Fr. David’s Homily for the Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

FOCUS:  Are we preparing for what is coming?

Scripture Readings:  1) Numbers 11:25-29; 2) James 5:1-6; 3) Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48

          As the liturgical year once again quickly comes to a close, our days will get shorter, our nights will get longer, and our Scripture readings will continue to point us toward the end times, judgment and the Kingdom of God.  We should be careful, in these times, to not miss the point.

          Joshua presents to Moses in our first reading that Eldad and Medad were not present when the Spirit of God came and rested upon the elders, so they should not be prophesying.  Moses essentially tells Joshua that he is missing the point, saying, Would not all the people of the Lord were prophets!

Along comes John in the Gospel who protests to Jesus that someone not in their company was using the power of Jesus’ name.  Jesus essentially tells him that he, too, is missing the point.  Whoever is not against us is for us, Jesus tells us.

          So what is the point?  We might think of it this way; how are we doing in our preparation for our personal end of time experience, namely our death?  If Jesus returned today, would we be comfortable with Him judging how we are doing with the Father’s creation, with the gift of life, with the gift of faith?  Would we be prepared today to enter into the Kingdom of God?

          These questions are not meant to drag us down or to make us feel guilty.  Quite the contrary, for each of us is called to live each day to the fullest.  It is how we interpret living to the fullest that bears examining.  Chasing after material things is not living to the fullest, but chasing after the things of God is.

          James drives this point home for us today, reminding us that earthly treasures have no value and will not last – that injustice toward others is known to God and will serve, among other things, as testimony against us.  Now, having all the things the world offers might be nice. 

          Having a close relationship with God, our spouse, our children, parents and neighbors is even better.  There is nothing that says we cannot have both.  However, the things we pursue cannot come at the expense of the relationships in our lives, most importantly our relationship with God.

          Joshua missed that point, in his assumption that where Eldad and Medad physically stood was more important than where they stood with God.  John missed that point, in his assumption that if the man driving out demons in Jesus’ name did not have a visible relationship with Jesus (that is, he does not follow us), then he must not have any relationship with him at all.

          We have no excuse if we miss the point.  We know that our relationship with Jesus, and our relationship with the Father through Jesus, is the foundation of everything else.  If our relationship with God is strong, then other relationships in our lives grow stronger.

          Then we, too, can be prophets for the Lord, performing mighty deeds in His name.  And when the day of our death comes and we do have to answer the question, “Are you prepared today to enter into the Kingdom of God?  We can answer using Jesus’ own words;  Because if one belongs to Christ, he will surely not lose his reward.

Fr. David’s Homily for the Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings:  1) Wisdom 2:12, 17-20; 2) James 3:16-4:3; 3) Mark 9:30-37

FOCUS:  What stands in the way of our pursuit of discipleship?

          Most of us like success.  Almost daily, through a wide variety of media, our attention is often drawn to those who are the wealthiest, the most powerful, the most beautiful, the most fashionable, and even to the athletes and teams with the most wins. 

          Their activities garner the headlines, their photos appear in social media and their lives can often dominate our conversations.  At times we may desire what they appear to have – fame and fortune.  We can begin to use these ideas of success as a standard for our own vision of what makes our lives successful.

          Jesus’ followers fell into similar traps.  In the Gospel, the Son of God was predicting His own passion and resurrection, yet they were arguing about who was the greatest among them.

          How have our lives been shaped by the words of Jesus?  What worldly evils or wicked forces are working against our pursuit of discipleship?  Who and what gets ignored while we are in pursuit of greatness?

          Today’s readings offer some clear guidelines.  Disciples of Jesus are not to seek power and prestige, which the culture offers, but peace and purity.  Disciples of Jesus are not motivated by jealousy and selfish ambition, but serving the greater good. 

          Disciples of Jesus do not give their attention to the wealthy and powerful, but the marginalized.  Disciples of Jesus do not worry about their own homes, clothing and fine dining so much, but more about providing shelter, clothing and food for those less fortunate.

          Jesus was focused on His Father’s will and sharing the Father’s love.  To do this, He would endure His own passion and death and rise again in glory.  To be a follower of Jesus will require a shift in our priorities every hour of every day, often with our own dying and rising.

          Perhaps today’s Gospel Acclamation says it best – “He has called us through the Gospel to possess the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Now that is worth pursuing!

Fr. David’s Homily for the Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

SCRIPTURE READINGS:  1) Isaiah 50:4c-9a;  2) James 2:14-18;  3) Mark 8:27-35

FOCUS:  The story of Peter, with all its twists and turns, is one that every Christian can learn from.

          Peter is rightly recognized as a great saint.  Many see themselves reflected in his flawed humanity and find hope in the fact that, despite all his struggles, he ultimately became a saint.  But what makes Peter a great saint is not his flaws, but his deep faith in Jesus.  It is the fact that he finally came to embrace the truth of Jesus’ words:  Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.

          This truth is evident when we recall that it was Peter who denied and deserted Jesus in His time of need.  There, the one who declares Jesus to be the Messiah proved himself to be a fair-weather friend.  So great is Peter’s misunderstanding of Jesus and His mission that he even felt able to rebuke Him.

          But in one of the most shocking Gospel interactions, Jesus turns on Peter in the strongest way:  Get behind me, Satan.  You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.  Strong words, indeed!  But deserved by Peter for he is totally out of step with Jesus.

          As we hear the Gospel, it is good for us to ask what we believe about Jesus.  If we simply see Him as a prophet, can we truly believe in the reconciliation offered through His cross and resurrection?  Or are we like Peter, happy to confess that He is the Christ but unable to embrace the fullness of what that means?

          To imitate Peter it is best to see his whole story – his post-denial regret and tears, his declarations of love at the Sea of Galilee and his post-Pentecost courage to preach the risen Christ.  These are what make Peter great and worthy of our admiration.  We can learn much from Peter.  And although we might be attracted by his flawed humanity, we should not ignore the work that God has done in strengthening and empowering him to be a disciple and evangelist.

          Like Peter, we, too, need to let Jesus change us if we are to let go of the human way of thinking.  Yes, it is difficult but necessary.  Baptism is never just a moment in time or a cultural expectation, but the beginning of a relationship with Jesus.  And it is a relationship that lasts all of our lives and calls us to be always open to Christ and His Word.

Fr. David’s Homily for the Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings:  1) Isaiah 35:4-7a; 2) James 2:1-5; 3) Mark 7:31-37

FOCUS:  Let us embrace our mission to proclaim the Good News of salvation and eternal life through Jesus Christ.

          How often do you hear someone say, “I have to tell you something but you can’t say anything to anyone else?”  We all know people who are not able to keep information to themselves.  Likewise, we all know people who are supposed to relay important information to others and they do not come through.

          This is really nothing new in terms of human behavior.  Jesus finds Himself in a similar situation in dealing with His followers.  In today’s Gospel, Jesus orders people not to tell anyone of His miracles.  We do not know why He did so.  Perhaps He did not want them so focused on the healings He performed that they would be distracted from his Gospel proclamation.

          But the more Jesus tells them not to say anything, the more they proclaim it.  This makes it difficult for Jesus to get around and proclaim the Good News to others.

          Eventually, God makes it all work out.  Jesus proclaims the Good News.  He redeems us by His death and restores us to life by His resurrection.  In time, He commissions His disciples by instructing them:  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 you.  (Matthew 28:19-20)

          And this is what the Apostles did, along with many others.  Led by bishops, the successors to the Apostles, and assisted by priests and the laity, the Church has continued the mission entrusted to it by Jesus over the course of the past 2,000 years.

Fr. David’s Homily for the Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings:  1) Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-8; 2) James 1:17-18, 21b-22, 27; 3) Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

FOCUS:  Let us do more than simply hear God’s laws.  We are called to act on them in love.

          Moses and Jesus are both wisdom figures in the Bible:  Moses, by providing the voice for God’s commandments to his people; Jesus, by giving human form to God’s presence and modeling life in the Kingdom of God.  In the first reading, Moses wants to pass on this wisdom and calls on God’s people to keep His commandments if they wish the Lord to continue to bless and guide them.

          In doing that, they also show the world their wisdom and the mighty power of their God.  Those commandments set for them a higher moral standard than the rest of the world upheld, and challenged them to treat one another as their loving God treated them.

          Jesus, who personifies God’s wisdom, goes one step further in today’s Gospel by helping them distinguish between God’s commandments and human tradition.  The Pharisees and scribes apparently equated those two things, and practiced the tradition with a disregard for the commandment.

          Jesus recognizes their mistake and challenges them with Isaiah’s prophecy:  This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines human precepts. 

          The leaders have substituted their own judgment, and prioritized what has come from their own hearts, for the Word of God.  But evil and sinful acts come from one’s inner thoughts and not from outside.  What God has given us cannot be wrong, but the thoughts and actions that we come up with defile God’s law, and us.

          James echoes this many years later in his letter:  Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this:  to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world.  In other words, God’s laws are not simply to be heard, as the Pharisees seemed to think, but acted on in love.  We know we have a soul and a conscience, and we are responsible for all our actions.  Our readings today alert us to that.

          We are assured of divine blessings pouring down on us abundantly if we follow God’s commandments faithfully.  May this celebration of the Eucharist, a memorial of the sacrifice that fulfilled the greatest commandment, inform and transform us for the greater good of the world.  And may we honor God not just with our lips in prayer, but with our hearts in love and action.

Fr. David’s Homily for the Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings:  1) Joshua 24:1-21, 15-17, 18b; 2) Ephesians 5:21-32 or 5:2a, 25-32; 3) John 6:60-69

FOCUS:  Jesus nourishes us in word and sacrament that we might come to eternal life in heaven.

          The English writer and lay theologian G.K. Chesterton once said:  “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting.  It has been found difficult and left untried.”  Have truer words ever been spoken?  Chesterton seemed to understand what is clear to anyone who takes seriously the call to Christian discipleship, that following in the footsteps of Jesus means being willing to accept a certain amount of suffering and pain and that, at times, one might become discouraged and be tempted to give up.

          So what helps us to keep going when the going gets tough?  How do we remain faithful to the call to discipleship when the cross we carry gets heavy?  The readings from today’s Liturgy of the Word give us some help and encouragement.

          In our first reading, Joshua proclaims to the people that he and his household will serve the Lord, even though many around them had strayed from the path of righteousness.  The reason Joshua and his kin were able to remain faithful was their awareness of and gratitude for God’s guidance in having led His people out of slavery, and God’s ongoing intercession, guidance and blessing in their daily lives.

          Might the same hold true for us?  After all, when things get difficult, it is often our recollection of God’s fidelity and providence in the face of past challenges that can give us the courage to go on.

          In the second reading, St. Paul reminds the Ephesians of the importance of being submissive to one another in their relationships, recognizing that by their very nature, and at times, to put the need of the other ahead of one’s own.

          Isn’t the same true of our experience?  After all, it is through our relationships with our spouses, siblings, children and friends that we give and receive the support and encouragement we need to stay the course in the face of the challenges life presents, especially the challenge of walking the narrow road leading to God’s Kingdom.

          Today’s Gospel from St. John depicts a scene to which any committed disciple can easily relate – that of facing the inevitable temptation to give up on following Jesus when the demands of being His follower become too great.  Like Jesus’ first disciples, we, too, at times are tempted to walk away from our faith and from the commitment to like out our Baptismal call.

          But it is the words of Jesus that reassured His disciples then and reassure us now to continue forging ahead because, at the end of the day, Jesus alone has the words of everlasting life:  words of encouragement, words of forgiveness, words of mercy, words of love, words reminding us that darkness leads to light, brokenness to wholeness, death to life.

          More important than the words that Jesus speaks, however, is the fact that, in His very own essence, Jesus is the second person of the Trinity, the Word made flesh, the expression of the Father’s love for His people.  Jesus does not just have the words of eternal life; He is in truth the Word who leads us to eternal life.

          We are blessed and fortunate that Jesus offers us the gift of Himself in the Eucharist.   Every time we come forward to receive Holy Communion, we really and truly receive Jesus – body, blood, soul and divinity.  This is meant to draw us closer to Him and give us the strength and grace needed to live more fully and faithfully as His disciples.

          As we come forward to receive the Eucharist, may we do so with humble and grateful hearts.  By being properly disposed, we may be drawn closer to Jesus and receive the grace and strength needed to make God’s Kingdom more visible here on earth in spite of the challenges we face along the way.

          Like Joshua, may we make a firm decision to serve the Lord in all that we do; like St. Paul, may we give and receive in our relationships the strength and support we need to remain faithful to our call; and in order to be like Jesus, may we seek to imitate His example of mercy, love and compassion.

Fr. David’s Homily for the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Scripture Readings:  1) Revelation 11:19a; 12:1-6a, 10ab; 2) 1 Corinthians 15:20-27; 3) Luke 1: 39-56

FOCUS:  Let us say yes to God’s plan for us.

          Today, as we celebrate the Assumption of Mary into heaven, we reflect on how, at the end of her earthly life and assumption into heaven, we see the power of God.  This same power that will one day lift us above a world of sin and into the fullness of union with Him.

          Mary shows us where we are going, what we are striving for.  But we must remember that this was the end of a life completely devoted to love and service.  Mary not only shows us the end goal, but she models for us how we should act in order to achieve that goal.

          At the Annunciation, celebrated every year, Mary says in reply to the Angel Gabriel:  I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me according to your word.  Mary models for us how to say “yes” to God’s plan for our lives.  Even though she did not completely understand what God was asking or how He would accomplish it, she chose to say yes.

          She was willing to put her faith and trust in God.  The same must be true for each of us.  God has a plan for us, but He will never force Himself upon us.  He waits patiently and steadfastly for us to say “yes” to Him.  He does not just do this once, but over and over, each and every day.

          At the Visitation, recounted for us today in the Gospel of St. Luke, Mary expresses her gratitude to God, saying:  My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.  Mary models for us how to live in God’s grace by allowing His light and love to be magnified and proclaimed through our words and actions.

          Mary shows us that it is possible, even in the midst of trials and difficulties (and traveling to see Elizabeth was no easy journey!) to rejoice in God.  As Christians, we are called not to seek attention and glory for ourselves, but to use our gifts, talents and abilities in order to give praise and glory to God.

          Finally, at her Assumption after Jesus’ death and resurrection, Mary is the visible sign of our own destiny.  God has made us for Himself and decided that we abide with Him for all eternity.  However, just as He will not force Himself upon us in this life, so, too, He will never force eternity with Him upon us.  Like Mary, we must choose to say “yes.”

          As we celebrate this feast of the Assumption, may we set our sights on heaven, and make it our goal to settle for nothing less than that great glory.  We ask today that Mary would intercede for us, that we would say “yes” to God’s plan for us and allow Him to shine in and through us.  Then one day we will abide with Him, and with Mary, our Mother, forever.

Fr. David’s Homily for the Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings:  1) 1 Kings 19:4-8; 2) Ephesians 4:30-5:2; 3) John 6:41-51

FOCUS:  Our God is so very good to us, and we can taste and see that goodness daily.

          From our Psalm Response today, we are encouraged to taste and see God’s goodness.  It is a goodness that is very bountiful.  Elijah found out about God’s goodness as He ate what was set before Him.  By doing so, He was able to travel to Horeb.  How often are we tempted to surrender in defeat when things get difficult?  Then, somehow, through God’s grace, we are able to continue our journey.  Many times in our lives we can find ourselves in the same state that Elijah was in, and yet we are sustained because of God’s goodness.

          In the letter to the Ephesians, we are called upon to imitate our God.  As God’s beloved children, we live in love, and that love was engendered by the love of His Son, Jesus Christ.  It is the same Jesus who feeds us with the Eucharist, His Body and Blood, each time we are at Mass.  The love of God drives us toward our goal of eternal life.

          Many people have a difficult time accepting this.  Even in Jesus’ time, they had a difficult time understanding what He was tying to tell them.  In the Gospel, Jesus is trying to offer the people hope.  Yet the underlying message is still not very well received, much less understood.

          It is not the first time that Jesus is misunderstood by the people.  But this time, it is truly unfortunate.  Let us return to the words of Jesus:  Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.  I am the bread of life.  Why did they close their hearts?

          We here know and understand the power of the words of Jesus.  We who are partakers of the one bread, one body, know that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist.  We who believe do not need further explanation, because we have the strength of our faith that was handed on to us.  It was a seed that was planted in our Baptism and is cultivated by our continuing trust in the words of Jesus – such as the words we have heard this day.

          As the sons and daughters of a loving and forgiving God, we know the power of love.  It is manifested in the forgiveness of our Lord.  God forgives us in Christ.  But God also sustains us in Christ.  Our prayer can be that we will respond to God’s grace, much as Elijah did, which will assist us on our journey of faith.

          Sustained by the love of God and following the light of Christ, we will be guided to our heavenly home.  We need only to be directed by the Holy Spirit.  God is so good!  Let us encourage others to taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

Fr. David’s Homily for the Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

FOCUS:  Here in this desert, we are being wonderfully fed.

Scripture Readings:  1)  Exodus 16:2-4, 12-15;  2) Ephesians 4:17, 20-24;  3) John 6:24-35

          How wonderfully God provides for the needs of His people.  In today’s first reading, God generously responds to the complaints of the people He has miraculously freed from slavery, by providing daily rations of quail and manna – in a desert!  He gives them just as much as they need, when they need it, inviting them to trust in Him to fulfill every necessity, every day.

          More than one thousand years later, Jesus explains to the crowd that He is the bread of life – the answer to every need.  He is the one who fulfills every necessity, every day, for He is food that endures for eternal life. 

          We have much in common with both the Israelites who wandered in the desert, and with the crowds who were fed by Jesus and later sought Him out, looking for more.  Whether we live in a bustling city, in a suburb or in the remotest rural are, we face deserts in our own lives – difficult times when we seem to be lost or facing impossible challenges.

          Jesus reminds us, as He reminded the people of His time, that we need to rely for strength and nourishment on food that is “imperishable” – food that will feed our souls and bring us eternal life.

          This is not unlike St. Paul’s message to the Ephesians, that they must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds…you should put away the old self…and be renewed in the spirit of your minds.

          St. Paul, of course, is speaking not just of how we think, but how we live.  And living in the Christian community means celebrating and partaking of the Eucharist, the sacrament which forms and transforms us to live in this world and the next.

          As the crowds did, and the Ephesians did, let us seek Jesus and rely on Him when we need anything.  He is the one sent by God to bring life to the world – and to help us through the desert journey of this life.

Fr. David’s Homily for the Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings:  1) 2 Kings 4:42-44; 2) Ephesians 4: 1-6; 3) John 6:1-15

FOCUS:  God provides an abundance of what we need so that we may help satisfy the needs of others.

          Today’s readings give us more than the usual chance to consider a miracle.  We are talking here about events that cannot be explained by common sense and certainly not by science.  The events are fully supernatural in origin, an act of God’s intervention in the world He loves.

          Elisha was a great prophet in the Northern Kingdom of Israel some 800 years before Jesus was born.  He was a crusader against the moral and religious laxity of his time.  As a holy man, Elisha stayed close to Yahweh and therefore, he was privileged to be an instrument of God’s power to work numerous miracles.

          The miracle of the multiplication of the loaves we hear about in the first reading today is rather unceremonious and even matter of fact in its brevity.  A famine has been in the land and now that it has subsided, the first fruits harvested are to be offered in thanks to the Lord.  Elisha relies on the Lord’s power to produce a miracle and instructs the servants to feed the people.  Not only are all fed, but there is some left over.

          Each of the four Gospels contains a miracle of the multiplication of the loaves.  To be sure, there was a physical hunger in the vast crowd that followed Jesus.  However, what appears to be even more pressing was the spiritual hunger of the people.  The people were following Jesus because they saw the signs He was performing on the sick.  The actions of Jesus – the forgiveness of sins, the healings, the casting out of demons – were all spiritual acts that had a profound effect on the everyday life of those who followed Jesus.  Certainly, the people had physical need; however, they had spiritual needs that only Jesus could satisfy.

          How in touch are we with spiritual needs and desires, our own and those of our world?  Too often our culture lures us to dismiss or cover over our spiritual needs and entices us instead to pursue money, status or power.  However, deep spiritual longings have brought us to this Eucharistic celebration. 

          The rich traditions, rituals, movements and words of our liturgy unite us and allow the miraculous power of God to be made manifest.  These realities satisfy our deepest longings just as assuredly as the miracle performed by Jesus satisfied the large crowd that followed Him.

          What is more, as in the miracle in the Gospel, there are plenty of leftovers that we will take from our gathering.  One leftover is grace.  Grace, the presence of the Holy Spirit, will continue to feed us throughout the week.  Grace opens our hearts to touch others with the abundant love we have received from our Lord. 

          Another leftover is thanksgiving.  We gather to give thanks, and Jesus feeds us through the Scriptures and with His Body and Blood making us more thankful people.  As thankful people, we are moved to tend to the spiritual and temporal needs of others.

          Our God is a God of miracles and abundance.  He satisfies our spiritual longings so that we can better serve our brothers and sisters.  We have been blessed with the miraculous gift of faith and abundant reserves of grace and thanksgiving sufficient to meet our deepest hungers and the hungers of our world.

Fr. David’s Homily for the Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings:  1) Jeremiah 23:1-6; 2) Ephesians 2:13-18; 3) Mark 6:30-34

FOCUS:  In the midst of our busy lives, let us remember that God has His own plans for us.

          Plans.  All of us are familiar with plans.  There are family plans, school plans, plans at work, travel plans, game plans and all sorts of other plans.  Our days are lived out with plans in mind.  Even our fun times are planned – sometimes over-planned.

          In today’s Gospel, we heard about the Apostles who had been out preaching and had come back to Jesus to report about all they had been doing.  The apostles rejoined Jesus, St. Mark reports, and told Him all they had done and taught.  Then He said to them, ‘You must come away to some lonely place all by yourselves and rest for a while’; for there were so many coming and going that the apostles had no time even to eat.  So they went off in a boat to a lonely place where they could be by themselves.  They obviously needed a break, so Jesus decided it was time to get away and get some rest.  We can identify with that, can’t we?

          It must have been a beautiful scene.  They all get into a fishing boat and begin rowing out across the smooth waters with only the sound of the oars dipping in the water and perhaps a screeching sea gull or two swooping overhead.

          Peace at last, along with the prospect of finding a quiet place on the other side where they could unpack their food, sit and talk, and quietly have time to share stories and listen to what Jesus had to say.

          But then as they approached the opposite shore, they saw a large crowd and heard the noisy voices of people.  You can imagine how those Apostles felt.  No doubt they were more than annoyed.  Their plans were being disrupted.  Life is like that, isn’t it?  Our best-laid plans, and our cherished moments, are too often stolen from us.

          How do we react when our plans are either interrupted or completely disrupted?  How do we react when people get in the way of our goals?  Do we get resentful and make life miserable for those around us?  Do we lash out at those around us?

          When you stop and think about it, Jesus endured many setbacks in His earthly life, and turned these moments into blessings for all.  He answered a lawyer’s tricky question by giving us the wonderful story of the Prodigal Son.  On the cross, dying in agony, He asked His Father to forgive those who had nailed Him to that cross.  Here, in today’s Gospel account, He got out of the boat even though He was weary and needed a break, waded into the crowd, and then gave them beautiful lessons and teachings about life.

          St. Mark reports:  So as He stepped ashore He saw a large crowd; and He took pity on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and He set Himself to teach them at some length.  He did not send them on their way.  Instead He gave them His tender and caring love.

          We must remember that God’s agenda and our own agenda might not be the same.  God, after all, has His plans for us, and when they come to bear in our lives we might have to make some adjustments to our own plans.  After all, we might ask, is it written that we should have an easier life than Jesus?  It is not written anywhere that our plans are never to be changed.

          God is a God of surprises, just as He is a God who gives us unplanned opportunities to show what we are made of and respond to Him in patience and humility, and with love.

          We all have plans.  At the same time, we must remember that God has His plans, too.  Indeed, it is always best to go along with God’s plans.

Fr. David’s Homily for the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings:  1) Amos 7:12-15; 2) Ephesians 1:3-14; 3) Mark 6:7-13

FOCUS:  God has chosen us to be His disciples, and now sends us out to bring His love and mercy to the world

          Perhaps you remember being in a situation where team members were being chosen.  Perhaps you wanted to be on the team.  You may have asked yourself these questions:   Will I be chosen?  Am I good enough to be on the team?  Well, many people may approach their faith and relationship with Jesus the same way, asking whether or not God will choose them, whether or not they are good enough.

          The good news for each of us today is that God has already chosen us, and sends us out on a mission that we can accomplish through His grace, power and authority.

          First of all, we are not alone.  Looking around us today, there are people here who are our brothers and sisters in Christ – we are not alone in this mission!  Jesus sent His disciples out two by two, and we, too, are encouraged to find others who can walk with us as we strive to follow Jesus.

          Secondly, it is not all up to us.  Jesus did not send the disciples out saying “Do your best!”  Jesus sent them out and gave them authority.  As we strive to act as disciples of Jesus and to carry out the mission which He has entrusted to us, we must recognize that He is not standing at a distance watching us, or critiquing us.

          Jesus is here in the midst of our struggles giving us strength – in the midst of our victories rejoicing with us.  He does not ask us to go out with only our natural abilities, but gives us His strength, power, authority and grace.  All that is necessary is for us to receive it.

          Finally, Jesus will continue to choose us and work through us, even if we fail over and over again.  There is a striking aspect in this Gospel passage.  The Scripture simply says, The Twelve drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.  This means that Judas, who eventually betrayed Jesus, would have been included in that number.  Judas – through the power and authority of Jesus – healed the sick, preached repentance and drove out demons.

          In our lives, there will be times when we choose someone other than Jesus to follow, when we, in a sense, “betray Him,” when we deny Him – but Jesus never gives up on us.  In those moments, we are called to repentance, and then to begin to walk with Jesus again.  If Judas was able to do such mighty works before his eventual turning away from God, what might Jesus do in and through us if we allow Him to?

          As we continue on with this week, we might take some time to reflect on this Gospel passage, not as something that happened so long ago, but as an encounter with Jesus today.  And as we encounter Jesus in Word and Sacrament, let us allow Him to transform us, and to reveal how He is choosing us and sending us out. 

Fr. David’s Homily for the Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings:  1) Ezekiel 2:2-5; 2) 2 Corinthians 12:7-10; 3) Mark 6:1-6a

          The sixth chapter of the Gospel of Mark begins with a series of questions.  The people gathered in the synagogue, who had been listening to Jesus as He taught, were astonished at His wisdom.  Because of this, they started asking questions about Him.  While we do not know what He was preaching to them, it must have been quite profound, because they were astonished that the words came from the carpenter, the son of Mary.

          Scripture tells us that His listeners recognized that the wisdom of Jesus was a gift, and they acknowledged that He had performed mighty deed, but who was He?  They wanted to know.

          This passage from the Gospel of Mark is quite revealing.  Those gathered in the synagogue must have been familiar with Jesus because they began to name His family – Mary His mother, His brothers, James and Joses, Judas and Simon.  They even mention His sisters.

          It is important to note that this identification as brothers and sisters must be taken within the context of the time and language in which Jesus was living.  These “brothers and sisters” would be more like extended family, perhaps cousins.  This passage in no way contradicts the truth that Mary conceived Jesus by the Holy Spirit and that she had no additional children.

          The crowd, initially, was very taken with the authority in which Jesus proclaimed the Scripture.  It was when they tried to reconcile how He could do so as a carpenter’s son that their admiration turned to animosity.  They took offense at Jesus.  It is not unreasonable to assume that He had worshiped with them, and now He was clearly being set apart as a prophet.

          Their questions indicate a lack of faith, because they, no doubt, had been witnesses to His earlier words and deeds.  In spite of this, they had trouble accepting that the carpenter could be the Chosen One.  Some who knew Jesus and lived in His community doubted who He was.  The Incarnation continues to be a challenge for many even today, more than 2,000 years later.

          For those of us who “walk by faith, not by sight,” there is recognition that the Incarnation was a beautiful event, a real moment in time.  We are here today because we believe in Jesus, even though we never shook His hand or heard His human voice.  We are here because we believe in God’s Word, the Tradition of the Church, and the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.

          We believe in the personal encounter we have with Jesus in every sacrament.  Our faith is strong, and it carries us through all of our trials in life.

          But in the life of every Christian, we are, at times, like the people in the synagogue.  We ask questions about Jesus.  If you are among those who have stood at the foot of the cross and pondered His death, that does not mean you lack faith.  But it is important to remain faithful on our journey of seeking greater awareness of Christ.

          We, too, may at times be puzzled by the carpenter, Mary’s Son, but we are blessed in our knowledge of the Resurrection.  This is something the synagogue audience could not have known.

          Due to the lack of faith Jesus encountered on that day, Scripture tells us that He was unable to do all He could have.  He cured a few sick people when He put His hands on them, but it is apparent that their lack of faith was an obstacle to their receiving the fullness of His words and deeds. 

          Jesus Himself acknowledged this when He told the people that A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.  As we prepare to receive Jesus in our hearts and in our homes, let us recall these words and welcome Him in great faith.

Fr. David’s Homily for the Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings:  1) Wisdom 1:13-15;  2:23-24;  2) 2 Corinthians 8:7, 9, 13-15;  3) Mark 5:21-43 or 5:21-24; 35b-43

FOCUS:  There is no greater gift than to lay down one’s life for another.

          Today’s Scriptures offer us the opportunity to reflect on the many ways in which God has worked in the lives of people throughout history.  In particular, we see how the healing ministry of Jesus affected the lives of the people of His time.

          Our reading from the Book of Wisdom recalls that God is the author of life.  God created and fashioned humans, as well as all creatures, that we might have life.  We were created in the image and likeness of God.  We are called to holiness.

          In contrast, we also read that death is the work of the devil, the result of the envy that the devil had for the life-giving creation that God brought about.  The author of the Book of Wisdom is clear – that our choice is life or death.  We can choose to follow God and His life-giving ways, or we can belong to the devil’s company and experience death.

          St. Paul urges the Corinthians to choose life by imitating the gracious act among the members of their community.  The gracious act that Jesus gave us was His suffering, death and resurrection.  In a sense, St. Paul was asking the Corinthians to follow Jesus in His ways so that the community would be drawn closer to God through Christ.

          Jesus became poor so that by this poverty we could become rich.  St. Paul tells us to imitate Jesus and share our abundance with others so their needs may be met.  In a real sense, St. Paul knew this would create a level playing field for everyone.  Everything would be in balance.

          Today’s Gospel reading offers us two examples of Jesus doing what St. Paul refers to as His gracious act.  Jesus pours out His healing power in two instances so that others may have life.  First we have the story of the synagogue official whose daughter is ill.  Then, inserted between the beginning and end of this story, we hear of the woman who suffered from hemorrhages for twelve years. 

          Jesus knew the hardships of His people because He was one with them.  In turn, Jesus was compassionate to all those in need of God’s love and forgiveness.  Both the girl and the woman were healed by Jesus because of faith – the faith of the girl’s father and the faith of the woman with the hemorrhages.  Both received healing because they touched or were touched by Jesus.

          Whether in the celebration of the sacraments or in our exercise of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, Jesus shows us the importance of a faith that is lived and experienced through the human senses.  Let us remember that God created us in His image, and God said that it was good.

Fr. David’s Homily for the Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings:  1) Job 38:1, 8-11; 2) 2 Corinthians 5:14-17; 3) Mark 4:35-41

FOCUS:  Jesus will calm our fears and bring peace when we have the courage to ask Him to come into our lives.

          We might put ourselves in the midst of the disciples stepping into the boat with Jesus to have some quiet time with Him after the work of the day.  This is our time to be alone with the Lord and away from the crowds.  The fishermen among us surely know the possibility of sudden storms arising on the lake without warning.  The fear we feel at the violence of the storm shakes our confidence, and yet it is with the sure knowledge that we are with Jesus that we set out for the other side.

          There are three elements in today’s Gospel that help to illustrate lessons for us:  the boat, the water and the storm.  First of all, the boat seems to be a favorite symbol in St. Mark’s Gospel.  It is a place where Jesus can be more intimate with His disciples and away from the crowds that gather around Him.  The boat suggests the inner circle of Jesus’ friends and can, therefore, be looked upon as an image for the Church.  Boats were an important part of life and work several of the disciples, just as the Church became their life work as they accepted the challenge to bring Jesus’ message to the world.

          Secondly, St. Mark makes use of Lake Gennersaret, which can be looked upon as either a barrier or a means of transportation.  The lake was a natural barrier between the Jewish territory and the area occupied by pagan Gentiles.  A boat was the means needed to breach the barrier between the two groups and bring them into closer communication with each other.

          St. Mark, in his Gospel, speaks of six crossings of the lake, perhaps as a lesson to the disciples that the followers of Jesus must be open to the possibility that God’s love and mercy are for all who accept it.

          The third element is the storm, which has been present in the Church down through the centuries, and is present today.  At the time of St. Mark, the Church was experiencing a great tension between the Jews and the pagan Gentiles.  There is certainly no doubt, in the minds of all of us present here today that the Church remains in the midst of a number of storms – the moral issues that impact all of society, the hostility of some toward Christianity and the great need of those in poverty.

          What Jesus said to the sea, He repeats today to us, speaking to the depth of our hearts:  Quiet!  Be still!  Why are you terrified?  Do you not yet have faith?

          When storms well up around us and rock our small boat, we must listen to the voice of Jesus.  Storms in our lives are not necessarily bad, unless we blame other people or circumstances for our inability to face the turmoil that is a part of daily life. 

          The message of faith is given to us today in the images of water, boat and wind to remind us to call out to Jesus in our fear, as the disciples did.  Jesus is not asleep, but is always with us and knows both our fears and our needs.  Call upon Jesus and experience the peace and calm that He is ready to give us.

Fr. David’s Homily for the Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

FOCUS:  It is often the small or insignificant that is the focus of God’s presence.

Scripture Readings:  1) Ezekiel 17:22-24; 2) 2 Corinthians 5:6-10; 3) Mark 4:26-34

          Recently we returned to the liturgical season we call Ordinary Time.  But Ordinary Time should not be understood as unimportant time but rather that, for the next twenty-one weeks, we will look at the riches of Jesus and reflect upon all that we celebrated in Easter and perhaps even reflect on those long-forgotten Lenten resolutions.  And we will continue to give thanks for God’s faithfulness and presence in our lives and in the life of His Church.

          There is a phrase that could summarize today’s readings:  Small is beautiful!  As we look at the life of faith, it is often the small or insignificant that is the focus of God’s presence.  The young David slayed Goliath and became a great king; Paul, whose name means small, became a famous evangelist and preacher;  St. Teresa of Calcutta began with a few coins and a mission and became  a saint whose work continues to inspire people all over the world.  Yes, small can be beautiful!

          Jesus uses the images of the sower and the small seed to help explain the Kingdom of God.  Despite our illusions, the work of faith is ultimately God’s work – as silent and unseen as the growing seed.  We are called like the sower to prepare the ground and to be generous in sowing, but then to step back and allow the Lord to bring forth the harvest.

          Jesus takes this image further – small though it may be, the mustard seed has the potential to be the largest of all shrubs.  In other words, one cannot judge the size and potential of anything by its initial size, least of all the Kingdom of God!

          Like the mustard seed that grows to be a large shrub in which the birds will find shelter, so the Kingdom must grow to offer shelter to all nations.  It must become like Ezekiel’s tree that we hear about in the first reading – majestic and full of the fruits of the Kingdom.

          St. Paul reminds us in the second reading to be courageous – to remember that our ultimate destiny is not of this world.  We are to walk by faith and not by the passing ways of this world, no matter how tempting or convenient they may be.  Aware that we must all give an account of our lives, we must be people of prayer, who are constantly growing in our faith.  We must know that our efforts, even if they seem small and insignificant, will be blessed by the Lord.

Fr. David’s Homily for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

Readings:  1) Exodus 24:3-8; 2) Hebrews 9:11-15; 3) Mark 14:12-16,22-26

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, 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 his first letter to the Corinthians.

          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.  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 the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

Readings:  1) Deuteronomy 4:32-34, 39-40; 2) Romans 8:1-17; 3) Matthew 28:16-20

FOCUS:  We are called to live, united in love, with God and one another.

          Whenever we purchase something like a television or computer, we usually receive an instruction manual that explains how to use it.  However, when we are born, we come with no such manual.  Rather, we are left with the responsibility of making sense of the world and trying to discern the meaning of life.  Though it may seem next to impossible to find our way without a detailed instruction manual, we are not left to rely solely on our own devices.

          This is because God, in His goodness and love, reveals Himself to us in numerous ways, such as through the beauty of creation, and in the hunger and yearning of our hearts for fulfillment.  Beyond these means, God has acted throughout human history to reveal Himself more directly and fully to humankind. 

          A turning point occurred when God revealed Himself to Israel as the one true God, setting them apart to be His Chosen People.  Israel was to be a light to the nations, revealing that there was only one true God and showing the world how to walk in His ways.

          God’s work of revealing Himself still was not done.  There was yet another step to be taken for God to reveal more fully the depths of His nature to us.  This is one of the main reasons that God sent His Son Jesus to become one of us.  Jesus made it very clear, through His life and teachings, that there was one God, consisting of a Trinity of persons:  Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  From this revelation we can understand more fully the nature of our loving God.  We can open our hearts more fully to Him, love Him more completely, live in greater unity with him, understand ourselves more fully and live in greater love and unity with others. 

          We can see things played out in today’s Scripture readings.  The second reading, from Romans, tells us that the Holy Spirit helps us to understand that we have been claimed by God as His children, His dearly beloved sons and daughters.  Then, in today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches us that, as His followers, we are to help carry on his saving mission by going forward into the world, making disciples of all people and nations.

          For this to happen, each of us is called to give witness to our belief in the Most Holy Trinity through the way we live.  This involves being persons of prayer and leading lives that are rooted in faith and love.  It also involves helping those who are in need, working for justice and working for peace.  Through our efforts and the assistance of God’s grace, more and more of God’s scattered children can be saved and come to live together in peace and as one family in Christ.

Fr. David’s Homily for Pentecost Sunday

Readings:  1) Acts 2:1-11; 2) 1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13 or Galatians 5:16-25; 3) John 20:19-23 or John 15:26-27; 16: 12-15

FOCUS:  The call of the Holy Spirit is not an event.  It is our way of life.

          The descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost can in some ways be considered an ending.  After all, the coming of the Spirit brings to fulfillment the activity and promises of Jesus.  Jesus took on flesh as the prophets had foretold; He suffered, died and rose from the dead as He predicted would happen; He ascended back to the Father as He told His disciples He would; and finally, He sent the Holy Spirit as He promised He would.

          That is that.  We can all go home now, some might say.  Or can we?  Upon further reflection, we were confronted with the reality that the coming of the Spirit is not so much the end of Jesus’ activity, but the beginning of something new for the disciples whom Jesus commissions and sends forth to be His presence in our world today.

          In this regard, it is helpful to think of Pentecost not so much as a singular event in the life of the Church, but as a way of life in which all of us, as the Baptized, name, claim and proclaim our identity and mission and mission as followers of Jesus and members of His body.  This is who we are.  This is what we do.

          That being said, what can the event of Pentecost offer us as we take up and carry on the mission of Jesus today?  The most obvious lesson emanates from our first reading, where the people gathered from diverse nations hear God’s word proclaimed – each in his own language.

          This highlights the universal nature of God’s love for all people of every race and tongue, and thus reminds us that our efforts at carrying on the mission of Jesus by the power of the Spirit must be characterized by that same inclusivity.  We are to reach out to all:  the poor and the rich, the young and the old, those in our neighborhoods and those across our borders.

          In the second reading, St. Paul uses the image of a body and its many parts to describe the unity within the diversity of the Body of Christ.  We are not all the same, and that is a good thing.  Each of us, with equal dignity and equally loved as a child of God, can contribute our own unique gifts to the building of the kingdom, relying on each other to do what no one of us could possibly do alone.  Our gifts and skills may differ, but they come from the same source and serve the same purpose.  Rather than comparing our gifts, let us share them.

          In today’s Gospel, the risen Jesus meets His disciples, breathes the Holy Spirit on them, and sends them forth to continue the mission He started.  The disciples were locked away in fear when Jesus came.  Like them, we lie in a world where there is much to fear and much cause for worry and anxiety.  But when we open ourselves to the Holy Spirit, we shall be unshackled from our fears and move out beyond our comfort zones. 

          We shall be able to go forth wherever God leads us.  When it comes to the Holy Spirit, we may not always know exactly where the journey will take us, but we can rest assured that every road ultimately leads us closer to the heart of Christ and to the fullness of God’s Kingdom.

          As the great mystic St. Teresa of Avila once wrote, “Christ has no body but yours, no hands, no feet on earth but yours, your eyes are the eyes with which He looks compassion on this world.”  As we receive the gift of Jesus today in this Eucharist, may we renew and deepen our commitment to allowing God to use us – all of us in our many parts and with our diverse gifts – as the one Body of Christ whose mission is to renew the face of the earth so that it reflects more and more the kingdom of God that is our destiny.

Fr. David’s Homily for Ascension Sunday

Readings:  1) Acts 1:1-11; 2) Ephesians 1:17-23; 3) Mark 16:15-20

FOCUS:  What happened next?

          We can all picture it – Jesus’’ final moment with His Apostles.  He blessed them and gave them the command to go into the world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature, baptizing them so that they might be saved.  Then His resurrected body is taken up into heaven and He takes His seat at the right hand of God.

          But what happened next?  After their initial astonishment, they stopped staring up at the sky; they left the mountain and went back to Jerusalem as Jesus had instructed them.  They (and others) gathered in an upper room and awaited the promised Holy Spirit.  Having received this Spirit, they were emboldened to speak to those in Jerusalem.  In Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

          They continued to bear witness to all that Jesus did and taught.  They performed miracles in Jesus’ name.  They drove out demons.  They laid hands on the sick and the sick recovered.  In the temple, in the streets, in homes, and in foreign lands, they preached everyone who would listen.  They prayed, they broke bread and they recounted stories of Jesus and His resurrection from the dead.  Knowing that the Lord was with them, they bore witness to His death and resurrection even in the face of ridicule, imprisonment and death.  And Jesus’ Church grew in far-flung communities, in numbers and in grace.

          And what happened next?  More and more people came to believe in Jesus and were baptized.  Through their zealous preaching they brought even more people to faith in Jesus.  The Church continued to baptize, just as the Lord had instructed.  The Church continued to share sacramental signs of His presence.  She shared Jesus’ message of salvation and of God’s abiding love and mercy.  And despite centuries of persecutions, debates, schisms, doubters and cultural clashes, the Church grew.

          And in this age, too, we gather as a community of believers.  We were brought to this faith by our parents or by others, and were baptized, all in God’s design, and all by God’s grace.  We find ourselves in a twenty-first century world that is in many ways still condemning our Savior, still ridiculing His Gospel, still ignoring His commandments.

          Yet the Holy Spirit is still with His Church.  Strengthened and nourished by Jesus in word and through the sacraments, will we be as bold as those who came before us?    Do we live in a manner worthy of our call?  Will we spread the Good News in our homes, in our places of work, in the media and society at large?  What happens next?  Much is up to us and the rest is up to the Holy Spirit who is always eager to come to those who say, “Yes.  Come Holy Spirit.  Fill the hearts of your faithful people and enkindle within them the fire of your love.”

Fr. David’s Homily for the Sixth Sunday of Easter

Readings:  1) Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48;  2) 1 John 4:7-10;  3) John 15:9-17

FOCUS:  Loving is not always easy, but it is what we are called to do.

          In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells His disciples:  Love one another as I have loved you.  It sounds so simple.  But it can be very difficult.  Still, Jesus’ words can help us step back from these difficulties and try to find that foundation of love from which we are to begin all interactions with one another.

          This is what we see demonstrated in today’s reading from Acts.  There was controversy in the early Church about what requirements would be made for someone asking to be Baptized in the name of Jesus.  God reveals to Peter that whoever fears Him and acts uprightly is acceptable to Him, Gentile or Jew.

          In our second reading, taken from John’s first letter, love is again put forth as the mark of one who knows God and follows the teachings of Jesus.  In this letter, the words of Jesus are reiterated – that love originated with God, in fact, that God is love.  And God loved us, His creation, so much, that He sent His only begotten Son to redeem us and make it possible for us to have live everlasting in heaven. 

          But God has also loved us enough that He has given us free will, to accept or reject the love He has offered.  If we accept it, we will, in turn, love others as He has loved us.  And how has He loved us?  Generously, lavishly, sacrificially.

          To love others in this manner – generously, lavishly and sacrificially – is how we are to love one another.  However, to love in this manner does not always come easily  Love like this takes courage.  At times we need to be the first one to extend an act of goodwill in a painful situation.  To love like this means that our sense of what is fair and right is not dependent on someone else’s actions.  Our love is given because it is ours to give; it is our choice.

          We do not merit God’s love and grace.  They are freely given to us.  The more we receive those gifts of love and grace, the more we are able to choose to offer them to others.  To love like God loves us means we need to pray to God to discern His will in our lives, and we need to receive the sacraments.

          The Eucharist nourishes us and strengthens us and the sacrament of reconciliation softens our hearts, and helps us experience our own sinfulness so we are open to receive God’s pardon, mercy and love.  In doing so, we can foster a disposition of the heart that will enable us to recognize when we need to offer compassion and mercy to those we encounter.

          As we continue this Mass, let us consider how we love one another.  How we love those who are difficult to love.  How we love those who wish us harm.  How we love those who are different from us.  How we love those we do not really know. 

          It is easy to love those who love us.  The true sign of one who loves as Jesus taught us to love is that he or she loves those who are a challenge to love.  The reward is worth the effort, because we are reminded that whoever loves as Jesus taught will find their joy complete.

Fr. David’s Homily for the Fifth Sunday of Easter

Scripture Readings:  Acts 9:26-31; 2) 1 John 3:18-24; 3) John 15:1-8

FOCUS:  A life in Christ bears much fruit.

          I make reference to my bulletin article this week to a television commercial of many years ago that featured a grown woman with her elderly mother in the kitchen.  The young woman was cooking something on the stove while her mother looks on.  After the younger woman tastes whatever is in the pot, her mother chimes in, “Don’t you think it needs a little more salt?”

          At that her daughter, obviously annoyed, responds with, “Mother, please, I’d rather do it myself!”  An inner voice, we might call conscience, kicks in at that moment by saying, “Control yourself.”  The commercial has become a classic in the advertising world.  It is advertising something that is supposed to help headache sufferers…that something is what we call aspirin.

          In all honesty, we must admit that we cannot “do it all” by ourselves.  We will not be useful, productive or successful unless we go about our tasks and accomplish our mission in the power of Jesus.  But really, that is a good thing!  Having Jesus, Spirit-filled and risen from the dead, on our side and empowered by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, is what truly gives value to whatever we do.

          We are branches of the main vine, as Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel account:  I am the vine, you are the branches.  Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.  If you live in me and I in you, He tells us, you will live a life of meaning, purpose, direction and infinite value.

          We, as Catholics, are called to apply the powers we have, powers that come from God, to heal, redeem and thereby make holy – not only in our individual lives but in the world around us.  In our commonly shared life of faith in Jesus, we truly have the ability to make change happen in the world.

          We have God’s commitment:  His covenant to be with us no matter what.  And to help us be a part of accomplishing His work, we have God’s Presence among us, even within us, when we receive the Body and Blood of Jesus.  We live in Him and He in us.  May our lives bear much fruit, for the glory of God and the good of the world.

Fr. David’s Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Easter

Readings:  1) Acts 4:8-12;  2) 1 John 3:1-2;  3) John 10:11-18

FOCUS:  Jesus is the Good Shepherd who has laid down His life that we might find salvation.

          Jesus says to each one of us, I am the Good Shepherd.  A good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.  Some childhood games of the past include a situation where each person would choose an animal he or she wanted to be.  Most children would choose lions, tigers, bears, etc.  The child wanted to be strong, representing an animal that could fend for itself.  Not too many children would choose sheep.

          In this life, we probably don’t want to be a lion, tiger or bear, but we do desire some of those qualities.  We want to be strong, self-sufficient and able to fend for ourselves – and our culture tells us that this is good, that this is what we should be striving for.  Jesus, however, gives us a different way, encouraging us to be like sheep.

          As sheep, however, we might see ourselves as weak, defenseless and reliant on others.  This would not be good news if we were being sent out into the world alone, or if we chose to try do to it on our own.  But we are never alone because Jesus is our Good Shepherd.

          As sheep we may be weak, but Jesus our Shepherd is strong.  As sheep we may be defenseless, but Jesus our Shepherd is our protection.  As sheep we may not be able to succeed on our own, but Jesus is with us as the Good Shepherd to give us the guidance and strength to succeed in this life and reach the pastures of eternal life.

          It is most important for us to recognize that we cannot do this on our own – we need Jesus!  In the first reading, St. Peter tells us that there is no salvation through anyone else other than Jesus.  We cannot save ourselves; we cannot find salvation somewhere else or through anyone else.

          But we do not have to.  Jesus is the Good Shepherd who lays down His life freely, offering it up for you and me that we might have life and salvation in and through Him.

          May each of us choose to follow the words of our psalmist today:  It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.  It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.  Jesus is the only one who can save us, and He chooses to lay down His life for us.  We do not have to earn it or merit it; we simply have to choose to follow Him.  We can truly say, even in our weakness and our helplessness, Jesus loves us, for He is our Good Shepherd.

Fr. David’s Homily for the Third Sunday of Easter

Readings:  1) Acts 3:13-15, 17-19; 2) 1 John 2:1-5a; 3) Luke 24: 35-48

FOCUS:  In Jesus’ resurrection, God’s goodness triumphs over suffering and death.

          The English language has many clichés.  They are so often repeated because they have a degree of truth.  One such cliché is, “Seeing is believing.”  We see a clear example of this in action in today’s Gospel reading.  In the passage from St. Luke’s Gospel, the disciples see the risen Lord with their own eyes.  Even then, they do not believe it is Jesus, at least not at first. 

          In a way, nobody could blame them.  Only 36 hours earlier, the disciples had seen Jesus sentenced to death, scourged, dragged through the streets while being made to carry a large wooden cross, and crucified.  At least one disciple, John, saw Him die.  They had no logical reason to believe anything except that their Master was dead and gone forever.

          It is not as if Jesus did not tell them what would happen.  Long before His passion and resurrection, Jesus explained to the disciples that He would suffer, die and rise again.  But the disciples did not understand it – except Peter, who tried to stop Jesus from going through with it.  Peter, though he certainly meant well, did not understand why Jesus had to undergo the horrible experience that he foretold.

          None of the disciples did.  But the risen Lord, as described in today’s Gospel, presented Himself to the disciples and opened their minds to the meaning of everything that had happened over the course of those three days.  It truly was a case of “seeing is believing.”

          Another common cliché is, “Everything happens for a reason.”  We often find ourselves wondering why bad things happen and why people suffer.   Hiding in fear immediately after Jesus’ death, the disciples may very well have felt the same way.  Their idea of a Messiah was not one of a man who would suffer and die in a manner befitting only the worst of society’s criminals.

          God could have brought about this forgiveness for sins any way He wanted.  He could have simply willed it, and it would have happened.  So why didn’t He?  Perhaps because seeing is believing, and because everything – even suffering – happens for a reason.  For the earliest followers of Jesus, and of us, this act of expiation of sins was not some unseen, abstract situation or concept.  The disciples actually saw it happen.  And we see it happen today in the sacrifice of the Mass.  Christ’s one sacrifice is made present in the Eucharist.  In the Eucharist, we see victory over sin and death.

          It was through the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus that God’s love for us and His wish to be with Him forever is really driven home in our minds and hearts.  The gift He won for us, eternal salvation, is there for the taking – and all people are eligible for this gift. Indeed, it is offered to all.

Fr. David’s Homily for 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.  We also thank the Lord for helping us to develop vaccines that we pray will one day eliminate this virus.

          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 Palm Sunday

Scripture Readings:  Isaiah 50:4-7; 2) Philippians 2:6-11; 3) Mark 14:1-15:47

FOCUS:  There is no escaping the way of the cross.

          How quickly things can change, and how fickle people can become!  We begin our worship today with the joyous arrival of Jesus in the holy city of Jerusalem on the back of a colt with palm branches waving and the crowd chanting words that have become a part of our Eucharistic celebrations:  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.

          We end our Scripture readings today with Jesus having been betrayed, tortured, denied, mocked and crucified.  Some people may be uncomfortable with the fact that crosses are hung in churches with the lifeless body of our Savior on them, and have smaller versions in our homes.  These people may tell us they feel as if we are trying to crucify Jesus all over again, as if we don’t know about or believe in the resurrection.

          Nothing could be further from the truth.  Our reality is that we are in awe of our God, and the lengths to which our Creator was willing to go to prove His love for every last person who ever has, or ever will, walk the face of the earth.  From the greatest saint, Mary, the mother of Jesus, to the greatest sinner, salvation is ours for the taking.

          We fully believe in the paschal mystery of Jesus.  We fully understand His life did not end on the cross.  We live the paschal mystery each day of our lives, fully embracing the passion, the death and the resurrection of Jesus.  In fact, that is why we come here.  We come to intentionally relive, in no uncertain terms, this mystery every time we celebrate the Eucharist.  We also understand there is no resurrection without first embracing the cross of salvation.

          When difficulties emerge in our lives, we need only go toward the nearest crucifix.  As we look upon the crucifix, we realize that we are never alone in our problems.  Jesus is every present to us, proving every day His undying love for us.

          That is the message we have to share with our fractured world – Jesus is the way, the truth and life for all.  If all of us who profess to follow Jesus crucified live our faith with joy, and live our lives pleasing unto the Lord, the world in which we live could be healed of much of its pain and suffering.

          The cross can and will lead to the empty tomb, but it is not the end.  Our lives must proclaim that we must trust the promise that Jesus’ way is the way that leads to everlasting life.

Fr. David’s Homily for the Fifth Sunday of Lent

Readings:  1) Jeremiah 31:31-34; 2) Hebrews 5:7-9; 3) John 12:20-33

FOCUS:  God has given us a new covenant in which His laws are written on our hearts.

          Once there was a music teacher whose student asked, “What is the good news for today?”  The teacher went to a tuning fork suspended by a cord and struck it with a mallet.  A note emerged and the teacher said, “There is the good news for today.  That, my dear student, is an A.  It was an A yesterday and it will be an A tomorrow and next week and for a thousand years.  The soprano who studies with me warbles off-key; the tenor downstairs flats his high notes and the piano here in the music room sometimes is out of tune, but that, my dear student, is an A.”

          God is like the music teacher’s “A” note.  He is steadfast, consistent, always giving His love.  We may go flat by falling into sin.  We may stop listening to His music.  We may decide other notes are more to our liking, but God remains who and what he is.

          As we heard in the reading from Jeremiah:  I will be their God, and they shall be my people.  God remains faithful to us. His will for us is that we be with Him, and, in spite of our weaknesses and inconsistencies, He offers us new opportunities al the time to reconcile ourselves to Him.

          Lent presents us with clear reminders of this consistency, and of the fact that God always fulfills His promises.  The most important and fundamental promise, of course, was that He would send a Messiah to cleanse us of our sins and open for us the gates of heaven.  Today’s readings can help us focus our minds on how magnificently God did that, as He sent His only begotten Son to be like us in every way except sin and to die on the cross, so that our sins might be forgiven.

          Even before the birth of Jesus, God, time after time, rescued His people, gave them signs and sent prophets to show that He would not give up on them.  After Jesus ascended into heaven, further help was sent to us.  We have the Church, the saints, the sacraments, Scripture and, most importantly, the Holy Spirit to guide us.

          Still, many of us seem to be “tone-deaf.”  We cannot hear God, like the music teacher’s “A”, giving us a consistent and faithful message.  God’s message is that He wants us to grow closer to Him; to be with Him forever in heaven.

          In these last two weeks before Easter, let us make a special effort to train our ears on the still small voice that calls us by name.  Once we hear Him calling us to live for eternity in His love, we are likely to find it impossible to hear anything as beautiful or as compelling.

Fr. David’s Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Lent

Readings:  1) 2 Chronicles 36:14-16, 19-21; 2) Ephesians 2:4-10; 3) John 3:14-21

FOCUS:  Jesus proclaims God’s unconditional love, and asks for a response.

          At the center of every Catholic Church the world over is a crucifix.  A crucifix hangs around the neck of untold numbers of people in our world who give no other outward sign of being religious.  No one has greater love than this, Jesus tells us later in St. John’s Gospel, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.  (John 15:13)

          In the Gospel, we heard that God so loved the world that He gave His only Son.  It was the most God had to give.  That is why the crucifix is at the center of every Catholic Church the world over.  That is why the cross is also at the center of the Church’s preaching – or should be. 

          Many people associate the words “preaching” or “sermon” with a list of Do’s and Don’ts:  all the things we must first do or avoid before God will love and bless us.  Yet the Gospel is supposed to be good news.  Is it good news to be told that God will not love us until we have kept enough of His many rules and regulations to show we are worthy of His love?  The Gospel is the Good News that God loves us just as we are, right now.

          Let us face it – God indeed loves us tremendously.  God does not promise days without pain, laughter without sorrow, sun without rain, but He does promise strength for the day, comfort for the tears and light for the way.

          That is St. Paul’s message in our second reading.  God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love He had for us, (Note:  not because of our love for Him) even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ…by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God.

          Does this mean that obedience to God’s law – all those Do’s and Don’ts – is unimportant?  Of course not.  God’s law tells us how to respond to the free gift of God’s love.  But the preaching of God’s law has little power to convert.  It is the proclamation of God’s love which breaks through hardened hearts.

          Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, as we heard in the Gospel, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life.  For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life.  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.

          Jesus, who hangs on the cross to show us God’s love, says elsewhere in this Gospel according to St. John, I am the light of the world.  (8:12)  And in today’s Gospel, He tells us that our eternal destiny is being determined, even now, by how we react to His light:  Everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed.  But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.

          Are we walking in the light of Jesus’ love?  Or do we fear His light because of what it might reveal in the dark corners of our lives, which we try to keep hidden?  Now, in this hour, Jesus is inviting us to put away fear.  Come into the bright light of His love.  Once we do that, the fire of Jesus’ love will burn out everything in us that is opposed to His light.  Then the reason for our fear will be gone.  We will be safe:  safe for this life, but also for eternity.

          Whoever believes in Jesus will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.  And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil.

          The eternal destiny of each one of us is being determined by our response to the light, and love, of Jesus.  He is waiting for our response, right now.

Fr. David’s Homily for the Third Sunday of Lent

FOCUS:  Let us strive to have a new respect for the things of God.

Scripture Readings:  1) Exodus 20:1-17; 2) 1 Corinthians 1:22-25; 3) John 2:13-25

          The Temple and its surrounding complex on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount was a very holy site to the Jews.  From the time of Solomon, this location had been a place of prayer, pilgrimage and sacrifice.  It had undergone multiple attacks, desecrations, destructions and reconstructions.  At the time of Jesus, Jews would have been gathering in the second Temple – built by Herod, and eventually destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D.

          It was here that Mary and Joseph had presented their Son to the Lord and were greeted by Simeon and Anna.   It was here that Mary and Joseph found their twelve-year-old Son.  It was here that Jesus preached and prayed.  Since many pilgrims came to this holy site to fulfill prescriptions of the law and to offer sacrifice, local merchants thought it an ideal location for doing business – changing money and selling sheep, oxen and birds for ritual sacrifices.

          On this occasion, near Passover, Jesus again returns to Jerusalem and becomes rightfully angry at the sight of such commerce and chaos in His Father’s house.  He drives out the merchants and animals, spills the money and overturns tables.   It must have been quite a sight!  How had such a holy place been turned into a marketplace?

          All those merchants and Jewish pilgrims would have been familiar with the Ten Commandments which we heard in today’s first reading.  The first three go into great detail about respect for God the Father – that there be no other gods, that Gods’ name not be taken in vain, and that the Sabbath be kept holy as a sacred day of rest.

          They would have known that love and care for one’s neighbor would have mattered equally.  Yet, the commandments were rejected, the Temple was defiled, the poor were ignored and the Messiah in their midst was condemned to death.

          We, too, live in a world in which commandments are broken and the sacred is profaned.  Right and wrong seem to be blurred at times.  In this Lenten season, let us think about some ways in which we can draw deep within ourselves and resolve to “turn over some tables.” 

          When should we speak out against injustice?  Where can we identify idolatry?  And in the privacy of our thoughts, how can we cast out what is not important and make room for the sacred?  Let us resolve to begin with prayer – asking for Christ-like wisdom in place of human wisdom.

Fr. David’s Homily for the Second Sunday of Lent

Readings:  1) Genesis 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18; 2) Romans 8:31b-34; 3) Mark 9:2-10

FOCUS:  In the Transfiguration, we are given a glimpse of Jesus, the hope of our salvation, in His resurrected glory.

          In the old city of Jerusalem, the golden Dome of the Rock dominates the ancient skyline.  The gold-encrusted dome covers a Muslim mosque and a site that is sacred, not only to believers of Islam, but to Christians and Jewish people as well.  Beneath the floor of the sanctuary is a large rock. 

          Archeologists and Biblical scholars believe this is the Mount, or Moria, where Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac, which we heard about in today’s first reading.  Not far from there is the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher, built over the rock of Calvary, where God sacrificed His only Son for our sins.  Moriah and Calvary are joined together as unique examples of sacrificial love.

          In today’s second reading, St. Paul posed the question to the Romans, If God is for us, who can be against us?  Abraham must have wondered whether God was for him or against him when he was instructed to take his son and go to the land of Moriah to offer sacrifice.

          Becoming a father was the answer to prayers that Abraham had offered for more than 80 years.  God heard Abraham’s prayers and gave him a son when he was almost 100 years old.  Now that same God was asking the gift be returned.  Abraham is rightly called our father in faith because he does not doubt, nor does he question.  He faithfully sets out to do the Father’s will, no matter how much it will cost him.

          Pleased with Abraham’s display of faith, God sends an angel to stop the sacrifice, and Abraham is forever blessed for his faithfulness.  Stories such as those in the Old Testament are key to a better understanding of the events that would later unfold in the New Testament.  Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac on Moriah is unmistakably connected to God the Father’s willingness to sacrifice His only Son, for our salvation, at Calvary.

          That sacrifice was foretold by Jesus three times before it actually came about.  The first time he does so in the Gospel of St. Mark occurs shortly before this passage about the Transfiguration.  Though Jesus spoke of death, He also promised that He would rise on the third day, but the resurrection meant nothing to His disciples at the time.

          They knew only that their master was going to die and they could not do anything to stop it.  The Transfiguration, in effect, is about the deeper meaning of the life and death of Jesus.  It was to bring about new life.

          At the Transfiguration, the Apostles are privileged to receive a glimpse of how Jesus will appear in resurrected glory.  Although they are amazed and terrified at the same time, the presence of Moses, the patriarch, and Elijah, the great prophet, assures them that Jesus is the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy.

          God speaks from the heavens just as He did during the Baptism of Jesus.  He tells them, This is my beloved Son.  Listen to Him.  The Apostles may still not fully understand who Jesus is or what He is about, but there is no doubt that He is God’s Son.  Their faith is strengthened and the long way of the cross, the journey to Jerusalem, continues.

          As we continue our journey through this Lenten season, we seek transformation – conversion.  The Apostles’ perspectives on their life and mission changed completely during their time atop Mount Tabor.  We pray that our life and sense of mission may be strengthened by our Lenten observance.

Fr. David’s Homily for the First Sunday of Lent

Scripture Readings:  1) Genesis 9:8-15; 2) 1 Peter 3:18-22; 3) Mark 1:12-15

FOCUS:  God calls us to a deeper life of faith this Lent, which prepares us to receive Him and to go on mission.

          In the first reading today, having saved Noah and all who had been with him in the ark, God establishes His covenant with Noah and his descendents.  As a sign of this covenant, God placed the rainbow in the clouds.

          St. Peter, in the second reading, says that Jesus suffered for us that He might lead us to God.  That is the good news, the Gospel, for us today:  the doors to salvation in heaven have been opened to us!

          Today’s Scripture passage about Jesus’ 40 days in the desert is from St. Mark’s Gospel and is far shorter than that in St. Matthew or St. Luke.  Mark focuses less on the temptations themselves and ends with the heart of the New Testament message:  Jesus says, This is the time of fulfillment.  The Kingdom of God is at hand.  Repent, and believe in the Gospel.  Jesus’ time in the desert was one of preparation for His ministry.  We can prepare during Lent for the upcoming celebration of the Paschal Mystery, the suffering, death and resurrection of our Lord.  We can prepare by thinking of three questions.

          First:  How have we been saved by God in the past?  Are there times of trial from which we have been delivered?  It is so easy to see only what is in front of us, and the sufferings of the present moment.  Let us try to reflect back on years gone by and actively look for ways that God has delivered us.  This should help us to deepen our trust in God.

          Second:  How have we been led to God?  How have we been blessed and saved?  What methods of prayer brought us closest to Him?  We can try to use those methods during this Lenten season.

          Third:  How might we best follow the Lord into the desert?  Perhaps focusing on all the penitential practices of the season (prayer, fasting and almsgiving) might be a way to open our hearts to the Kingdom of God.  The Kingdom of God, having been rooted in our hearts, allows us to bring it to others.

          As we prepare to receive the Eucharist, let the grace of the sacrament bring us ever closer to Jesus.  May this Lent be a time of spiritual growth and most importantly remind us of Jesus’ great love for each and every one of us.

Fr. David’s Homily for the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

FOCUS:  In encountering Jesus, we are healed and given a mission.

Scripture Readings:  1) Job 7:1-4, 6-7;  2) 1 Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23;  3) Mark 1:29-39

          It is interesting to notice where Jesus encounters people.  We might think that Jesus, son of God, and Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, would live in the Temple and allow people to come and worship him.  But time and again in the Gospels we see Jesus going out to encounter people no matter where they are.  Jesus meets the Samaritan woman at a well, He meets the good thief on the cross and in today’s Gospel, Jesus leaves the synagogue and enters the house of Simon’s mother-in-law where He encounters her.

          When we encounter Jesus, we should not leave unchanged.  He brings healing to our bodies and our souls, if we have faith and trust in Him.  In today’s Gospel, Jesus heals Simon’s mother-in-law; He also cures many who were sick and drove out many demons.  Jesus desires to heal us and make us whole.  But this does not come without a cost.

          Jesus heals us and sets us free not so that we can simply live life “our way,” but so we can build the Kingdom of God by spreading the Christian message.  Each of us as a Christian is called to say with St. Paul:  Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!  All of us are given this mission.  We simply need to discover in what way God is calling us to accomplish it.  Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we have access to the graces and gifts necessary to live out this call.

          At times, the way we are to live out the mission Jesus give us is simply to be a good mother or father, a loving and devoted wife or husband, a faithful friend.  There will be other times when Jesus wants us to preach the truth of the Gospel in a literal way to those who have never heard of Him.  There will be times when our mission is to preach through our actions and lifestyle.  We heard in today’s Gospel that everyone was looking for Jesus.  How can we help them find Him?          

Each one of us has been called by name.  We have already encountered Jesus in the sacraments, and have been healed of the stain of our original sin.  Now God calls us forth to proclaim this Good News to all.  Let us undertake our mission with joy and gladness.

Fr. David’s Homily for the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings:  1) Deuteronomy 18: 15-20; 2) 1 Corinthians 7:32-35; 3) Mark 1:21-28

FOCUS:  The words of Jesus bring us hope.

          Some people will claim that they do not need organized religion because they know God in their heart or they find God in nature, and that is enough.  These claims are rooted in the truth, but only partly.  God has planted a yearning for Him in the human heart, and God’s might and power are evident in the magnificence of creation.  

          However, there is a higher order of revelation we must not ignore.  This is God’s revelation of Himself that comes to us through the words of the prophets, and then, most fully, through His Son, Jesus.

          Why should anyone be content with just a whisper from God within oneself, or a shadow of God in nature?  Jesus was real, He walked among the people.  He extended His hand in healing time and time again, ate with His friends and sometimes with his enemies, and welcomed sinners and strangers into His company.

          Jesus brought hope to those who were living in sin and relief to those suffering dreadful afflictions.  Simple words from Jesus bring about powerful results, such as those we hear today, Quiet!  Come out of him!

          The words of Jesus brought healing and forgiveness, and they also brought comfort and direction in times of uncertainty.  He said, Follow me, I will make you fishers of men; Be not afraid; I will be with you always;   Today you will be with me in paradise.  Such powerful words – no one had ever spoken in this manner before.  The absolute authority with which Jesus spoke moved many people to follow Him and listen closely to His teachings.

          To listen closely to the teachings of Jesus is every Catholic’s responsibility today.  It is easy to hear the Scriptures proclaimed each time we attend Mass, but it can be more difficult to listen with a receptive ear and a willing heart, and harder, still, to put those lessons into practice.

          The words of Peter from St. John’s Gospel express it well:  Master, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  We are to listen, believe and live accordingly.  This is our task, and the Spirit of God alive in us will help us accomplish it.

Fr. David’s Homily for the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings:  1) Jonah 3:1-5, 10; 2) 1 Corinthians 7:29-31; 3) Mark 1:14-20

FOCUS:  We are to make today the day to respond to God.

          Many opportunities arise each day that afford us no second chance.  In order to take advantage of them, one must seize the moment.  Sad to say, many times people just fail to respond, and lose out on the opportunity.  How many buying opportunities, travel opportunities, even work opportunities are lost because people fail to respond promptly?

          Connections are never made and meetings never take place because people fail to take action.  Often, these people look back with regret and disappointment at what might have been.

          Our God places all kinds of opportunities before His people; opportunities to choose life.  God not only gave us life, he redeemed our lives and showed us the path to everlasting life.  He also keeps calling us to choose the path of life.  So many opportunities have been laid before God’s people throughout the ages to respond to Him.

          God sent numerous prophets.  He gave His laws and teachings.  He continues to work great signs and wonders before us.  He offers us forgiveness of sins and blesses us with His choicest blessings.  Some seize these moments and choose the path of life, while others turn further away from the Lord.

          Our Scripture readings today give us examples of people who seized the moment in choosing the path of life.  The account of Jonah and the Ninevites clearly shows the opportunity that God laid before Nineveh through the prophet Jonah.  The city and all of its inhabitants would be destroyed unless they repented.  The people of Nineveh seized the moment.  The great and the small repented of their sins and they lived.  The story makes it clear that there would be no second chance.  Only a prompt response would put them on the path of life – and they responded.

          The call of the Apostles to follow Jesus was another blessed opportunity from God.  We hear in the Gospel how Jesus laid this opportunity before Peter, Andrew, James and John.  Despite any apprehensions they might have felt due to family or work, they seized the moment.  They abandoned their former way of life and followed Jesus.  There was little time to think about it.  Their prompt response placed them in the path of life, alongside the Lord.

          Each of us was given new life in Christ in the sacrament of Baptism.  Since then, God has placed, and continues to place, opportunities before us to choose the path of life again and again.  We are called to seize the moment; to use today to grow in faith.

          Today is the day, for example, to love your spouse in the way that Christ does; to form your children in the ways of the faith; to call a sick friend or someone who is grieving.  These are opportunities in daily life through which God calls us to live out our faith.  A prompt response to His call can help keep us on the path of life and bring joy.  A missed opportunity can leave us looking back with regret and disappointment in our Christian life.

          As we look at the various opportunities God places before us each day, the words of today’s second reading remind us that the time is running out…the world in its present form is passing away.  We are to seize every opportunity to repent, every opportunity to follow Jesus and every opportunity to choose the path of life.

Fr. David’s Homily for the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Readings:  1) 1 Samuel 3:3b-10, 19; 2) 1 Corinthians 6:13c-15a, 17-20; 3) John 1:35-42

FOCUS:  Our Christian vocation is a call to share and participate in the mission of Christ.

          Mark Twain told the story about a man who had memorized the Ten Commandments.  He told Twain that his ambition was to go to the Holy Land, climb Mount Sinai and recite the Ten Commandments aloud.  Twain replied, “Have you ever thought about just staying home and keeping them?”  (Bel San Luis, Stories of Life and Laughter, Manila: Logos Publications, 2001)

          This story may give us a good chuckle, but it points to the inescapable and challenging truth of our Catholic faith – that it is one thing to know and articulate that which we believe, but putting that faith into practice is and should be our ultimate goal.

          The phrase Here I am, Lord echoes repeatedly throughout our first reading today and also in our psalm response.  And in the second reading and again in the Gospel, we see examples of what life should look like for us as Catholic Christians when we understand our faith as an invitation to place ourselves at God’s disposal to us as He sees fit.  We are to commit our entire being to the Lord’s service, and we follow the example of the first disciples in leaving everything behind to walk closely with Jesus.

          But the phrase Here am I, Lord is not just another command to recite.  It is our “mission statement” as Catholic Christians who, by virtue of our Baptism, are incorporated into the Body of Christ as members of the Church.  According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, we are a community of believers that is, “sent out into the whole world.  All members of the Church share in this mission, though in various ways.”  (CCC 863).

          So how do we live our faith and put it into practice?  Three important lessons can be extracted directly from the phrase Here am I, Lord.  First, consider that the phrase begins with the word Here.  This is a reminder that God calls us to live, to love and to serve others right where we are.  One need not travel great distances to look for opportunities to recognize God’s presence because wherever we are, wherever we go, that is where we will find Jesus present in the people right in front of us.

          Secondly, the phrase contains the word I.  This is a reminder that the call to give witness to our faith in our daily lives is not just something for others to be concerned about, but it is our call as well.  No matter who we are, where we are from and what we have done, God equips each and every one of us with unique gifts and talents that we can offer in the service of building up His Kingdom here on earth.

          Thirdly, the phrase concludes with the words I am.  This implies that the call to live out our Baptism and put our faith into practice is not just something we should have done yesterday, or a task we can put off until tomorrow.  No, we have only now, today, this moment as a gift from God and a gift we can offer back to God.

          So let us not wait until we think we have our lives all figured out or think we have it all together.  Let us begin today to let God work in, on, with and through us to accomplish His will for us as individuals as well as for our world.

          As we continue our celebration of the Eucharist, and as we are invited forward in a few minutes to receive the Body and Blood of Jesus, may we respond with all our hearts, “Here am I, Lord!”  And may we be nourished and strengthened by this sacred meal to go forth and do God’s will as the disciples Jesus desires today.

Fr. David’s Homily for the Baptism of the Lord

Scripture readings:  1) Isaiah 55:1-11; 2) 1 John 5:1-9; 3) Mark 1:7-11

FOCUS:  We are God’s beloved children.

          Today’s Gospel recalls an important moment in Jesus’ public ministry.  There was Jesus, God made Man, who certainly did not need a ritual cleansing, submitting to a Baptism by his cousin John.  Unlike the other Baptisms John the Baptist must have performed that day, this Baptism was a showing of Jesus’ “acceptance and beginning of His mission as God’s Suffering Servant.”  (CCC 536)

          Can we imagine standing on the banks of the River Jordan and witnessing the Baptism of Jesus?  What a sight it must have been!  The Holy Spirit descends like a dove.  The waters are made holy by Jesus.  Jesus is anointed by the very presence of the Holy Spirit. 

          If that weren’t enough, the heavens once closed by the sin of Adam and Eve are now opened up and a voice calls out You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.  And what was Jesus doing?  Jesus was praying – a habit that would mark all the decisive moments of His earthly ministry and our salvation (CCC 2600.)  Surely, this was yet another sign of the His humble and trusting commitment to the will of the Father.

          As spectacular as that scene must have been, we can relate to it – for a similar scene plays out every time one of God’s children is Baptized.  As each infant, child or adult is brought to the waters of Baptism, the Holy Trinity is there.  We do what Jesus commanded us to do – to Baptize in His name and in the name of the Father and the Holy Spirit.

          We encounter Jesus, the seal of the Holy Spirit is conferred, and the Father is pleased with His beloved child, the newly Baptized person.  From that moment on, we get a glimpse of what heaven must be like.

          As St. Paul reminded Titus, the grace of God has appeared, saving all and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately, justly and devoutly in this age, as we await the blessed hope.

          Jesus redeemed us and claimed us as a people as His own, eager to do what is good.

          Similarly, Isaiah prophesied that our guilt would be washed away and that the Shepherd would gather the lambs in His arms.  We belong to Christ!

          Today, as we reflect on the Baptism of the Lord, let us also reflect on our own Baptism.  Let us recall, with great awe and wonder, what happens to us when we are Baptized:  the cleansing water, the presence of the Trinity, the rejoicing in heaven, and the strength of the grace that still abides with us.

          Most importantly, let us be reminded of the great responsibility that comes along with that Baptism.  God claimed each one of us as His own, and gave each of us the grace to overcome the evil in the world.

          So as we celebrate the Eucharist today, let us be transformed by our partaking of Jesus’ Body and Blood so as to go forth and fulfill that Baptismal mission.

          We can articulate that mission in many ways, but St. Paul says it so beautifully in his letter to Titus:  “The grace of God has appeared, saving all and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately, justly and devoutly in this age, as we await the blessed hope.”

Fr. David’s Homily for the Epiphany of the Lord

Readings:  1) Isaiah 60: 1-6; 2) Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6; 3) Matthew 2:1-12

FOCUS:  The feast of Epiphany is meant to speak to our minds and hearts in a variety of ways.

          Today’s feast of Epiphany is meant to speak to our minds and hearts in a variety of ways.  It speaks of the power of the stars in the sky to capture our attention.  It speaks of how God worked through the guidance of one particular star to reveal Jesus as both Messiah and Savior to the world.

          It speaks of how the Magi who by means of a miracle or the assistance of God’s grace were able to recognize, against the backdrop of the myriad of the other stars in the sky, the appearance of a new star.  And as our Gospel reading for today tells us, the Magi seem to have understood the appearance of this new star as a sign that a new and great king had been born.  They set out on a long and arduous journey, bearing gifts, to go and pay this new born king homage.

          When the Magi set out on their journey, led by the light of a star, they probably never expected that the new born king they were coming to pay homage to was the true Light of the World:  the long promised Messiah and Savior who had come to dispel the darkness of sin and evil in the world and open the way to salvation.

          It also seems easy to surmise that the Magi probably felt surprised upon finding the new born king of the Jews, whom they had traveled many miles to pay homage to, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.  Despite this fact the Magi did what they had come to do as they prostrated themselves before the infant Jesus, did him homage, and then presented their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.  After their encounter with the child Jesus, the Magi then departed for their country by means of a different route with their lives most likely changed forever.

          The way that the Magi were led to the infant Jesus reaffirms for us the reality that God works in wonderful and surprising ways to bring about our salvation.  This is why it is crucial for us to have a daily routine of prayer, so that even amidst the busyness of life we are setting aside time to truly open ourselves to God, to His grace, and to the new and perhaps surprising ways God wants to bring Jesus’ light and love to others.

          The pilgrim journey that the Magi made to pay homage to Jesus reminds us similarly that each of us are pilgrims on a journey striving to grow in our knowledge and love for the Lord, Jesus, so that we might one day reach our true home which is heaven.  The good news is that we do not walk our pilgrim journey of faith alone.  Rather, we have the teachings of Jesus in Sacred Scripture, the teachings of the Church, the sacraments, the gift of the Holy Spirit to guide and direct us, the prayers and support of one another, so we may live more faithfully as a disciple of Jesus and keep our feet firmly planted on the path that leads to eternal life in heaven.

          Finally, the way the Magi humbly prostrated themselves before the child Jesus and presented Him with their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, reminds us that each and every day we should prostrate ourselves before the Lord and offer Him the greatest gift we can give Him, that of our lives.

          And then after doing this with hearts grateful for the new life and promise of salvation we have received in and through Christ, we are then to go forward offering all that we have and are in love and service to God and our neighbor.  If we do these things we will truly lead lives which will help lead others to Jesus, so they too may know the joy, peace and salvation we have found in Him.

Fr. David’s Homily for the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph

Scripture Readings:  1) Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14; 2) Colossians 3:12-21; 3) Luke 2:22-40

FOCUS:  Feast of the Holy Family.

          Each of our readings today gives us a glimpse into the complications of family life – and those glimpses let us know we are not alone in our trials and tribulations.  From the earliest days of Israel’s history, God was involved in the difficulties of relationships:  commanding honor and respect of parents by children, and of children by parents; reliving childlessness and promising faithfulness to those who abided in faithfulness to Him; instructing us in what it means to love as Jesus loves; and ordering the family to raising of children and placing of God at the center of their lives.

          We are also reminded today of the importance of the fact that Jesus was born into a human family, and that offers us hope for making Jesus the center of our own families.  God could have chosen any number of ways to enter into human history, and the way He chose was to have Jesus be born of a woman – the Blessed Virgin Mary – and be raised by her and Joseph in a household common to that time.

          In other words, God did not just take on human form in the person of Jesus, but entered into every aspect of human life, being a part of the authentic human experience of family life.  Family life, lived out to the principles God has set forth for us, can truly be sanctifying…it can make us holy.  And as Jesus sanctified or made holy His family, He will make our families holy when we welcome Him in.

          That we celebrate this feast today, so close to the end of our year, also offers some food for thought, for it ties into the calendar practice of new beginnings.  Many of us will make resolutions for the New Year.  And perhaps, many of us will have broken them shortly thereafter…but following the example of the Holy Family can strengthen our resolve to grow our families in faith and joy, and give us the confidence to weather the storm of its difficulties.

          As we look ahead to the new calendar year, and think about the families in which we live – whether they are by blood or by choice…and those of us whose family members are no longer with us can include their friends as family members – let us entrust our families to the Lord.  And let us ask for the grace necessary to unite ourselves and our families to Jesus in the same way He united Himself to His family and to us.

Fr. David’s Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Advent

FOCUS:  Mary is the model of trusting faith.

Scripture Readings: 1) 2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16; 2) Romans 16:25-27; 3) Luke 1:26-38

          What is faith?  For many, perhaps, the word refers to those truths we profess when we recite the Creed.  Those articles of belief are the faith.  Faith has another meaning, however; a personal meeting. Faith is not merely mental acceptance of truths.  Faith is also personal trust.  The Creed itself indicates this in its opening words.  Not, “I believe that…” but, “I believe in…”  The one we believe in, whom we trust, is God.

          The greatest model of this trusting faith is the woman the Church places before us in today’s Gospel:  Mary, the trusting and faith-filled mother of the Lord.

          The kind of trusting faith we see in Mary models a faith that is always open to God.  She believes in God’s love for her and in His promises, and gives herself wholly over to Him to do with her and her life whatever He would.

          Yet Mary’s faith was not blind.  She questions,   How can this be?  Mary asked the angel who told her she was to be the mother of God’s Son.  What Mary questioned, however, was not so much God, as her own ability to understand God and His plan for her life.  Even in the midst of perplexity, however, Mary confessed that God knew best, even if she could not understand what He was about:  May it be done to me according to your word, she told the angel.

          That assent to God’s plan for her was not a one-time thing.  She lived this faithfulness every day forward from that moment, amid joys and sufferings.  We are familiar with some of those:  the challenges of traveling to Bethlehem, and childbirth in a stable; searching for the child Jesus for several days when He had remained in the Temple to teach; watching Jesus leave home to begin His ministry; and, of course, standing at the foot of the cross as He was crucified.

          Can there be any doubt that it is precisely this trusting faith of Mary’s that we need today?  We need the kind of faith that Mary had, the faith she models for us:  faith which continues to trust in God amid events in our world and our lives we do not understand.

          Faith, then, is not something we can summon up by willpower.  Faith, the catechism tells us, “is a supernatural gift from God” (179).  And who can doubt that this faith will be given to us in the same measure in which it was given to Mary who herself modeled this faith?  Her faith allowed Jesus to be born into the world.  Let our faith welcome that birth, and share it with the world.

Fr. David’s Homily for the Third Sunday of Advent

Readings:  1) Isaiah 61:1-2a, 10-11; 2) 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24; 3) John 1:6-8, 19-28

FOCUS:  In the same way as John the Baptist, we are to strive to be a faithful witness to Jesus.

          As we listen to the Gospel this weekend, we hear about John the Baptist.  His entire life and mission were caught up in preparing the world for the coming Messiah.  John was not sure who this Messiah would be or exactly when He would come, but John felt a call from God to prepare His way. 

          He did this by preaching repentance of sin, marked by Baptism with water.  So firm was John’s faith in God, and so strong was his dedication to preparing the way for the coming Messiah, that he was willing to give his life.

          At our Baptism, each of us was anointed.  As the sacred chrism was placed upon our heads, the words, As Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet, and King, so may you live always as a member of this body, sharing everlasting life, (Rite of Baptism for Children) were spoken.  We become Christ-like through this great Sacrament of Initiation.  Reflecting upon this bit of our sacramental heritage and in light of the readings today, we can each discover our own vocation as a Christian in the world.

          As Jesus’ followers, we are to act for Him in our own corner of the world – liberating, forgiving and loving.  We can do this daily in such things as a kind word, lending a helping hand, assisting the needy, feeding the hungry by donating to the food pantry, sending a card or making a call to one we have lost touch with.

          These are ways we can invite Jesus to come among us today.  In doing such things, we are also preparing the world for Jesus’ final return at the end of time.  We have a mission – a vocation.  Like John, may we be faithful witnesses, serving Jesus in all we say and do.

Fr. David’s Homily for the Second Sunday of Advent

Scripture Readings:  1) Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11; 2) 2 Peter 3:8-14; 3) Mark 1:1-8

FOCUS:  Prepare the way of the Lord in our hearts and in the hearts of those around us.

          In today’s Gospel, we hear that a prophecy from Isaiah is being fulfilled by John the Baptist.  John is the one of whom it is written, Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way.  A voice of one crying out in the desert:  “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.”

          John the Baptist fulfilled this prophecy two thousand years ago by preaching that Jesus was the Messiah, and pointing toward Him in all his words and actions.  Preparing the way for the Lord, however, was not just a task for John the Baptist – it is a task for each one of us.  Now it is our turn to prepare the way of the Lord in our own hearts as well as in the world around us.

          One of the most important things we can do this Advent season is to prepare our own hearts to receive Jesus.  The big question is:  how do I do this?  First and foremost, we must spend some time with Jesus in prayer.  We can treat our prayer time like we would an important appointment, setting aside some time each day to spend with God, even if it is only five or ten minutes. 

          We can refrain from giving God the “leftovers” of our day, instead offering the first fruits of time when we are awake and alert.  We might prepare the way of the Lord in our hearts by spending time reading the Scriptures, praying the rosary or to our favorite patron saint.  We can stop by in our cars outside the main entrance of the church and say a prayer in front of the tabernacle where the Blessed Sacrament resides.  Whatever we do, it will help us prepare our hearts to receive Jesus.

          Our focus, however, cannot be only on ourselves during the season of Advent.  Just like John the Baptist, we want to prepare the way of the Lord in such a way that those around us might more easily be brought into an encounter with Jesus.

          John the Baptist, through his words and actions, was able to bring people into an encounter with the Lord.  Our words and actions can have the same effect.  By our good words and actions we can remind not only ourselves but those around us of just how good our Lord is and what a wonderful event we are going to soon celebrate…the birth of Jesus into our world and into our hearts!

          During this Advent season we can take some time to talk to family, friends, co-workers or classmates about the true meaning of Christmas.  It may be a small action or a simple word from us that opens up the way of the Lord in that person’s heart.  Just like John the Baptist, we should point to Jesus in all that we do and say.  We can be a witness for Jesus.  After all, we have all been called by name to a life of discipleship.

Fr. David’s Homily for the First Sunday of Advent

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

FOCUS:  Advent is a time for awareness of all God does for us.

          Many people are more confident in undertaking a project if there is a plan, a blueprint, or guide that unveils what is necessary in order to attain the goal.  Our goal is to awaken on Christmas with a heart prepared for the birth of the Savior, and our plan can be to use the word WATCH.  Each letter of the word WATCH stands for something we must keep in mind during the season of Advent.






          The word “watch” or “watchful” is used several times in our Gospel today.  It does not mean that we should be in a constant state of anxiety, but is a reminder to spend this season as an alert Christian, peaceful yet eager for the coming of Christ.

          WAIT.  Advent is a time to pause.  A new church year is beginning and this is a good time to take stock.  St. Paul tells the Corinthians that they are not lacking in any spiritual gift.  What are my spiritual gifts?  How can I expand on them during this season?  When we take time to wait in life, we sometimes come to realizations that we would otherwise overlook.

          Do I have spiritual gifts that I have never used?  If I used the Advent season to zero in on one of these, could I make a difference in reflecting the love of Christ to someone in my immediate family?

          The Gospel tells of the master admonishing the servants to wait for him.  Waiting for the coming of Christ means to observe a period of alertness so that I will recognize Him when He comes.

          ATTUNE.  In the first reading, the people speak of themselves as clay and God as the potter.  Advent is a time to attune to align ourselves with God our maker and with His plan for us.  As our society reminds us of our power as consumers at this time of year, we must adjust our attention to the real purpose of this season.  When our ability to concentrate on God wavers and we begin to think He is absent from our day, we must be careful not to equate supposed absence with a feeling that God is not existent.

          TARGET.  There are barriers that hinder us from hearing the voice of the Lord.  As an Advent practice, I could target one of those barriers to break down and even overcome.  Eliminating some of the Christmas “busy-ness” in order to make more time for quality prayer could be a good start.

          COMMIT.  Jesus told the disciples to “Be watchful!  Be alert!”  On this First Sunday of the Advent season, we need to commit to watchfulness.  There is a desire for the presence of God that pulses in each of us.  Today we commit ourselves to be aware of, appreciative of, and even bask in that presence by Christmas Day.

          HOPE.  The Advent season, more than any other time in the Church year, is a season to start again, to renew ourselves, to rekindle our belief in the Savior.  Advent is a period of attentive waiting for an appearance.  Our ability to watch in hope will lead to an ability to recognize the Savior with joy.

          Let us continue to be alert and WATCH as we focus on the miracle of God-With-Us at the Eucharistic table.

Fr. David’s Homily for The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

Scripture Readings:  1) Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17; 2) 1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 28; 3) Matthew 25:31-46

FOCUS:  Jesus Christ is a King unlike any other.  In His kingship, Jesus offers us an example of how to live.

          When we think of royalty, what may come to mind most quickly is the British royal family.   There has been much coverage of that family through the years.  Often we may have thoughts of a glamorous life of ease and luxury.  Over time, though, we have come to see them as a family who like most other families, have their sets of problems.  This does not seem to be the kind of King we celebrate in Jesus.

          As a nation that fought a revolution to throw off the reign of a king, our own kind of “royalty” can also disappoint.  Famous people who may be just as popular as a king can too easily let us down.  We hope for them to show us an image of a better way to be as people, yet they often let us down because we see their all-too-human side.

          As we celebrate this Solemnity of Christ the King, it is apparent that we need a different image of kingship.  We should look to the ancient image of a king to better understand what this Solemnity says about Jesus, and what it entails for us as members of the Kingdom of God.

          The ancient ideal of kingship meant that a king was one who was faced with making difficult decisions with wisdom, mercy and justice.  Ancient kings were meant to live lives in service to their people, being willing to set a faith-filled and servant-like example.  Kings were meant to serves as peacemakers, and were to be willing to give their lives in service to their people.  They were called to live holy lives, and to lay down their lives for their people if necessary.

          This ancient image of the king helps us to better understand Jesus, the King.  He is the one who offers us an example of living to emulate in our daily lives.  He is the one who seeks to bring peace into the midst of conflict.  His wisdom, mercy and justice are a pattern for our own deliberations and actions.  He is willing to offer us life by laying down His life for us on the cross.

          As the best of Kings, Jesus teaches us by His example that true kingship is not about glamour, power or wealth.  It is about service.  As our King, and as the example and model for our daily living, Jesus shows us by His life that we are called to humble, loving service.

          Our King shows us that we are to be merciful, just and truthful, willing to bring God’s peace to challenging situations.  Like Christ, our King, we are called to lay down our lives so that others may live.

          This is the kind of kingship into which each of us has been Baptized.  This sort of kingship offers a vision of a new heaven and new earth.  We, therefore, spend our time here on earth, as members of Christ’s Kingdom, living as Jesus lived and one day we will enter the Kingdom of Jesus, the Kingdom of Heaven, for all eternity.

Fr. David’s Homily for Sunday, November 15, 2020

FOCUS:  If we risk all for Jesus and the Gospel, we will be rewarded with the promise of eternal life.

          The people who lived in the Victorian Age in England were noted for their interest in all things related to death.  They built great tombs for their heroes and cherished their loved ones through the possession of memento mori – personal items that once belonged to loved ones, such as a lock of hair or a favorite photograph.  For them death was a part of life.  What was important was that what was left behind.  In addition to their ornate tombs, the Victorians also loved grandiose epitaphs that recalled for posterity the great achievements of deceased heroes and national figures.

          As we come to the end of another liturgical year, our readings seem solemn and sober, challenging us to reflect on our own lives and to consider our own epitaphs – what we will leave behind or what others will say about us.  Will they say that we used our God-given talents well?  That we did our part to improve that little piece of the world we lived in?  Today’s readings help us with this challenge.

          The Gospel tells of three investors and invites us to identify with them – the two who risked and gained and the one who, stricken by fear, made sure he did not lose the little he had.  Our initial reaction might be to side with the prudent servant and why not?  In today’s world where the market can be so unpredictable, it makes sense to be cautious, especially when dealing with another’s money.

          Yet is that what Jesus wants?  If we equate the word talent with a huge amount of money, we run the risk of misunderstanding this parable.  Instead, we should see it as referring to something of tremendous value – the Gospel message.  Because Matthew has chosen to place this parable ahead of the Last Judgment, we know that it speaks to us of success, failure and judgment.

          Some scholars suggest the parable is really an accusation against the Pharisees for their spiritual shyness.  They knew the promise of the Good News, and yet chose to bury it in a tomb of rules and regulations.  On the other hand, Jesus exhorts His disciples to take risks – to invest their whole lives in the truth of the Gospel and, if necessary, to risk all for the glory of God.

          By first leading us to favor the timid servant, Jesus then turns the story upside down.  The irony is that he loses everything – even the little he has.  For we need to take note of the fact that each is given according to his ability and that when risked, the reward is a share in the master’s joy.

          So what, then, is the moral of this parable?  If we see it as an exhortation to work diligently and fearlessly for the return of Christ, then now is the time for all Christians to use and, if necessary, to risk all their gifts and talents, their resources and faith to share Christ with others and to bear the fruit of the dividends of that investment.

Fr. David’s Homily for Sunday, November 8, 2020

Scripture Readings:  1) Wisdom 6:12-16; 2) 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 3) Matthew 25:1-13

FOCUS:  Jesus provides the wisdom needed for being ready to meet Him when He comes again.

          In today’s’ Gospel reading, Jesus cautions His listeners to stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.  He warns them not to be like the foolish bridesmaids who were unprepared.  They assumed they could always get more oil for their torches whenever they needed it, and that the door of the house would be opened for them even if they arrived late.

          The foolish bridesmaids were shocked to discover that, at the decisive hour, because they were unprepared, they were excluded.  Until then, there seemed to be no difference between the wise and foolish bridesmaids.  They all became drowsy and fell asleep, Jesus tell us.  But the midnight call to action finds the wise prepared and welcomed, and the foolish unprepared and left out.

          We do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, about those who have fallen asleep.  These words from our second reading direct our attention to a subject we mostly try to avoid:  death.  The Church puts death front and center during this month of November.  It begins with All Saints’ Day, which is immediately followed by All Souls’ Day, when we pray in a special way for our departed loved ones.  St. Paul tells the Thessalonians that when the Lord Jesus returns in glory, those who have already died will rise first.  Then we who are alive…will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.

          How, then, can we best prepare to meet the Lord?  Our first reading may have the key.  Wisdom can be found by those who seek her.  And the wisdom we seek – to be prepared to meet the Lord – is found in what Jesus teaches His disciples.  His message is about how we are to live in the kingdom of God here on earth, so as to live with God after our death.

          His lessons are about forgiving others generously, being grateful for the generosity of others, following through on our word, and not expecting reward for doing the right thing.  Most importantly, He teaches that loving God with all our mind, heart and soul, and humbly loving our neighbor as ourselves, are the greatest commandments.

          The lessons Jesus taught His listeners as He prepared for His death provide us all the wisdom we need for being prepared for our own deaths.  Let us stay awake in seeking to live in the wisdom He shares.  Let us grow in wisdom by finding ways to grow in our love for God and in our love for our neighbors.

          In doing so, Scripture tells us we will not be disappointed.  As we gain this wisdom, we will also grow in gratitude for God’s kindness, and in certainty of the hope we have for being joined with the Lord and those who have gone before us.

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)
Matthew 10:37-42

FOCUS: Discipleship must be the frame that gives definition and shape to
our life.

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)
John 3:16-18

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
human person.

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 world.

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
some benefit.

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
darkest hour.

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.

Ways to Attend Mass from Home 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 for more information. The televised Mass is normally on Sundays at 9:30 AM on WGN – channel 9.) 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

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.