Sunday, October 7, 2018

It is not good for us to be alone. We are better together.

Twenty Seventh Sunday in OT  B  2018

On this first weekend of the month of October, we are celebrating respect life weekend.  We are celebrating the dignity of every person God has created.  We are all made in the image and likeness of God.  From the first moment of conception till the day we are placed in the grave, each person’s life is to be respected and is very much deserving of our love.

In the first scripture reading from the Book of Genesis, the Lord God said: “It is not good for the man to be alone.”  God has created us for relationship.  The need for companionship is basic and God-given in each of us.  We become our best selves in loving and sharing and giving with each another.  We are made for each other.  God created us to share life and life in all its abundance.

Simply put, no person was made to be an island, in isolation from community.  Through God’s eyes, humanity is complete in partnership and in love.  We are better together.

This past Wednesday, I had the privilege of celebrating Mass with the children and their families in our Wednesday Evening Faith Formation at St. Joseph’s.  I asked our precious children why they thought God said:  “It is not good for man to be alone.”  They responded so beautifully and honestly:  One said: “We need friends”….another “I love my mom and dad and brothers and sisters”….Another said:  “It would be so boring.”  Another said:  “Jesus wants us to love one another.” 

Even at a young age, maybe especially at their age, children know they are safe and very much loved in their family.  They know they are their best selves when they are kind, when they have friends, and when they love others.

The need for partnership and companionship and love is best expressed most beautifully in the marriage vows:  “I, John, take you, Mary, to be my wife.  I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health.  I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.”

Marriage is part of God’s loving plan of salvation.

In the Gospel, the Pharisees asked Jesus:  “Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?”   The Gospel brings us the D – word – Divorce.  Divorce is more common in our community and in our country than we would like.    Today’s Gospel begins with the painful description of what happens when love is wounded beyond healing; when bonds are fragmented beyond repair.  We live in a time when divorce is common and acceptable in most countries and cultures.

Jesus, the great teacher, goes back to God’s original plan of creation.  God has created us to be in relationship.  When the examiners of Jesus brought up the question of divorce, Jesus turned it into a discussion of the dignity of each person and the fact that human beings are made for loving one another as truly as we are made to love God.

In his interchange with the Pharisees, Jesus went far beyond the question of divorce to teach about the meaning of human relationship in general.   Jesus went beyond the legality of the law.  He called people to discern God’s will as that which promotes life-giving relationships in each and every situation.

Marriage is a school of love and forgiveness.  When two people get married they bring with them to their marriage normal human weaknesses and discover weakness in the other which previously they did not know.    In the sacrament of marriage, it is not just two people coming together in love; the sacrament of marriage unites the couple with Jesus and brings them God’s blessing.

The faithfulness of God to this couple is lived out in the sacrament of marriage.  God is always faithful to us his people.  God is always faithful to the Church.

How are parishioners of the Holy Spirit who are divorced hearing this Gospel message today?  Are they welcome in our parish community?  Do they experience God’s merciful and forgiving love in their lives?  Yes, God’s plan for marriage is to be characterized by permanence and fidelity and openness to life?  The original plan for marriage is clearly found in the marriage rite:  “What God has joined together, let no one separate.”

In the second Scripture reading, the sacred writer says that Jesus was made perfect through suffering.  For us too, our relationship with Jesus is deepened through the sufferings we experience.  The cross, suffering in our life is part of our sharing in the paschal mystery of the Lord.  We are to die to ourselves so that we may live more fully in the life of Christ.  Regrettably, when a married relationship is moving farther and farther apart even leading to divorce, the suffering experienced can lead a person to experience the merciful love and forgiveness of Jesus in a new way.

As we celebrate respect life this weekend, may we respect the life and the dignity of all those who have experienced the pain and suffering of divorce.  The beauty of our respect life theme is that people most in need – for those who are divorced and those who have experienced brokenness in relationship – are people whom the Lord welcomes and forgives and desires them to be reconciled to the God who desires reconciliation with one and all.

The respect life theme is also demonstrated in the second part of today’s Gospel.  Jesus said:  “let the little children come to me: do not try to stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.”

 Sometimes at our church services little children distract us: they make noise and make comments.  But they are teaching us a precious lesson that if we do not feel at home with them we can never enter into the  presence of God.

Jesus welcomes the little children to come to me.  We the Church of the Holy Spirit seek to welcome little children.  In fact, if we are not comfortable with children in our Church, to that degree we are depriving ourselves of experiencing the kingdom of God in our midst.

Have a Blessed Day.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

We follow a God who can work through anyone, any place, any time.

Twenty sixth Sunday in OT  B 2018

The Scriptures today remind us that God dwells within all people, from our earliest ancestors in faith, to all of us in this present day and age.  Moses came to the realization that God was deeply immersed in all of the chosen people, not just a few.   In the first reading from the book of Numbers, the biblical writer features the people encamped with Moses, and God bestowing upon them a share of the divine prophetic spirit that has been given to Moses.

God dwells in each of us.

In the Gospel, the disciples try to stop someone who was driving out demons just like them. They had to learn that their way was, in fact, a much narrower way than the Lord’s way, and that their narrow perspective was an obstacle to the Lord’s work getting done. Those they judged to be ‘not one of us’, Jesus regarded as ‘for us.’

One of the most difficult things for people of faith to acknowledge is that we can’t put limits on God.  It’s impossible to set boundaries in which God can work.

In contrast to his disciples, Jesus was able to recognize and encourage goodness wherever he found it. He knew that the Spirit blows where it wills. He was alert to the presence of the Spirit in anyone.

We follow a God who can work through anyone, any place, any time.

The main point is that we all have a role to play in recognizing and supporting the working of the Spirit in each other. Towards the end of his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul says, “Do not quench the Spirit.” (Thess 5:19) How do we quench the Holy Spirit in others?  There are several examples. We can become a stumbling block, an obstacle, to God’s working in their lives. We can quench the Spirit in others and hinder the good work that God is doing through them for a whole variety of very human reasons. We can be motivated by jealousy, as Moses suggests Joshua was in today’s first reading.
Like the disciples, we can refuse to acknowledge God’s good work in the lives of others because they are not ‘one of us’, because they belong to a different church or religion or ethnic group. We can also be dismissive of the good someone else is doing simply because it is not the way we would have done it, forgetting that the Holy Spirit works in many diverse ways in people’s lives.

So what message do we take home this Sunday?  The mark of a true disciple and steward of Jesus Christ is an attitude of encouragement, accompaniment, compassion and acceptance of the gifts of others.

This message is most appropriate for our generous support of the Catholic Ministries Appeal.  We are called to share our financial resources beyond the confines of our parish  to support people in need throughout our diocese.  The Spirit of God dwells in everyone, and they are much deserving of our support.  The CMA stands for what is good and worthwhile in our diocese reaching out to the poor beyond the confines of our parish boundaries.

From the perspective of the Gospel demand, we cannot not reach out beyond our comfort zone to serve the needs of our larger diocese.

In the second Scripture reading, James warns against being obsessed with earthly things that rust and corrosion will claim one day. The Letter of James provides a deeper understanding of how the prophetic spirit works.  James addresses the wealthy of the community.  All that they have gained through injustice will come to naught.  The wealth around which they have centered their lives will become worthless, and their lives will follow suit.  Justice will be served for those who have been treated unjustly.  Thus, acting in accord with the Spirit, James delivers a stinging message to the rich of his community whose wealth is ill-gotten.   James reminds his readers that our God numbers the most unlikely people among his “righteous.”

For those of us who have worked hard and fairly for the resources we have, there is no free pass from the Gospel challenge.  Plain and simple, we are to share the blessings that are ours.  What we have is meant to be shared with those in need.  This is the purpose of the Catholic Ministries Appeal.

Our goal is $ 230, 596.  This is one of the highest goals in the diocese, although not the highest.  The goal is high, but the goal is not unreasonable.  The goal is high because God has blessed us in our parish with many, many blessings.  These are to be shared.  The Gospel leaves us no wiggle room.  We are to share our blessings with those in need.  I assure you I will personally be generous in contributing to the CMA and ask you to do the same.
My guarantee to you is that you will never regret your generosity to others.

My prayerful question for us is what do we consider our true treasures to be?  Our true wealth is to be found in our love and service of one another.  Love and hospitality live on in the giver and the receiver and do not fade away like temporary earthly treasures.

This Sunday’s readings invite us to ponder the ways of our God whose prophetic Spirit has been poured out freely upon all people, all creation.  Rather than quenching the Spirit in others and hindering the good work that God is doing through them, we are urged to recognize, encourage, affirm and share our blessings with others.

Have a Blessed Day.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Jesus' chief criterion for greatness is the willingness to be of service to others.

Twenty Fifth Sunday in OT  B  2018 

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is inviting us to reflect on the meaning of our discipleship as we come to understand the true identity of Jesus.

Jesus forecasts once again his suffering, death, and resurrection.  The disciples’ response is disheartening.  They understand nothing and they are afraid to ask any questions.

The disciples had been arguing about who was the greatness among them.   The conversations the disciples had about who among is the greatest is familiar human behavior, is it not. Jesus rebukes his disciples for thinking that they might achieve greatness without following his example of suffering and service.\

Jesus’s chief criterion for greatness is the willingness to be of service to others.

Jesus’ disciples loved him but they did not understand him.  His way of thinking was just too different.  So, when words didn’t suffice, he picked up child to show his argumentative disciples what it looks like to be in first place in the reign of God.
Their mission was to share the love they had been given so freely.  They were called to the humble, humbling service of embracing the little people just as Jesus did.

When Jesus picked up the child, he was performing a living parable, teaching that loving someone is the greatest service you can do them; everything else flows from that and nothing else is very valuable without it.  Jesus presents them with a new flowchart for organizing the kingdom of God.  And children are on the top of the list.
The CMA video that began the liturgy, along with the mailing asking your generous support of our diocesan ministries, invites us to express our willingness to financially be of service to others.  From today’s Gospel, in the mind of Jesus, the true criterion of greatness is our willingness to be of service to others.  The Catholic Ministries Appeal supports the servant ministries of our diocese.

I would comment clearly that I recognize full well that the dark clouds of sex abuse might lead you to question your commitment to support the CMA.  I get it.  Printed and in capital letters is the diocesan commitment that not a dime of the CMA will be used for legal claims or in any way related to the issue of sex abuse.

The reason to support the CMA is that the CMA monies are used to support that is good in the mission and the ministries of the diocese.  I personally am going to increase my tithing to the CMA and invite you to do the same, if you are able.  For us to be faithful to our Gospel commitment to be of service to others, there is no such thing as a free pass.  In season and out of season, we are called to share of the giftedness that is ours.

Additionally,  this is also our parish stewardship commitment weekend.  In the second collection today, we are asking you to place your commitment card.  To be clear, the parish stewardship commitment is of our time and our talents.  We are not asking for a parish stewardship of treasure in our parish commitment.  We are focused on the stewardship of time and talent.

The heart of a spirituality of stewardship is living with an attitude of gratitude and sharing with others the blessings that we have been given. This is living out our discipleship of the Lord Jesus.

In gratitude, we commit ourselves to a stewardship of time.  What does that mean?  In one word, prayer.  Each and every day that God gives to us, we seek to spend time in a prayer of gratitude.  This can be in the silence of early morning prayer; it can be reflectively praying with the Scriptures; it can be praying the rosary;  Eucharistic Adoration; and, most of all, in the celebration of the Eucharist in which we give thanks to the Lord our God.  I want you to make a 1% commitment each day – to spend 15 minutes in prayer each day.  There is busyness to my life and your life, but personally I cannot imagine a day going by without being faithful to this 1% commitment.

 In the Stewardship of talent, we share our giftedness with one another.  Suffering and service is the meaning of discipleship of the Lord Jesus.  In all honesty, some of our ministries are under staffed by the community of the baptized.  The purpose of today’s Stewardship Commitment Sunday is to deal with this reality.  We are asking you to make the commitment to be stewards in the building of the Church of the Holy Spirit.  This is our time to walk our talk and continue to build up the vibrancy of our parish life.  When all of us fill out the commitment card, then what is asked of each of us is to do little things with great love in our hearts.   In the wheel house of each of us, there is a humble talent that each one of us can share in the service of one another.

As I said, this means we would like you to fill out a stewardship commitment card and place it in the second collection today.  If you forgot to bring your commitment card with you today, not to worry.  There are extra commitment cards in the pews, we would like to give you a couple of minutes now to prayerfully make this stewardship commitment in the service of one another.

Have a blessed day.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Jesus asks us the same question He asked the first disciples: 'who do you say that I am?'

Twenty Fourth Sunday in OT  B  2018

When Jesus asked his disciples “Who do you say that I am?”  Peter responded:  “You are the Christ.”  Peter was right, but not right enough.  Peter has the right answer, but not the right meaning.  Peter had hoped that the long-awaited Messiah was to be regal, powerful, and a strong leader.   Peter did not understand the words of Jesus that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected and be killed and rise after three days.

Unaware, as yet, of the true nature of Jesus’ identity, Peter tried to set aside the unthinkable notion of a suffering Christ.  Jesus was explaining to his disciples his upcoming suffering, passion, death and resurrection.   For Jesus this is what the meaning of Messiah is, and this is the straight truth.

There is a crossroads in the journey of faith for many of us in our discipleship of the Lord Jesus.  We encounter that crossroads when we personally have to deal with suffering and struggle.  Sometimes that suffering is of our own doing -- dealing with the weaknesses and the demons within each of us – or sometimes the suffering comes from having to deal with realities we cannot control or manage -- as in illnesses or death of someone close to us.

In the face of dealing with life’s struggles, what happens to the piety and the prayerfulness of days gone by?  In speaking to the first disciples, Jesus is saying you indeed will experience rejection, the cross, and ultimately death.  This is the meaning of discipleship.  What is our understanding of our discipleship of the Lord Jesus?

The Scriptures today are inviting to reflect on the meaning of our discipleship of the Lord Jesus.  The Scriptures, in a sense, want us to restart our baptismal commitment, how we are to live as the disciples of Jesus?

Jesus asks us the same question he asked the first disciples:  Who do you say that I am?   Like Peter, it’s easy to give the right answer.  When we shortly profess the creed, we are giving the right answer for our discipleship of Jesus.  But as for Peter and so for us, it’s not enough to give the right answer in the words we speak.  How we live our lives validate the words we say in professing the creed.

A necessary component of discipleship is stewardship, a spirituality of stewardship, the receiving and the sharing of the many gifts that God has given to each one of us.  If we knew and claimed the gift of God that is freely and abundantly given to each of us, we would experience a new Pentecost in 2018 at the Church of the Holy Spirit.

What we do and how we live our lives speaks to our commitment to make a stewardship a way of life for us.   In stewardship, we start with the basic truth that all is a gift of God  -- our life, our family, the people we love, the beauty of creation, the opportunities we have in life.  All is a gift of God.  Our stewardship response to the abundance of God’s gifts to us is gratitude and a desire to share what we have been given.  The heart of a spirituality of stewardship is living with an attitude of gratitude and sharing with others the blessings that we have been given. This is living our discipleship of the Lord Jesus.

In gratitude, we commit ourselves to a stewardship of time.  What does that mean?  In one word, prayer.  Each and every day that God gives to us, we seek to spend time in a prayer of gratitude.  This can be in the silence of early morning prayer; it can be reflectively prayerfully on the Scriptures; it can be praying the rosary;  Eucharistic Adoration; and, most of all, in the celebration of the Eucharist in which we give thanks to the Lord our God.

In the Stewardship of talent, we share our giftedness with one another.  In all honesty, some of our ministries are under staffed by the community of the baptized.  More of us need to be stewards in the building of the Church of the Holy Spirit.  This means we would like you to fill out a stewardship commitment card and place it in the second collection next weekend.

Example:   I know that many of your homes are beautifully decorated.  You have a taste for art and environment.  We invite you to use those same talents to enhance the art and environment of our Church both outside and inside. 

Another example: Our parish choir and are our parish cantors are composed of some beautiful and talented parishioners.  But there is plenty of room for new blood in our cantors and choir members for the 11:00 liturgy and for the other liturgies as well.  What if we had a youthful cantor front and center for all to see to invite us to enter into song in the first note of the entrance hymn.   Would if the cantor was even able to bring the ushers in the back of the Church to break into song.  Gabe, as we know, is a wonderful music director, but the music ministry of the parish needs to be embraced by more of us who are the community of the baptized.

Equally, there are examples in faith formation, social outreach, youth ministry and so on that are not just to be staff driven; they are to be parish driven. The meaning of discipleship of the Lord Jesus; the meaning of stewardship is that all of us are to get involved in some way.  May we make the commitment next Sunday to be more than pew-sitters.  We are disciples of Jesus who have been given the mission of stewardship – living life with an attitude of gratitude and committing ourselves to share our God-given talents.

Have a Blessed day

Sunday, September 2, 2018

While all of us struggle with a bit of hypocrisy, there is nothing hypocritical about God's love for us.

Twenty Second in OT  B  2018

In the Gospel Jesus says: “Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written:  This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”   They worshipped ritually in solemn ways, but this did not translate into deeds filled with love. Isaiah accuses the people of being more concerned with ritual defilement than with ethical defilement. 

Yes, we train our altar servers in all the details of the liturgy.  This is most appropriate.  But in the big picture of the spiritual life, we need to form our altar servers to see the essential connection between participating in the Mass and the team work and sportsmanship and old-fashioned kindness on the ball field.

And so, yes, we can spiritually get lost even when we are obeying the law and seemingly being very religious if our hearts are not filled with the merciful love of Jesus, and we not have the desire to share the merciful love of Jesus with one and all.  Our discipleship of Jesus is not about legalism; it is about loving God and neighbor.

In all truth, all of us probably need to acknowledge a bit of hypocrisy when our egos get in the way of reaching out to people in need and reaching out to people whom we find unlovable for whatever reason.  There is sin in the world and sin in our own hearts.  We always need to recognize our own sinfulness and come before our healing, forgiving God.

The North Star of our spiritual lives is rooted in our faith conviction that there is nothing hypocritical about God’s love for us.  It is unconditional and unending.  I invite you to hold on to the truth:  There is nothing we can do to stop God from loving us.  God is love.\

In the first Scripture reading, Moses said to the people: “Now Israel hear the statues and decrees which I am teaching you to observe; observe them carefully for you to be a wise and intelligent people.”

 The laws of God’s people serve like an invisible fence -- the fence you put in your yard to keep your dog from wandering into the street or menacing the jogger out for a bit of exercise or wherever your dog would like to wander to.  This fence serves an excellent purpose so that the dog can play in the yard without getting hurt.  So too, the Ten Commandments are our invisible fence that helps us to live in right relationship with one another and with our God.  They make all the sense in the world. 

But strict observance of the law doesn’t determine whether God is going to love us or not.  As I said, no matter what, God cannot stop loving us.  But the commandments are meant to hold us accountable as to how we respond to God’s great love for us.

In the Gospel, we see the anger of Jesus in confronting the hypocrisy of the Pharisees.  Jesus says: “This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”  Few situations moved Jesus to anger like the hypocrisy of people who distorted the Law’s intent.

Please note that Jesus is not venting against the Pharisees because of their fidelity to religious observance and the ritual tradition.  This is a good thing.  Jesus labels them hypocrites because the words they spoke from their lips did not come from hearts filled with compassion.  They worshipped ritually in solemn ways, but this did not translate into deeds filled with love.  

This Gospel is not just meant for the Pharisees, but its message is for each and every one of us.  Do we walk our talk in our prayer life and in our celebration of the sacraments?    Sometimes we too need spiritual open-heart surgery to see if we are touched by the love of Jesus in the faith that we live.  Our prayer needs to touch our heart and thus motivate us to share the love of Jesus with others.

Yes, may all of us pray for spiritual open-heart surgery.  We seek to have our hearts filled with the merciful love of Jesus.  We seek to have humble, loving hearts.

 Jesus is so clear in His teachings.  He tells that He did not come to destroy the Law and the Prophets, but to fulfill them.  Jesus has no problem with the person who ritually washes his hands and still serves the poor and the needy.  The problem is with us who make sure to wash our hands but never pay attention to the poor and the needy.  Jesus responded to the purity police by citing the prophet Isaiah.  Our prayer and liturgy must lead to witnessing to the love of Jesus in our lives.  In the dismissal rite of the Mass, I will say: “Go in peace glorifying the Lord by our lives.”  This is not a simple throw-away statement to head to the parking lot.  This is our call to live the meaning of the Eucharist 24 hours a day.  In Eucharist we receive the love of Jesus; in Eucharist we are missioned to live and witness to the love of Jesus in the actions of our lives.

Pope Francis’ favorite image for the Church is to see the Church as a “field hospital,” for all of us are sinners.  Using this image can help us to avoid self-righteous attitudes that see the Church and the sacraments as rewards for good behavior. 

In today’s Scripture, Jesus gave us a new tradition that begins and ends with love.  He asks us to let love transform our hearts and our souls so that we transform the world.

We just celebrated the funerals of two great Americans – Aretha Franklin and Senator John McCain.  The eulogies they received were very, very moving.  In our parish, we just celebrated the funeral of a faith-filled parishioner, Kathy Taddeo.  May we be inspired by those who have gone before us to the Lord.  May we also inspire each other to fill this world and to live a way of life that witnesses to the reality that we are the recipients of the merciful love of Jesus each and every day.

Have a Blessed Day

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Given the many clouds on our spiritual landscape, can we make a life-defining commitment to discipleship of the Lord Jesus.

Twenty First Sunday in OT  B 2018

This past Friday, I was at St. Paul’s Church in Brooklyn officiating at the wedding of my 2nd cousin Connor Oberst and Flor de Jesus.  In the words of the marriage vows, Connor and Flor committed themselves to love and honor each other in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health all the days of their lives.  The 39 words of the marriage vows are a life-defining commitment.

What are the significant commitments of your life -- to your family, to your spouse, to your children, to your parents?  What are the commitments of your life?

As a priest for 50 years, I renew my life-defining commitment every year.  More rightly speaking., I renew my commitment each day to serve God’s people as an ordained priest of the church.

Today's Scripture readings call us to make our commitment.

In the first Scripture reading today, Joshua gathered his people and called them to make a solemn commitment.  They were to proclaim publicly whether they would worship the Lord who freed and fed them and brought them to the Promised Land.  They swore enthusiastically that they would always serve the Lord their God.  Now it is true that their track record of obedience to the Lord their God is a little checkered as in ours in striving to live out our Gospel commitment to love God and t love one another.

In the Gospel, when Jesus finished explaining that He was the Bread for the life of the world, the majority of his disciples gave a “thumbs down” and were not ready to make a life defining commitment to follow Jesus.  It was too much for them to accept.

Perhaps they would have preferred a God who stayed in heaven, and they could worship Him from a safe distance.  But Jesus was asking his disciples to consider a new way of understanding God.  Jesus said: “I am the Bread of life…Whoever eats this Bread will live forever and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world…Jesus is God…The Eucharist is the real presence of Christ, the real presence of God.

The commitment Jesus made to us gives us an example of the commitment Jesus is now asking of us.  Jesus proclaimed Himself as a God who gave Himself in self-giving love.  Jesus is asking us to make a self-giving commitment to our discipleship.
For the first disciples, many found this commitment “over the top.”  The evangelist tells us: “As a result many of his disciples returned to their former way of life.”

Then Jesus said to the original twelve: “Do you also want to leave?”

Peter responded: “Lord, you have the words of eternal life.”

In the gospels for the last five Sundays, we have been contemplating Jesus as the Bread of Life, are we ready now to make a life-defining commitment to place Jesus at the center of our lives?

Can we make a life-defining commitment to Jesus when we live with many clouds on the spiritual landscape?  Even as Pope Francis journeys to Ireland this weekend for the world meeting of families, we are still trying to come to grips with the priest sex abuse scandal that is so demoralizing.  Some priests have abandoned their commitment to safeguard the precious dignity of our children.  What do we do with our anger and our sense of being betrayed?

Can we still come together as a body of believers and come before the Lord to be honest and transparent in our commitment to serve the Lord and all of God’s people?
What is our commitment to Jesus?  What is our life defining spiritual commitment? 

At the Last Supper, Jesus gave us his legacy saying: “Do this in memory of me.”  I invite you to reflect on the words of Jesus “Do this.”

Yes, we “do this in memory of me” as we celebrate the Eucharist Sunday after Sunday after Sunday.  I also want us to see the full measure of the words of Jesus.  It is not enough to be a Sunday pew-sitter.

When Jesus says, “Do this,” He is referring to his whole life and mission.  We are to witness to the mission of Jesus of healing, forgiving, including others, challenging wrongful authority, asking time to go away and pray, and serving others by washing feet.

Can we embrace the mission of Jesus as our life-defining commitment of discipleship of the Lord Jesus?

In celebrating the Eucharist, Jesus is blessed and broken and given to us for our salvation and for the life of the world.  In our commitment to Jesus, we are blessed and broken open so that we can give and share ourselves to feed the world.

As I began this homily., I talked about the life-defining commitment of Connor and Flor.  We celebrated with a rehearsal and a wedding and a wedding reception.  This commitment was celebrated with much love and joy.  How do we compare the life-defining marriage commitment with the life-defining commitment of our discipleship of Jesus?

Without doubt, the life-defining commitment of marriage is a beautiful expression of Connor and Flor’s commitment to discipleship of Jesus.

Just as the marriage commitment is much more that the joyful celebration of a wedding weekend, it is for better or for worse, in sickness and in health for the days of their life.
‘So too, our discipleship and our relationship to Jesus is demanding as well as joyful.  Our understanding of who God is much more than a heavenly deity.  Jesus is present in the tabernacle of our Church and Jesus is present in the tabernacle of each and every person on the planet.

Are we ready to renew our personal, public commitment to Christ?  If so, we might use the Profession of Faith we are about to say as a solemn affirmation of our commitment.  We could allow the procession at Communion to serve as a communal reenactment of the pledge Joshua called forth from hIs people.  Even making the sign of the cross with full awareness can reinforce our conscious decision to belong to Christ.

Have a Blessed Day.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

We need to come together as a body of believers. Now is not the time to hide. We need to be honest, to be transparent and come before the light of Christ.

Twentieth Sunday in OT  B  2018

This Sunday’s Gospel is the fourth consecutive Sunday that the Gospel is taken from the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel.   The Bread of Life Discourse from the 6th chapter of John’s Gospel reaches a crescendo with startling hopes and startling claims.  “The one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.”   The second claim is:    “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.”

You will recall the 6th chapter of John’s Gospel began with Jesus feeding 5,000 people with five barley loaves and two fish.  After the miracle of the 5,000, everyone wanted to follow Jesus.  “Free Food,” they declared, anticipating that Jesus was another Moses who was going to shower down manna and quail on his followers.  Everyone was touched with the offer of free food – a graciously abundant gift and a welcome relief to their hunger.  Even now, the best way to get a good crowd at a parish event is to offer food – “Free Food.”

But today’s Gospel is not about Jesus as a worldly cafeteria manager; Jesus is drawing a radical line in the sand.  We are followers of Jesus not because we attend potluck and social gatherings that we call Christ-centered.  Rather, we are the followers of Jesus when we share in the Body and the Blood of the Lord.  “The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”  There is no diet on earth healthier than this.
Our discipleship of the Lord Jesus is not just about getting free food; it is about us as a Eucharistic community witnessing to the love of Jesus.  It is about our union with Jesus as the way to eternal life.

To share in the Body and Blood of the Lord expresses our willingness to be the followers of the crucified Christ as well as the Risen Christ.  We need to ask ourselves the questions:  Are we willing to die with Jesus?  Are we willing to share in the same suffering that the Lord Himself experiences?  This is what it takes to be a follower of Jesus.

The question for our gospel reflection today is how far are we willing to go with Jesus?  Do we want eternal bread or do we want everyday bread?  The desire to grab a free meal can disable us from hearing Jesus’ invitation to the eternal.  In this Eucharistic discourse, Jesus is drawing lines, dividing his followers between those who are looking for a handout and those who will go the distance.  Quite literally, Jesus is telling us:  “If you are not willing to share in my death and drink from my suffering, then you should turn back now.”

When you consume Christ, he becomes part and parcel of who you are.  He energizes you to do His work of ministry.  The bread of our Lord is empowering.  It not only can fill the heart, but it can also lead the recipient to overflow into actions of love.  As was said of Francis of Assisi, “It is in giving that we receive.”  We are called to bring the love of Christ to the broken places of our Church and of our world.

The broken place in the Church that is on the mind of many of us is the horrific scandal of clergy sexual abuse.  This criminal violation of the sacred trust given to priests by Catholic families is unthinkable and a betrayal of our Gospel values.

It has been a weird week to be a faithful Catholic and to be a Catholic priest.  It seems that the rock upon which the Church was built is sinking further and further into the mud.

We need to get to the bottom of this dark hour in the Church’s life where the trust of so many faithful Catholics has been rocked by the sexual abuse from its leaders.  If there are horrific secrets that have not as yet been unearthed, we as a Church need to be transparent to one and all.

We as a Church need to honestly ask ourselves how we are to witness to the love, the healing, compassion of Christ in the midst of the horrific tragedy of clergy sexual abuse.  We as Catholic priests, Catholic Bishops and as a Catholic Church need to very transparent; acknowledge the criminal abuse of God’s precious children; and seek to do whatever is necessary to restore trust in the priests and bishops of our Church.

The Church I love.  The Church I was raised in. The Church in which I have served as a priest for 50 hears is the Church I now am heartbroken and remarkably let down by priests and bishops.
But this Church is still guided by the Holy Spirit.   Jesus is still Lord.  I know many good and faithful priests, good and faithful bishops and many good and faithful Catholics in this parish.  We need to come together as a body of believers.  Now is not the time to hide.  We need to be honest, to be seen, to be forthright and come before the light of Christ.

The Church at Eucharist is a community aware of its sinfulness and repentant of its sins.  It is a community convinced of the power of God’s grace, a community ready to serve others, i.e., to carry out “the breaking of the bread” beyond the church, and a community, here and now, open to the presence of the Lord and the Spirit.  This is the community we become when we share Jesus’ real food and real drink together; constituted as such by the Eucharist, it becomes both the privilege and responsibility of all who eat the Bread of Life together to become bread for the life and salvation of the world.

At Eucharist, we are interconnected with Jesus, and we are interconnected with God’s people.  In Eucharist, we are committing ourselves to being connected with the Church.  The Eucharist is a Sacrament of the Church.

Yes, there is much bleeding in the Church today.  We come before the Lord seeking for the grace to trust again in each other.   We are still missioned and it is still both a  privilege and a responsibility of all who eat the Bread of Life together to become bread for the life of the world.

Have a Blessed Day,