Deacon Bob’s Homily for Thanksgiving 2021

Here is my homily for Thanksgiving Day. Blessed are you!

Thanksgiving Homily, 2021
Sir 50: 20-24; 1 Cor 1: 3-9; Lk 21: 20-28

For what am I most grateful? Health? Life itself? Good fortune? My wife and family? The gift of Holy Orders into which I have been ordained? The Eucharist? My parents and siblings? My country? I could go on.

Yes, I am deeply grateful for all those things. I am the luckiest of all men, for I have been given much. Yet, I am most grateful for something else. I am grateful for the gift of faith which allows me to see God’s presence even in the darkest of times. With faith, I will get to heaven. Without it, I will be tormented. As we heard in the Gospel today, gratitude linked with faith brings salvation.

My health will someday leave me. My life on earth will someday end. My good fortune may take a turn for the worse. Without faith, my ministry will dry up, my reverence for the Eucharist will vanish, my pride in my country will erode, my family relationships will suffer without faith.

On a natural level, we want to be thankful for the good things of life. We know it’s only fair to be grateful for those things and people. St. Thomas Aquinas said that the virtue of gratitude is an extension of the cardinal virtue of justice and it is part of the natural law in every human being born into the world. It is part of our human nature to show such gratitude because it keeps us in harmony with others. Gratitude is an expression of basic human justice and it is an antidote to conflict and division among us. To be grateful is simply doing the right thing, the moral thing.

It is almost instinctual for humans to be grateful for the good things of life and to those who provide these good things to us. A grateful person, generally speaking, is a healthy person. A grateful person is usually at greater peace with himself and others than someone who is ungrateful. It is easy to like someone who is grateful for life and for the good things he enjoys. It is easy to give thanks for the good things of life, the pleasant and the beautiful things that are given to us, the things that give us comfort and security in life. It is natural to be grateful for these things.

So, if you want to be a better human being, practice gratitude. If you want a happier family life, practice gratitude. If you want peace in your relationships with neighbors and friends, practice gratitude because it will make you a more just person and others will respond favorably to you.

I know there are many people who seem to have little for which to be grateful, whose lives are truly painful, challenging, filled with problems and difficulties. It is their reality and they didn’t choose it. Thanksgiving day may be one more difficulty you face, not having family to be with, or peace in your life, or good things to enjoy. So I address you also.

Have faith! Yes, I know that is easy to say, and difficult to live. But have faith! It is difficult is to be grateful for the unpleasant, the difficult, the pain, the problems. It takes real faith to be grateful for the struggles, the challenges, the setbacks, the illnesses, and other naturally unpleasant and difficult things of life. It takes faith to see the presence of God working a miracle in you, desiring to make something beautiful out of it.

Remember, God doesn’t created bad things or desire your pain in life, but he allows it to be so he can transform it into a time of grace. God wants to give you life and love when you are distressed. Nothing is impossible for God, so he allows those difficult times in life, those setbacks, problems, illnesses into your life so he can take and transform them into something very beautiful, very grace-filled, something that will make you more life him — in other words — holy. In this way, if you have faith, faith which illuminates the hand of God at work in our lives, you can truly say you are grateful for those difficult times and events in our lives. I know I am asking something that seems unnatural and very difficult, but we have Jesus himself to show us how to do it, and many saints also.

No problem, no difficulty, no darkness that may come upon you can overcome the light of faith and the love of God for you. No matter how dark or bleak things may be, as long there is the light of faith, that faith will be a light that will mark the presence of God and allow him to take that darkness and turn it into light. For this kind of faith, I am most grateful.

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Homily for Solemnity of Jesus the King

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

The Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ the King

Daniel 7:13-14; Rev 1:5-8; John 18:33b-37

November20/21, 2021

 

The one to whom you listen is the one whom you will obey, and the one you obey becomes the one who is your king.

To whom do we listen? Who or what is our king?

I would like to strike a sharp contrast in the homily today. Please bear with me as I do so. The good piece is at the end; the difficult piece is the beginning.

The world almost demands we make it our king. It demands the we listen and obey. The world around us, it seems, instills fear within to get our attention and our obedience. It uses fear as a way to become our king.

The media, so prevalent in our lives, makes similar demands. It rules the lives of so many of us nowadays. We bury our heads in our iPhones. We listen to the podcasts. We obey the information given to us on the web. The media becomes our king.

We may hold up certain people or causes as our ultimate authority to whom we pledge our lives, people who like Pontius Pilate have civil authority but lack the truth. Yes, there are many Pontius Pilates in our world who do not know the truth. We too easily listen to them and they become our kings.

So many of us allow things within us to become our kings: pride, vainglory, addictions, sins we have committed, regrets over our failures, even our accomplishments.

Indeed, we have very fickle, fallible, and untrustworthy kings to whom we listen and obey.

Think of the ancient Hebrews. They were filled with fear because they were starving. So they turned to Egypt. They submitted to the king of Egypt and what happened? They became slaves for 400 years.

The Hebrews did it again after God had freed them from Egypt and brought them into the desert. They became frightened when Moses went up the mountain to be with God. They made a molten calf their king. What happened? None of them made it to the Promised Land. Only their children did.

The Israelites also made the same mistake when they saw the nations around them with an earthly king and all they had were judges. They demanded a king, Saul, and they forsook their true king, God. What happened? They ended up divided and conquered.

I can go on. Judas and the Jewish authorities did it. Judas wanted a king of his own making, not the king that was Jesus. He sold out Jesus, the King of Kings. So what happened?  Judas died in despair.

Part One of the contrast. Now Part Two, the good part.

Jesus Christ, the true King of the Universe, does not use fear to get us to listen and obey. No, He uses the truth. He uses men and women who speak the truth, who give witness to the truth, who do not shy away from the truth, who proclaim the truth to get us to listen and obey. Jesus uses human beings to tell all those looking for a real king about His kingdom, a kingdom of mercy, love, justice, forgiveness, and eternal life. Our true King wants to love us into obedience.

We have so many witnesses to the Kingship of Jesus Christ. Thousands of named and unnamed Christians in the Church who knew the truth, who listened to His voice and obeyed, even to the point of martyrdom. Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, Simon, Jude, Lucy, Agatha, Marcillinus, Perpetua, Cosmos, Damian, and in our time Maximilian Kolbe and hundreds of others in Germany, Iraq, and Afghanistan who gave their lives because they knew the truth and their King, Jesus Christ.

We here in this parish must never tire of speaking the name of our King. Jesus Christ is the King of the Universe. He is the beginning and the end, the Alpha and the Omega, the all powerful Son of God and Son of Mary who is our spiritual mother. Through Him all things were created and are held in existence. He is a King that is also a brother, a friend, a companion, an advocates before the throne of grace. He is a man like us in all things but sin, yet He is our King. He is the one who makes us like Him in his divinity. Jesus is the name to which we must bow our heads and bend our knees. (Every time the name of Jesus is spoken we should bow our heads silently.) In our darkest hour, He rules. In our weakest moments, His strength sustains us. In our sinfulness, He guides us back safely into his Kingdom of mercy. Our King is meek, and He is strong. He often seems weak and powerless to our eyes, but He is in fact far stronger than anything we could imagine.  Jesus is the center point of all human history. His Kingship has changed everything in the past, now in the present, and in the future.

Yes, Jesus our King must be proclaimed to all men and women. We are the ones who must proclaim Him. No matter who you are or how far along you are in your faith life, you can and must proclaim the name of Jesus. Speak of him to your family. Speak of him to your neighbors. Speak of him before you leave today to the person next to you in this Church. Proclaim Jesus! He is your King! Say his name. Out loud, speak His name. Tell people He is alive and His Kingdom is with us.

My fellow Christians, when difficulties arise in your life, to whom will you listen? Who will you obey? Who will be your king? I have only one answer: Jesus Christ! Listen to him!

May God bless you all!

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

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

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B

October 24, 2021

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

 

 

We all are Bartimaeus!  We all, in some way, can see ourselves in him for we too are blind to some degree to the stumbling blocks in our lives, blind to the obstacles, to the things that can trip us up, but we all have also experienced the touch of God in our lives.

Bartimaeus is a model for all Christians. In his life we hear how we too can respond when we find ourselves in need of vision, in need of sight, and after God heals us.

Bartimaeus knew that he would be able to see Jesus only by persisting in calling out in faith. Only by being healed of his blindness would he be able to follow Jesus without stumbling and hurting himself. He knew that his relationship with “the Master,” would cure his blindness and show him the way to follow.

Faith in God gives us vision, an ability to see. When we see, we then follow.

Terry Anderson was a journalist with the Associated Press. He was captured be Hezbollah militants in Lebanon in the 1980s and held captive for seven years. He was tortured and kept blindfolded, in the dark, and chained to his bed and the wall during that whole time. A Catholic priest, Father Lawrence Jenco, was also a hostage who spent much of his time in prayer, making a rosary out of threads from a sack, and celebrated clandestine Mass whenever he could. Mr. Anderson wrote after his release:

“Where is faith found? … There is no God, the cynics say; we made Him up out of our need and fear of death. And happily, they offer up their test-tube proofs. A mystery, the priests all say, and point to saints that prove their faith in acts of love and sacrifice. But what of us who are not saints, only common human sinners? And what of those who in their need and pain cry out to God and go on suffering? I do not know — I wish I did. Sometimes I feel all the world’s pain. I only say that once in my own need I felt a light and warm and loving touch that eased my soul and banished doubt and let me go on to the end. It is not proof — there can be none. Faith is what you find.”

After his release, Mr. Anderson went on to tell many people of his experience of faith, healing and freedom; so did Father Jenco.

Although I, too, hold up the saints as examples of faith, perhaps what is most convincing, most persuasive, is our own personal faith experiences. Perhaps what is most convincing to most people is our sharing our personal faith experiences with each other, like Mr. Anderson and Father Jenco did.

Are we as a parish willing to tell each other about our own experiences of faith and God? Yes, we all are Bartimaeus, suffering from blindness, but we all also are like Terry Anderson and Father Jenco; we have experienced in some way the touch of God. If we are to be a “welcoming community of faith filled disciples” as our parish vision statement states, we can and must share with each other our experiences of blindness and being set free by the touch of God.

Think about your own life. Where are the blind spots? Where is the darkness? In what areas is your faith shaky? We all have them. We all are blind in some ways. We all are Bartimaeus. Maybe our blindness is ignorance of the faith. We can learn. Maybe it is not knowing how to live out the faith. We can get involved in the various ministries in this parish to teach us. Maybe our blindness is because of our sins. We can be reconciled through the Sacrament of Penance. Like Bartimaeus, we can throw aside our old cloaks and put on a new one, live a different life in the freedom of God.

Now think when you know God touched your life, when things became clearer, when you began to see again, when you were healed. Will you tell others about those times? Will you let others know that God exists?

Like Bartimaeus, like Terry Anderson and Father Jenco, we need to continually call out to God and ask Him to help us see Him, who we are, and where we must go.

“Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me! I want to see!” can be our prayer also.

Our faith will show us the way. Our faith will be like a light. Our faith will heal us. Our faith in God is the road map for our lives.

Remember, Bartimaeus was not only healed of his blindness, but he followed after he was healed. We too must first cry out and be healed; then we must follow. One way for us to follow is to tell each other about how God, Jesus, has touched our lives, how we have known God, and in that way support each other in our lives of faith.

Finally, can you imagine the joy that must have been Bartimaeus’ when he regained his sight? When he began to follow? I have no doubt that he didn’t silently follow Jesus. Rather, he shouted out the great things God had done for him, just as loudly as he had shouted out to Jesus, “Son of David, have pity on me!” His joy is ours too, as we tell each other the wonderful things God has done for us.

 

 

 

 

 

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B

Here is this week’s homily. God bless all!

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B

September 4/5, 2020

Isaiah 35:4-7a; James 2:1-5; Mark 7:31-37

 

Jesus is the fulfillment of all our hopes. Jesus is the one whom Isaiah identified as our God who comes with vindication, who opens the eyes of the blind, clears the ears of the deaf, and makes the dumb speak. Isaiah prophesied that Jesus would make water run on parched land.

In the Gospel passage today, it is clear that Jesus is the long-awaited one.  He is the Messiah for whom the Jews longed. Jesus is the fulfillment all the prophecies for he healed the man of his blindness, and cured him of his deafness, when streams of water ran down from Calvary the day he died, for we know water flow like a stream upon the dry ground that day.

The Jewish people knew Isaiah’s prophecies and they saw them being fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

Ephphatha! (Mark 7:34) Jesus exclaimed. Be opened! Be strong, fear not! (Is 35:4) Be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom (James 2:5) St. James exhorted. Jesus Christ is among us. Do not fear! He is everything for which we could possibly hope. He is more powerful, more faithful, more merciful, than anyone before him or after him. He is more than any other man or woman who may claim to fulfill you; more than any modern day author, actor, or actress, more than any political figure, or any popular celebrity. Jesus is the fulfillment of our lives and he restores all of creation in this goodness.

Proclaim Jesus! Tell the world that He is alive!

Are we convinced of these things? Are we convinced that Jesus is the one we all desperately want and need? Is Jesus the fulfillment of your lives? Do you love Him?

The early Church Fathers scoured the Old Testament and there they found Jesus proclaimed.They searched their own lives and found him there also.

What about us? Do we find him when we look for answers, or do we look to science or to philosophers or to Buddhism, paganism, or perhaps the most popular author on the New York Times best seller list?

Jesus is the answer. Jesus is the fullness of all that we also will become. Jesus is the God for whom we have been searching and hoping.

I cannot say it better than did Pope St. Paul VI in 1970. I quote him:

Convinced of Christ: yes, I feel the need to proclaim him, I cannot keep silent. «Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!» (1 Cor. 9:16). I am sent by him, by Christ himself, to do this. I am an apostle, I am a witness. The more distant the goal, the more difficult my mission the more pressing is the love that urges me to it (cf. 2 Cor. 5:13). I must bear witness to his name: Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matt. 16:16). He reveals the invisible God, he is the firstborn of all creation, the foundation of everything created. He is the Teacher of mankind, and its Redeemer. He was born, he died and he rose again for us. He is the center of history and of the world; he is the one who knows us and who loves us; he is the companion and the friend of our lives. He is the man of sorrows and of hope. It is he who will come and who one day will be our judge and, we hope, the everlasting fullness of our existence, our happiness. I could never finish speaking about him: he is the light and the truth; indeed, he is «the way, the truth and the life» (John 14:6). He is the bread and the spring of living water to satisfy our hunger and our thirst. He is our shepherd, our guide, our model, our comfort, our brother. Like us, and more than us, he has been little, poor, humiliated; he has been a worker; he has known misfortune and been patient. For our sake he spoke, worked miracles and founded a new kingdom where the poor are happy, where peace is the principle for living together, where the pure of heart and those who mourn are raised up and comforted, where those who hunger and thirst after justice have their fill, where sinners can be forgiven, where all are brothers.

Jesus Christ: you have heard of him spoken; you are Christians. So, to you Christians I repeat his name, to everyone I proclaim him: Jesus Christ is the beginning and the end, the Alpha and the Omega; he is the king of the new world; he is the secret of history; he is the key to our destiny. He is the mediator, the bridge, between heaven and earth. He is more perfectly than anyone else the Son of Man, because he is the Son of God, eternal and infinite. He is the son of Mary, blessed among all women, his mother according to the flesh, and our mother through the sharing in the Spirit of his Mystical Body.

Jesus Christ is our constant preaching; it is his name that we proclaim to the ends of the earth (cf. Rom. 10:18) and throughout all ages. (Rom. 9:5)

Amen!

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for the 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle B

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

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B

Dt 4:1-2. 6-8; James 1:17-18, 21b-22,27

August 28/29, 2021

Jesus is rather clear in the Gospel that we have to get this (the heart, the inside) right before we can expect to get the outside right. He tells us that all the outside stuff is only “human traditions” if the inside stuff is not in good order. What does this mean?

I have been thinking a lot about what is at the heart of being a real Christian, a real Catholic. What is it that makes men Catholic men, women Catholic women?

For some people, being a good Catholic means obeying the 10 Commandments and the Precepts of the Church. No doubt these are basic and necessary, and we cannot call ourselves good Catholic men or women if we do not obey them. But they seem to be the same kind of things that go into making us good American citizens. There must be something more to Christianity than that .

I have discovered there are three additional things that make a good Catholic, a good Christian. They are: Relationship, Identity, and Mission.

Relationship is the beginning and the end of a good Christian. If we don’t start with relationship, we get everything else messed up. When we draw our last breath on this earth, this will be the one thing that will take us to heaven, i.e., being in relationship with God and the Church. We Catholics call this being in a state of grace. Our evangelical brothers and sisters call it knowing Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior. They stress the importance of a personal relationship with Jesus as the means of salvation. At face value, they are correct, although not complete. Yes, we must be in a good relationship with God if we expect to get to heaven and if we expect to have good lives here on earth.  We have to be in a state of grace, in a good relationship with God and the Church. Too many of us nowadays underestimate the importance of this and we live with a broken relationship with God, and estranged from the Church, and for some reason we still expect everything else to be right, and we assume we’ll get to heaven anyway. It simply doesn’t work that way. We have to get our relationship with God and the Church right. That happens when we pray, when we are baptized and keep our baptismal promises, when we keep returning to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and then worthily receive Holy Communion, and when we beg God to be with us in all things. Prayer and the sacraments of baptism, penance, and Eucharist, keep us in a good relationship with God and the Church and are the foundation of being a good Catholic man or woman.

Identity. Question: Who am you and how do you find out? Answer: God will tell you! We know who we are only through grace, and through our relationships with God and Church. God knows who we are and tells us through the Church. We don’t tell God who we are. God tells us and we must listen. We don’t define ourselves; God does and the Church confirms it. The only way we really know ourselves, our identity, is through our relationship with God and the Church. This is so hard for us Americans to understand because our culture tells us we should define ourselves however we want. This is not the Christian way. This is not the Catholic way. We are not God. We must be humble and accept who we are and what He wants us to do in life.

Mission. Mission has to do with the outside. If we are in a state of grace, in a good relationship with God and the Church, and are using the sacraments frequently, we will know who we are, and then we will know what we must do. It concerns me to see people out there doing a lot of Church or charitable work when they are not in a good relationship with God and the Church. It concerns me to see them confused about who they are, their state in life, their ethnicity, their gender, their age, or their God-given abilities. It concerns me to see people out there doing a lot of Church work who seem to not really accept that God loves them as a son or daughter. It scares me to see people doing a lot of “mission work” but not praying, or frequently using the sacraments, and avoiding taking time with God in silence. How can we know what to do if we don’t listen to God and accept His plan for us?

Jesus warns us against this. He tells us to get the inside right before doing a lot of outside things. He tells us that the inside must direct the outside. If it is the other side around, we end up doing a lot of things that are mere human traditions that do not come from God, and we heard today in the Gospel what Jesus thinks of that.

So what makes a good Catholic man or woman? I think it is someone who, yes, keeps the 10 Commandments and the Precepts of the Church, but also prays, and relies on the grace of the sacraments, and confesses his sins regularly and receives the Eucharist worthily, and knows himself through the eyes of God and not his own, and is humble in accepting and living out God’s plan and purpose for his life.

Never break relationship with God or the Church! Remain in grace! Accept yourself as God knows you! And then live as God tells you live!

 

 

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

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

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B

July 25, 2021

2 Kings 4:42-44; Ephesians 4:1-6; John 6:1-15

 

I asked my wife what I should preach this weekend, given the readings we have. She said, “People are hungry. Feed them!” Interesting! It was the message of Elisha the prophet in the first reading when he said, “Give it to the people to eat.” It was the message of Jesus in the Gospel when he fed the five thousand that day.

Yes, people are hungry. Feed them!

Yes, we are hungry, hungry for food that will truly nourish not only our bodies in this world but also our souls in preparation for eternity.

Do we want a little or a lot of this food? Do we want a little or a lot of what is truly good for us, physically, and most especially spiritually?

The answer is: we want and need a lot.

“Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough” we heard Philip say to Jesus. A year’s worth of work on our part, in other words, would not suffice to satisfy our hunger, our spiritual hunger, for the food that brings eternal life. Our own efforts will never be enough, but united with the power of God, we will feed thousands.

Yes, 200 days wages … a year’s worth of work.  One of the lessons I learned easily from my father was the lesson of hard work. Dad worked very hard to feed our family. Dad taught me that if I were to have a family, I would need to work hard and long to feed them. He taught me this by example. My mom did the same, as did all my uncles, my grandmother, and all our neighbors. Hard work was an essential. It was a part of our culture. My brother and I would get up every morning before six o’clock to go outside to care for the 140 or so head of cattle that needed feed and water before we caught the bus at 7:10 for school, year around we did it before school and after school. Our summers were filled with farm work: Rock picking, baling hay, hoeing beans, tending the garden, trapping gophers. Dad’s advice was good advice. He taught us well, and he taught us young. Work hard to feed your family. As I said, it was a lesson I learned easily, and it has served me well. I have tried honoring him with my work for my family.

The more difficult lesson for me has always been what the readings today teach, namely, that hard work alone may be sufficient to feed my family’s bodies, but it is not sufficient to satisfy their spiritual hunger. To satisfy that hunger, I must rely on God’s benevolence, His abundance, His providence. I am so utterly dependent on God if I am to satisfy that kind of hunger in the people entrusted to me.

I can supply the five barley loaves and two fish, and I must, but God supplies the rest. I can give them a taste; God alone can fill their spiritual hunger.

It is hard to believe and trust that God will provide. We’d rather prove ourselves… or should I say approve of ourselves…. through hard work alone. The problem is, if we only rely on our own efforts, everyone only gets only a little, if any at all. There never seems to be enough to go around when we rely solely on our own hard work.

Yes, God’s grace is needed, and my cooperation with that grace is a necessity. We must work with God and not against him. He’s got the plan, and we must implement it. We must distribute the food — that is our job — and it is hard work, but God’s grace provides the food that we distribute. Both grace from God and hard work from us are needed. Feeding five thousand people is not easy.

Think of this so as not to become exhausted in the effort: It is in God’s very nature to give, and to give in abundance. He is the giver of all good gifts. He never takes back his gifts. He sustains and multiplies them. God is not stingy. He is lavish. He is not fickle. He is trustworthy. He doesn’t demand we pay him back, only that we are faithful and that the fragments be collected and not be wasted, so others also may be fed. God gives his gifts, his food, freely and abundantly. We distribute them.

Every moment he gives us life.

Every moment he sustains us.

Every moment he gives thought to us, knows us, and is aware of our needs.

Every moment he gives us what we need, even if we do not recognize it

The people are hungry. Feed them! Two hundred days’ wages of food will not be enough to satisfy them, but five barley loaves and two fish will. We are the loaves and fish to be given. This we can provide. God is the one who satisfies. God gives to us, and we are to give it to the people who are hungry for the bread that sustains them into life eternal.

May God be praised!

 

 

 

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

Here is my homily for last week. God bless each of you!

12th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B

Father’s Day

June 19/20, 2021

Job 1:1, 8-11; 2 Cor. 5:14-17; Mark 4:7-16

I don’t know how many men here today were in high school during the late 1960s and early 1970s. I was. There was a lot of turbulence in our country. Social unrest, race riots, a general loss of faith in government, in family and fatherhood, and social structures. Boys rebelled against their fathers. Fathers were frustrated with their sons.

What was on our minds during those high school years men? Well, there was always girls, and getting out of high school, and sports, and… yes, in the back of our minds the looming possibility of being drafted into and dying in a very unpopular war in Viet Nam.

It was a time that sorely tested our faith. It was a time of loss of authority.

Yes, when storms rage, we want and need someone in whom we can place our faith, someone who will come in and calm those storms and end those wars, someone with authority.

We want and need fathers. Trustworthy fathers. Admirable fathers. Fathers who lead, who step into the breach and defend their families.

We hear our own voices in our responsorial psalm: “They cried to the Lord in their distress; from their straits he rescued them.” (Psalm 107:28)

We hear the voice of the Father in the reading from Job: “Thus far you shall come but no farther; and here shall your proud waves be stilled.” (Job 38:11)

Sons cry out to their fathers in their distress and long to hear their dads say to the storm: Come no farther. Be still!

Sons long to admire their fathers like we heard in the Gospel: “They were filled great awe and said to one another: ‘Who is this whom even the wind and sea obey?’”

Fathers, we have a great responsibility — to wield authority for one main purpose: to protect and guide our families. That purpose does not include wielding authority for our personal gain. Fathers, we must be willing to sacrifice any plan we may have of self-promotion, and become servants of our families, leading and guiding and protecting our families.

Fathers we must be willing to say to anything or anyone who threatens our families: “Thus far shall you come and no farther.” We must be willing to say to the storm: “Quiet! Be still!”

Fathers, we know that violent storms are out there that can and will lead our children astray. It is too easy to say nothing. It is too easy to go along to get along. It is too easy for us to give up our authority, and leave our families unprotected.

Fathers, the authority that is ours come from God to be used to serve our families. We must not expect to be served. We must never expect our families to serve us. We must serve them. If we get that right, then our authority will be known and respected.

Remember, as St. Paul said in the second reading, it is the love of Christ that impels us — dare I say compels us? — to be good fathers. We wield our authority out of love!  Only out of love! Never to protect our own egos! Always for the good of our families!

Fathers, we are not kings. We are shepherds. Any good shepherd will fight fiercely at times to protect his flock. Kings have armies to fight for them. Shepherds fight their own battles. We must be shepherds, not kings! But we must be shepherds!

“Step into the breach!” as one bishop put it. Plug the gaps. Don’t let what is destructive  enter your homes. Reform your lines of defense. Do not cower! Do not withdraw! Be willing to stand shoulder to shoulder with other fathers. Waves are breaking over your boats and filling them. You do not want your children saying, like the apostles said, “Do you not care we are perishing?”

Finally, Fathers, I believe that the strength of our children’s faith in God and fidelity to the Church is grounded in the strength of their faith in their fathers. Many of us have experienced one of more of our children leave the practice of the faith, and it shakes us to the core. It hurts us deeply. If though, we renew our commitment to embrace our fatherly authority and live it out as best we can, the faith of our children in God and Church will rekindle. It is not the only thing that will bring them back, but it is an important piece, the part we can do.

Fathers, thank you for being good dads. Thank you for being men, men who teach their sons to be men, men who teach their daughters to be women, and men who love your wives.

May God bless you abundantly!

 

 

 

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for Trinity Sunday

Here is my homily for Trinity Sunday. God bless you!

Trinity Sunday

May 29/30, 2021

Deuteronomy 4:32-34, 39-40; Romans 8:14-17; Matthew 28:16-20

 

Trinity Sunday is often one of those Sundays some priests and deacons dread; by that I mean, dread to preach. It is a real challenge to speak on the tremendous mystery of the Holy Trinity: One God, yet three Divine Persons of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. No matter what you say, it is never complete, nor does justice to the reality of the Triune God. It is a lot easier to preach on just the Father, or the Son, or the Holy Spirit, individually rather than as the Triune God.

Great battles were fought among bishops in the first few centuries of the Church trying to understand the Trinity. Great Ecumenical Councils were called to resolve those disputes. In the end, it always came back to this: we don’t fully understand the mystery, but God has revealed to us throughout salvation history, that He is one God, has one divine nature, yet is three distinct Persons.

I… I  can only reassert what I believe and the Church teaches: One God, three Persons having one divine nature, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Allow me to speak about another aspect of Trinity. This is also something we have a hard time understanding, yet is a very central Christian belief, and it is this: that we who are baptized are now actually living in the Trinity in a certain sense. I am sure you may be wondering what that means. Sounds rather heady, does it not? How does it apply to our lives in a practical way? How can we humans, we mere creatures, we who are so imperfect, live even now in the very life of the Triune God in heaven?

Saint Paul, Saint John, and even Jesus himself have clearly said that when the Son of God became man and died on the Cross as a man, when he rose from the dead and ascended into heaven and took his place at the right hand of God, Jesus took us with him. He didn’t get rid of his humanity. It was not just the human Jesus who died, rose, ascended, and sits in glory, but we humans share in his death, resurrection, ascension and his glory.  All of us who are baptized are in Jesus Christ. There is only one Body of Christ and we are members of that Body, because we are in Jesus, and Jesus is now with the Father, so we too are with the Father in and with Jesus. Those of you who are mothers may be able to understand this better than we men. I often have heard from women that the children they bore in their wombs really never leave them. There is a sense in the mother that her offspring are one body with her and like her, even though they are distinct persons. Where the mother is, there is her child who resembles her. Now, this is really not a good analogy but maybe it helps us understand a little bit. We even now in a certain sense are with God and are like Him. What do you suppose are the implications of this? The first is you are holy! God lives in you and you live in God. Can you imagine the dignity that is yours because of this? Is it any wonder why the Church so fiercely defends the dignity of every human life, born and unborn, young and old? Is it any wonder why the Church warns us about sin, warns us not to reject this gift of God, why she teaches us to stay away from things that would stain that dignity? We are like God, and share in his life. We are caught up in the Trinity.

Most of us go through life basically thinking we are very much separated from God, separated from heaven and holiness, and very much imperfect. Yes, it is true we sin. Too often we reject God. It is true that God is God and we are not. It is equally true that if we believe in the name of Jesus, that God became man, then we become like God in Jesus. This is why the Church declares that you are holy! That is why the Church proclaims to the world that every human life has incalculable dignity. This part of the Christian message is often neglected.

In our second reading today, Saint Paul reminds us that we have received the gift of the Holy Spirit, and we now call God “Abba, Father” and that we are heirs of God in Christ, and we are glorified with Christ. It is the Holy Spirit that transforms us into the image of God, and brings us into the love of God. It is the Holy Spirit that lives within us and because of that, we can certainly say that the Holy Trinity lives within us for there is only one God, not three. The Holy Spirit and the Father, and the Son are one.

Remember, if you are baptized, you live in the Trinity, and the Trinity lives in you. You have a dignity that is so profound it cannot be measured. Your life is to be honored. It is a pure gift from God when He became man in Christ Jesus and sent His Holy Spirit to dwell within you. He remains in you because the Holy Spirit has been given to you. May we not reject this gift. God bless you!

 

 

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for 4th Sunday of Easter, Cycle B

Here is my homily. Blessings on all!

4th Sunday of Easter, Cycle B

April 24/25, 2021

Acts 4:8-12; 1John3:1-2; John 10:1-18

 

Even though each year the fourth Sunday of Easter is called “Good Shepherd Sunday” because the Gospel readings describe Jesus as the Good Shepherd, every third year we get these particular first and second readings which describe the power of the Holy Spirit and the creative love of the Father. So today I will reflect with you on God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Saint John tells us in the second reading that God is a Father who loves us so much that He created us as His children and pours forth into our lives the Holy Spirit. Later, in ways we do not yet know, He will transform us into His likeness.

God’s love is so perfect and so faithful that it is the Holy Spirit. He not only created us and gave us the life we now experience, but when we die He transform us into new life. God is not a negligent father who begets a child and then walks away from his responsibilities. He is a faithful Father.  He sustains us with His Holy Spirit. He never ceases to love us, not even for a millisecond.  If He were ever to withdraw His Spirit, or forget even a single moment of our lives, we would simple vanish and cease to exist. We are that dependent on Him. God the Father continually thinks about us and has for all eternity had an idea about us in His mind. Isn’t that amazing? He has thought of us for all eternity and loved us into life at a particular moment He chose for us. He never leaves us alone. He never leaves us orphans. As a Father, he holds us in his hands and repeatedly, without ceasing wills us into life in one continual act of love. This means that the Father continually pours out into our lives the Holy Spirit Who is love. Over and over again without ceasing He does this. “I love you. I want you. I will you into life. Receive the Holy Spirit.” As Father, He is the beginning and the fulfillment of our lives. He draws us to himself because He wants every person He creates to spend eternity with Him. He wants everyone to accept His love and His invitation to be with Him. He wants all of us to repent and return to Him. He grieves when we turn away from Him; He grieves when we sin and reject Him. We must never forget the fatherhood of God, His faithfulness, and the gift of the Holy Spirit Who is the Father’s love. We must always have a repentant heart and turn to Him again and again, just as He continually gives us life. It would be good for us to spend time meditating on this. In what way must we who are prodigal sons and daughters return to the loving Father by accepting the Holy Spirit into our lives? The Holy Spirit gives us the power to live holy lives and to proclaim the Gospel, to love others into life, to die so others may live, to do battle with our sins and overcome them, and to care for our families.

Then in the Gospel we hear that God the Son is our good shepherd. We are told that a good shepherd knows his sheep and is willing to lay down his life for his sheep.  This image of a good shepherd was a very powerful one for the people of Jesus’ time and age, but less so for us as we probably have never known a real shepherd. What are other images that may make sense to us? Saint John Vianney may be a good image for parish priests. He shepherded his parish, and he literally was willing to protect his flock from the “wolves” of the world in the 1800s. He often fought the devil to protect his parishioners who were unable to overcome evil on their own.  Saint Maximilian Kolbe may be an example for those in the religious life, for he was someone who died so one in his flock in the concentration camp would live. My daughter is an example for me and maybe others with families. She recently plunged into a river, at risk to herself to save the life of her son who was being swept away. There is an example hitting close to home; my daughter, a good shepherd! Can you think of someone who was a good shepherd in your family? I’ll bet you can.

Jesus was willing to suffer or die so others might live. Jesus was willing to fight battles we are incapable of winning and would surely lose if we fought them on our own. Jesus was willing to plunge into the world, and save us from the rivers that would carry us away to a certain death, like my daughter. He was willing to battle the devil for us, and win, like Saint John Vianney. He was willing to die like Saint Maximilian Kolbe was willing to die to save the life of a man. Jesus is indeed the Good Shepherd.

I pray that you accept the Father’s love into your life and turn from any sin that keeps you separated from His love. Forgiveness is always available for those ask for it with repentant hearts. I pray that you become good shepherds in your families, protecting and leading the vulnerable ones entrusted to your care. I pray that you live your life so others may live. I pray finally that you accept the gift of the Holy Spirit and in the ways you are able boldly proclaim that Jesus Christ is the savior of all.

4th Sunday of Easter, Cycle B

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

Here is my homily. God bless all!

2nd Sunday of Lent – Cycle B

February 27/28, 2021

Gen 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18; Rom 8:31b – 34; Mark 9:22-10

A student in Rome was standing before the main altar in St. Peter’s Basilica and the tomb of the Apostle, taking in the splendor and wonder of the building and all the pilgrims passing through it. A man came up to him from the Far East, and was thumbing through his tour guide in his native language. He turned to the student and asked, “What is this?” “It is St. Peter’s Basilica. Right down there is the tomb of Peter,” responded the student. The pilgrim started thumbing again through his tour book, and asked the student, “And who is this Peter?” The student explained that he was an apostle of Jesus. The pilgrim thumbed again through his book, and anxiously turned to the student once more and asked, “And who is this Jesus?” The student was stunned, and didn’t know what to say, never anticipating such a question. And who is this Jesus?

“[Peter] hardly knew what to say, [he was] so terrified.” (Mk 9:6) Did you catch that verse in the gospel I just proclaimed? At the Transfiguration, when Peter saw Jesus in his glory as the divine Son of God, he did not know what to say. There is one other place in the Gospel of Mark when the same thing happened to Peter: “Nor did [he] know what to say to him.” (Mark 14:40) That time, it was at the Agony in the Garden, when Peter saw the suffering humanity of Jesus. When Peter saw in agony, he shut down; he went to sleep.  Peter babbled on about tents at the Transfiguration, and he slept through the Agony in the Garden. Whether it was seeing the glory of Jesus as God, or seeing him in his suffering humanity, Peter was tongue-tied.

This may be the beginning of our story of Lent 2021. We often begin Lent not really knowing what to say about Jesus. We may be sleeping through our spiritual lives. When Easter comes we hopefully will understand better who Jesus is and what he has done for us; but between now to then, we need to clean our houses. We must be purified from all that keeps us tongue-tied or sleepy, and sacrifice some tightly-held, precious attitudes about ourselves and Jesus.

Jesus reveals himself to us during Lent, in whatever way he chooses. When he does, will we know what to say?

“Who do people say I am?” Jesus asks. Some say a great prophet. Others say a wise teacher. More and more people are saying he is a religious fiction. Jesus is asking us, “Who do you say that I am?” Do we know what to say, how to answer?

We need to start with the basics. We need to start with what the 12 apostles preached after the Resurrection. They said:

Jesus Christ is the Son of God, who lived, suffered, and died for our sins, and rose again. He has ascended into heaven to the Father’s right hand in glory. He will come again with salvation for his people at the end of time. Follow Jesus for you are his disciples!

This is what the apostles taught. This is what we must remember. This requires Lenten sacrifice, repentance and purification.

We must be willing to sacrifice what was most dear to us, like Abraham in the first reading, order to follow Jesus.

God asks us to pray, fast, and give alms. He wants us to give him  our hearts and our lives, not because he needs anything from us, but because he wants us to know who he is and how to speak about him.

If you don’t know what to say when Jesus reveals himself to you this Lent, he will smile and say, “Come, follow me. Come and see.” Follow him wherever he leads you. He may lead you up a beautiful high mountain, like he did with Peter, James and John in the Gospel today, or he may lead you down into a dark valley like the Garden of Gesthemani, but wherever it will be, follow him. He is the way. If you follow him, you will know how to live; you will know how to love; you will know how to tell others about him.

I would like to conclude by reading to you an excerpt from a homily that Pope St. Paul VI gave at Manila in the Philippines on November 29, 1970. St. Paul VI knew what to say about Jesus when he followed him in his life. He said:

“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 know 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 5th Sunday in Lent, Cycle B

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

5th Sunday of Lent, Cycle B

Jeremiah 31: 31-34; Hebrews 5: 7-9; John 12: 20-33

March 20/21, 2021

 

There comes a time in the life of men and women when they realize they are living or have lived his life for something or someone far greater than themselves. This moment comes either early in life, or mid-way through it, or at the moment of death. It is a moment in which we understand that life is eternal and death is certain. This moment of understanding is also a moment of decision, a moment in which we must make a choice. We must either accept or reject the presence of God in our lives. Acceptance will mean eternal glory and joy in heaven; rejection will mean eternal darkness and loneliness without God.

It is difficult to imagine why anyone would choose eternal darkness and separation, to deny ourselves the presence of God, yet many seem to do just that. It is equally difficult to imagine anyone struggling to accept God’s presence and the gift of eternal life in his presence, yet we all, if we are honest with each other, struggle in this way.

Conversion is always difficult. Making that decision nevertheless is necessary. Converted we all must be. Death is certain. Death is also a momentary path to greater glory, as all the martyrs in the history of the Church attest. Death is but a portal, a veil, a passage through which we must pass. Death is the path leading to our glory as sons and daughters of God, if we have accepted God as real and present, and remained in communion with him, or it will lead to our separation from God and his glory, if we have abandoned him.

The Gospel today reminds us that God’s love for his Son Jesus, and God’s love for all of us, is seen at the moment of the crucifixion and death of Jesus. Life is given to the entire world we are told, through his death. Jesus said if he is buried like a seed in the ground, if he is lifted up on the cross, then much fruit will come; the entire world will be saved. Jesus said that his death on the cross shows the whole world that he loves his Father, and the Father loves him, and they love us.

Jesus reminds us that Good Friday demands a response from us. We must either accept or reject the presence of God, and our choice will determine our eternity.

There is a great temptation nowadays to see death and suffering as signs of God’s absence, his non-existence, or his failure to love. That’s how some see Jesus’ death. That’s how some see their own. There is a great temptation to see something that is only momentary — death — as something eternal, and to avoid at all cost. Remember, we too are grains of wheat to be planted in soil so death may give way to much life. We must accept the soil in order to live for eternal joy.

If Jesus experienced death, so will we. If Jesus in his human nature struggled to accept the hour of his crucifixion, so will we. If Jesus called his crucifixion a moment of glory, so can we.

Death is never eternal; it is earth-bound. It does not exist in heaven. What is eternal is life, either with God or separated from him.

All this requires great faith. To preach it demands great faith and to hear it requires great faith, which is a way of saying it requires a strong relationship with Jesus Christ, his body the Church and his presence in the Eucharist. We will not see death as momentary, nor will we see eternal happiness if we are not strong in our relationship with Jesus in the Eucharist and in his mystical body the Church. Jesus in the Church and in the Eucharist is the way to heaven. Jesus said, “I am the Way.” He said, “I am with you always,” referring to the Church he established. He said, “Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you will have no life within you.” Nothing else, no one else, will get us there — only our faith, our communion with Jesus in the Church.

The choice is ours. Shall we be converted? Shall we turn to God, accept God and remain with him, or shall we turn away? The choice is always ours to make, but we must choose.

I hope that all of us today will pray the words of Joshua when so many centuries ago he put the same choice to the Hebrew people: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24: 15b)

May God bless us all!

 

 

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

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

2nd Sunday of Lent – Cycle B

February 27/28, 2021

Gen 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18; Rom 8:31b – 34; Mark 9:22-10

A student in Rome was standing before the main altar in St. Peter’s Basilica and the tomb of the Apostle, taking in the splendor and wonder of the building and all the pilgrims passing through it. A man came up to him from the Far East, and was thumbing through his tour guide in his native language. He turned to the student and asked, “What is this?” “It is St. Peter’s Basilica. Right down there is the tomb of Peter,” responded the student. The pilgrim started thumbing again through his tour book, and asked the student, “And who is this Peter?” The student explained that he was an apostle of Jesus. The pilgrim thumbed again through his book, and anxiously turned to the student once more and asked, “And who is this Jesus?” The student was stunned, and didn’t know what to say, never anticipating such a question. And who is this Jesus?

“[Peter] hardly knew what to say, [he was] so terrified.” (Mk 9:6) Did you catch that verse in the gospel I just proclaimed? At the Transfiguration, when Peter saw Jesus in his glory as the divine Son of God, he did not know what to say. There is one other place in the Gospel of Mark when the same thing happened to Peter: “Nor did [he] know what to say to him.” (Mark 14:40) That time, it was at the Agony in the Garden, when Peter saw the suffering humanity of Jesus. When Peter saw in agony, he shut down; he went to sleep.  Peter babbled on about tents at the Transfiguration, and he slept through the Agony in the Garden. Whether it was seeing the glory of Jesus as God, or seeing him in his suffering humanity, Peter was tongue-tied.

This may be the beginning of our story of Lent 2021. We often begin Lent not really knowing what to say about Jesus. We may be sleeping through our spiritual lives. When Easter comes we hopefully will understand better who Jesus is and what he has done for us; but between now to then, we need to clean our houses. We must be purified from all that keeps us tongue-tied or sleepy, and sacrifice some tightly-held, precious attitudes about ourselves and Jesus.

Jesus reveals himself to us during Lent, in whatever way he chooses. When he does, will we know what to say?

“Who do people say I am?” Jesus asks. Some say a great prophet. Others say a wise teacher. More and more people are saying he is a religious fiction. Jesus is asking us, “Who do you say that I am?” Do we know what to say, how to answer?

We need to start with the basics. We need to start with what the 12 apostles preached after the Resurrection. They said:

Jesus Christ is the Son of God, who lived, suffered, and died for our sins, and rose again. He has ascended into heaven to the Father’s right hand in glory. He will come again with salvation for his people at the end of time. Follow Jesus for you are his disciples!

This is what the apostles taught. This is what we must remember. This requires Lenten sacrifice, repentance and purification.

We must be willing to sacrifice what was most dear to us, like Abraham in the first reading, order to follow Jesus.

God asks us to pray, fast, and give alms. He wants us to give him  our hearts and our lives, not because he needs anything from us, but because he wants us to know who he is and how to speak about him.

If you don’t know what to say when Jesus reveals himself to you this Lent, he will smile and say, “Come, follow me. Come and see.” Follow him wherever he leads you. He may lead you up a beautiful high mountain, like he did with Peter, James and John in the Gospel today, or he may lead you down into a dark valley like the Garden of Gesthemani, but wherever it will be, follow him. He is the way. If you follow him, you will know how to live; you will know how to love; you will know how to tell others about him.

I would like to conclude by reading to you an excerpt from a homily that Pope St. Paul VI gave at Manila in the Philippines on November 29, 1970. St. Paul VI knew what to say about Jesus when he followed him in his life. He said:

“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 know 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 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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