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.


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.

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

5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

February 4/5, 2023

Isaiah 58: 7-10; 1 Cor. 2: 1-5; Matthew 5: 13-16

It’s all about God. That is my homily this week. It’s all about God.

One proof that God that exists, it seems to me, is all of you, this parish, this community, and this world in which we live. The most evident proof God exists, perhaps, is all of his creation. “How can you say this” you may ask, “given all the tragic things we hear about each day, given the many sins we commit, given the reality of death and suffering?”

I believe that the “light” we hear about in the Gospel today that we must bring into our darkened world is the message that it is all about God.

Why was Jesus was born, the Son of God becoming man? One answer is what the prophet Isaiah said, that Jesus was to be a light in a dark world. Jesus entered this world so that we could see God, and know what he wants from us, and what he wants to give us.

Why were you were born, an adopted son or daughter of God? One answer is you are to be a light in a dark world. You entered this world as a light so that others can see who God is, what he wants from them, and what he wants to give them in the future.

Do those two reasons sound the same?

Yes, because we are very much like Jesus. The difference is Jesus did it all because he is God, whereas we do the small part because we are only human, adopted children of God. We do what we can; Jesus did everything. So, I have to ask, “What is the small part to which God is calling you? What is the “light” that he wants you to put on a lamp stand for all to see?”

I think you can only answer those questions if you are free: free from fear. Fear keeps us from getting up on a lamp stand and shining. So many fears we have…. Failure, embarrassment, shame, guilt, being exposed and known, on and on…. So we hide under a bushel basket.

Yes, to shine we must be free from fear. We can be free from fear and shine in the darkness if we remember some things.

First, God is God, the one and only God. He always has been, and always will be. We share in his very being. We share in God’s life. Our lives are his. Our lives are not our own. They are God’s. We are all about God. We are his image.

Second, all things exist because God exists, even the rocks, air, soil, and the universe. It’s all about God. God gives life to plants. He gives sensation to animals. He gives understanding and free will to human beings. Your life is all about God. God has made you a temple of the Holy Spirit. God lives in you and through you. You are that sacred. Never forget that!

Third, we cannot escape God, his love, his light, his judgments, or his power. God is everywhere, all the time. We cannot escape the fact that everything that we possess is a pure gift from God. Everything that makes you you is given to you by God. God is love. Love always requires giving, so God gives everything, and he gives it perfectly.

Fourth, God wants us to love him and to love each other because of our love for him. God doesn’t need our love, but he wants us to love him and each other so we can be like him, resemble him, become his light. St. John says that we are liars if we say we love God but hate our brother. What we do is very important. Jesus says in today’s gospel that our light must shine; in other words, our love must be lived, not just talked about under a bushel basket of fear.

All of this is hard for us, and we will be fearful, if we do not believe in God’s presence, his life, and his love which he shares with us. It’s hard to love when we do not believe that it is all about God, that he holds all things in existence, even our very lives, that without him there would be nothing, that we have nothing that God hasn’t first given to us. We will live in fear, under a bushel basket of fear, if we don’t have faith in God’s perfect love. We will be afraid that we will fail, that we will end up with nothing, that we will be emotionally and materially bankrupt. But if we say, “Yes, God you are with me. Yes, God, you love me!” our fears will lessen. Then we will be able to say to him, “Take, Lord, and receive all that I have, all that I am. Do with me as you will, because you always are with me.” If we believe that it’s all about God, then we will gladly, without fear, love each other. We will shine on that lamp stand. We will glorify God that way. We will be like the man in the responsorial psalm today: gracious, merciful, just, without fear, trusting, lavish, and exalted.

If you are afraid, give it to God. Give him the bushel basket you hide under. He wants you to shine in today’s world, to be without fear and on a lamp stand for all to see.  Yes, you are that important! Do not be afraid to shine in your life. It’s all about God in the end. Be about him now in all things and in every way.

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Homily for Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Homily for the Day

Shortly after beginning my ministry at St. Mary’s in Caledonia, a parishioner asked me which book of the Bible was my favorite. I answered, “The First Letter of John.” We hear from that letter today in our first reading.

John writes that the world does not recognize us because it does not recognize Jesus. (1Jn 3:1) He then goes on to say that we are to be children, children of God.

We sometimes wonder why we Catholics are so often misunderstood, ridiculed, even persecuted. We wonder why we are not better known and accepted in our culture. We can start blaming the world for all this. St. John gives us another answer. He says that we are not accepted and recognized because Jesus is not known. Why is Jesus not known and accepted in the world? Because we have not borne good witness to him. We have not made him known by the way we live.

“How can we make him known?” you may ask. Yes, how can we make Jesus known and accepted? The Gospel reading gives us an answer. John the Baptist says twice in the reading “I did not know him” because no one had yet given witness; not until the Holy Spirit witnessed to John, who then pointed him out to the people by saying, “Look! There he is!”

Are our hearts as open to the Holy Spirit as was John’s heart? Are our hearts receptive to God’s voice? What makes us sensitive to God’s voice?

John the Baptist went about baptizing people because he knew they had to be free from sin in order to recognize Jesus, the Messiah. He knew that they had to be as innocent as children if they were going to be able to recognize Jesus, and if they were going to make him known.

What does this have to do with us?

Jesus is not recognized by the world because we have not made him known to the world. Why have we not made him known? It is not because he hasn’t been spoken about, or written about, or painted in pictures, or sculpted in stone. No. We have not made him better known because we have not become as innocent as children. In other words we have not become holy. We don’t look like Jesus. We are not living like Jesus. And why is that? Because of our sins keep us from it.

Our lives will either lead other to Jesus or away from him. If our lives are holy, if we confess our sins, and seek to live lives of virtue, then we can and will make Jesus known in our world. If we avoid confession of our sins, we will lead others away, because they will not see Jesus in us and in our lives.

All of us are called to become holy, to grow more and more into the likeness of Jesus. 

We are not recognized by the world because we do not look like Jesus, and Jesus is not recognized because he doesn’t look like us when we are marred by sin. The world will recognize Jesus if we look and live like him, if we become more and more like him, and bear his image. That can only happen if we are free from sin and become children of God, made in his image and in his likeness.

We are that closely united to Jesus. Jesus is that closely united to us. 

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God

December 31, 2022/January 1, 2023

Humble and bold. Two words we typically do not associate in our minds. Humble and bold…. we find them both in the person of Mary, the Mother of God.

The humble Virgin Mary, docile to God’s will, to God’s Word, yet the most bold of all the witnesses to the Word made flesh, to her Son and Lord, Jesus! Mary, the Mother of God, Theotokos.

No, it was not Peter. No, it was not James or John or Paul who was the boldest yet most humble of all the witnesses of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. No, it was Mary, theotokos, for it was from her heart that came these words: My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord! My spirit rejoices in God my Savior for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant. The Almighty has done great things for me and holy is his name.

It was Mary who bore the most humble yet bold witness to her Son. It was Mary who bore the Word of God in her heart and then conceived that Word in her womb. To quote Pope Francis, “The flesh of Christ was knit together in the womb of Mary… The Blessed Virgin is the woman of faith who made room for God in her heart and in her plans.” (Francis, 1-1-15)

Only because of her faith in that Word that had come to her, a Word she nurtured and pondered in her immaculate heart, was she then able to conceive that Word by the power of the Holy Spirit, and bear the Son of God, her creator and savior, Jesus. Yes, she is “God-bearer”, Theotokos in Greek, as the Church Fathers proclaimed in the Council of Ephesus in 431.

We, God’s people, cannot understand Jesus without his Mother. Mary is so closely united to Jesus because she kept close to her heart the Word made flesh. She spent her life contemplating and pondering the World of God that was and is her son, Jesus. Mary in contemplating her son, Jesus, becomes a model for the Church who also reflects on the Incarnation, on the mystery of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Our Holy Father, Pope Francis said, “… inseparable are Christ and the Church; the salvation accomplished by Jesus cannot be understood without appreciating the motherhood of the Church…Mary [is] the first and most perfect disciple of Jesus, the model of the pilgrim Church, is the one who opens the way to the Church’s motherhood… She, the Mother of God, is also the mother of the Church, and through the Church, the mother of all men and women…” (Ibid)

Yes, Mary kept close to her heart the Word made flesh. She said, “Yes!” She said “Fiat!” St. Augustine would write that Mary was more blessed for hearing God’s word and keeping custody of it in her heart than because of the flesh she gave to her divine Son. Since this was true, Mary was able to follow her Son every step of the way. She was able to stand by her Son as he died on the cross, stand by him without staining her immaculate heart. She knew it was by virtue of her faith in the Word of God that she had been able to conceive that Word in her womb, and it was by faith in that Word that she was able to give bold witness to her Son when he gave up his life on the Cross.

Mary, who surpasses all of us in her sanctity and her fidelity, Mary, the Mother of God, remaims like us, a member of the Church, and a member of the Body of Christ, her Son, and a witness to her Son’s life, death, and resurrection.

You too are members of the Body of Christ, the Church. You also carry God’s Word in your hearts and you are to be witnesses to that Word, to Jesus Christ. Just as St. Augustine spoke of Mary, St. Ambrose spoke of us when he wrote: Blessed are you who have heard and believed; every soul that believes conceives and begets the Word of God. May Mary’s soul be in each of us to glorify the Lord. May the spirit of Mary be within each of us to exalt in God. (Commentary on Luke, CCL 14, 39-42)

You will be more blessed and find greater dignity in the Word you nourish in your hearts and profess with your lips than in any office you may bear. You are first, and most importantly, members of the Body of Christ. Never separate yourselves from this Body, from the Church! Never!

You cannot become witnesses to Jesus unless you have first welcomed the Word in your hearts, treasured it, nurtured it, pondered it, obeyed it, followed it, and trusted it. Mary would not have become the Mother of God, Theotokos, had she not first accepted and kept the Word of God in her immaculate heart. You cannot become witnesses to Jesus if you do not first hold in the purity of your hearts the Word entrusted to you. Mary could not have endured the passion and death of her Son had she not first cradled in her heart the Word that had come to her. You will not be able to endure the trials and difficulties of life without first knowing, nurturing, and loving the Word entrusted to you.

Yes, our lives, both individually and together as the Church, are to be modeled after Mary. Ours is a vocation of humble service to God and humanity. We are to give humble yet bold witness to Jesus Christ.

May our lives magnify the Lord, as did Mary’s!

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Homily for Tuesday, 2nd Week of Advent

Tuesday, 2nd Week of Advent

December 6, 2022

Isaiah 40:1-11; Matthew 18:12-14

Comfort…Tenderly proclaim…Fear not…Leading with care.  These are amazingly beautiful words today from the prophet Isaiah, words of God spoken thousands of years ago to his chosen people. What was spoken to the many back then is now spoken to each of us today.

Will we spend some time taking all this in? What comfort will God offer you this Advent? What is he saying, tenderly, to you in your heart? Are we quiet enough to hear him? What fears does he want to remove from our lives?

Where is he leading you? Will you follow?

I am reminded of my favorite pope, John Paul I, and his assertion that God is not so much surprised by our faith because he has left so many signs of his presence that it is foolish not to believe; that God is not so surprised by our love, for he has given us hearts of flesh, not stone, so we are naturally made to love; but God is amazed by our hope! Yes, we are a people of hope, especially in Advent!

We hope to experience God’s promised peace even though we are surrounded by turmoil. We hope in those subtle, almost silent, ways that God is tenderly speaking to us. We hope that he will welcome that one lost sheep — you and me — when it returns. Most of all, we hope for the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, into the world this year in powerful ways.

It is because of this hope in the promised Messiah — Jesus — that we carry on, and see in every circumstance of our lives the unfolding of God’s will. God does will every moment of our lives. Nothing escapes him. He makes all things new. He redeems every moment. He is always present.

There is the reason for our hope! God has been with us, is now with us, and will always be with us. Our hope is in God and in his Son, Jesus Christ.

O God, who speaks words of comfort, tenderness, peace, and presence, send us your Son. Speak now your words of comfort. Proclaim tenderly to our wounded souls your words of truth. Give us the peace we so much desire. Lead us carefully and welcome us now as we wait in hope. Amen!

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for 2nd Sunday of Advent, 2022

2nd Sunday of Advent, Cycle A

December 3/4, 2022

Isaiah 11:1-10; Romans 15:4-9; Matthew 3:1-12 

The Church challenges us to take four weeks and reflect on the two basic Advent questions: For what kind of Messiah are you looking and how will you know him when he comes?

Two thousand years ago, the Jewish people didn’t agree on who the Messiah would be, and they didn’t recognize him when he came. They knew very well what the Scriptures said about him. They knew what the prophet Isaiah said. Our first reading today is such a beautiful description of what God sees for all of us and for all creation, and what the Messiah would accomplish. We would be in harmony with each other. There would be no hatred, no war, no prejudices, no harm or ruin.

The Jewish people knew this Scripture well, but their expectations were their own and not God’s. There had been other messiahs. All of their kings had been considered messiahs who rescued them from political oppression. But now their kings were all dead and they were a defeated nation. They had no more messiahs. They were expecting a new great messiah, but they had been so badly hurt by the world around them that they expected the Messiah to be a king like David who would rescue them from the Romans and restore the Kingdom of Israel. They thought the Messiah would free them from foreign rulers, someone who would give them back their rights.  Being a conquered nation had blinded them, and this deep wound kept them from recognizing the Messiah God was sending.

We can learn from them. How are we blind? How have we been hurt? Our expectations are colored by our past, and if we are hurting, it can blind us to God’s presence.

Often we hear that the past is the past, and it can never be altered, so just accept it. No point in crying over spilt milk. Pick yourself up and move on. There is truth in that of course. What happened, happened. You shouldn’t deny it.  Whereas it is true we can’t change past events, we can change the past in an important way. We can stop seeing the bad stuff of life from our own perspective and start seeing it from the perspective of God. Our own interpretation on the past and our expectations for the future are often very different from how God sees it!  We can change our past by seeing it from God’s perspective.

We can look back with faith and see how God was present in every moment of our lives, even in the bad times. With faith, we can see how much God has loved us. Faith is light that illuminates the presence of God in the darkest moments of our lives. Faith is a light that heals. Faith is a light that lets us see the Messiah when he comes.

I pray we throw away our misperceptions and distorted ways we see the past, and see it as God sees it. This is one way of preparing for the Messiah. Change our perspective! This can happen through prayer, and the sacraments, especially the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Holy Eucharist.

Isaiah saw as God sees, i.e., a world healed of all divisions, where natural enemies are at peace, where justice and truth prevail. We can expect this if we are healed of our wounds and see through God’s eyes.

Jesus is our Messiah, and he comes to heal the sick, rescue the lost, strengthen the weak, render justice to the oppressed, give sight to the blind and open the ears of the deaf. In other words, he comes to heal you and me!

Where are you blind? Where are you weak? Where are you deaf? Where are you unjust with others? Pray about that. Ask God to make known where you need healing. Then, after he tells you give it back to him. Receive the Sacrament of Penance, tell God about it, and be healed.

You see, God wants to heal you. He wants to remove all the obstacles that stand in the way of you being in a good relationship with him. One of the most common obstacles in our way is the lie that God will love me only if I am fixed and made perfect. No! God loves you now! God doesn’t want to “fix” you, BUT he wants to heal you and come into your life. He wants you to know him, see him, and accept him. He will take away every obstacle that keeps you from accepting him. 

Open wide your hearts to Christ! Be healed this Advent! Confess your sins and open your eyes. He is coming very soon. Don’t wait! Don’t fall asleep! God wants to heal you now! The Church and our parish are giving you many opportunities to do so!

Maranatha! Come, O Jesus, come.

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

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C

November 5/6, 2022

2 Maccabees 7:1-2, 9-14; 2 Thes 2:16-3:5; Luke 20:27-38

The first reading today is a rather harrowing account of a mother witnessing the torture and death of her seven sons, all of whom refused to deny their faith. The Greeks had taken over Jerusalem and the countryside, and were trying to violently force the Jews to sacrifice to idols. Many refused, and many died.

This is reminiscent of the violence against Jesus on Calvary and the witness of his mother, Mary, to his death. It brings to mind the many early Christians who experienced horrible violence against them because of their faith. It reminds me of the many men and women even today who experience intense violence against them because they are Christian. It reminds me of how so many seem to think violence is the way to get one’s way.

I only have to look at a news source, any day of the week, and I will find descriptions of violence in our world. War, terrorism, bombings, murders, child abuse, domestic violence, and more.

I am sick of it. It angers me that we as individuals and as a society have apparently learned that we can get our way through violence. It pains me to see children, both born and unborn, dying by violence. It scares me to know that elderly and infirm people face the threat of death through euthanasia. (Yes, euthanasia is an act of violence, not love.) It frustrates me that so many men act violently against their wives and children, that politics has become violent, that horrible verbal attacks are launched against one another in the Church.

I know there are families in every parish that are experiencing domestic violence. I know that in every community there are violent crimes being committed. I know too well that war is raging between nations. I spent 35 years in the clinic listening to the violent hearts of men and women.

In the name of God, I say, “Enough!”

Violence is the work of the devil. It is Satan’s work. It is evil. It is sinful. Our eternal destiny is at risk if we do not stop, if we do not reject all forms of violence.

When we were baptized, either we or our parents in our name, rejected Satan, and all his works, and all his empty promises. We didn’t promise to “resist” him, we promised to reject him. Violence is evil. We must reject it. We must not compromise with evil.

In the name of Jesus, reject all forms of violence.

We are divided, and we are wounded. Not only are we divided and wounded, but we are dividing and wounding others. All of us are affected. All of us must admit this.

Too many of us resort to violence when we have been wounded by others. Too many of us are using violent methods to get what we want or need. Too many of us — yes we individuals and we as whole communities and nations — buy into Satan’s lie that solutions lay in power, control, and domination of others.

All of us are affected by our violent world. Maybe for us it is some form of abuse or neglect. Maybe all this violence in the news is doing harm to us, just reading about it. Maybe someone at work is mistreating you. What will you do? Will you act out with a desire to do harm or will you beg God for the grace of healing? Can and will you forgive?

We must be healed!

To preach this takes courage. To hear it requires humility. To act on it requires faith…. Great faith.

Have you ever wondered how our Blessed Mother could stand at the foot of the Cross and witness the death of her son without resorting to some act of violence toward his executioners? I am pretty certain that if I were to witness someone trying to kill one of my children, I would take that person out before they could kill my child. I would resort to violence. But Mary didn’t. How could she do that? Mary was able to see God’s plan unfolding before her, even in the death of Jesus. She had tremendous faith in God. She knew that God could and would make something indescribably beautiful and true happen even out of the death of Jesus. The mother in the first reading today had similar faith.

Do we have faith like that when someone hurts us? Do we see that even in the wounds of our lives an unfolding of God’s plan for the world? When bad things happen to us, do we see it as the beginning of something much better than what was, or do we see it as the end of the story? In other words, do we really believe that the Resurrection comes after the Cross?

So I repeat, in the name of Jesus, no more violence. Stop it! Enough! Violence is evil. It is a sin. Our eternal destiny is at stake. Love one another. Forgive you enemies. Forgive them, and seek healing for your wounds. If you must, move away from anything or anyone who is violent. You don’t have to live with it.  Reject Satan and all his works, and all his empty promises.

For God’s sake, do so.

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Homily to Retreatants

Wednesday, 30th Week in Ordinary Time

October 26, 2022

To Deacons and Wives on Retreat

Ephesians 6:1-9; Luke 13:22-30

“Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.” Luke 13:23

Brothers and sisters, the narrow gate opens to the Cross and the tomb. Many a deacon has striven to enter, only to find he is not strong enough, weakened by his wounds.

Look beyond the Cross, beyond the ugliness of Golgotha, beyond the darkness of the tomb. Look to the glory and light that follows. Yes, God allows the Cross and the tomb for us all, but he wills for us the resurrection. God allows our wounds and weakness, but he redeems them and heals us.

The Cross is the narrow gate, through which we must pass. It opens to the darkness of the tomb with its purification. From it we pass to newness of life. The Cross is the gate, the tomb is the wait, and the resurrection is the healing. Pope Francis said, “The Cross is the door to the resurrection.” At Compline every Thursday we pray, “Grant, O Lord, that we may be united in faith to the death and burial of your Son to rise with him to new life.”

Whoever accompanies Jesus through it all, as we have attempted to do during this retreat, will triumph with him.

Brothers, go to the Cross! Stand there listen. Suffer the coming of the Word of the Father into your lives. Suffer the Gospel of which you are heralds. This is the narrow gate. Let Jesus, the Word of the Father, possess you brothers! Accompany him into the darkness of the tomb, and find him and healing Easter morning.

We must listen, which means we must accompany Jesus. We must accompany and listen even unto death. Healing requires pressing our wounds into the wounds of Jesus, and this is a great martyrdom for us all! Pressing our wounds into his wounds brings us healing. Pressing our wounds into his wounds enables us to accompany the people to whom we are sent to serve. By pressing our wounds into the wounds of Jesus we see the unique way God has planned to reveal his Son through us.

Brothers and sisters, what is your Cross? What are your wounds? Beg for the grace of healing. Herald the Gospel in that way.

Maybe it is some form of abuse or neglect. Maybe it is a serious health concern. Maybe it is an addiction to food, alcohol, chemicals, or pornography. Maybe it is having witnessed the abuse of others. Maybe it is combat trauma, or vicarious trauma in your secular profession. Whatever it is, name it, be specific, surrender it, beg for the grace of healing, and then do whatever he tells you to do.

Now is the time to embrace the Cross. Now is the time to heal. Now is the time to do the small necessary things that bring about change. Now is the time to never lose hope in the healing God wills for you. Now is the time. Do not wait.

All of us want to change external things but not many of us want to go through the process of internal change and healing. Letting go of unhealthy self-preservation strategies, and accompanying Jesus can be difficult. Letting go of well-known attitudes, behaviors, sins, or lifestyles we have developed, i.e., our self-preservation strategies, can be difficult. We need to continually do small things over and over again that bring about change. We must never lose hope and never tire of  begging God for healing.

Jesus knew that healing would be difficult for us. Jesus knew the Cross and the tomb would be difficult places for us to go. He knew the gate is narrow. He gives us his Spirit to strengthen and encourage us.

We will not be healed, cleansed, and renewed until we pass through the Cross and into the tomb. We will not be healed until we have stood at the foot of the Cross and remained with the Lord in the tomb. From those places we rise to new life.

Accompany me all the way to Calvary, all the way to the tomb, all the way to the resurrection, and all the way to heaven, Jesus says.

During this retreat, we have attempted to accompany our Lord. We have attempted to remain faithful at the foot of the Cross, in the darkness of the tomb, and with Mary Magdalene on Resurrection Day.

I leave you with this admonition from St. John Paul II who said, “Non avete paura! Spalancate le porte a Cristo!” which translated means, “Do not be afraid! Open wide your hearts to Christ!”

Yes, my brothers and sisters, do not be afraid! Open your hearts and souls to Jesus Christ our Lord.

Posted in Deacons, homilies, Spirituality | Comments Off on Homily to Retreatants