this. The repentant thief at Golgotha, I dare say, probably knew little of Jesus’ teachings or his wisdom, but he knew who Jesus was, that He was Savior, and he turned to Him, and was raised up that very day.

Yes, Jesus was wise. His teachings were profound. We will do well to know them. If we know the truths of the faith, we must obey those truths. But if our salvation rested on the teachings alone, all infants would never be admitted to heaven, and all death bed conversions would be of no value. What is most important is that we make that profession of faith that Peter made, “To whom else shall we turn? You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

To what or whom will you turn? For what or whom will you be zealous, zealous enough to overturn the money tables cluttering your soul, getting rid of whatever it is that obstructs your relationship with Jesus who alone saves us and the world from sin? Do not turn to the author on the New York Times best seller list. Do not turn to a popular political leader. Do not turn to radio talk show hosts. Do not turn to paganism that is being renewed in our society today. Turn to Jesus. Be zealous for Jesus. Be close to Jesus. He alone will save and raise you up. He alone is your Savior. In Him and through Him, is the salvation of our souls.

Be zealous for Jesus!

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B

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

5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B

February 3/4, 2024

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

The title for today is Job’s Reality is Ours. My homily may not necessarily put a smile on your faces, but maybe it will bring you some peace and hope to those of us most in need.

In this first reading, we hear about an experience Job had in his life, something so many people have endured in their lives. Hundreds of patients at Gundersen Clinic came to me with this story over the years. Broken-hearted people, broken by the world, feeling alone…. perhaps you have felt this way. Few of us who live long enough will escape it… broken and wounded by unfortunate tragedies and events in life.

I call it the reality of Job is our reality.   It seems to me that if we understand Job, we begin to make sense of our own lives because so often his reality is our reality. To understand this first reading, we must understand the bigger story, the complete story of Job. To understand ourselves we must know our complete story, which is a story of how God is working in our lives over a long period of time.

You see, today’s reading is only the middle of Job’s life. The beginning is a story of riches and blessings, and the end a story of a great restoration and promise.

The beginning, the middle and the end must be taken together if we are to understand Job and what God was doing in his life. One without the others is not enough. The whole story, stitched together as it were, must be grasped. God stitched it together in Job’s life. God will stitch it together in our lives too.

What is that story? In the beginning, Job was a man greatly blessed by God. He had a large family, lots of land, many cattle, sheep, and animals. He lived in a very nice home, had many servants, and was well-regarded by all. He was a man who did not seriously sin. He was a friend of God, you might say. He was also man Satan chose to test, and God permitted the test for reasons Job and others didn’t understand at the time. The worst of evils befell him. His life became miserable. His health, his family, and his possessions were all suddenly taken away from him. He lost everything, except his unwavering faith in God and a conviction of his sinlessness before God. After severe testing, God restored him to his former glory; indeed, God gave back what Job had lost, and even greater things. Yes, Job was restored. His life renewed.

What is the reality of Job in your life? What are the beginning, middle and end of your story? Remember, your beginning, middle, and end must all be taken into account if you are going to make sense of it. They must be seen as a whole. To focus only on one and not on the others is a mistake. How has God stitched your life together for you?

When you are in that middle part of the story, where suffering is all around, maybe remembering today’s Gospel is needed. Imagine Jesus entering the house of your heart. It is in your heart where the meaning of your suffering will be found. Imagine Jesus seeing your pain, your inner sickness, the very stuff you hide from others, things that  bother you so much that you lock it up inside, even if it gives you a “high fever”, so to speak. Imagine all this sickness came into your life after having once been happy and content.  Imagine Jesus approaching you, grasping your hand, and helping you up out of the pain. Imagine your fever, your inner pain, your concerns, worries and problems vanishing!  Not only your problems vanishing, but God restoring you and blessing you in ways that are lavish. How would you feel? What would you do?

My friends, this can happen for you. The beginning is not the end, and the middle is not the end. The beginning and the middle are what leads to a great restoration and blessing for you.

It describes the life of the Son of God who became man for us all, who came to us from the glories of heaven (the beginning), who suffered, died for us (the middle), and then rose and ascended to heaven in the greatest of glory (the end). It describes the life of each of us who follow Jesus. Actually, it is the life of every faithful Christian.

For those of you who are living in the first part, never having experienced significant pain and loss, remember it all can be taken from you in a moment’s time. To those of you who may be living in that middle part of the story, the part of loss and suffering, remember it’s not the end of the story.  For all who are living in the third part and have experienced a healing and restoration, live in gratitude. May God bless you all!

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for Epiphany

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

Epiphany

Isaiah 60:1-6; Eph 3: 2-3a; Mt 2: 1-12

January 6/7, 2024

The Epiphany is the revelation to the entire world that the Christ child is God of all nations. The Epiphany is the revelation that Jesus is Lord of every nation on earth, every person, and indeed, Lord of the universe. He came to save everyone, however similar to or different from ourselves, and to make all one in Him.

Jesus, who was first revealed on Christmas morning to a familiar people, the Jewish nation, is now revealed to the entire world with the coming of the Magi. Today, a great light shines, as the Gospel says, piercing the darkness of the whole world. There is not a single corner of our lives or our world that is not illuminated by the light of Christ!

How will Epiphany affect you? What impact will it have on your life? Finally, how does God want to make you an epiphany in today’s world? 

We have a beautiful manger scene set up in our church. Take a look. What do we see? Yes, we see the baby Jesus in a manger with Mary and Joseph, along with the shepherds, animals, and angels. We see approaching Jesus three wise men from foreign countries, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These gifts are given to kings, priests, and those preparing a body for burial. Now, try to imagine you are that child lying in the manger. Or try imagining you are Joseph or Mary seeing strangers suddenly coming, strangers attracted by a beautiful light, a star that shines. How do you feel?

Meditate on this thought: What happened that day two thousand years ago with those Magi is meant to happen today through your life. How, you may ask? Imagine this: You must look like Jesus. You must look like him so much that people see him in you and come from afar, attracted to you. How comfortable are you thinking you are like Jesus?  Are you ready to become a light in our world?

I think what happened to these Wise Men can and should happen to the world today in some manner. I think God is telling us who are Christians that our spiritual job is to be so much like Jesus that we become an “epiphany”. No, we are not God; yet, we are made in his image. God took on our humanity, took on our nature, and looked like us, and so we can grow more and more in holiness, and look like him and live like him. People should see Jesus in us. So many people search for God, like those Magi did, so will they find Him in us? Are we shining like the star in this world’s darkness? Will we be an epiphany? Will we reveal God to others by how we live? Are we enough like Jesus that people are drawn to us, to our light? The first Christians did and they changed the world. Why don’t we?

Perhaps the great epiphany this year for us is realizing that we are to become an epiphany in our world today. We must reveal to the world who God is by how we live. We must be so like Jesus that people come to us.  Maybe the epiphany for us is that God wants us to be a light to the nations, to shine on all people, yes, even foreigners.

My friends, my point is this: everyday needs to be an epiphany. We are facing important problems today in the world and even in our Church that threaten to deface Jesus, disfigure his face. The Evil One wants to keep him hidden.  Will we have the courage to resemble Jesus enough to reveal him? Do we really believe what we say we believe? If we have been begotten of God, as St John says in his writings, then we have the very life of God within us and this life can and must shine from within us to the world. Satan very much wants to dim that light, that life in us.

Will we resemble Jesus, reveal him, so much so that yes, many will come from far and away to be with us in our parish and diocese and our country? Will they see Jesus in us?

The answer must be “Yes!” For our sakes, for the sake of the Church, for the sake of the world.

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for 1st Sunday of Advent 2023

First Sunday of Advent

Cycle B

Isaiah 63:16b-17, 19, 64:2-7; 1Cor 1:3-9; Mark 13:33-37

December 2/3, 2023

There are so many attractive distractions it would seem, especially with technology and devices. Over twenty years ago, in the fields of psychology and psychiatry, we were very concerned about the impact screen time and cell phones would have upon young people’s brain development and their social adjustment. Our concerns have been proven well-founded. Despite the promise of a greater global unity through internet connectivity and the sharing of information, there has only been increased disconnection among the human family. There are so many divided hearts among us now, and so many divided lives! Jesus tells us we must watch with undivided attention, undivided hearts, and undivided lives. This kind of watching and unity will not come from social media.

Who or what do you most deeply desire in your life? For whom do you watch? Who will unite your life into a satisfying whole? Jesus alone will ultimately unite us and satisfy our deepest desires.

Watch! Look for Jesus! Look for the one you most desire!

Advent is a time to watch for the fulfillment of our heart’s desire. It is a time to reorient our lives. It is a time of anticipation. It is a time to end the divisiveness of our lives, divisiveness with God and with each other. It is a time of repentance.

Jesus came two millennia ago as a mere baby. He will come again in power and glory that last day. Jesus truly comes now, right now, here in this church and on this altar. Do you recognize him? Do you watch for him, or do you live distracted, divided lives, glued to your phones, and addicted to a constant flow of data? Jesus is here, right here. He is among us; he is within us at this moment; and he will come soon on this altar. Can we remain focused on him?

“Why do you let us wander, O Lord? Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down!” says Isaiah. Do we pray in the same way, with the same intensity, with the same undivided anticipation? Or, do we distract ourselves from what never ultimately satisfies us?

Jesus has come down from the heavens as a child centuries ago. He comes down today at this Eucharist. At the end of time he will come again in power and majesty. We remember his first coming; we anticipate his future coming; and we must recognize his coming today.

Advent is a time to watch, to anticipate, and remember, and recognize. Advent is a time to ask ourselves who or what we most deeply desire. Is it Jesus? Is it God’s only begotten Son? Do we love him enough, long for him enough, and watch enough for him with undivided hearts? Are we eager for his coming into our lives?

Men, you who have loved a woman know exactly what I am talking about. Women, you who have loved a man know exactly what I am describing. Love unites. Love conquers all distractions. Are we so in love with Jesus that our hearts ache for his presence, for his coming into our lives and our world? Do our hearts long for him so much that we rush to him in the Eucharist?

Our hearts ought to burn with anticipation as we watch. Our lives ought to ache for his presence. Always watching and waiting need we to be. At this moment, at this hour, in this church, are we burning in anticipation of what will happen at this altar in just a few minutes? The heavens themselves will be opened and God will come down to be with us, Jesus himself. Or, will we divide our hearts and distract our lives?

Isaiah felt the “burn” and the desire. Do we? Isaiah could only anticipate. We can see!…. Soon right here on this altar.

We have all heard stories like the one I am about to tell you, I know, but this one is true and personal for it has to do with my grandmother. Nearly 85 years ago, grandma longed for the one she loved in the Eucharist. She longed enough to literally walk from the farm north of town every Sunday, year around, about an eight mile round trip, to attend Mass. Nothing kept her away until she died at an early age by a sudden illness. I never met grandma, but this image of her remains with me and strengthens my desire for Jesus in the Eucharist.

Our hearts and lives are too distracted, too divided; we have lost our sight, our conviction, our love for Jesus and his true presence, his body and blood, soul and divinity, in the Eucharist. We have fallen to the idol gods of technology. We must repent, and we can this Advent. Our hearts and souls must ache and burn for Jesus’ real presence and to be with the one we most deeply desire in life.

My challenge to each of you this Advent is to repent, go to confession, put down your cell phones and pick up Jesus. Watch for him…watch with eager anticipation for his coming. Just as sure as he was born in Bethlehem, and just as certainly he will come someday in glory, he comes today, at this hour, in this place, on this altar. “What I say to you, I say to all: Watch!” (Mark 13:37)

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

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

31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

Malachi 1:14b-2:2b, 8-10; 1Thes 2:7b-9,13; Matt 23:1-12

November 4/5, 2023

Both our first reading and Gospel today are all about humility and the dangers of pride. We hear a lot about pride and humility from the pulpit, don’t we, and we read a lot about it in the books, pamphlets, and devotions from the Church. Yet, there still is a lot of pride, or lack of humility, in our world and within the Church. Pride is something we all dislike in another person but seem to dismiss in ourselves and humility something we esteem in others, but find difficult in our own lives. I think Jesus knew this tendency, and so he talked about it a lot in the Gospels. If humility is so important, and pride so dangerous if we wish to get to heaven, then how do we go about developing the one and getting rid of the other?

Perhaps it is important to start here. The big saints in the Church have consistently said that the remedy for pride comes from two things:  Knowing yourself really well, especially your limits, the ways you have been hurt in life, and your sins; Knowing God really well, his love and his mercy.

Knowing both is necessary. Knowing only one without the other is disastrous.

What is humility? The saints say that humility is knowing the difference between us and God. So, who are you and who is God?

Do you remember what Pope Francis said right after he was elected pope, when someone asked him, “Who are you?” He said (I am paraphrasing a little), “I am a sinner in need of God’s mercy.”  Then he went on and gave us the Year of Mercy, time to get to know God as merciful.

What did our Blessed Mother say? “I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done to me as you will.” Yes, even Mary, immaculate though she is, was humble before God, knowing herself well, and she knew God too, the God who was to show mercy to the whole world in her Son.

Yes, to know ourselves is to realize how, left to ourselves, we are so far from the ideal, from the goal, from being the person we were created to be. (O, the depths to which we have fallen and the heights to which we are called in Christ Jesus, as one of my deacon friends reminded me.)  Jesus spoke of this in the Gospels. We are pretty much helpless if we see only our failures, weaknesses, hurts and injuries and if we rely only on our own resources and strength to try to overcome them. The idea that I can get to heaven on my own without the help of God and the Church leads us away from humility and into pride. It was the sin of Adam and Eve, and the sin of the fallen angels. Knowing ourselves is admitting we are sinners and that we are not God, but we really and truly need him.

Knowing God is to know his mercy, as Pope Francis said. If you want to know God, just go and ask him for mercy. Knowing God means knowing that he loves us for who we are then raises us up out of ourselves and our pride through his mercy. To know God is to know you have been redeemed, your wounds and sins have been purchased at a great price, and your have been lifted out of it all and into God. To know God is to know how God sees us, that we are his sons and daughters.

We have to know both. Knowing only one is trouble. If we know only our brokenness and sinfulness it will lead to despair, not humility. It happened to Judas. On the other hand, just praying a lot, doing a lot of religious things, learning a lot about God and ignore our brokenness, our sins, our limitations, that will lead to the spiritual pride and presumption that Jesus preaches against in today’s Gospel. Too many of us presume God’s mercy but deny the seriousness of our need for it, and we will become full of pride.

Yes, God is all merciful. No sin is too big for him to forgive. If we don’t know our need for that mercy, we shut it out. We become prideful. On the other hand, if we see only our sins, our failures, our wounds in life and don’t know how much God loves us, we will despair.

So, when we know ourselves well and we know God well, then we are humble, like Jesus so often tells us we must become. We become like Mary Magdalene, like Peter, like Paul, like the Saints Bernard, John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, and so many more.

Yes, God wants you to become a saint. The more you know God and yourself, the closer you are.

So, who are you? Who is God?

What is your answer? How do you respond?

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Deacon Bob’s Homily 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle A

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

26th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle A

September 30/October 1, 2023

Ezekiel 18: 25-28; Phil 2: 1-11; Matthew 21: 28-32

Today’s Gospel parable should evoke a deep response in us. Jesus is saying “prostitutes and tax collectors” are entering the Kingdom of God! People we place at the bottom of our social ladders are getting to heaven before us. Maybe this should make us stop and think.

Our eternal life is all about divine mercy and our freedom to accept or reject it at any moment.

Divine Mercy, the image of which is right here, below this ambo, the image St. Faustina saw, mercy being poured out into the world, into our hearts, and offered to all.

All those we put on the margins of society and Church, all those on the peripheries (to use the word Pope Francis uses), all those we tend to condemn, they may by entering the Kingdom of God before you and me because of God’s mercy.

God has a deep love for the wayward in his kingdom. He has a heart for the man or woman on the fringes. He desires to be reunited with the one who is lost and confused. He wants us, we who now are trying to follow God’s will, to go out to them and bring them back. Salvation is available to the lost right up to the last moment, and our freedom to accept or reject it remains until our last breath. God is fully aware of our constant need for his mercy and how frail we are without it. He tells those away from him “Come home! Mercy is given to you!”

God also deeply loves his followers, you and me.  He says to us who are close to him, “I will be with you until the last moment. Accept my grace and mercy up to the very end. Be on guard! Don’t be complacent. Be vigilant and at every moment accept the mercy I give to you. Do not to falter in the end.”

The feelings we have in hearing this can be strong and deep. We all too easily reject God’s mercy and we underestimate our freedom to accept or reject it.

God extends his mercy to each of us. It is offered. What do you say when confronted by God’s mercy, mercy for you, and mercy for others?

Those we condemn might finally end up obeying God’s will, receiving forgiveness, and enjoying eternal happiness in heaven. Likewise, any of us, who right now are doing God’s will, might, finally end up rejecting God’s will and be deprived of heaven. It is possible.

Back in the 1970s, when I was studying theology in Rome at the Gregorian University, there was an idea swirling around, and actually taught by one professor, called the “fundamental moral option” which taught that what really mattered at the end of life is the overall direction of your life had taken.  If your life was mainly being a good person, then you were going to get to heaven, regardless of how things were between you and God at the end of life. If you lived most of your life moving away from God, then that’s what counted, even if you repented at the last moment.

This teaching is and was an error. A big one. It made no room for God’s mercy, or for our freedom to reject or accept God’s mercy at any time in our lives.

Two examples come to mind. The first is the Good Thief, a man who was on the road to hell, but repented at the last hour and was admitted to heaven. The other is Judas Iscariot, a man on the road to heaven, but rejected God’s mercy and love in the last hour. Both men’s destinies were decided in the last hour.

So will ours.

I’m not saying our life direction is unimportant. I’m not saying sin now and ask forgiveness later. I am saying we all are dependent on God’s mercy each and every moment of life, especially at the moment of death. I am saying we need to remain faithful at the end.

This should not scare us. But it should make us think.  Over and over again, Jesus said, “Peace be with you!’ Over and over again, Jesus said he came into the world not to condemn us, but to save us. So, no need to fear!

So, what is my fundamental direction in life? Is it toward God and away from sin? If it is, good! If not, how can I turn around?  Secondly, all life is a grace from God, so do I really understand how much I need God’s grace every moment to make good decisions and remain with him until the end? Thirdly, what is my attitude toward others and their lives?

I ask each of you today to spend at least a minute after Mass gazing on this image of Divine Mercy, begging God for the grace to accept it, and reminding yourselves of how dependent we are on it.

May we live in gratitude. May we reach out to others and not condemn them for they might enter heaven before us.  Let us stay awake and rely on God’s mercy to make good decisions right up to the moment of death, so that at that last hour of life (which may be this very hour) we may be at peace knowing we have remained faithful to the end.

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

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

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

Isaiah 22:19-23; Romans 11:33-36; Matthew 16:13-20

August 26/27, 2023

To St. Stephen Parish, Bentonville, Arkansas

But who do you say that I am? This question, the “Jesus Question”, was one that was put to the Apostles some two thousand years ago. It is a question that is being put to us today, here in Bentonville. We would do well to answer it honestly.

Who is Jesus to you? What do you say?

The world today is much like the world two thousand years ago, at the time of Christ. They said he was a prophet, a wise man, and a good teacher, just like so many would say of him now…. but certainly not someone to worship with a holy fear! Certainly not the divine Son of the living God, for to acknowledge him in that way would require obedience and a certain holy fear, and we can’t have that in our lives! O no! If we did, we all would have to fall on our knees on this church’s floor in adoration and submission! We couldn’t have that!

So, we live in mediocrity, and see him as a wise man who counseled us well. We settle for a shallow faith. It seems easier that way. No kneeling necessary….

It takes a Peter, of course, for us to get it right. Peter who said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!

It is difficult for us to comprehend the depth of Peter’s faith — which was a gift given to him by God so he could confirm the faith of all of us, a gift we can access if we really are open to it and approach it with humility. It takes Peter’s faith to get it right in our own lives. Peter was given that gift of faith and upon it the Church is built and survives. All the Peters that have succeeded that first one, that is all the popes up to and including Pope Francis, have that same inerrant faith to proclaim Jesus. If we lean on the faith of Peter, if we sustain ourselves on the faith of Peter, if we remain united to him, then we too will answer the “Jesus Question” correctly.

A priest friend of mine who studied in Rome a number of years after I and Msgr Marczuk studied there, told me of an experience he had that goes to the point of this homily. My friend, Father Bill, was standing at the foot of the main altar in St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. If you have ever been there, you know the location well. He was taking in the beauty of the altar and its environs. Unexpectedly, an Chinese man scurried up next to him holding a Chinese tourist guide. The man turned to Bill and said to him in broken English, “What is this?” Bill said that it was St. Peters’ Basilica. The man began flipping pages in the tourist guide, and then again looked up at Bill and asked, “And who is this St. Peter?” Bill explained that he was an apostle of Jesus Christ and his tomb was right down there, pointing to the space under the altar. The man again started flipping pages and with a puzzled look, asked Bill one more question, “And who is this Jesus?”  Bill was stunned, speechless, for he never imagined anyone would asked him such a question in St. Peter’s Basilica.

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My friends, every day of your life, someone in one way or another will come to you ask you that question, whether or not you realize they are doing so. How will you answer? Are you prepared?

Who is this Jesus?

Sometimes we lack the honesty that Chinese man had. Sometimes we pretend to know Jesus, but really we really don’t. The tourist guides of the world do not provide us the real answer. Certainly, our favorite political leaders and celebrities, even our favorite theologians and authors do not get it right. Forget all of them!  Look to Peter!

We all need a rock upon which we build our lives. We need the faith of Peter. We need the faith of the Church. We must never, under any circumstances, separate ourselves from the Church built on Peter’s confession of faith. We must never come to know Jesus by our politics or by those who entertain us.

Look to Peter and his successors. Look to the faith of the Church. There you will find the answer, like the other apostles did when they heard Peter’s faith in Jesus the Son of the living God.

So, in conclusion, I go to Peter’s successor to give you the answer to the “Jesus Question”. No one can answer any more clearly or eloquently.

Pope St. Paul VI said this on November 29, 1970, at Manila in the Philippines:

“I am bound to proclaim that Jesus is Christ, the Son of the living God. Because of him we come to know the God that we cannot see. He is the firstborn of all creation; in him all things find their being… he was born for us, died for us, and for us he rose from the dead…. A man of sorrow and hope, he knows us and loves us. As our friend he stays by us throughout our lives; at the end of time he will come to be our judge; but we also know that he will be the complete fulfillment of our lives and our great happiness for all eternity.

I can never cease to speak of Christ for he is our truth and our light; he is the way, the truth and the life. He is our bread, our source of living water who allays our hunger and satisfies our thirst. He is our shepherd, our leader, our ideal, our comforter and our brother.

He is like us but more perfectly human, simple, poor, humble, and yet, while burdened with work, he is more patient. He spoke on our behalf; he worked miracles; and he founded a new kingdom: in it the poor are happy; peace is the foundation of a life in common; where the pure of heart and those who mourn are uplifted and comforted; the hungry find justice; sinners are forgiven; and all discover that they are brothers.

So once again I repeat his name to you…. and I proclaim to all men: Jesus Christ is the beginning and the end, the alpha and the omega, Lord of a new universe, the great hidden key to human history and the part we play in it. He is the mediator… Above all he is the Son of man, more perfect than any man, being also the Son of God, eternal and infinite. He is the son of Mary….

Remember: [it] is Jesus Christ I preach day in and day out. His name I would see echo and reecho for all time even to the ends of the earth.” Amen!

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for Transfiguration Sunday, Cycle A

Transfiguration Sunday, Cycle A

August 5/6, 2023

Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14; 2 Peter 1:16-19; Matthew 17:1-9

What glory there is in our hope! Hope will bring us to future glory. Our hope is in the cross of Christ.

In today’s Gospel, we hear of Christ’s glory as he is transfigured before the apostles Peter, John and James giving them a glimpse of what lay on the other side of the Cross, giving them hope, a hope that would sustain them when confronted with the suffering of Christ on his Cross on Good Friday.

There are three theological virtues given to us by God at baptism: Faith, hope, and love. Allow me to use an image to describe them, i.e., a ship on an open stormy sea. Faith is the ship. It is what protects us, and gives us shape and buoyancy. As long as we have faith, we won’t sink. Love is the destination. Hope is the driving force, the wind in our sails propelling us through the rough waters and the deep seas of life. We are carried by hope toward the glory of Jesus’ resurrection which we too will share.

Pope John Paul I, the Pope who reigned for only 33 days in 1978 and with whom we who lived in Rome during those days, and were able to speak to him, fondly called Papa Luciani, once wrote in his book Illustrissimi that “We are the amazement of God”.  He noted that some have said that God is not amazed by our faith because God has left so many signs of his presence even in the natural world let alone in our hearts and in the history of mankind that any reasonable person cannot help but believe; nor is God amazed by our love, for he has given us. All of us, hearts of flesh, not of stone, and so are made out of love and for love, so we cannot help but love. But hope, John Paul I said, God is amazed by our hope. We are the amazement of God because of our hope.

The medieval poet Dante said that hope is “a waiting with certitude.”  Hope is waiting, rooted in the goodness of God, and in the certitude of future glory.

Any of us who have live for a length of time have seen the face of death.  We have seen the Cross. We have had our bumps and bruises and injuries.  We’ve been through many difficult times; we know life is at times quite ugly.  Suffering comes with the territory. What sustains us and drives us through the storms, the setbacks, the sufferings, and the ugliness of life?

Jesus gave Peter, James, and John the gift of hope when he was transfigured before them on Mount Tabor, when he revealed to them his divinity. He did it so their faith would not waiver, their love for him not falter, and the hope of the resurrection would not be extinguished when they would see him crucified, dead on the Cross, and placed in the tomb. Jesus gives us the same faith, love, and yes hope, when we read of the Transfiguration. It is the hope of a future transfiguration for us all that drives us forward toward our destination, the “New Jerusalem” as the Scriptures say, toward heaven, toward glory with Jesus and all the saints, toward a future resurrection, and toward Divine Love for all eternity.

Our First Reading today describes God’s power to transform all things in Jesus Christ. It gives us hope that even when life seems more like Calvary than Easter, Jesus conquers all things and his glory will be ours someday if we remain faithful in love.

St. Peter in today’s Second Reading tells us our hope is founded on eyewitnesses to the Transfiguration of Jesus, to his majesty, honor and glory. He reminds us to do well by being attentive to what he himself witnessed.

In our Gospel, Jesus clearly shows us that like him, we too will someday be transfigured and he strengthens us to see in the Cross the hope of future glory so we do not become discouraged.

The Transfiguration gives us hope, even today, that our bodies will be transfigured also. That through our crosses we will enter into glory.

Do you know what the difference between Judas Iscariot and Peter was? Peter had hope.  Judas despaired. Peter lived.  Judas ended his life. Let us be like Peter.  Let us live in hope, not despair. Let us choose life not death.

When life gets tough, cling to hope. When you struggle in life, live in hope. When looking at the Cross, see there the hope of all mankind!

Jesus knew there was no detour around the Cross – for him or for us. He knew that the Cross was the only route to our destination, that it was the bridge to glory.

Hope is what drives us down that road and across the sea toward:

The glory that will be ours. The glory of the Resurrection. The glory of the Transfiguration. What glory there is in our hope!  We are the amazement of God!

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

1Kings 3:5, 7-12; Romans 8:28-30; Matthew 13:44-52

July 29/30, 2023

What is your greatest treasure? What is your pearl of great price? Perhaps the best way for us to answer those questions is to look at our lives. On what do we spend most of our time? On what do we spend most of our money? What preoccupies us? Who or what do we fear losing more than anything else?  What choices are we making?

Let’s look what three men, Solomon, Paul, and Jesus have to say about this.

Solomon chose wisdom. He chose wisdom over long life and riches. Long life and riches are things we value very highly in our world. We are strongly attached to them. Society tells us they are necessary and important. We spend a lot of time and energy trying to get and hold on to them. Solomon would be considered foolish in our modern world. To Solomon, a wise, understanding heart had great value, and he was willing to sacrifice riches and life in order to be wise and understanding with others, in order to be able to discern, to know, as God knows and understands.

What about Saint Paul? What did he think? He tells us that above all is the theological virtue of love. Saint Paul makes a bold, almost incredible statement!  All things will work for good if we love God. He tells us, in effect, that our greatest treasure is rooted in the First Commandment, i.e., to love God with all our hearts, souls, and strength. Love: knowing what is truly good and choosing what is good. Wisdom is grounded in love. O how misunderstood love is today!  

What about Jesus? He is quite clear with us. He asks us if we really understand “all these things.” He says that life with God and with each other in the Kingdom of God is more important that riches and health. We will fully experience the Kingdom of God if and when we get to heaven, and but we partially experience it now in the life of the Church. The Church, even with its struggles, is the Kingdom of God on earth. Jesus says God’s kingdom is a great treasure available to us, a great gift given to us, for in it is the very life of God. In the Church we find the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, and all the other sacraments through which we receive divine life. Jesus says we should be willing to give all to remain in that grace-filled divine life, that kingdom. We must never separate ourselves from God’s kingdom. Never!

In the Gospel today, Jesus also tells us of the importance of wisdom rooted in love, the kind of wisdom Solomon chose and St. Paul spoke. Not the wisdom of the world, but the ability to know what is of God and what is not, to know what is better and what is the best. Wisdom, to know as God knows and to understand as God understands and to choose as God would have us choose. Jesus says that in God’s kingdom there are fish of every kind and all of them will be hauled ashore someday and be sorted out. He says that in God’s kingdom there is a wisdom that sorts out the good from the bad. So, Jesus also underscores the importance of wisdom in our lives, to be able to know good from evil, to discern God’s will for us in the here and now, and to reject what comes from the Evil One. Such discernment and knowledge is found in God’s Church through the Holy Spirit.

O how our world needs to understand these things! How we need to beg for wisdom in discerning, knowing, and choosing what is good and rejecting what is evil. How much we all need to avoid being deceived by things that pass, and seek out that which endures. Remember, heaven is for eternity. How much we all need to love God more, to obey that First Commandment faithfully, and wisely choose!

All things work for good for those who love God. All things lead us to heaven, to God’s Kingdom, if we love God, a love which renders us wise in knowing as God knows and understanding as God understands and choosing as God would have us choose.

Lest you be thinking that such wisdom is reserved for the educated, the elderly, or Church leaders only, let me reassure you I have found such wisdom, such love… as basic as it may be for them… in mere children, children who have not yet been affected by the false wisdom of our world, children who love and choose wisely because on a basic level, they know what is truly good and valuable in life.

My prayer for all of us today is the prayer of the psalmist in today’s responsorial psalm:

May the law of your mouth, O Lord, be more precious to us that thousands of pieces of gold and silver. Let your kindness comfort us according to your promises. In your compassion, let us live and delight. May we love your commands more than the finest gold… for your decrees reveal, shed light on all things, giving wise understanding even to the simple. Amen!

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for 10th Sunday of Ordinary Time

10th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

Exodus 19:2-6a; Romans 5:6-11; Matthew 9:36-10:8

June 17/18, 2023

I would like to talk about something today that I believe may be on each of our hearts in this parish.

“At the sight of the crowds, Jesus’ heart was moved with pity for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 5:36)

How appropriate are those words for us today especially for us in this parish in the last few weeks.

Jesus, present right now in that tabernacle and soon to be on this altar in his Real Presence, his body and blood, soul and divinity, is now looking at us gathered here just as he looked at the crowds 2000 years ago. He is looking with concern and love because we too are like lost sheep. We too feel troubled and abandoned, concerned and saddened because we have lost one shepherd’s voice and will soon lose another voice.

Sheep recognize one single voice, their shepherd’s voice. They follow that voice, and they become alarmed if another voice is raised.

Yes, Jesus is gazing at us with love and concern knowing full well that we as a parish grieve the loss of the voice of Father Tom and grieve the soon-to-be lost the voice of Father Matt. Father Tom was dearly loved by so many, and now Father Matt will soon leave us, suddenly being called to a new assignment. Jesus is looking at us with concern, and his human heart aches for all of us whom he dearly loves.

Too many losses in too short a time! Good men taken from us. We are grieving the loss of these two good men. We ask why, and what are we to do.

What did Jesus do 2000 years ago when he saw those crowds of people? He sent them new shepherds, faithful shepherds. Yes, he sent them good shepherds. He ordered those new shepherds to be single-minded in purpose. They were not to get distracted by passing concerns. They were to stay sharp, vigilant, focused. Jesus sent them good shepherds with these instructions: “Go to these lost sheep. Don’t dawdle in pagan territory. Don’t get caught up in worldly distractions, but go straightaway, to the sheep. Go tell the sheep that I am with them. Tell them that I am the Good Shepherd! Tell them all that I am doing and will do for them. Tell them about me!” Jesus not only sent these shepherds, but he expected results from them. He told them to cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, and drive out demons. Jesus gave them a tall order and he expected a lot from them.

Jesus does the same for us in Caledonia and Brownsville. He will send us — I hope — a good shepherd, a shepherd with the same instructions, the same expectations, and the same mission.

We may ask ourselves: “Do we need a new shepherd, a new voice, a new pastor? What possible good can come from in having lost two good shepherds in such short order, Father Tom and Father Matt? It almost seems too much, too unfair, and too difficult!

I remind you that nothing is outside of God’s will. This change is part of God’s will for us and for them. God takes all things and makes them a part of his plan for bringing about good in the world. What is that good that God will accomplish among us? I can only surmise. Here is my take on it.

I think God is allowing this change for us, the people of St. Patrick’s and St. Mary’s, so we will become (dare I say?) better disciples, better sheep, better Christians, better witnesses. I am not in any way implying Father Matt or Father Tom were deficient pastors! Far from it! We all know how good they were. Nor am I criticizing our parishes. I just think Jesus is allowing all this so that we too will be better equipped to go out there, into the world, and tell everyone what Jesus has done for us in Caledonia and Brownsville. I think it may be Jesus’ way of saying to us, “I am with you always. I am the Good Shepherd who never abandons his sheep. So, stay sharp. Don’t be distracted. Remain focused. Tell people all that I am doing and will do for them.” Yes, maybe Jesus is saying something like that to us. I believe that Jesus has allowed their departure, and is now sending us a new pastor, so that we the people may be renewed voices in that world out there, voices that will tell everyone who Jesus is, what he has done and will do for us, and yes to tell everyone what we have suffered, gone through, in being faithful to him and the Church. I think God is allowing these losses in our parishes so that we may indeed arise from our grief and speak more clearly to all who will listen about our faith in Jesus and the Church. I think God wants us, just like he wanted those men he sent out 2000 years ago, to be so bold as to cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, and drive out demons. By this I mean we can and must give new life to others by our words and behavior. We can and must cleanse others of their hurts by forgiving them and having the courage to love them. We can and must drive out demons by casting all our cares, worries, and grief upon the Lord and rely totally on God. When we do that, demons have no room in our lives to dwell.

Remember the last line in today’s Gospel: “Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.” (Matthew 10:8) Without cost we have been blessed by Father Tom and Father Matt. So I ask all of us today and in the weeks ahead to gratefully recall all God has freely given to us by their presence, and then to resolve to give back without cost what we have received from them by our telling the world about Jesus Christ, the very message that both Father Tom and Father Matt so faithfully shared with us.

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for Divine Mercy Sunday

Divine Mercy Sunday 2023

Acts 2:42-47; 1 Peter 1:3-9; John 20:16-31

April 15/16, 2023

I’d like to ask all of you a question. Please answer it quietly in your mind.  The question is, “Who or what is the heart of this parish?” Whenever I have been assigned a new parish, I asked myself that question, whether it was Holy Cross in Dakota, Crucifixion in La Crescent, St. Patrick’s in Brownsville, or St. Mary’s in Caledonia.

I believe the heart of t his parish is the merciful, sacred heart of Jesus beating in the Eucharist. It is the Divine Mercy poured out on us at this altar, at Mass at which we witness all that Jesus has done for us in his life, death and resurrection. The merciful heart of Jesus beats and gives life. Jesus is alive! He has risen. Jesus lives! He has a merciful heart, a living heart, a forgiving heart, and he pours his mercy into our hearts at each Mass.

Divine mercy beats in our midst, among us, and within us. It beats especially at Mass. We must be connected to this mercy. We must not stay away. We must come to the mercy of God. That is one reason why God has commanded us to keep holy the Sabbath day. That is one reason why the Church obligates us to come to Mass every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation. We need that mercy that much! We need to thank God for that much.

You too are the heart of this parish if you have a merciful heart. To the extent that you soak in God’s mercy at the Eucharist and then extend that mercy to each other, you become the heart of this parish. Your heart must be open to God’s mercy and then beat with mercy for others.

Do we accept God’s mercy? Do we allow the merciful heart of Jesus to permeate our lives? Will our hearts beat like the heart of Jesus for our husbands, wives, children, parents, neighbors, and yes (this is the tough one) for our enemies? Will we be merciful even to those who do not deserve it? If we are to be able to do this, we must be connected to Divine Mercy. Mercy and forgiveness are at the center of what it means to follow Christ. The heart of the moral life is mercy. Mercy trumps human justice, for in God’s eyes, mercy and justice are the same.

Jesus had mercy on the repentant thief. Will we? Jesus told the woman caught in adultery, “I do not condemn you, but go and do not sin again.” Will we have the same attitude with those who have betrayed our trust? When Peter denied Jesus  three times, Jesus didn’t ask, “Why did you do that?” but rather he asked, “Do you love me?” How are we when someone denies our friendship?

Will we have mercy on the man on death row, or will we exact vengeance? Will we wage war or pursue peace? Will we love those who hate us, or will we hate in return?

To be merciful to those most difficult to forgive, those most difficult to love, we must have a deep faith and trust in Jesus’ mercy for us. When we find it difficult to show mercy, we must say, “Jesus, I trust in you! Help me to be grateful for the mercy you have shown me, and help me to show mercy to this person.”

Jesus, I trust in you! You are the way. Make my heart like unto yours. Amen.

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for 5th Sunday of Lent, Cycle A

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

5th Sunday of Lent, Cycle A

March 25/26, 2023

Ezekiel 37:12-14; Romans 8:8-11; John 1:11-45

There comes a time when every man and woman desperately needs the felt presence of God. There comes a time when we too pray, like Mary did in the Gospel, “Lord, if you had been here this wouldn’t have happened!” I know; I’ve been there.

Human nature hasn’t changed. Life’s challenges and questions haven’t changed much either over the centuries. Whether now, or 2000 years ago, or 2000 years in the future, humanity is confronted with the same questions and realities of life. Foremost among them are “Does God really exist? Is he present when all seems lost? What is death? Is there eternal life? Will we rise from the dead?”

The people of Jesus’ time asked these questions, and so will we — all of us in some way or another. We will wonder: “Is what we profess to believe really true? Are the promises of Jesus real?”

The people in today’s Gospel — many we were told, but not all — did come to believe after Lazarus was raised from the dead, after seeing with their own eyes life after death.

Jesus wept out of love for his friend Lazarus. We must weep with love for our friends and loved ones. We must weep in hope of the resurrection. We must weep in faith, believing that God can and will raise them, and that death never has the last say. God does.

But like all of humanity, when we are confronted with the reality of death, sickness, injustice, poverty, confusion, violence, and so much more, we have the same questions, the same struggle to believe, to hope, and to love: “Lord, if you had been here, death, illness and pain would not have happened. You cared for others; why did you not care for me and my family?”

Think about a time when you were desperate and alone. Think about a time when you lost someone you deeply loved. Think about a time when your grief, your fear, and your anger darkened your soul with doubt.

Perhaps that original sin of Adam, which has affected us all, was in part seeing death and illness, poverty and injustice, and all the other things with which we struggle, as the end of the story and the absence of God. Maybe the sin of Adam leads us to question why God allows suffering and death. Maybe it leads us to question his promise of eternal life, or indeed if he even cares.

Maybe this is our greatest challenge: seeing death and misfortune as the beginning of a new life and abundant grace and not the end of the story or the conclusion of the book. Who would have ever thought that Lazarus would come out alive, after four days in tomb? Maybe death and illness are not the real issues. Maybe what really counts is believing that love and life are always present.

Here is the pearl you can take home and ponder. Here is the pearl of every Lent and the joy of Easter: Every death, every illness, every misfortune, every disappointment that you experience is a moment of grace. Every death, illness, misfortune and disappointment is a moment when the power of God breaks through. Nothing, I repeat, nothing is outside God’s will. He allows all those things we abhor only to reveal his love and his power over them. We cannot thwart God’s will; we cannot stop his love. We can reject it at great peril to ourselves and our eternal destiny, but we cannot thwart it. God wills life after death. The raising of Lazarus clearly show us that God’s power and love breaks through the darkness of the tomb and brings new life to us.

This is what we remember in Lent, and especially during Holy Week. Yes, Jesus suffered and died, but that is only the beginning chapter of the book. The Crucifixion was the moment when God’s power over death was revealed, and his death led to new life. So too it will be for all of us, if we are faithful to God. Death is real, but God has redeemed it and has made it the portal, the door, into new life and love and happiness for all eternity. That is the end of the story and the conclusion of the book! May God be praised!

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

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

2nd Sunday of Lent, Cycle A

March 4/5, 2023

Isaiah 12:1-4a; Timothy 1:8b-10; Matt 17:1-9

The ancient Fathers of the Church and other commentators of the Sacred Scriptures tell us that the Transfiguration of the Lord, of which we hear today in the Gospel, was a special grace given to Peter, James, and John. It was a vision of the divinity of Jesus, a vision that clearly showed that Jesus was in fact God and Man, a vision given to them to later strengthen them when they witnessed the Passion and Death of Jesus.

So, what if anything does this have to do with our lives? Is it possible for us to have such a vision to strengthen us when we are face with trials? My answer is “Yes”! I believe the Transfiguration is meant for all of us.

Recently I learned that the kids at St. Mary’s school celebrated my “half-birthday”. I had to chuckle when I heard this. It seems the older I get, the more often I am reminded of my age! People now celebrate how old I am getting every six months! They must worry that I won’t make another entire year! More seriously, it made me think of how I have prayed over the years.

I did a lot of talking to God when I was a child and into early adulthood. My mother had taught me many prayers. The Church had taught me many others with the Mass, the sacraments, and other liturgies. So, I said a lot to God in those years.

When I entered later adulthood, my prayer evolved into a lot of doing and commitments. I decided to do this and do that for God. I put together plans and developed habits to which I committed myself. I tried to develop a more virtuous and disciplined life.

Now that I am old enough to celebrate half-birthdays, my prayer has become listening…. Just listening and trying to hear what God is saying to me and wanting me to do. I continue to say prayers and do what I have committed myself to do, but I do a lot more listening now.

Someone once said that children talk and ask for what they want and need,young men dream dreams and ask why not, and old men have visions of what has been and will be. 

I think in our prayer lives we can talk, ask, dream, and have the vision God wants for us. I think we too can experience the Transfiguration in that way.

Let me suggest two different but related ways how this could happen for you.

First, by gazing at a crucifix, an icon, or piece of religious art.

Second, by gazing on the Blessed Sacrament where Jesus is truly present.

How do we gaze before a crucifix, an icon, or the Blessed Sacrament?

 1. We begin as children and talk to God about whatever is on our minds and by beg God for the grace we most need.

2. Then we pray as adults by making a commitment to a certain length of time, and following through with that prayer commitment.

3. Lastly, we pray as old men and do nothing but rest, look, and listen. We just gaze, do nothing, and say nothing. We waste time with God.

I am convinced that if we pray in these ways, God will grant us a sort of vision, a glimpse of his power and beauty that will strengthen us. It most likely won’t be a vision like we usually think of visions, but we will experience God.

In today’s gospel, the Father’s voice was heard telling Peter, James, and John to listen to His Son Jesus. God says the same thing to each of us. Listen to Jesus! We must talk, make a plan and commit to it, and then listen and look. The Church provides us what we need. 

It is hard to over state the importance of prayer. It is hard to over emphasize the importance of talking to God, begging him for the grace we need, having a prayer plan, and then simply gazing upon him and listening.

My challenge to our youth is to bare your soul to God. Talk to him. Ask him for what you need. He wants to hear from you. He loves you.

My challenge to all adults is to make a prayer plan. Make a plan for your lives and give it to God and see what he says about it.

My challenge to all our seniors is be at peace and listen. God is with you. He never abandons you. He loves you, and you have much to teach us about prayer.

I assure all of you that if you pray like this, you will find strengthen in times of hardship, and you will experience a vision of God’s love for you.

Yes, the Transfiguration is for all of us.

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for the 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

6th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

Sirach 15:15-20; 1 Cor 2:6-10; Matthew 5:17-37

February 11/12, 2023

I’d like to speak today about something that weighs on the minds and hearts of many.

We are experiencing a mass exodus from the Church, especially by our young. Many others have lost their faith in God and his Church. We ask why?  If you ask those who are leaving, they will tell you two things.

1.  They no longer believe that there is such a thing as truth. “What is truth?” they ask. It is what makes them feel good and fits their personal preferences. Frankly, some clergy ask the same question.

2. Many priests and bishops have abandoned Christ and his people with all the scandals and abuse. That is the second reason they give.

I would like to briefly talk about both, in light of the gospel I just read.

To all those who leave because they do not believe in truth I ask, “Who then is Christ? How do you imagine him?”

We like to imagine Jesus as we see him in the popular paintings, i.e., the smiling Jesus, with long dark hair, clean robes, walking lightly across the countryside and speaking comforting words of love and peace. Jesus who is physically comfortable, and the Jesus who makes us comfortable. The “nice guy” Jesus. The Jesus who died a sanitized death. I remember once telling someone I wanted to give them a crucifix for Christmas. They asked me to not give one that was “too scary, too bloody”. Jesus the Truth for many is found only in feel-good images.

Today’s Gospel leaves me, at least, with another image of Jesus the Truth. In my mind’s eye, I see Jesus about six inches from my own face and looking rather piercingly at my eyes. I imagine him rather dusty and sweaty from the heat of the sun after spending a lot of time on a small mountain. He is exasperated having just come from a testy confrontation with religious authorities. He just preached the Sermon on the Mount. In that sermon he not only blessed many people — blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are the meek, blessed are the lowly, and so on — but he also wooed many others — woe to you rich, woe to you are full and now laugh. He probably ran into a buzz saw from the Pharisees who heard him say those things. So after all that, he is looking at me and through me, saying, “They say (referring to the Pharisees)… but I say to you!” over and over again. I imagine him saying to me, “These are big deals! Pay attention! I am speaking the truth!”

Whether he reveals himself as our friend, comforter, and teacher, or as our just Master and Lord, Jesus is always challenging us to greater and greater repentance and perfection. He always brings us closer and closer to his heart, which burns with such love for us that he wants not mediocrity, but greatness; not a mundane existence, but eternal life. The depth of his love for us is so deep that he shows us the full reality of love, the full demands of love, and the full cost of love.

His love for us is so profound that he perfects us. He insists doing so. He is vehement in his efforts. He never gives up. Yeah, even if it requires his life!

To those who leave because of us the clergy, I would like to say what J.R. Tolkien said to his son. Although I quote him, I can make these my words also: “Our love may be chilled and our will eroded by the spectacle of the shortcomings, folly, and even the sins of the Church and its ministers… I think I am as sensitive as you (or any other Christian) to the scandals, both of the clergy and laity. I have suffered grievously in my life from stupid, tired, dimmed and even bad priests.”  I would add, bishops and deacons.

We deacons, priests, and bishops must examine ourselves to see how we have abandoned Jesus the Truth, and the irreparable harm this has caused.  When we abandon Christ, we abandon his people. We clergy need to examine our consciences. We all need to get in line for confession and do penance. We all need to look at how we have contributed to the mass exodus from the Church, especially of our young. To follow Christ will bring dishonor not privilege, poverty not riches, humility not pride, and we must accept this. Too often, we blame the world, and overlook ourselves when explaining the exodus from the Church.

We clergy must not abandon Christ the Truth! We must not abandon God’s people! Perhaps the one thing that hurts me more than all others is to see someone leave the Faith and the Church.

May none of us, laity or clergy, abandon our Lord for demanding a lot, for telling us to look to him for the truth! May we see his challenges for what they are, signs of his infinite love. Let us love him in return.

Posted in General Interest, homilies | Comments Off on Deacon Bob’s Homily for the 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A