Fr. David’s Homily for Sunday, November 1, 2020
Scripture Readings: 1) Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14; 2) 1 John 3:1-3; 3) Matthew 5:1-12a
FOCUS: We are clothed in garments made white in the blood of the Lamb.
For many of us, it is hard to separate All Saints’ Day from All Souls’ Day. It is, after all, a two-day celebration of the Communion of Saints. Today, we celebrate our ancestors of faith who are one with God in heaven and tomorrow, we remember those well on their way to heaven.
We are all familiar with some of the famous saints, such as St. Francis of Assisi, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. Augustine, St. Anthony and St. Anne. We may have studied their lives and we celebrate their feast days throughout the year. Today, we celebrate all saints, whom we trust are now one with the Lord, having lived honorable and just lives among us. We celebrate saints who are clothed in, as we hear the Scriptures tell us, “garments made white in the blood of the Lamb.”
We were privileged to have had three modern-day saints that we were aware of in our own life time: Pope Saint John Paul, St. Teresa of Calcutta and Pope St. John XXIII. We also remember today people we might call our “personal saints,” people in our own circle of family members or friends who have touched our lives in some way and are now part of the glorious Kingdom of God.
St. John paints a mystical vision of the Kingdom of God in the Book of Revelation. It is a gathering of a great multitude, too many to count, all clothed in white. In our second reading, St. John reminds us that, “because of the love the Father bestowed on us, we may be called children of God.”
As children of God, St. Matthew gives us clear directions on how to live out the Gospel. We are to be detached from material possessions and focused on others. We are to mourn with those who are mourning, be meek and thirst for righteousness. We are to be clean of heart and show mercy. We will be blessed when we are persecuted, and are promised a great reward in heaven.
When we do our best to live out the beatitudes, we contribute to building up the Kingdom of God here on earth. Let us ask for the prayers and intercessions of the saints we honor today to help and guide us along our path.
Fr. David’s Homily for Sunday, October 25, 2020
Scripture Readings: 1) Exodus 22:20-26; 2) 1 Thessalonians 1:5c-10; 3) Matthew 22:34-40
FOCUS: By witnessing to the Good News, we share God’s love.
It seems that the opponents of Jesus just won’t give up! If you recall last week, they tried to trip him on the sticky question of paying taxes to Caesar. Today is another tricky attempt to lead him into a debate and see if they could get Him to say something that would get Him into trouble. Those people who test Jesus certainly are not the ones who want to get to know Him more, let alone love or accept Him.
St. Matthew sets the scene with a Pharisee, a lawyer, who asks Jesus which of the commandments is the greatest. His response does not seek to set aside the Law, but instead to interpret it more fully. For Jesus, the greatest commandment is found in the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy: You shall love the Lord, your God, with your whole heart, and with your whole being, and with your whole strength (6:5).
Jesus’ answer emphasizes the centrality of love – a cord that binds together the human heart and soul and directs us toward God.
While asked for only one commandment, Jesus adds a second, quoting from the Book of Leviticus, which He says is equal to and inseparable from the first: You shall love your neighbor as yourself (19:18). Everything, He says, hangs on these two interrelated commandments. Like a door on two hinges that will not open or close properly if out of alignment, so, too, our lives if we do not love God and our neighbor.
Jesus is not discounting any other commandments, but simply emphasizing that these two are foundational.
So what does this declaration mean for us today? As we struggle to live the Christian life, we can so easily compartmentalize love of God and love of neighbor. Sometimes, it may seem easier to love God than to love our neighbor. But, as Jesus proclaims, these two loves cannot be separated.
By linking this Gospel with a practical reading from the Book of Exodus, we are reminded that this love is more than a warm and fuzzy feeling. Out of Israel’s experience of slavery in Egypt, there came about the reality of a God who is compassionate and protective of the weak. No one is to take advantage of them or to imprison them. How challenging these ancient words and this wisdom can sound today.
St. Paul confirms this teaching by reminding the Thessalonians of their faithfulness to Christ. He rejoices with them because they have remained steadfast and active in faith. For them, faith is more than a passing fad. Clearly, they have recognized the Word of God in Paul’s preaching and through the lived example of their lives, have now become ministers of the Gospel to others within their community and beyond. Awaiting the return of Jesus, they have become people of hope, brining the combined love of God and neighbor to others.
May we, too, be a people of hope – witnessing the Gospel to others and sharing God’s love.
Fr. David’s Homily for Sunday, October 18, 2020
Scripture Readings: 1) Isaiah 45:1, 4-6; 2) 1 Thessalonians 1:1-5b; 3) Matthew 22; 15-21
FOCUS: Give God the first fruits. He will never be outdone in generosity.
Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not? Jesus is asked in today’s Gospel. Matthew makes it clear that those who ask this question are interested in one thing only: how they might entrap Jesus in speech. If Jesus answered “yes,” He would not be very popular with the crowd, who resented the payment of tax to the Roman Empire. If he answered “no,” He could be denounced to the authorities for inciting people to break the law, the law that says you have to pay the tax. Whether Jesus said “yes” or “no” there would be difficulties. He could get Himself into trouble with the authorities.
Jesus does not say “yes” or “no.” He doesn’t give the answer His questioners were looking for. Jesus’ reply, Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, rejects the radical position of those who claimed that the Roman government was unlawful and should not be obeyed at all. All the emphasis, however, is on the second part of Jesus’ answer: Give to God what belongs to God.
What does that mean? It means God indeed is everything. From God we receive all that we are and have, except sin. God has given us the gift of life, and has preserved our lives until now in the midst of all kinds of dangers in the world.
God has given us our talents: everything from the five senses, which we share with other creatures in the world, to the uniquely human gifts of thought, speech, love and laughter, to the individual talents that make each person unique. How dull life would be if every single person happened to be the same!
If paying to God what is God’s means anything, it must mean putting God first in our lives. Are we putting God first in our lives? Or does He get what is leftover? Is He given our spare time perhaps? Is He given the gifts and talents that are left over when we have finished doing the things we want to do?
Jesus understood, and taught, that we must give God the first fruits – out of gratitude. This grateful giving of first fruits was based on the truth that everything comes from God, and hence everything belongs to God.
If we truly want to “give to God what belongs to God,” we must put God first in our lives – in all areas of our lives. There must be no fenced-off areas where He is second or third – or where God is not allowed to enter at all.
When we put God first in our lives, we make a beautiful discovery. We find that what is left over for ourselves is always enough, ultimately more than enough! We find that God will never be outdone in generosity.
Fr. David’s Homily for Sunday, October 11, 2020
Scripture Readings: 1) Isaiah 25:6-10a; 2) Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20; 3) Matthew 22:1-14
FOCUS: When we accept the invitation to the Lord’s Table, we, in turn, are to invite Him into our hearts.
Today’s Scripture readings can help us reflect on the goodness, abundance and generosity of the Lord, and what our response to these things should be. The first reading describes a banquet held on a mountaintop. This banquet is an image of the final banquet that will occur when God completes His plan for the salvation of the world. There will be rich food and choice wines, but more importantly, God will destroy death forever. There will be no more suffering, as tears are wiped away.
As Christians, we understand the reading pointing to the heavenly banquet. Every time we come forward to receive the Eucharist we are given a foretaste of the perfect joy that awaits us if we remain steadfast in faith.
In the second reading, we are reminded that relying on God and His goodness will bring us to have all that we really need. Whether we are living in abundance or in poverty, God provides for us. Then the Gospel presents us with a parable about a wedding feast. At this particular banquet, there is a lack of enthusiasm on the part of those who were invited.
It seems odd, but these people refuse the invitation of their king. Some do initially accept the invitation, but then do not show up. One group even kills the messengers who deliver the invitation. The feast is ready, but those who are invited were not worthy to come, says the king in response to those who insult the king by their response. He then extends another invitation. This one is to any and to all, bad and good alike.
Many who hear this parable may end up feeling sorry for the man who is thrown out of the banquet for not wearing the proper wedding garment. After all, how was he supposed to know that he was going to attend a wedding in the royal palace? The point seems to be that it is not enough to accept the invitation. There is something more we are to do to make ourselves ready to participate in the banquet.
This banquet, which received so few positive responses after so many invitations were issued, might be seen in our time as referring to the meal we celebrate each time we come to Mass. The menu, so to speak, is simple, but miraculous. The Lord chooses this setting to nourish our minds and hearts with His Word, and our bodies and souls with His Body and Blood.
There is a standing invitation, week after week, for this meal, which is held for our benefit. So many people do indeed make excuses. Even when one can participate in the Eucharist remotely, some still say, “I am too busy” or “I am too tired.” This is a call to make sure that we really and truly invest ourselves in this great event. We can mentally and spiritually prepare ourselves before we come to the Eucharistic meal by settling ourselves down for a bit and trying to get into the proper frame of find, letting go of any distractions that might disrupt the acceptance of blessings which the Lord wishes to bestow upon us.
As Jesus continues to invite us to celebrate God’s love through the banquet of the Eucharist, let us respond with humility and gratitude. Let us come to the table of salvation and respond with our own invitation that He come more fully into our hearts.
Fr. David’s Homily for Sunday, October 4, 2020
Scripture Readings: 1) Isaiah 5:1-7; 2) Philippians 4:6-9; 3) Matthew 21: 33-43
FOCUS: How often do we reject the Cornerstone?
Most of us are familiar with the old saying: “Easier said than done.” St. Paul encourages the Philippians today to have no anxiety at all. Some people might say, “Right, St. Paul, that is easier said than done.”
Some synonyms for anxiety are concern, unease, apprehension and worry. Another one is a word many of us might not use very much if at all: disquiet. One dictionary defines disquiet as simply lack of peace or tranquility. We can become anxious about people: our children, our spouse, our aging parents and many others. We can also become anxious about things: work, mortgages, car payments and in these days the corona virus.
When we become anxious, we disturb the quiet within, thus we become disquiet. St. Paul seems to imply today that in order to enter into prayer or dialogue with God, we need to set aside our anxiousness. This is not easy for most of us. The distractions of our daily lives often overrun our quiet moments with God, but this we must guard against.
Dialogue with God does not need to be complicated. We may tend to overcomplicate things, to excuse ourselves from following through. We might agree that this is true in various aspects of our lives. Prayer, however, does not need to be complicated. We can pray anytime and anywhere.
We can begin our day praising the Lord for another day. We can reflect on the day ahead with the Lord while we are getting dressed. During our commute to work or while running errands, we can invite the Lord into a difficult encounter or situation we are dealing with.
At lunch, we can ask the Lord’s blessing on our food and those who gather to share a meal together. Before we fall asleep, we can review the day and give thanks for what went right and ask forgiveness for what went wrong.
In the quietness of our encounter with the Lord, we will know His peace, and that peace will guard our hearts and minds.
So let us not grow anxious about too many things. Instead, let us try to commit to a rhythm of prayer each day. The less we pray, the more distant God will seem. If we only pray when we have problems, it may be more difficult to know God’s presence when things are going well. Having a daily conversation with God will then give us an overwhelming sense of peace…a reminder that God is with us in good times and in bad. As St. Paul teaches us today, the God of peace will be with us and we will bear good fruit.
Today is Respect Life Sunday. This is the day we are asked in a special way to remember that all of life is sacred, as all life comes from God. Let us continue to pray that people everywhere will see life in all of its forms as precious and deserving of respect and dignity. Let us see all of life from conception to natural death as God’s gift to us.
Fr. David’s Homily for Sunday, September 27, 2020
Scripture Readings: 1) Ezekiel 18:25-28; 2) Philippians 2:1-11; 3) Matthew 21:28-32
FOCUS: Let us have in us the same attitude that is also in Christ Jesus.
It’s not fair! How many times have we heard this expression from other people, children, and adults…words that sometimes are directed to God Himself?
The Jewish community in Judah and Babylon in the time of the prophet Ezekiel certainly felt that way about God, at least until they came to a greater understanding of God’s promises to them through the prophet’s words of judgment and encouragement.
Ezekiel speaks for God when he tells the people that it is because of sin, wickedness and lack of virtue that punishment has come to them – not that suffering and difficulties have come to them because God is unfair.
They learn that they are responsible for their own actions. If they do what is right and just, they will live. If they do not, they will die.
This same encouragement comes to us from St. Paul in his letter to the Philippians. For as we heard from Ezekiel, the promise of life is not based on things beyond human capability. In fact, it is based on our human free will and capacity to choose that which is good, right and just.
St. Paul tells us how. He says, and it is quite simple actually, Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but also for those of others. Have in you the same attitude that is also in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:3-5)
Have the same attitude of Christ Jesus, who was fully human even as He was fully divine. This is encouraging because it means this is something we can do, with Jesus’ help. We can, through the practice of virtue and with God’s grace, choose that which is good and which is life giving.
Even when our human faults and weaknesses cloud our understanding, we can still choose to follow God’s command, as the first son in today’s Gospel reading did. We may not know why he initially refused, but we know by his final actions that he is the one who had the same attitude as Jesus because in the end he did as his father asked.
The goal, of course, is to say “Yes” immediately and act immediately. If we say, “No” at first, however, and God gives us another opportunity to say “Yes” and we do say “Yes” and follow through with doing whatever God is asking of us, then we will be in God’s good graces.
Let us do the same. Let us trust in God’s promises, rely on Jesus’ help and allow the grace of the Holy Spirit to work in us – that in all we might do, we have the attitude of Christ.
Fr. David’s Homily for Sunday, September 20, 2020
Readings: 1) Isaiah 55:6-9; 2) Philippians 1:20c-24, 27a; 3) Matthew 20:1-16a
FOCUS: God owes us nothing and yet He has given us everything, placing us forever in His debt.
Everyone has a sense of justice – a voice that tells us what is right and what is wrong. We often call that voice our conscience. You might think that it is an injustice at work when someone gets the promotion you felt you earned. In school, the student who studied hard for the exam and received a “C” certainly is not happy with the one who did not prepare at all and received an “A.” When we see someone we feel to be less deserving walking around with all kinds of blessings, we might ask God, “Why them and not me?”
Would we ask the same question if we saw someone who was sick or in terrible pain or might have just lost their job? Probably not.
The parable in Matthew’s Gospel is a challenge for all of us. Our first instinct is to take sides with those laborers who worked all day and didn’t make any more money for their efforts than those who just showed up to collect a paycheck at the end of the day.
Insult is added to injury when the last get paid first and those who worked long and hard are made to wait. This kind of generosity shocks some and angers others. Most of us have been raised to believe in an equal day’s pay for an equal day’s work.
This parable raises more questions than it answers. Whey did the landowner keep returning to the square to pick more workers for his vineyard? In Israel at harvest time, it was necessary to bring in the crops as fast as possible before the flooding fall rains set in. Why do those men stand around all day? They had no property and no power. It was the “luck of the draw” as some would say. They waited in hope that someone would hire them so they could afford to feed their families.
God is much like the landowner – generous in forgiving as Isaiah said in today’s first reading. We owe Him a debt we can never repay. The Lord does not charge some more than others. He sent His Son Jesus to die for all of us. God owes us nothing, and yet He has given us everything, placing us forever in His debt.
All the men called to work in the vineyard were equals – they all had family members to take care of. The landowner had mercy on all of them, giving them what they needed – not what they earned. This shows us how God has loved us in Christ. We are called upon to be as giving and forgiving of others as God has been to us.
Let us remember last week’s Gospel about how many times we should forgive. We don’t set a limit on how often we forgive others since God does not set a limit on how often He forgives us. So we are to be giving and forgiving of others as God is with us. God loves all of us equally – the person Baptized a Christian shortly after birth and the convert who comes along much later in life. God loves the sinner as much as the saint, every person no matter where they are.
God calls all of us to labor in His vineyard of mercy, and to, as St. Paul tells us in the second reading today, conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the Gospel of Christ.
Fr. David’s Homily For September 13, 2020: The Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Scripture readings: 1) Sirach 27:30-28:7; 2) Romans 14:7-9; 3) Matthew 18:21-35
FOCUS: Jesus calls us to forgive others as we have been forgiven.
Many people live with some form of financial debt these days. It might be the mortgage or the car payment. Perhaps there are student loans that paid for education. We become used to debt and we are used to getting statements reminding us to pay our debts. Of course, one of the great fears of many people is that there may be circumstances in which they are not able to repay what they owe.
Imagine, then, going to your mailbox and getting a note telling you that all your debts have been paid. In fact, they have been paid in full. My guess is that our first reaction would be to say, “WOW, this is wonderful!” And then, after a few moments, when reality would sink in, we might wonder, “So, where’s the catch?”
That is what we are asked to think about in light of today’s Gospel, in which the servant’s huge, un-payable debt is kindly and fully forgiven by the king. While the servant seems to leave with a sense of relief, what he does not clearly understand is that there is a catch to all of this.
He, the servant, must forgive the debts of others, as he, the servant, has been forgiven by the gracious king. And that is the catch for all of us; realizing that in His great mercy, God has forgiven our sins, and thus we are called to be a people of forgiveness to others.
It can be uncomfortable to focus on our sinfulness. We know it is there, but most of us much prefer to focus on the good in ourselves. Yet every now and again, we have to stop and think about the reality that we do, in fact, sin. At the very beginning of the Mass, we acknowledge this reality as we ask for God’s mercy and forgiveness in the Penitential Rite. We realize that Jesus’ mercy is amazing, and in that realization, we come to know not only that we are forgiven, but that we must be generous in forgiving others.
In today’s Gospel, we hear Jesus speak about the breadth of the forgiveness we are called to offer. We are called to forgive not just once and not just seven times. We are called to forgive seventy-seven times – we are called to forgive overwhelmingly, just as the king forgives the servant in the parable, just as God forgives each of us.
Jesus leads the way in this, forgiving the woman caught in adultery, forgiving Thomas in his doubting and forgiving Peter for denying Him three times. Jesus forgives us. How different would our world be if we practiced this kind of forgiveness constantly?
In the Eucharist we celebrate today, we acknowledge our debt and thank God for his willingness to forgive us. Of course, to be forgiven sacramentally, we need to avail ourselves of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, another one of God’s ways of letting us know how much He loves us and wants to forgive us, as well as providing the grace we need to be better people as we move into the future. In the Eucharist, we come to know we are forgiven so we can go out into the world and be generous in loving and forgiving others.
Fr. David’s Homily for September 6, 2020: The Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Scripture Readings: Ezekiel 33:7-9; 2) Romans 13:8-10; 3) Matthew 18:15-20
FOCUS: Let us help others find the path toward life.
In writing his letter to the Romans, St. Paul says that the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. He is reminding everyone of the teaching of Jesus….Jesus’ greatest commandment. The commandment to love – to love one another, oneself and God is found in all four of the Gospels.
Jesus is the love of God made flesh. He came to save us, to make us whole again, to make us holy. The love that Jesus commands, and that Jesus lives, is not a set of warm or fuzzy feelings. It is a profound willing of our good, and a selfless desire that we be who we are made to be.
This is the love we also are commanded to live. We are asked to want, to seek, to make happen the good of those people God puts around us. This is not always easy, and it is not always pleasant. We see examples of this in both the reading from Ezekiel and in our Gospel.
The Lord tells the prophet Ezekiel that he will be held responsible for the death of the wicked if he does not speak out to dissuade him. In the Gospel, then, Jesus gives instructions on how we should correct those who sin against us; how to raise our voices against wickedness, speaking out and speaking up when we see others living apart form God. To do so is to love, and it is a commandment.
Yet, before this call leads us too far, we must remember what is perhaps the most uncomfortable reality of this law of love. Jesus makes it clear that we are not asked to do this from a distance, although in these days of what is called social distancing, we may do it at least six feet apart. In any case, we attempt to do this in person if at all possible. We are asked to be present, to correct our brother or sister who has sinned against us in person.
We might call this tough love, accountability, charitable or fraternal correction, or even speaking the truth in love, as St. Paul says elsewhere (Ephesians 4:15.) It is a love that truly desires the good of the other, and will intervene out of love for the sake of another’s salvation – just as the Father did in sending His Son.
Ultimately, the one who chooses evil over good has decided which path they will take and they move toward death. In following the command to love on another in the ways just described, we can help others find the path toward life. It is Jesus, who is present here in this sacrament, giving us the grace to do just that.
Fr. David’s Homily for August 30, 2020: Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Scripture Readings: 1) Jeremiah 20:7-9; 2) Romans 12:1-2; 3) Matthew 16:21-27
FOCUS: We are to take up our cross each day and follow Jesus.
There is an old expression: No pain, no gain. It is a common phrase that reminds us of the fact that sacrifice is almost always required in order to accomplish things that are important. The saying holds true with regard to growing in our love for the Lord and living as faithful disciples of Jesus as well.
In the first reading, we are given a look at into the heart of the prophet Jeremiah, and the trials and suffering he experienced as a result of being faithful to God’s call to serve as a prophet. The words of Jeremiah are powerful and touching. You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped; you were too strong for me, and you triumphed. All the day I am an object of laughter; everyone mocks me.
These are not words of surrender or defeat on the part of Jeremiah, but an honest expression of the struggles and personal price he paid as a result of speaking the word of the Lord to the Israelites to call them to turn away from sin and renew their faith and trust in the Lord.
Although Jeremiah suffered as a result of his fidelity to God’s call to serve as a prophet, his words make it clear that he also experienced a great joy as a result of being faithful to God’s plan for his life: I say to myself, I will not mention Him, I will speak in His Name no more. But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it.
The second reading speaks of sacrifice as a fundamental requirement for leading lives which are holy and pleasing to God. St. Paul urges us not to be conformed to this present age. This requires making the decision each day to set aside personal ambitions and desires and to make our number one priority that of being faithful to God’s will for our lives.
Finally, the teaching of Jesus in today’s Gospel that whoever wishes to follow Him must first take up their cross and then follow Him leaves no room for doubt that sacrifice is a fundamental and non-negotiable requirement for being a faithful disciple.
So if we want to live as faithful disciples of Jesus and come to experience the inexhaustible treasure and blessings of the Kingdom of God more fully, we have no choice but to take up our cross each day and follow Jesus. In other words, if there is no pain, there is no gain…but what a wonderful gain we have in what Jesus will have in store for us in eternity!
Fr. David’s Homily for August 23, 2020: Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
Scripture Readings: 1) Isaiah 22:19-23; 2) Romans 11:33-36; 3) Matthew 16:13-20
FOCUS: Peter, the rock, is the model for us in our efforts to evangelize the people of the world.
Jesus asked His disciples who the people thought He was, and their replies were interesting. It was Peter, however, who stated it correctly. He knew that Jesus was the Christ, the Anointed One. Peter’s statement of faith became the foundation of the Church, and nothing would prevail against it.
However, Peter would soon weaken in his faith. This would happen after Jesus was arrested and crucified. After the Resurrection, though, Peter and the other disciples would be stronger than ever.
God knew these things would happen. From our second reading today, we see that the ways of God are unsearchable. No one has known the mind of God. We do know this however: the Lord’s love is eternal. His love is shown to us in the sending of His Son Jesus to us. It is a tremendous love. Jesus was sent to us so that we could have the reward of everlasting life.
Peter had shown great courage after the Lord had risen from the dead. He strove to bring the love of the Lord to all. He had become a fisher of men. Yet, our job of evangelization continues today. We must be as strong and dedicated as Peter was. The same Holy Spirit that came to the disciples many years ago comes to us. We need only trust in the Lord and be open to His gift of the Holy Spirit.
We can really be on fire for God and be solid rocks of the Lord today. We might ask how we can bring the message of the Lord to all whom we meet. We can read God’s Word, the Holy Scriptures, and make sure our prayer life is steady and healthy. By our faith, we know that Jesus is the Christ, the Anointed One, the Son of God. From our faith, the love of God shines forth and helps us to live our lives according to the way that God wants.
It is the Lord who is all-powerful, but God wants us to be powerful as well. The Lord wants us to be faithful witnesses here on this earth. With Peter as an example, we can bring Jesus’ message of hope to those who need it the most. Our Responsorial Psalm today tells us that the Lord’s kindness endures forever. May God’s enduring love inspire us to evangelize at all times.
Fr. David’s Homily for August 16, 2020: Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Scripture Readings: 1) Isaiah 56:6-7; 2) Romans 11:13-15, 29-32; 3) Matthew 15:21-28
FOCUS: God wants all people to know His love and mercy.
In the Gospel story today, Jesus speaks to a Canaanite woman in a way that makes many people feel uneasy. The woman pleads for Jesus to heal her daughter, but He refuses because she is not an Israelite. Jesus explains that His ministry is only for, as He says, the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and not for a Canaanite woman and her family. If there were a question of “who’s in and who’s out?” the answer is that she is plainly out.
At least, that is what was true under the old covenant. With the coming of Jesus, however, that woman, once on the outside, is now invited to the Kingdom. Through her faith, she moves from the outside in, taking her family with her. We are told that that her daughter was healed from that hour.
The prophet Isaiah and then St. Paul also speak of this new Kingdom. Isaiah prophesies that not only will the chosen people worship at God’s holy mountain, but foreigners can also join themselves to the Lord. Indeed, the prophet tells us that God’s house will be a house of prayer for all peoples.
St. Paul’s own mission to the Gentiles bears out the prophecy of Isaiah. In his Letter to the Romans, he writes that through God’s own design, they – the Gentiles – are receiving the gifts and call of God. St. Paul tells us that God delivered all to disobedience that He might have mercy upon all.
All of our Scripture readings today remind us of the generosity of God’s grace – God wants all people to know His love and mercy. Through Jesus and the gift of faith, the door to the Kingdom is opened to all who accept the Good News.
We have received God’s grace through our Baptism and as members of the Church we are all to proclaim the Good News to everyone. We all have a role in welcoming those who are looking for God’s healing and mercy.
Let us pray that the grace given to us will help us to be instruments of that grace for all people, like the Canaanite woman, who come seeking the help of the Lord.
Fr. David’s Homily for August 9, 2020: Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Readings: 1) 1 Kings 19:a, 11-13a; 2) Romans 9:1-5; 3) Matthew 14; 22-33
Gospel related: Catechism of the Catholic Church: 448, 1329, 1335; CSDC 453
FOCUS: Knowing and relating to God through Jesus, we have nothing to fear.
For a period of time, there was a brand of clothing that many young people were wearing. It was called No Fear. The name conveyed an attitude that one could do anything without fear. In a world of danger and violence, this could be alarming. But in a world of faith and unity centered on Jesus, it can and must be the motto for our living.
One of the most unpleasant human emotions is fear. We fear losses, suffering, helplessness and, worst of all, the unknown. We see all of these deepest fears coming together in the lives of the disciples in our Gospel story today. One cannot imagine a more fearful situation in the darkness of night than to be in the midst of a storm in a little boat and to see an image of someone walking on the water coming toward you. The fear must have been tremendous.
Nonetheless, Peter gets out of the boat and attempts the impossible. As long as Peter focuses on Jesus, there is no fear. It is only when Peter gets distracted by the wind and waves that fear enters in and he begins to sink. Even then, the loving hand of Jesus is extended to him and he pulls Peter to safety. This action not only reinforces Peter’s relationship to Christ, but also his faith in Christ.
We need to be honest with ourselves about the fears of our lives. Some people share similar fears – losses, suffering and helplessness. But there are many other types of fear – the effects of age, debilitating diseases, depression, doubts, being able to make a living, keeping our children safe, the future and, one of the biggest fears of all, death. So much of our fear is wrapped up in the unknown.
The fears of life, no matter what they are, can dissipate when we know God. We come to know His presence by knowing who He is, what He does and what He has planned for us. For Christians, this happens in a wonderful way through Jesus. Through Jesus, God reveals Himself to us and forms a loving relationship with us.
Through Jesus we know God and recognize His presence and power in our life. Those who do not know God try to find Him in great signs like wind, fire, and earthquakes, but He will not be there. Through Jesus we come to know God like Elijah, recognizing Him in the tiny whispering sounds of life, the beauty of life, and the simple things of life. It is there that God reveals His love to us, knowledge about His Kingdom, and how to live our life and carry our crosses.
If we know God and recognize Him, then, like Peter, we can walk in faith on the troubled waters of life. In the midst of troubles we can know peace, because we do not live in fear. We do not fear suffering, loss or helplessness. We do not fear the future. We do not even fear death, not because of our own power but because when we know God, we know our future, we know our value and we know what awaits us.
Maybe the phrase No Fear should be the logo for all Christian clothing. It is the perfect motto for Christian living. With our eyes fixed on Christ we must have No Fear of whatever comes our way in life. And if some fear sneaks in, we can trust that Jesus has an outstretched hand to catch us and tell us not to fear, for He is always with us.
Fr. David’s Homily for August 2, 2020: Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Readings: 1) Isaiah 55:1-3; 2) Romans 8:35, 37-39; 3) Matthew 14:13-21
Gospel related: Catechism of the Catholic Church: 1329, 1335
FOCUS: The same Jesus who can feed over five thousand people can give Himself to you today.
It is tempting to explain away miracles. It is tempting to come up with a so-called logical explanation for experiences like what happens in today’s Gospel when Jesus feeds over five thousand people on five loaves and a couple of fish.
We forget sometimes that God, unlike us, is not bound by time and space, as represented in today’s second reading. St. Paul reminds us that neither present things nor future things, neither height nor depth, will separate us form God’s love in our Lord Jesus.
The same God who wrote the laws of nature can choose to suspend them temporarily when trying to make a point – when impressing upon a crowd, for example, that this Jesus, the Nazarene, is no mere man, that He is divine as well as human. The crowd had no need to go away. This Jesus: He took. He blessed. He broke. He gave. And they all ate and were satisfied.
Those words – He took, He blessed, He broke, and He gave – should sound familiar. At the Last Supper, Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it and gave it to His disciples. In the Liturgy of the Eucharist, a priest or bishop takes bread, blesses it, breaks it and gives the Bread of Life to us. Jesus, in his Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, offers Himself to us today.
Why does Jesus offer us this miracle today and at every Mass? The answer can be seen in today’s readings. St. Paul emphasizes the love – the great, immeasurable love – Almighty God has for us and for every person. The prophet Isaiah uses the phrase that you may have life, a phrase that Jesus, Himself, uses when explaining why He came into our world.
God the Father loves us. God the Son wants us to have abundant and eternal life. God the Holy Spirit makes it possible for ordinary bread and wine to become the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our Triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – offers us life, love and full communion with Him, with the Holy, Catholic Church, with all who are Baptized in their glorious names.
The only explanation needed for God’s miracles is His great love for us. The only suitable response to God’s love for us is to love Him in return and to love our neighbor as our self. May we all continue growing in life, love and unity, today and always.
Fr. David’s Homily for July 26, 2020: Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Scripture Readings: 1) 1 Kings 3:5, 7-12; 2) Romans 8:28-30; 3) Matthew 13:44-52
FOCUS: Let us show our joy at being disciples of Jesus.
The British writer C.S. Lewis titled his autobiography Surprised by Joy. The title was a tribute to his wife, whose name was Joy. Lewis, a confirmed bachelor for most of his life, married Joy when he was 58 years old.
Both of the men in today’s Gospel were “surprised by joy.” In this, the man discovering buried treasure, and the merchant finding a pearl of great price, were alike. In other respects, the two men were quite different.
The first man is a day laborer plowing his employer’s field. One day the plow catches on what he at first takes for a rock. After some investigation, he sees that it is a pottery jar filled with gold and silver coins. He realizes that this unexpected find can change his life, giving him the first financial security he has ever known.
He also realizes that he has a problem. The law of the day said that buried treasure belonged to the person on whose property it was found. Rather than carrying off the treasure at once, the man carefully buries the jar again and finishes his day’s work. Later, he makes his employer an offer for the field. When his offer is accepted, the man is overjoyed. The purchase has cost everything he has. The treasure which is now his, however, is worth far more.
The merchant is different. He is looking for treasure. Years of buying and selling have sharpened his eye, and refined his taste. One day, walking through the bazaar, he sees a pearl so large and beautiful that he realizes he absolutely must have it. Buying it will mean sacrificing all that he owns. It is no matter, however. When you have found perfection, no price is too high to pay.
“God’s kingdom is like that,” Jesus is saying. Neither of these two men thinks for a minute of the sacrifice he is making. Both think only of the joy of their new possession.
Must we pay a price to be faithful disciples of Jesus? Yes, we do. Sometimes that price will be high. However, when we think only of the cost of discipleship, then something is missing. In these two parables, Jesus is emphasizing not the cost, but the much greater reward. Another person who was “surprised by joy” was St. Augustine.
All through his early life, this brilliant man wanted to be a Christian. He was unable though to give up his life of indulgence. After God granted him the grace of conversion, Augustine wrote that what he had sacrificed for Jesus was nothing compared to the treasure he had gained.
He writes in his Confessions, “How sweet did it become to me all at once to be without those trifles! What I previously feared to lose, it was now a joy to be without. For you cast them away from me, you true and highest sweetness. You cast them out and entered in yourself, sweeter than all pleasure.”
As followers of Jesus, we know that discipleship can have its costs. We also know that it brings the greatest joy possible.
Fr. David’s Homily for July 19, 2020: Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Scripture Readings: 1) Wisdom 12:13, 16-19; 2) Romans 8:26-27; 3) Matthew 13:24-43
FOCUS: Choose to be the wheat in building up the Kingdom of God on earth, not the weeds.
Many people are gardeners. You might have just a small plot of land with a few tomato plants or maybe you have a larger piece of land with all kinds of things that you are looking forward to enjoying when harvest time arrives. So you might be wondering why the man in the Gospel story today tells his workers not to pull up the weeds in his field.
There will be a time for that later, he says: at harvest time. Until then, he orders, let them (the weeds and the plants) grow together.
Jesus is saying in this, “That is how I am acting.” That is how God acts – like the farmer. This is in contrast to the widely held belief on the part of many faithful Jews of Jesus’ time who believed that when the promised Messiah came, He would render judgment on people.
Yet, as we know, when Jesus came, He did not make a final judgment. He ate with sinners. He proclaimed God’s love for all. Jesus healed people, without investigating whether or not they had repented of their sins.
Most often when Jesus did speak of judgment, He made it clear that this would come later. It would be based largely on how people responded to God’s freely given love.
Jesus’ message – proclaiming God’s love first, and reserving judgment for a later time – is important for all of us.
It reminds us to leave the judgment to God, for only God can see people’s hearts. If God chooses to delay His work of final judgment, it is for the reason given in our first reading: God’s mastery of all things makes Him lenient to all. God can afford to be merciful because He is all powerful.
Today’s Gospel parable of the weeds and the seed tells us of God’s patience. It warns us not to be less patient than God. Jesus says to let the weeds and wheat grow side by side until the harvest day. Yes, that means that good and evil will continue to exist side by side in our world. The Kingdom of God that Jesus proclaims today reflects God’s patient desire that we repent and turn to Him so we may be saved.
In other words, God never gives up on us. He is ever-willing to forgive and is always seeking to draw us back to Himself. It reminds us also that just as God freely and generously loves and forgives us, so we must be patient, gentle and loving to those we encounter throughout our daily lives.
Fr. David’s Homily for July 12, 2020: Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Scripture Readings: 1) Isaiah 55:1-11; 2) Romans 8:18-23; 3) Mathew 13:1-12
FOCUS: Let the message of the parables lead us to a more mature faith.
It is truly worthwhile for us to take some time and reflect on the familiar parable of the sower from today’s Gospel. Jesus gives us this parable as He sits in a boat by the sea. Let us picture for a moment the large crowd that came to hear Him speak. The crowd was so large, in fact, St. Matthew tells us that Jesus had to get into a boat to deliver His message while the people stood on the shore to listen.
To deepen our understanding of this parable, let us look at the big picture. The first sown seed fell on the footpath and was eaten by birds. The second fell on rocky ground and could not lay down deep roots, so as soon as it came up, it was burned by the sun and died. Finally, we are happy to learn that some of the seed fell on rich soil and thrived. Now that we have the big picture, let us take a look at ways this parable can be helpful to us.
Reflecting on this parable, often times we are asked to see ourselves as being represented by the soil and how we accept the seeds of faith. But what if we should see ourselves as the scattered seed itself?
We should ask ourselves, where did the seed of faith fall? Is my faith planted on solid ground so I can bear great fruit for God, or did it fall on shallow or superficial ground, unable to mature and be a blessing?
Maybe my faith starts out strong, but as soon as any heat comes my way, it withers for lack of roots. We all hope, of course, that our faith is like the seed planted in rich soil that will produce great fruit.
Another way to look at this parable is to take ourselves out of it altogether. Perhaps Jesus is showing us that even after so many unsuccessful attempts, hope remains. After so many seeds have fallen where they are unable to produce any fruit, there is still hope. Jesus brings good news that promises hope, even when we experience darkness in our lives.
As God calls each of us to open ourselves to His Word, our response usually does not happen overnight. It takes time if His message is to become rooted in our hearts. We begin by listening and resting in His Word. Inspired, we are moved to act. Our action rises from our greater understanding and awareness of our own responsibility to produce fruit under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The messages of the Scriptures can run very deep, but this message is not hidden from us. Like the seed that fell on rich soil, may our own hearts be a place for faith to take root.
Fr. David’s Homily for July 05, 2020: The Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Scripture Readings: 1) Zechariah 9:9-10; 2) Romans 8:9, 11-13; 3) Matthew 11:25-30
FOCUS: Jesus offers to share the burdens of life with us.
Today’s Gospel contains one of the most encouraging invitations Jesus ever extended, and at the same time it is an invitation that is too often overlooked by many of His followers today. Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. What an offer! Artists and sculptors who have portrayed Jesus in churches around the world, especially in designing crucifixes with Jesus’ arms outstretched before us, have really captured that invitation in a realistic way.
The Lord uses an unusual parable to complete the invitation: Take my yoke upon you…and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light. A yoke is a double harness made of wood that is custom made and placed on the necks of a pair of oxen to enable them to pull a plow or a wagon together.
Jesus was known throughout Galilee as the carpenter’s son. The commentaries on the Scriptures suggest to us that the young Jesus learned a few things about woodworking from Joseph, His foster father, in the shop at Nazareth. A smooth-fitting yoke to place on the shoulders of a pair of oxen is something Jesus could probably speak about from experience.
When Jesus says that we should take His yoke upon us and learn from Him, He is offering to share our burdens with us the way the animals support one another by pulling together. With Jesus helping us, our burden is lighter. The yokes made by Jesus are a perfect fit to make our travel together through life easier.
In a society which encourages individualism and independence, even believers sometimes fail to take advantage of Jesus’ offer in the Gospel. Into every life, sooner or later, labors and burdens show themselves. They can be in the form of health problems, family issues or financial difficulties.
They can arise from past evils that still haunt us, from the present worries that distract us or from insecurities about the future that cause us anxiety. In whatever form or at whatever time they appear, Jesus shares this invitation with us – Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.
Jesus praises God who revealed to little ones, to the meek and humble, what had been hidden from the scholars, the sophisticated and even some of the religious experts of the day. It was the simple and humble people who were most receptive to the Gospel and who understood the importance of Jesus’ teaching.
Jesus makes clear His relationship with God the Father, and the Father’s desire to be revealed to us through the Son. Yet, Jesus describes Himself as meek and humble of heart and offers to share our burdens, giving us rest. Let us take to heart His words, Take my yoke upon you and learn from me…For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.
On this Independence Day weekend, we reflect upon the great gift of freedom God has bestowed upon our country and we take time to say, “Thank you, Lord, for allowing us to be free. May we always cherish this gift of freedom and never take it for granted. May we make responsible decisions, decisions that will reflect our love for you and all of your creation. May we continue to work for peace and justice, not just here in our own land bur for all people throughout the world. You have created us and we know that we are brother and sister to each other. Help us to treat one another accordingly. Amen.”
May all of you have a wonderful, safe and happy Fourth of July holiday!
Fr. David’s Homily for Sunday, June 28: Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Scripture Readings: 1) 2 Kings 4:8-11, 14-16a; 2) Romans 6:3-4, 8-11; 3)
FOCUS: Discipleship must be the frame that gives definition and shape to
One word seems to connect all three of our Scripture readings today –
reward. From the first reading to the words of Jesus in the Gospel, this
word is heard throughout. It is not in the sense of an earthly reward but
rather a heavenly one.
Our reading from the Book of Kings opens with the prophet Elisha
rewarding the woman with her heart’s deepest desire and delight – a child.
From what we know, this woman was generous in receiving the prophet.
She even went so far as to provide permanent accommodation whenever he
came to her town. Yet there was emptiness in her life, for she and her
husband were without children. What a great joy the promise of the prophet,
whom she recognized as a holy man, must have meant to her! The promise
of a child was the reward for her generosity.
St. Paul takes this reward to a new and deeper spiritual meaning by
reminding us that it is in Jesus and the Resurrection that we find the greatest
of all rewards – a share in the newness of life. For St. Paul, the whole of the
Gospel is built on the promise of the Resurrection.
It is the Resurrection that defines the very heart of the believer.
Writing this letter at a time of great persecution and martyrdom for the early
Christian church, St. Paul reminds his readers that whatever might happen to
them in life, they will always have the promise of this great reward. He then
challenges them and us to live in the hope of this great reward – to consider
ourselves as dead to sin, and to live in Christ and the promise of new life.
This promise is also at the heart of today’s Gospel. St. Matthew
shares with us some of Jesus’ teaching on the challenges of discipleship.
We also hear that for the one who is faithful to his or her vocation of
discipleship, there is the reward of new life.
Jesus knew that some of His disciples found it difficult to be faithful.
They often misunderstood what it meant to be His follower, or what it meant
for Him to be the Messiah. Knowing what He would experience, Jesus uses
the symbol of the cross to describe true discipleship. It is not a one-time
challenge, but a daily one: the faithful disciple must be ready to let go of all,
to lose all so that he or she might receive all. Living out this discipleship on
a daily basis calls for us to be generous even in the least of things, like the
woman in the first reading welcoming the prophet.
Like St. Benedict, we can have as one motto for our lives, “Prefer
nothing to Christ” or said another way, “Prefer Christ to everything.”
Fr. David’s Homily for Sunday, June 21: Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Scripture Readings: 1) Jeremiah 20:10-13; 2) Romans 5:12-15; 3) Matthew 10:26-33
FOCUS: Do not fear, for the grace of God is overflowing
Many people spend much time and effort being afraid. Some fear a past they cannot change or a future they cannot predict. Others fear what people are thinking or saying about them. Some people have a fear of heights, the dark, spiders, loneliness and all kinds of other things. However, one of the constant messages given to us in the Scriptures is, “Fear not!” Paying attention to why we are not to be afraid is worth the effort. It is a sign of spiritual maturity.
The prophet Jeremiah talks about that today. He had good reason to fear, if not death, at least great harm to himself. As a prophet who lived about six hundred years before Jesus, Jeremiah’s prophecy was that the Israelite’s careless faithlessness was to blame for their exile to Babylon. This idea was rejected by many in his audience, and because the people despised the message, they wanted to, as Jeremiah says, take their vengeance on him.
In the face of such evil, however, the prophet showed no fear, choosing instead to sing to the Lord, praise the Lord, for He has rescued the life of the poor from the power of the wicked. Many of us might say today, “if only we could be so brave when our enemies gather at the gate!”
We can be brave if we open our hearts to the words of Jesus. He tells us to fear no one and nothing. If we truly believe that God has created all things, even the birds of the sky and the fish in the sea, then surely He has not lost sight of us in our struggles.
You are worth more than many sparrows, Jesus says. For some people, knowing that God has counted all the hairs on our head might be disconcerting, but for others still it offers great comfort, to know that God is so intimately involved with every detail of even the smallest and seemingly insignificant parts of His creation.
In his letter to the Romans, St. Paul reminds us of Jesus’ message of determination and confidence. For it is through Jesus, who conquers sin and death, that we can share in His victory over not just mortal death, but the death of our own fears, faults and failings. St. Paul says, “God’s gracious gift of the one man Jesus Christ is His grace overflowing for the many.” The reign of death from Adam to Moses is ended and the kingdom of God and the hope of heaven have taken its place.
We live in a world that can be hostile to the Gospel and we all have our daily burdens and struggles. But Jesus’ presence among us, God’s grace overflowing, is there to give us strength, courage and fortitude. Through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, we have the ability to pray for these gifts, that we might stand up not only to defend the faith, but to be strong in the face of any obstacles and suffering in our life of faith.
Today is officially the first day of summer and the longest day of the year. It is an opportunity to see anew how the light of the sun, and God’s Son, Jesus, can guide us out of the darkness of fear. As the things of the earth mature in this season, so can we mature in our spiritual life. It is the perfect occasion for us to walk a new path with and for the Lord, trusting in God and fearing no one.
Fr. David’s Homily for Sunday, June 14: Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ
Readings: 1) Deuteronomy 8:2-3, 14b-16a; 2) 1 Corinthians 10:16-17; 3) John 6:51-58
FOCUS: Jesus always remains at our side in the Eucharist during all of life’s struggles.
In 1263, a German priest named Peter of Prague was troubled by doubts he had about the Real Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. So he decided to make a pilgrimage to Rome and pray for guidance in his troubles along the way.
On the way to Rome, he came to a small town in central Italy called Bolsena. While celebrating Mass there, something amazing happened. As the priest held a host and said the words of consecration, blood started to seep out of the host onto his hands and then onto the linen cloth on the altar that we call the corporal.
He soon asked to be taken to the nearby city of Orvieto where he knew that Pope Urban IV was then staying. The pope had the incident investigated and no natural explanation could be found for it. Pope Urban had the blood-stained host and corporal put on display in the cathedral in Orvieto. The corporal is still there today to be reverenced by the faithful.
This Eucharistic miracle led Pope Urban to establish the solemnity that we celebrate today – The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, which is also known by its Latin name, Corpus Christi. It was celebrated for the first time the following year in 1264.
Staying with the pope in Orvieto at the time of the miracle was Thomas Aquinas. Pope Urban commissioned Thomas to compose prayers and hymn texts for the solemnity. O Saving Victim – known in its original Latin as O Salutaris Hostia – is stilled used today typically at the start of a time of Eucharistic adoration, with Down in Adoration Falling – known in its original Latin as Tantum Ergo – sung just before Benediction.
Down in Adoration Falling is actually just one verse in a longer hymn, Sing, my tongue, of the Savior’s glory – known in its original Latin as Pange lingua gloriosi, which we typically sing on Holy Thursday night as the Blessed Sacrament is processed to an altar of repose.
As great as a gift as the feast and its beautiful hymn texts continue to be for us Catholics some 750 years after the wondrous Eucharistic miracle at Bolsena, they are all together simply a reminder to us that Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament journeys at our side as we make our pilgrimage through this world to our heavenly homeland.
Just as the Lord fed the people of Israel with manna from heaven through the forty-year journey trough the desert to the Promised Land, which we heard about in today’s first reading, so He feeds us with Himself, the Bread of Life, as we are tested by afflictions in this life.
We are not alone in our struggles. Jesus is always there with us, especially in the Eucharist in His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. There is more than enough strength in the Blessed Sacrament for us to face the worst of troubles that could ever best us.
And we are never alone because in the Eucharist all believers are brought together as one as the body of Christ, as St. Paul reminds us in today’s second reading.
What a great comfort it can be for us to know that our Lord and so many believers both here, around the world and in heaven are truly one with us when we struggle to live out our calling from day to day.
Nevertheless, we, in our own ways, may doubt Jesus’ promise like His listeners did in the synagogue in Capharnaum long ago. Or we may simply, and sadly, believe in His real presence in the Eucharist but live as if it does not make a difference in our lives.
If either of these possibilities is the case with any of us, I invite you on this great feast to open your heart anew to the Lord and let His grace draw you closer to Him in the Eucharist.
I cannot promise you that He will perform a miracle like He did for Peter of Prague. But if He strengthens your faith in His real presence in the Eucharist then He will have done a wondrous thing in this world nonetheless.
Then we can make our own the words of Peter that he told Jesus at the end of Jesus’ discourse on the Bread of Life, part of which we heard in today’s Gospel. Jesus asked His Apostles if they would walk away from Him after so many others doubted His word. And Peter said, Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life (John 6:68.)
Fr. David’s Homily for Sunday, June 7: Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity
Scripture Readings: 1) Exodus 34:4b-6, 8-9; 2) 2 Corinthians 13:11-13; 3)
FOCUS: The mysteries of the Most Holy Trinity are woven into the
mysteries of humankind.
Many years ago, seminary classes were taught in Latin. A story is
told of a professor who spent the entire year teaching a class on the doctrine
of the Holy Trinity. The students were lost – between the language and the
intense amount of material they had to learn. On the last day of the class
before the exam, the professor promised a summary review for the exam.
The students were anxious to hear it since they were lost on how to prepare
so much material. He stood before them at the podium, and said, in
reference to the course material about the Trinity, Mysterium est. In other
words, “It’s a mystery.” That ended the summary and the class.
No matter how many Biblical scholars and writers have tried to define
and explain the One God in Three Persons, it remains a mystery beyond our
ability to understand. And yet, belief in God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit
is the most essential doctrine of our Catholic faith.
There have been many false teachings and misunderstandings about
the Trinity down through the centuries. For example, there were people who
suggested there are three gods forming what we might call a “council of
deities,” and others who expressed the idea that God acted as different
persons at different times. The truth is more mysterious – our God is always
and everywhere, always has been and always will be, the One in Three.
Our Scripture readings today can shed some light on this mystery
though. In the reading from the Book of Exodus, God renews His covenant
with Moses. His chosen people had broken the first of the Ten
Commandments by worshiping the golden calf. In an earlier verse, Moses
had smashed the tablets in anger. God, however, revealed Himself as being
full of mercy, slow to anger and abounding in faithfulness. He did not
withdraw His covenant. Instead, He renewed it as the tablets were restored
to Moses and the people, and they were forgiven.
God the Father has renewed His covenant with us, His Church –
forgiving us our sins – by the saving actions of His Son acting through the
power of the Holy Spirit. God’s love reveals itself as a Trinitarian love, with
all three persons of the one God acting together to help us in this life and
help us to one day experience eternal life – God’s great design and destiny
for all of us.
God shows Himself as a Father of mercy, in His only Son as a savior,
and in His Spirit as a redeemer who is forever renewing His love for us, and
allowing us to do the same for Him and for each other. Indeed, the
mysteries of the Most Holy Trinity are woven into the mysteries of the
Only when we know who God is are we truly capable of knowing
ourselves and each other. Made in the image and likeness of God, we are
made in the image and likeness of the Holy Trinity. The love we have for
one another should then be modeled on the love shared by God the Father,
Son and Holy Spirit.
Today, St. Paul concluded his second letter to the Corinthians,
wishing that newly formed Christian community all the blessings of the
Triune God. We begin each Mass with the words St. Paul used to conclude
his reflections: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the
Communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.” May the Triune God’s
great love for us help us to mend our ways, encourage one another and greet
each other in holy peace.
Fr. David’s Homily for Sunday, May 31: Pentecost Sunday
Scripture Readings: 1) Acts 2:1-11; 2) 1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13; 3)
John 20: 19-23
FOCUS: As Christians, we use the gifts of the Holy Spirit to preach Jesus to
The Scripture readings today on this Pentecost, the feast of the birth of
the church, give us powerful images: a strong driving wind; tongues as of
fire; the ability of the disciples to speak to people in their own languages.
This is a good day to celebrate the power of the Holy Spirit, transforming a
group of disciples filled with fear into bold preachers. Pentecost Sunday is
a great day to rejoice in the power of the Lord!
Pentecost is also a great day to challenge ourselves. In the past
several weeks, we have commemorated the passion and death of Jesus and
celebrated His Resurrection, His appearances in a glorified body to the
disciples, His ascension into heaven, and now His sending of the Holy Spirit
in great power. The important question is: what do we do with this now, in
our own time and place?
From the Scriptures we know that there are different kinds of spiritual
gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same
Lord…and to each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for
All of these have one thing in common: they are to be used to build
up the Body, the Church – and in turn to fulfill the Church’s mission. That
mission is the proclamation of Jesus as Lord and of the love that God has for
each of us, shown to us through Jesus.
By faith and through the power of the Holy Spirit, we all have the
basic gift that St. Paul mentions in his letter: the realization and the ability
to say that Jesus is Lord. This is the foundation of being a Christian. Grace
and discernment help us own the gifts we have been given and make an
effort to use them for God’s glory and the sake of the Kingdom.
The gifts can be as simple as a kind heart that is ready to listen to
others who are suffering, or of a practical nature that can help in planning
efforts to reach out. Today, let us ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the gifts He
has given to us – and let us ask the Holy Spirit to show us how we can use
these gifts for the good of others.
The gifts the Holy Spirit has given us are never meant to be used for
us alone. They truly are meant to be shared. In a sense, we must think of
these gifts as given to us by God to be shared with others. The gifts do not
do much good if we keep them to ourselves. I like to think of the example
of giving a physical gift to someone. Perhaps I give a book to someone for
their birthday. I had the book in my possession for a while, but when I
bought it, the intention was that it was to be given away. When I hand the
book to the recipient, I no longer have it. The other person has it. However,
when we give away the gifts God has given us…especially gifts that build
up His Kingdom here on earth, gifts given to us by the Holy Spirit, we get so
much back in return. In a sense, we still have the gift we have given away.
We also receive God’s blessing because we used the gift in the right manner.
We didn’t keep it to ourselves. What we received came from God and what
we gave to others will bring so much more to ourselves.
Today is the birthday of the Church…and together we pray the
beautiful prayer of the Holy Spirit. “Come, Holy Spirit. Fill the hearts of
your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your
Spirit and they shall be created and you shall renew the face of the earth. O
God, who did instruct the hearts of the faithful by the light of the Holy
Spirit, grant that by the same Spirit we may be truly wise, and ever rejoice
in His consolation and enlightenment, through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Fr. David’s Homily for Sunday, May 24: Ascension of the Lord
Scripture Readings: Acts 1:1-11; 2) Ephesians 1:17-23; 3) Matthew 28:16-20
FOCUS: Jesus promises His disciples that He will be with them as they become His witnesses to the ends of the earth.
In the first reading today from the Acts of the Apostles, we are told that two men dressed in white ask the disciples, “Why are you standing there looking at the sky?”
It might be safe to assume that the Apostles were overwhelmed by what they had just heard and seen. It just a few short weeks, they had witnessed the suffering and death of Jesus, their beloved friend. They believed that Jesus was the promised Messiah and they were trying to understand – and believe – that He was no longer dead after seeing Him, touching Him and eating with Him.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells them that He will send the Holy Spirit and that they will be His witnesses, not only to the Jews in Jerusalem, but to the ends of the earth. Jesus then is lifted up on a cloud and disappears from their sight. Just imagine those Apostles, standing motionless, staring up at the sky.
It is reasonable to think that the Apostles were still overwhelmed from their thoughts and feelings about recent events. St. Matthew’s Gospel confirms this. When they met Jesus in Galilee as He instructed them, we are told, they worshiped Him, but they doubted. Yet Jesus has confidence in them.
His response to the doubting Apostles is firm and immediate: All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded.
Jesus has total trust in the Father and in His plan for the world, and He commends that plan to the Apostles. He entrust His power to them to be His witnesses to all the world – to go and make disciples, to Baptize them, and to teach all that He commanded.
Jesus, however, does not leave them – or us – alone, staring up at the sky to question and doubt whether we can accomplish this great task. He remains with us as we accept and embrace His mission, guiding and empowering us through the Holy Spirit.
Jesus remains with us, nourishing and sustaining us for His mission in the celebration of the Eucharist, in His word and in His church, the community of believers.
As Jesus trusted the doubting Apostles, He trusts us to believe in Him and His mission. He trusts us to believe that He is the way, the truth and the life that leads and guides us until His return. Jesus trusts us to believe that He is with us – always – until the end of the world.
Fr. David’s Homily for Sunday, May 17: Sixth Sunday of Easter
Scripture Readings: 1) Acts 8:5-8, 14-17; 2) 1 Peter 3:15-18; 3) John 14:15-21
FOCUS: We love God by keeping His commandments and through the grace of the Holy Spirit are filled with joy.
The reading from the first letter of Peter today tells us to sanctify (or make holy) Jesus as Lord in our hearts. What does that really mean? In our relationship with God, how do we accomplish this? Keep my commandments, Jesus says. That is how He will know that we love Him.
So simple, yet Jesus knows it is not easy for us. He knows that we will be overwhelmed and at times struggle with doubts or guilt. I will not leave you orphans, Jesus promises. What He asks of us is not easy, but He also promises to send the Holy Spirit to help us. We are never alone. During these challenging days of living with COVID-19, more than ever, we need to remember that we are never alone….Jesus truly is with us!
In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, when the people of Samaria accepted the Gospel message, the author reports that there was great joy in that city. When we love Jesus, when we keep His commandments, then we, too, can be a people of joy.
From this joy, we can offer a defense of our faith when it is needed, remembering the instruction from the First Letter of Peter: to do so gently. Pope Francis, many times, has urged us both to share the love of God in our hearts through lives of prayer and service and to be mindful not to do so simply to change people’s opinions.
The reading concludes with an emphasis that our conscience should be clear and that we should live upright lives. That keeping God’s commandments and loving Him is not only the greatest defense of our faith, but is, in fact, our sacred obligation.
In Samaria, two thousand years ago, the Apostle Philip preached and healed people. The city received the Gospel. Then, the Scripture tells us, Peter and John were sent to Samaria to pray for them and lay hands on them that they might receive the Holy Spirit.
Samaria had heard the Gospel, but the people there were not left to strive alone to keep God’s commandments and neither are we. The Holy Spirit comes to bind us to our good intentions, to advocate for us before God for the grace to live holy lives, and to teach us, how to love Jesus.
In a message for young people that applies to us all, Benedict XVI, Pope emeritus, had this to say: I want to invite you to dare to love. Do not desire anything less for your life than a love that is strong and beautiful and that is capable of making the whole of your existence a joyful undertaking of giving yourselves as a gift to God and your brothers and sisters, in imitation of the One who vanquished hatred and death for ever through love. (World Youth Day, April 1, 2007.)
Let us leave here today with renewed intention to love God. May the Holy Spirit give us strength and fill our hearts with joy.
Fr. David’s Homily for Sunday, May 10: Fifth Sunday of Easter
Scripture Readings: 1) Acts 6:1-7; 2) 1 Peter 2:4-9; 3) John 14:1-12
FOCUS: We are a royal priesthood, initiated by our Baptism, called out of the darkness to share our faith.
Today’s Gospel is one that is often chosen by family members as they go through the often difficult process of planning a funeral liturgy for a departed loved one. The Church offers many beautiful and meaningful Scripture passages to console us and remind us that just as Jesus died and came back to life, so will those who believe in Him. This particular Gospel passage is one that I suggest people take some time to reflect upon, putting themselves in the room with Jesus as He tells them He is leaving them.
Let us put ourselves in the room for a moment. We have been following Jesus almost three years. We saw Him work many miracles. We heard Him tell us of a wonderful new Kingdom. We learned about God’s tremendous love for all of us. Now we hear Jesus saying He is leaving us. Like the disciples, we also might wonder if we are ever going to see the Lord again.
Jesus, knowing our thoughts, reassures us by telling us that He indeed is going away, but will come back again some day and take us to Himself. We probably would not understand that, since, like the disciples, we had not yet experienced seeing the risen Lord.
Jesus speaks of a dwelling place…a place where there is plenty of room. The question has often been posed, “What happens when there is no more room in heaven?” Today’s Gospel reminds us that there will never be such a time. There is room for everyone in heaven. That is good news! The next question is “How do we get there?” Thomas, the Apostle, asks the question and the rest of us in the room are intently listening for Jesus’ answer.
“I am the way, the truth and the life. No one goes to the Father, except through me.” What does that mean? It means that if we wish to get to that special dwelling place Jesus is preparing for us, the place we call heaven, we have to go through Jesus. We must see Him as the way, the truth and the life. We must listen to what He has to say to us and put His teachings into practice in our daily lives. He must be our top priority. As St. Benedict once said, “We must prefer nothing to Christ.”
We are beginning the fifth week of the Easter season, and, at least in our part of the world, new life is beginning to burst around us in the springtime energy. Colors of gray and brown are replaced by green and other colors that remind us of warmth. Grass is beginning to grow and perennials are breaking through. Light is replacing darkness and life is replacing death
As St. Peter reminds us today in the second reading, we are a royal priesthood that began with our Baptism. We have been called out of the darkness to share our faith. May we embrace our role and our hope as easily as the springtime flowers respond to the rays of the ever-increasing sunlight.
May God’s grace today nourish us with all that we need to go out into the world, even remotely as we must do in so many ways these days, and share our faith, calling people, as the Lord has called us, out of darkness into His own marvelous light. The message given us by Jesus is, “I am the way, the truth and light.” Let that be the message we bring to others by our words and our deeds.
Fr. David’s Homily for Sunday, May 3: Fourth Sunday of Easter
Scripture Readings: 1) Acts 2:14a, 36-41; 2) 1 Peter 2:20b-25; 3) John 10:1-10
FOCUS: Hear and heed the voice of our Shepherd.
Sheep who are left alone for a while will tend to wander off and get into trouble. That is why the shepherd spends much time and energy keeping an eye on them. When left by ourselves, we, too, have this tendency to wander off and get into trouble of all kinds. When we allow the voices of temptation, for example, to drown out the voice of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, we are headed for trouble. Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves, and we need to heed His voice.
What an awesome event is described in today’s first reading. Peter speaks plainly to the crowd as to their involvement in the death of Jesus. Some of them were no doubt the agitators in the crowd the day Jesus was condemned and crucified.
Others stood by silently and let it all unfold. Let us remember that 10 of the apostles ran away. Only one remained at the foot of the cross with Mary and several other women. Peter told them to repent and they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. They were so filled with remorse and a desire to be forgiven and follow the Lord that they asked the all important and necessary question, “What are we to do? What do we have to do to be in God’s good graces?” Their own spirits were now ready to receive the Holy Spirit. They were ready to put their sinful past in the past and would now life a new life in Christ.
Those who accepted Peter’s message were Baptized, and about three thousand persons were added that day. All the people repented for whatever role they may have played in Jesus’ death, and the community grew by 3,000. Truly a gracious and blessed day in the life of the Church. We can only say the heavens rejoiced at the sight of such a glorious event.
This was not work of Peter, of course. This was the Lord working through Peter. Jesus is the gate protecting the sheep from the robbers – Jesus, who came so all might have life and have it more abundantly. The crowds in the first reading heard their shepherd’s voice in the words and actions of Peter. The Pharisees and others in the Gospel did not recognize their shepherd who was right in front of them.
Let us hear the Good Shepherd’s voice this day. We, like many in that crowd may ask, “What do we have to do?” The answer is the same. “Come to the Lord.” We have already been Baptized. Let us be worthy of our calling and allow Jesus in influence every aspect of our lives. Let us help others hear His voice through our words and actions this day as well. For His voice, Jesus’ voice, leads us to life. The Easter season is the perfect time to move from pain and suffering to glorious triumph in the risen Christ. May we always hear and heed the voice of the Shepherd.
Fr. David’s Homily for Sunday, April 26: Third Sunday of Easter
Scripture Readings: 1) Acts 2:14, 22-33; 2) 1 Peter 1:17-21; 3) Luke 24:13-35
FOCUS: We need God, and the Mass gives us what we need.
The Gospel tells us today, While He was with them at table, He took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized Him. Immediately, the despair of the two disciples turned to joy. They were elated and rushed back to Jerusalem to tell the other disciples of their encounter with the risen Lord.
It is likely that we can identify with these two disciples who were on the road to Emmaus. We have all experienced times of despair and disappointment. We have had some of our dreams dashed and felt overwhelming losses. Especially in these difficult times, we may have experiences that caused weakness in our faith or left us questioning God’s plan for us and the world.
Just like the two we hear about today, we need something to bring us out of our gloom at time. We need our outlook lifted and our faith reignited. We need God.
This is what brings us here. We need God, and the Mass, even remotely, gives us what we need. It is not unlike our own “Road to Emmaus.” We enter the celebration needing to be fed. In the Liturgy of the Word, God speaks to us. The Scriptures feed us, teaching us God’s ways and His plan for us.
We are nourished again in the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Today’s Gospel tells us, He was made known to them in the breaking of the bread. This is repeated at every Mass. It is the perfect sacrifice, the perfect meal, the perfect nourishment for our souls. If we open ourselves to all that it offers, we, too, can feel the complete joy that energized Jesus’ disciples to rush out and share the Good News with others.
A closing prayer: Dear Lord, even when we do not recognize you in our midst, you walk with us. Thank you for your persistent love that never fails. Open our eyes, so you may use all that you have given us to help feed others. Amen.
Fr. David’s Homily for Sunday, April 19, 2020: Divine Mercy Sunday
Scripture Readings: 1) Acts 2:42-47; 2) 1 Peter 1:3-9; 3) John 20:19-31
FOCUS: Jesus is the font of God’s Divine Mercy.
The central focus of our celebration today is the continued celebration of the resurrection of Jesus and the tremendous amount of mercy offered by our Lord.
St. Peter tells us in today’s second reading, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in His great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.
St. John Paul II, in his canonization of St. Mary Faustina Kowalska, instituted this day into the church calendar, known as Divine Mercy Sunday. In his homily at the canonization, he said,
“It is important then that we accept the whole message that comes to us from the Word of God on this Second Sunday of Easter, which from now on throughout the Church will be called ‘Divine Mercy Sunday.’ In the various readings, the liturgy seems to indicate the path of mercy which, while reestablishing the relationship of each person with God, also creates new relations of fraternal solidarity among human beings. Christ has taught us that “man not only receives and experiences the mercy of God, but is also called ‘to practice mercy’ towards others: (as we hear from St. Matthew’s Gospel) Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy (Matthew 5:7)”
That mercy is easily seen in the many healing miracles recorded in the Gospels. In each one, whether physical or spiritual, the power of Jesus to renew, forgive and heal enters into the life of someone and, at times, even turns upside down the very laws of nature.
In today’s Gospel, the ministry of forgiveness and mercy is passed to the disciples, when Jesus says, Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them. This is truly Divine Mercy.
When the apostle, Thomas, broken up over the death of Jesus, cannot, or will not, bring himself to accept the Resurrection, Jesus gently moves him from stubborn refusal to a moment of faith. Thomas, after this encounter with the Lord, makes one of the great confessions of faith: My Lord and my God! In that moment, Thomas is healed and changed – healed of his grief and pain, changed from doubt to belief. This is Divine Mercy.
Having experienced that same forgiveness and healing in their own lives, the disciples now become carriers of these gifts for all who will hear and respond to their preaching. For what they say about the risen Lord is no mere fantasy. They witnessed His death on the cross, and now they witness with their very eyes and with the touch of their hands that He is fully alive. This is Divine Mercy.
The need for those gifts of mercy and healing is as great today as it was in those early days. Without it, we are lost. So as we continue to celebrate the Resurrection, let us each open our hearts to those gifts and then commit ourselves to be instruments of them to others.
We all have been affected in so many ways these past few months by the Corona Virus. In our prayers, let us ask God to extend mercy to all who have succumbed to this disease. Let us also ask God to extend mercy to those who are caring for the ill. This illness, in addition to great physical discomfort, brings loneliness – a real sense of isolation. More than ever, people need to experience God’s mercy…a reminder that they are not alone and they are not forgotten. Even if we cannot be helpful in physical ways that would be so normal for us in other circumstances, we can include those who suffer in our prayers. We must remember the Beatitude: Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Divine mercy is extended to us. Let us also extend mercy to our brothers and sisters.
Fr. David’s Homily for Sunday, April 12: Easter Sunday
Scripture Readings: Acts 10:34a, 37-43; 2) Colossians 3:1-4; 3) John 20:1-9
FOCUS: Let us surrender our hearts and our wills to our loving God, who offers us new life on earth and in heaven.
The good news we celebrate today is the fact that Jesus is risen from the dead. I deliberately use the word fact because in two thousand years, no scientific expedition has been able to discover the mortal remains of Jesus. That is because His tomb is empty and there is no body to be found. The testimony of the eyewitnesses still stands. These witnesses went to their deaths proclaiming what we still proclaim: Jesus Christ is risen from the dead!
Today is a day of glory and a day of hope for all of us. God’s purpose and God’s will cannot be undone by human sin and rejection. In His Body here on earth, Jesus suffered terribly. He was mocked, spat upon, scourged, crowned with thorns, crucified, died and was buried. Today we celebrate the glorious fact of His resurrection from the dead.
We bear within us the hope that resurrection gives us. Our faith brings to us the truth that God has not abandoned us. God is brining us into new life, and brining new life to Christ’s body, the Church. God is calling us out of our tombs, as Jesus called Lazarus into new life.
There is a reality, however, that must be faced when we enter into new life. All the wonderful feelings associated with new life must be balanced with the fact that what is new comes from what is old. To have what is new means we must let go of what is old, and this process can be painful at times.
Jesus has made that journey. If we walk in His way, His truth and His life, He joins us in our journey, making His journey ours.
What was the key that unlocked the door of resurrection and new life for Jesus? It was acceptance. It was His surrender into the hands of the Father. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus cried out, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will.” (Mark 14:36) Dying on the cross, Jesus cried out, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) Jesus’ last words were, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” (Luke 23:46)
Acceptance means surrender. It means letting go of a former way of life. We are not going to escape our Gardens of Gethsemane, nor are we going to escape our crosses. The key to our success is to do what Jesus did – to surrender ourselves and our lives into the hands of our Father in heaven.
Today we celebrate the joyful news that Jesus’ hope is our hope, just as His faith in God is our faith in God. God our Father has given us power to enter into new, better and happier lives no matter what the forces of darkness and evil have or will throw at us.
The only thing that stands in the way of happiness is pride, our willfulness, our defiant selves who refuse to surrender control over our lives and place them in God’s hands.
This Easter most of us I am sure will be celebrating Easter in a way different from the traditions that we have come to treasure and look forward to. Certainly we should keep in our prayers today all those suffering from the Corona Virus, those who have passed away from it and for all those courageous people around the world who are helping in any way those who are in need… we pray for medical professionals…scientists, doctors, nurses, paramedics, aides, civic leaders, police officers and fire fighters and so many others who put their own lives on the line each day so that others may be taken care of.
In spite of all of this disruption to our daily lives, Jesus still is with us. He cannot be found in the tomb because He is not there. He is with His people…the people He loves so dearly that He was willing to die for them. Today we recall that the story does not end with Jesus’ death, but with His resurrection. And in one way, we can say that the story continues…with us.
Today, let us give ourselves all that God wants to give us by surrendering ourselves to His powerful love. The forces of darkness, evil and sickness will throw themselves at us, but they cannot prevail. The love of Christ conquers all things.
On behalf of the parish staff of St. James the Apostle, I wish each and every one of you a blessed and glorious Easter!
Fr. David’s Homily for Sunday, April 5: Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion
Readings: Isaiah 50:4-7; Philippians 2:6-11; Matthew 26:14-27:66
FOCUS: We remember the suffering of Christ and are called to accompany
others in theirs.
Each year on Palm Sunday, we recount the story of Jesus’ passion.
We hear about the events leading up to His arrest: the agony in the garden,
the passing of His back and forth between Pontius Pilate and King Herod
and the chief priests of the temple. We imagine what it was like for Jesus to
be judged by human beings. Each year, we are invited to enter into this
story, to remember it and to accompany Jesus during those trials.
It is not the pleasant escape that we might find when we watch a
movie or read a book. Rather, with His eyes we see the crowd whom He
loves, shouting for His death.
With Him, we witness His closest friends abandon, deny or watch
from a distance. We see the cruelty of rulers and soldiers, who mock Him,
beat Him and gamble for His garments. We are asked to remember the
horrible death He endured, a public and agonizing death of being nailed to a
It is an unpleasant business, the suffering of Jesus and of the world – for Jesus’ death and resurrection did not remove suffering from our lives or
the lives of those we love. And it can be terrifying to experience suffering
ourselves or to walk with someone who is in distress.
None of us has to go far to know something about suffering….either
in ourselves or in someone we love. These days we are all somehow
affected by the spread of a virus that plays no favorites, but only desires to
attack, because it does not know how to do anything else. Yes, this kind of
suffering brings fear, confusion, anxiety and despair and may even cause
some to question their faith in God.
But whether our suffering is due to the spread of the corona virus or to
something else, we have choices that have to be made. We can be like Peter
who denies, or the soldier who jeers. We can be an acquaintance who
watches, or Pilate who washes his hands of the matter.
Or we can be like Joseph of Arimathea, who refuses to participate in
an unjust persecution, or like the women who do not run from the agony of
Jesus’ death, but tended to His broken, lifeless body. Perhaps we will be
like the centurion who praises God even in the midst of darkness. (“Truly
this was the Son of God!”) Matthew 27:54; Mark 15:39; Luke 23:47
It is much easier, in the midst of affliction and suffering, to find a
distraction…something that will help us escape from the situation. Yet each
year, Palm Sunday puts suffering squarely in our midst. Why?
Because our suffering, and the suffering of the world, are bound to
that of Jesus’ suffering.
We are asked to enter into our Lord’s passion – to walk with Him, to
accompany Him as He faces cruelty, injustice, pain and abandonment, so
that we may walk with others who suffer. We are asked to accompany them,
to be for them what some of the more admirable people were for Jesus in His
We may feel we can do nothing much regarding the suffering of those
affected by the corona virus, for example. However, Jesus never turns away
from anyone who comes to Him in prayer. We can pray for others; people
we may never meet in this life. Jesus was certainly always there for others
when they needed Him. He is here for us today…and He does ask us to help
alleviate suffering when and where we can. We accompany Him to the
cross, but He is the one who is carrying the weight of the cross. Carrying
the cross by ourselves would crush us. With Jesus, the burden is lightened.
So as we enter into Christ’s passion and partake of His victory found
in the Eucharist, let us pray for the grace to see what is before us, to open
our hearts to those who need us and to accompany those who suffer…just as
Jesus did, and continues to do so, for us.
Fr. David’s Homily for Sunday, March 29: The Fifth Sunday of Lent
FOCUS: Faith in Jesus and the Resurrection helps every believer to live a life free of fear.
The Gospel today tells us that Jesus wept when He learned of the death of His good friend Lazarus. The tears of Jesus remind us that Jesus is fully human and fully divine. We know that He walked on water and raised the dead, but He was also capable of feeling loss, pain and grief, just as we do. Jesus experienced sadness, and our story today tells us of sadness experienced by others, particularly the two sisters of Lazarus, Martha and Mary.
Their sadness is increased because they do not understand Jesus’ behavior during their brother’s illness. They sent word to Jesus that Lazarus was sick and at that time, our Lord was only two miles away. Days passed and as Lazarus became more ill we still do not see Jesus coming to their aid. What they do not know is that Jesus has a miracle in store for them, something they could not even imagine.
Jesus seems to make no effort to be there to comfort the sisters during their brother’s last hours, nor during the funeral or the days that follow. By the time Jesus does make the short journey from Bethlehem to Bethany, Lazarus has been in the tomb for nearly five days.
Martha and then Mary both confront Jesus about what they see as a lack of concern: Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. Martha also makes a profession of faith: Even now, I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give it to you. As upset as Martha may be both about her brother’s death and Jesus’ absence, she believes there is still reason to hope.
When Jesus does arrive, he states: I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live. Jesus then asks Martha, Do you believe this? The answer to this question defines the life and faith of every believer. It is the same question asked of each of us when we confront our own mortality or the death of someone we love. Soon to face His own passion, Jesus has come to Bethany to show Martha and Mary that life does not end in death.
With an authority that comes from God above, Jesus orders: Lazarus, come out! Indeed, Lazarus comes out of the tomb. Once the wrappings that bound him are removed, everyone can see that he has not only overcome death, but the illness that caused it. In the same way, all believers will one day be called forth from their tombs, and freed from the chains of illness, sin and death that make up so much of our lives here on earth.
At Bethany, Jesus fulfills the prophecy of Ezekiel (the first reading): when I open your graves and have you rise from them, O my people. In his letter to the Romans, St. Paul gives all of us the hope that we can experience the same gift of new life given to Lazarus: the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also. Once we understand that faith is stronger than death, we have nothing to fear.
The hope of the Resurrection helps us to overcome death and reach out to the victory that awaits us in heaven. Grief is the one emotion shared by every person at some point during life on earth. Joy is the one emotion shared by every saint in heaven, all of whom have exchanged their crosses for the crowns of glory!
Fr. David’s Homily for Sunday, March 22: The Fourth Sunday of Lent
FOCUS: Christ is the light of the world. He shines for all who seek Him and He empowers us to live in that light.
There is something truly comforting and reassuring about the words of today’s Psalm: The Lord is my shepherd. It seems to speak to us not just of the promise of one day sharing in the eternal life of God, but of the ongoing blessings of God in each one of our lives: the blessings of family, community, material well-being. At a time of difficulty and challenge, as we all struggle living with the effects of the corona virus, it is refreshing to hear once again these words of comfort and reassurance. Yet there are many whose lives are far removed from this picture of overflowing cups and verdant pastures. There are many who truly walk in the dark valley full of fear, despair and in need, lacking courage and whose lives are more closely related to the blind man we hear about in today’s Gospel.
As we look all around us, it is difficult not to see a world broken and divided on so many levels. So many of our brothers and sisters are suffering because of poverty, illiteracy, violence and inequality, not to mention the many millions who suffer under the effects of illness, natural disaster and famine.
In the face of such a world, we might be tempted to despair or, worse still, imitate the Pharisees in the Gospel by being shortsighted and concerned only with ourselves. Today, however, as we continue our Lenten journey with its emphasis on prayer, fasting and almsgiving, we are once again challenged to live as children of the light, for that is what produces every kind of goodness, righteousness and truth.
Our Gospel today is the second of three great coming to faith experiences recalled in St. John’s Gospel and used during Year A of the liturgical cycle. Last week we heard of the Samaritan woman at the well and next week we will hear the account of the raising of Lazarus. Blind from birth, the man’s disability removed one of the great joys of life: the gift of sight. Not only did it exclude him from being able to appreciate the beauty of creation, but because blindness – or indeed any disability – was seen in the first century as a punishment for sin, he was also excluded from family and society at the very time that he needed their support and comfort the most.
He was all alone in life! That was until he came into contact with Jesus, and what an encounter that was! Through His healing touch, Jesus moves this blind man in a way that was beyond his wildest imagining. Not only is he healed of his physical ailment but through His words and most importantly His action, Jesus elicits words of faith.
Asked by Jesus if he believes in the Son of Man, the newly sighted man responds, “I do believe, Lord” and worships Him. By doing this, Jesus not only restores his physical vision but opens his eyes of faith. In that one special and life-changing encounter the blind man moves from physical and spiritual darkness and exclusion to the land of faith-filled vision and renewed relationship with God and community.
It is into this same light-filled land of faith and relationship that each one of us has been invited by virtue of our Baptism. Like David in our first reading, we have been chosen by name and anointed to be God’s instruments in the world. And as our second reading challenges us: You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness of faith.
Because we have the gentle touch of Jesus in our lives, and we recognize His light in our world, we seek to imitate Christ with our lives of faithfulness, prayer and service to our brothers and sisters. We may not be able to bring about the dramatic restoration of vision but we can each shed the holy light of compassion and hope on the lives of those who are less fortunate than we are.
Lent gives us the possibility to express in a very public and tangible way, our faith. It gives us an opportunity not to judge by appearance, but as God would see us. This is our time to begin to lay the foundation for a more just world because only with these qualities can our fractured world possibly be healed.
EWTN.com has daily Mass as well as recitation of the Rosary and other devotional programs. Mercy Home for Boys and Girls also televises Sunday Mass (you can go to mercyhome.org/Sunday-mass for more information. The televised Mass is normally on Sundays at 9:30 AM on WGN – channel 9.) Relevantradio.com is also a good source of Catholic devotional material. They also have Masses streamed from their website. For more local options from within our diocese, visit http://www.dioceseofjoliet.org/bishop/content1.php?secid=74
Act of Spiritual Communion by Saint Alphonsus Ligouri:
My Jesus, I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Sacrament. I love You above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul.Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You.Never permit me to be separated from You. Amen.