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

FOCUS:  Obey God’s call without delay or excuse.

Scripture Readings:  1) 1 Kings 19:16b, 19-21; 2) Galatians 5:1, 13-18; 3) Luke 9:51-62

          Now that the Easter Season is concluded and we have celebrated the Feasts of the Ascension, Pentecost, Most Holy Trinity and Corpus Christi, we have returned to Ordinary Time.  The Scriptures today refer to God’s call, and the necessity for us to provide an answer to that call with an act of faith.  If we truly believe the Lord to be the sovereign in the center of our hearts, then we must obey God’s call without delay or excuse.

          Just prior to today’s reading on top of Mount Horeb, the Mountain of God, Elijah was granted an answer to his prayers.  After praying for death and enduring an earthquake, windstorm and wildfire on top of that mountain, he had heard the tiniest whisper.  It was the voice of the Lord telling him that Elisha was chosen to be his successor.

          Elisha was not as excited as Elijah to learn of this.  He wanted to go and bid farewell to his family, and perhaps get his affairs in order.  Once he realizes he must leave everything and go right then, not only does he lay down the reins to his father’s plow, he burns everything up – there is no turning back.  Elisha set the stage for what Jesus’ Apostles would do centuries later, when they would lay down their nets and leave the customs post to follow Him.

          In the Gospel, we listen to the final verses of the ninth chapter of Luke.  This is a very busy chapter in the Gospel, and a tumultuous time in Jesus’ life.  Earlier in this chapter, Jesus had sent out the Twelve Apostles on their first missionary journey.  Then, Jesus informed His Apostles that He was going to be arrested and put to death.  Then, He took Peter, James and John up on Mount Tabor and they saw Jesus transfigured before them.

          Now, today, as we work toward the end of the chapter, we see that Jesus increasingly meets resistance in His efforts to seek and save the lost.  Fewer and fewer people wish to accompany Him, even Samaritans who previously offered Him the warmest of welcomes.  They know why Jesus is going to Jerusalem, and they are not sure they wish to follow Him any further if it means suffering and death.

          Jesus calls others to follow Him but, like Elisha, they have excuses, they need more time, they are not ready to go.  The Lord has nowhere to rest His head and His days are numbered, but still He presses on, inviting others to join Him along the way of the cross.

          They will not go.  Perhaps it is a sign of the abandonment and isolation Jesus is set to endure in His last hours, as almost everyone He cared about refuses to stay at His side.

          The Lord is calling all of us.  He calls us to be prophets, apostles, disciples, friends, to serve one another through love, as St. Paul encouraged the Galatians in today’s second reading.  The time for excuses is long past.  Whether we feel unworthy, unwilling or afraid, let us trust in the Lord and leave it all behind and follow Him, that He might lead us to Himself, to the Father and to heaven.

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

FOCUS:  In the Eucharist, we taste the very presence and mercy of Christ.

Scripture Readings:  1) Genesis 14:18-20; 2) 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; 3) Luke 9:11b-17

          Popularly known as the Feeding of the Five Thousand, this Gospel story is found in all four Gospels.  For Luke it took place in a deserted place, or in some translations, a lonely place.  But do they mean the same thing?

          To be deserted means to be uninhabited, empty; to be lonely means to be alone, without company.  We can see how both of these could be good descriptions.  And maybe these words also refer to the human condition and the deepest desires of the human heart.

          The Gospels agree that Jesus was followed by a great crowd into the hill county.  What were they after?  Maybe some came to hear a little more about the Kingdom, inspired by Jesus’ hope-filled promise of God’s mercy and healing.  Perhaps others simply came to see another miracle from one whose words could change lives, and whose deed could do marvelous things.  Maybe some were at the last stop in their journey of life with nothing to lose and yet everything to gain.

          So they are willing, if not eager, to follow Jesus into this lonely/deserted place – willing to risk the growing darkness, hunger and eventual potential of a long walk home just to be with Jesus.  And it is here in this lonely/deserted place that Jesus meets them and their deepest needs in a life-abundant and self-giving way.

          We are gathered today to celebrate the Solemnity of Corpus Christi.  In many ways, we are very much like the Gospel crowd.  We, too, have come with our hopes and needs to encounter Jesus.  Here Jesus creates a Eucharistic world where all experience His real presence and the hope of something better – here no one goes hungry!

          Today and at every Mass, Jesus meets these needs by giving us his total and unconditional love, while at the same time nourishing us both physically and spiritually.  Here we see why the Church calls the Eucharist the source and summit of our faith.  It is source because Jesus is the source of our faith, and it is summit as our faith is ultimately about a sharing in His Resurrection and life.

          Here we truly receive the same Jesus – His body, blood, soul and divinity, nourishing us for those lonely moments that are so often part of our human experience, reassuring us that God is always present in our lives.

          As we prepare to receive Holy Communion, we will repeat the words of the centurion from the Gospel who encountered that same Jesus:  Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed (Matthew 8:8.) 

          Every time we receive this great gift from heaven, we should do so with great reverence, knowing as St. Paul reminds us that we are proclaiming Christ’s death and resurrection until He comes again in glory.

          Here we are joining the saints and angels in the worship of the One who has loved us without condition.  Here in the signs of bread of wine, Jesus meets our most basic needs:  to be loved and to be nourished.

Fr. David’s Homily for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

Readings:  1) Proverbs 8:22-31; 2) Romans; 3) John 16:12-15

FOCUS:  We celebrate the wonder of God:  Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

          Today we celebrate one of the most fundamental beliefs of Christianity:  the Trinity – three distinct, coequal persons in one God.  For the Church, the Trinity is considered a mystery.  There are aspects of it we will never fully grasp while we are this side of heaven.  But it is something that we hold as revealed truth.  Today’s readings touch on the distinctions, as well as the linkages, between and among the persons of the Trinity.

          It has been said that such a theological mystery is not a puzzle to solve, but more like an ocean in which we are swimming.  We may never understand its totality, but we experience its presence and accept its reality, as well as it magnificence.

          There are references to the Holy Trinity in the Old Testament, but their meaning was mostly hidden.  When Jesus became man, He revealed the three persons of the Trinity more fully.  As Christ had promised before He ascended into heaven, the Holy Spirit did come at Pentecost to help and empower the early Church to carry on Jesus’ saving mission.

          The Spirit was also poured out upon the Church to guide it and its members in the way of truth.  The Holy Spirit continues to be at work in and through the Church, empowering the Church and her members to continue doing the work Jesus calls her to do.

          The Solemnity of the Holy Trinity has been an official and universal celebration in the Church since the thirteenth-hundreds.  It is even celebrated by most Protestant denominations.  During today’s liturgy, special prayers honor each of the persons of the Trinity, but every Mass is full of references to the Trinity and prayers showing our devotion.

          Sometimes we pray to the Trinity without realizing what we are doing.  The sign of the cross is an example.  This is probably the prayer most commonly said by Catholics.  Yet, many people do not think of it as a prayer to the Trinity.  In fact, a good number of people may go through the motions of the sign of the cross, without thinking about the words at all.  It has become what we might call a ritual, something in which the motions become a prayer in themselves.

          During today’s Mass, let us make a point to notice how many times we make the sign of the cross.  Let us think about the words.  Let us listen for other prayers throughout the Mass that honor the Holy Trinity.  Of course, the Creed is probably the most obvious, but you will find others that give voice to our belief in and adoration of the Holy Trinity.

          Our Catechism tells us that the Trinity is the model and source of unity of the Church, as well as that of the family.  (813, 2205)  As we reflect on these things, let us pray to the Holy Trinity to guide us in strengthening our unity, as we continue to respect and cherish our diversity. 

          Let us also see the Most Holy Trinity as a model for how we are to live.  Just as the three persons of the Holy Trinity are perfectly united in a oneness of love, we are asked to live in ever-greater love and unity with God and one another.

Fr. David’s Homily for Pentecost

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.  Amen.”

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

FOCUS:  Jesus has prepared the way for us, and sent the Holy Spirit to guide us.

Scripture Readings:  1) Acts 1:1-22; 2) Ephesians 1:17-23; 3) Luke 24:46-53

          Today’s celebration of the Ascension of the Lord can get lost.  It comes between two other significant moments in the life of a young church.  A few weeks ago, we celebrated the greatest day on the liturgical calendar, the Resurrection of the Lord.  Next week, we will celebrate another important event:  The descent of the Holy Spirit, Pentecost.

          Today, the Apostles are less afraid than they were when Jesus came to them on that first Easter, but losing Him today for a second time could not have been easy.  In our first reading, they are left staring up at heaven.  In the Gospel, they leave rejoicing filled with great joy.  So which is it?  Are they bewildered or joy-filled?  Actually, they are both.

          The Apostles have journeyed with Jesus for three years.  They have witnessed the miracles and the parables.  They have also witnessed the resentments and the ridicule.  They have just witnessed His torturous death and His glorious resurrection.  It has truly been a rollercoaster ride of giant proportions.

          Such is the life of discipleship we live even today as we gather to celebrate the moment between Easter and Pentecost.  We are a people living in a kingdom established here on earth, but not yet part of its fullness found in the next life.  It is an in-between moment for the Church, and in our own lives.  How we choose to face such moments tells us how resilient our faith is, or whether there is work to be done to strengthen our reliance on Jesus on His promises.

          It is always going to be easier to have faith when things are going well.  It is in those in-between moments that we learn a great deal about ourselves.  It is okay to stop and stare at what is unclear or confusing – as long as we find joy in the journey, as the disciples in both readings eventually did (even though we do not hear about it in the first reading.)  It is here we discover the need to go deeper in our trust in Jesus’ promise not to ever leave us orphaned.

          It is in these in-between moments we also realize we are never alone in facing any challenge that is before us.  For though Jesus’ human form ascended into heaven, He is here present in word and sacrament.  The Holy Spirit dwells within and among us.

          By God’s grace, may we have all that St. Paul prayed for, for those who lived in Ephesus:  May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a Spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of Him.  May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to His call, what are the riches of glory in His inheritance among the holy ones, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power for us who believe.

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

FOCUS:  Do not let your hearts be troubled.  We are not alone in our mission to the world.

Scripture Readings:  1) Acts 15:1-2, 22-29; 2) Revelation 21:10-14, 22-23; 3) John 14:23-29

          I am sure that many people somewhere along the way, in moments of indecision, wished that God would send them a clear sign about what they are supposed to do in a particular situation.  Perhaps they wish that an angel, for example, would come to them and tell them exactly what God wants.

          At times like these, when we are surrounded by so much turmoil in the world, it can be tempting to think that perhaps God has left us alone to fend for ourselves – that we are left on our own with no clear direction.

          But the Scripture readings for today, as we come ever nearer to the great feast of Pentecost, are reassuring.  We are not alone, but have God, the Church, and the people around us to give us guidance and support when we need it – as long as we are open to the different ways the Holy Spirit operates in our daily lives.

          In the first reading, we see the Church, our brothers and sisters in the faith, as a support system to help us understand what is required of us.  The earliest Gentile disciples in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia were misled into believing that they had to follow the ancient Law of Moses if they were to be saved – if they were to be Christians.

          But the Apostles, guided by the Holy Spirit in their discussions, realized that Gentile believers were not called to the same strict code of law that the Jewish people had been, and they sent emissaries to encourage the Gentiles, to lighten their load.

          Sometimes, in this case, the Holy Spirit speaks to us through the word of those around us, the faithful people who listen to the voice of the Spirit and help us to understand.  Jesus assures us in the Gospel that the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, will be with us if we stay close to God, if we listen to God’s word and allow Him to make His dwelling in us.

          Even though Jesus is not with us in His physical form as He was to the first disciples, His Spirit is with us to guide us to the truth – to remind us of the words that Jesus spoke to the Apostles and continues to speak to us through the Scriptures.  The Holy Spirit who dwells in us speaks to us in our heart, during our prayer and when we are open to receiving His message.

          A question many people ask is, “How do we know that the Holy Spirit is speaking to us?”  One way is to stay close to God through daily prayer, Scripture reading and the sacraments.  One special type of prayer is the nightly Examan, in which we review the past day and see how God has been working in that day – where we received special blessings, where we were effective in our discipleship and where we might have failed.

          Through this daily practice of examining our lives, we can more easily see how God has spoken to us that day – through prayer, for example, or through the words or action of a family member or colleague.

          As we continue in our celebration of the Eucharist, let us always remember that the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, longs to speak God’s Word to us and guide us – if we are open to Him.

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

Scripture Readings:  1) Acts 14:21-27; 2) Revelation 21:1-5a; 3) John 13:31-33a, 34-35

FOCUS:  A Christ-like love is the hallmark of the true Christian.

          Everyone, believer and non-believers alike, is familiar with the Golden Rule:  Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  In other words, treat others as you would expect to be treated.  We can all agree that it is very reasonable and practical, and makes good sense.  Even Jesus seems to endorse it.

          But as we hear today, Jesus is never one simply to be satisfied with the bare minimum.  He always calls us to a higher standard or way of thinking – one that is not just in keeping with human expectations, reason and demands, but one that aligns with God’s ways.

          In today’s Gospel passage from John, Jesus gives us a new commandment, one that will take commitment, perseverance and self-giving on our part even when it might not seem practical or even sensible.  We are told today that we are to love as He loves.

          We should note that Jesus calls it a commandment, not an option but a mandate for every Christian:  As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.  Measure for measure, our behavior in all aspects of our live must strive to be Christ-like, not merely reasonable or convenient but modeled on Christ.  Now that is quite a command!

          So how can we describe this Christ-like love?  One key word that the ancient Greeks used was agape – which means selfless, unconditional and self-giving love.  We have only to look upon the cross to see that love poured out for each one of us in the outstretched arms of the crucified Christ.

          Right through the Gospels, we see this love exemplified in Jesus’ words and actions in the way He encounters sinners, heals and frees the sick, faithfully preaches the Word and is faithful to His Father in all things.

          Based simply on reason, it might seem like the life and mission of Jesus ended in failure and death.  But’ God’s ways are so different from our ways.  Jesus’ love is so much richer and fuller than mere human love.  And it is this love that we are called to imitate in all its fullness, its faithfulness and even at times, when it seems impractical.

          Here today, Jesus sets a new command for His disciples.  But He also gives us the means to fulfill it: through the example (as He says in the passage), and in the sending of the Holy Spirit later to help us.  We are not set up for failure, for the very credibility of the Christian message depends on our witness and how we live out that commandment of love.

          Today, as we reflect upon this commandment, we might ask ourselves whether love is at the heart of our lives.  And keeping in mind that we can do all things with God’s help, let us commit to love of God and love of neighbor.  Let us commit to serving others lovingly, speaking lovingly and forgiving abundantly.  For a Christ-like love is the hallmark of the true Christian.

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

Readings:  1) Acts 13:14, 43-52; 2) Revelation 7:9, 14b-17; 3) John 10:27-30 

FOCUS:  My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.

          On the first day of kindergarten, parents are usually more nervous than the children.  Parents tell their children how much fun they will have, how they will make new friends and do art projects and learn to read.  The children usually have new crayons, backpacks and lunch boxes and can’t wait to see what comes next.  Parents, on the other hand, are often nervous about letting go.  What if my little child gets sick?  What if my child gets teased?  What if he or she doesn’t do well in reading or math?

          These parents are not overprotective; they are simply living out what is nature to them in their role as good shepherds.  Parents shelter their children.  They make sure their child does not hunger or thirst.  They keep their children out of danger.

          This fourth Sunday of Easter is often called “Good Shepherd Sunday,’ from the comforting image of Jesus as the shepherd who will lead His sheep to eternal life.  Jesus, the Good Shepherd, protects and provides for His flock, even to the point of laying down His life so we may live more abundantly.  By His death and resurrection, Jesus opened heaven to us.  (Catechism of the Catholic Church: 1026)  Throughout the Gospels, Jesus teaches what we must do to be saved, to join Him in the kingdom of heaven.

          This Easter season we are all challenged to respond in three ways to Jesus as the Good Shepherd:

          First, we are to get to know Jesus by getting into the discipline of reading from the Gospels every day.  The peace and comfort you will experience from the words of the Good Shepherd may surprise you in a most positive way.

          Secondly, we are to pray for those who shepherd the Church.  We should always remember in our prayers all priests, deacons, bishops, religious and lay ministers who are responsible for the pastoral care of people.  We need to be sustained in our ministries by grace.

          Finally, we should not forget our responsibility to shepherd others into the kingdom of God.  Parents are challenged to love their children and shepherd their health, behavior, education and advancement in maturity.  They are to provide for their formation and education as Catholic Christians as well.

          Every one of us can make an effort to speak more freely about the person of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, and how He has been a comfort and a guide to us.  As we speak about our faith, we offer others the opportunity to join that great multitude in the kingdom of heaven.

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

Scripture Readings:  1) Acts 5:27-32, 40b-41; 2) Revelation 5-11-14; 3) John 21:1-19

FOCUS:  Through the Eucharist, we receive God’s divine love so that we may be witnesses to Jesus’ mission.

          Imagine that we are in the first century, and know that Jesus will soon be leaving.  Like any anxious member of a group, we ask, “Who’s going to lead us when you’re gone?”  Jesus replies, “Peter!”  We can’t believe it.  How can Jesus select the person who denied knowing Him, not once, not twice, but three times? 

          He would not follow Jesus to Golgotha.  And yet, he’s the one who is supposed to lead Jesus’ sheep.  Peter might not stand out to us at that time as a first choice, but this is the man Jesus chooses to be the leader of the young Christian community.

          Peter is flawed, and he might not be completely trustworthy.  But redemption awaits him.  He becomes a leader who is not afraid to voice his beliefs in the face of adversity.  When he is brought before the authorities and reminded that he is not supposed to be talking about Jesus, Peter emphatically denounces their authority, obeying only God’s authority.  In following Jesus, Peter furthers Jesus’ mission.  And in doing so, he is honored by God the Father.

          In the Gospel, Jesus and Peter have an exchange about love.  For English speakers, we only have the one word – love.  Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him, using the Greek word agapas, which means divine love.  Peter responds that he does love Him, but instead of using the term agapas, he uses the word philo, which means brotherly love.  This happens again with the same result.  Finally, Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him with that brotherly love, and Peter replies that of course he does.     

          Peter, again showing his limitations, is not able to say that he loves Jesus with divine love because he is limited by his humanity.  It takes God’s grace to be able to exude divine love, and that comes in the fruit of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  Only when he is imbued with divine love does Peter become capable of leading Jesus’ flock.

          When we partake of the Eucharist, we, too, become filled with that same divine love.  But that love is not meant to be hidden, it is meant for us to share.  When we leave church today, will we be able to go out and live our lives signifying that we, too, follow Jesus?

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

Readings:  1) Acts 5:12-16; 2) Revelation 1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19; 3) John 20:19-31

FOCUS:  Believe in the risen Lord.

          In today’s Gospel, an incredulous Thomas tells his fellow disciples that he will not believe their claims that Jesus is alive unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hands into his side.  After encountering the risen Lord, Thomas utters five words, “My Lord and my God!”  According to the Catechism, these simple words convey Thomas’ profound belief in Jesus’ victory over death and in Jesus’ divinity.  (Catechism of the Catholic Church:  448)

          Imagine how so many others have come to believe in Jesus!  The Apostles fearlessly preached the risen Lord and cured the sick, and great numbers were added to them.  Five thousand heard Peter’s speech on Pentecost (Acts 4:4) and came to believe.  In the Book of Revelation, we learn that John saw visions on the Island of Patmos.  Among them was an encounter with Jesus, the first and the last, the one who lives, who tells John to write down what he has seen, and what is happening, and what will happen afterwards.

          Other passages in Scripture tell us that there were more than five hundred eyewitnesses to Jesus’ resurrection.  (1 Corinthians 15:4-8, Acts 1:22; CCC 645)  He ate and drank with them; he breathed His Spirit upon them; He repeatedly offered them His mercy and His peace.

          And how did we come to believe in the resurrected Christ?  Perhaps our parents first shared the faith with us.  Perhaps a coworker or friend told us about Jesus.  Perhaps we experienced the charity and joy of a Christian community.  Perhaps we read about Jesus in the Scriptures, especially the Word of God proclaimed each week in the liturgy.  Our faith has been planted and has grown through the grace of the sacraments over the years – Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Reconciliation, perhaps Marriage, and more.

          Like the Apostles, as believers, each of us has the obligation and solemn duty to share the good news of salvation and that Jesus is alive in our midst.  How can we have an impact on a culture that has become convinced that belief and religious expression should not affect laws and societal norms? 

          Believers have always been moved by divine grace to become witnesses to the truth of the resurrection, to the forgiveness of sins, and to the promise of eternal salvation.  Do we know someone who needs to hear about Jesus? If we do, without hesitation or delay, let us go and tell them so they might come to know the joy we have found in Jesus.

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.

          Jesus 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 of the Passion of the Lord

Scripture Readings:  1) Isaiah 50:4-7; 2) Phil 2:6-11; 3) Luke 22:14-23:56

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 case back and forth between Pilate, 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 these 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 closet 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 cross.

          It is most unpleasant and difficult:  to look at 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.

          And we have choices when we do.  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.

          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 utmost cruelty, injustice, pain, 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.

          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 Christ did, and continues to do, for us.

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

Readings:  1) Isaiah 43:16-21; 2) Philippians 3:8-14; 3) John 8:1-11

Gospel related:  Catechism of the Catholic Church:  583

FOCUS:  Jesus is the image of the invisible God.

          Like the people who preceded Him, Jesus’ life and ministry was tied to the Temple.  It was there that He was presented by Mary and Joseph at forty days old.  It was there that He held priests and scribes spellbound at the age of twelve.  It was there that His ministry was centered, especially during the week leading up to His passion.

          Today we hear of one particular visit to the Temple during the Feast of Tabernacles.  Jesus was teaching a large group of people in the Temple courtyard when a group of scribes and Pharisees interrupt Him and say:  Teacher, this woman was caught in the every act of committing adultery.  Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women.  What do you say?

          Jesus knows that the scribes and Pharisees are setting a trap, and He does not answer right away.  Instead He writes in the dirt.  One might wonder if He was writing the relevant passage from the Law that condemned both partners in an adulterous relationship. He could not help but notice that the man was conspicuously absent.

          The scribes and Pharisees press Him, and He answers, Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to cast a stone at her.  They have nothing to say in response, and one by one they walk away.  Once Jesus and the woman are alone, He asks her, Where are they?  Has no one condemned you?  She replies, No one sir, and He tells her, neither do I condemn you.  Go and from now on sin no more

          Jesus is the one without sin, the only one with the right to judge, but He does not.  He dismisses the woman and her accusers without condemning them.  This says so much about Jesus and the invisible God whom He makes visible.

          Elsewhere in St. John’s Gospel, Jesus tells His disciples that he who has seen me has seen the Father.  In Colossians, St. Paul, who saw Jesus on the road to Damascus, calls Him the image of the invisible God (1:15), and in today’s reading from Philippians, St. Paul says that knowing Him is the supreme good.  We don’t have the privilege that he disciples had of seeing Jesus in the flesh.  We don’t have the privilege that St. Paul had of seeing the Risen Lord in heavenly glory.  Instead, we know Jesus through the teachings of the apostles, through Sacred Scripture, through the teachings of the Church and through the sacraments, to name a few ways.

          In Jesus, we see God entering His Temple and dwelling among His people.  And we see the kind of God He is.  Not a God of judgment, but a God of forgiveness.  Not a God of wrath, but a God of mercy.  Not a God who conquers by the sword, but a God who conquers by the cross.

This is the God who is making something truly new.  Something the world has not seen or even imagined.

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

Readings:  1) Joshua 5:9-a, 10-12; 2) 2 Corinthians 5:17-21; 3) Luke 15:1-3, 11-32

Gospel related:  Catechism of the Catholic Church:  545, 589, 1423, 1439, 1443, 1468, 1700, 1846, 2795, 2839

FOCUS:  Forgiveness is God-like.

          We love this Gospel parable!  Especially in this Lenten season, we can relate to the prodigal so.  Sinful though we are, if we convert our lives, God, symbolized by the father, will always forgive us and welcome us back (CCC 1439).

          However, what if we focus on the father in this story?  What can we learn from him?  He already had generously given his younger son the inheritance that he “owed” him.  He must have been broken-hearted when the son rejected his home and family to pursue another lifestyle.  When the son saw the error of his ways and returned home, however, the father ran out to greet him with warmth and affection.  He gave him a ring, a robe and a party!  The father offered forgiveness – not begrudgingly – but freely, lavishly, lovingly.

          Moreover, he went out again to seek his older son and carefully taught him how to forgive.

          In this Year of Mercy, whom do we need to forgive?  Is there someone in the family with whom we have not spoken?  Is there someone at work who has wronged us?  A spouse who has betrayed us?  Is there a child who has rebelled?

          Can we be as generous as our merciful God?  Is there anything more God-like than forgiveness?

          Jesus’ ministry was often about forgiveness – eating with sinners, forgiving sins publicly, gently preaching about His Father’s unbounded mercy.  In the ultimate act of forgiveness, obedient to His Father, Jesus gave His life for the forgiveness of our sins.  This is what salvation history is all about – forgiveness.  How can we possibly be grateful enough for such unbounded mercy?

          Our reading today from second Corinthians reminds us that God has reconciled us to Himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation…entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.  Let us resolve to be ambassadors for Christ and share God’s message of love and forgiveness.

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

Readings:  1) Exodus 3:1-8a, 13-15;  2) 1 Corinthians 10:1-6, 10-12;  3) Luke 13:1-9

FOCUS:  We are to be open to the many and varied ways that God wants to work in and through us.

          Each of us is familiar with at least one – if not several – of what we might call “God moments” in which God reveals Himself in Scripture.  One of the most well-known was brought to life on the big screen in Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments.  We find this profound God moment in today’s first reading from Exodus.  Here we read of Moses’ encounter with God speaking to him from a burning bush that was not being consumed by the flames!  Wouldn’t we give anything to witness such a profound God moment?

          The reality is that when we witness the birth of a child or that child’s Baptism we witness a most profound God moment.  When we lovingly prepare a special meal for our family or serve the homeless a warm meal, we witness a most profound God moment.

          We must not allow ourselves to think that all the God moments have passed by.  These profound holy moments of God’s love intersecting our lives play out every day.  We must be attentive.  We must not grumble like an unbeliever, rather, we must till the soil and fertilize around the fig tree in hopes it will produce abundant fruit.

          Lent is a time of tossing off whatever hinders us from being good fertilizer, that is, from being the nourishment someone in our life needs in order to find their way back to Jesus.  To do this, it is good to remember those who have been good fertilizer, good pruners, in our own lives.  Think of that teacher, pastor, parent, neighbor or grandparent who brought holy moments – God moments – into our lives.

          As believers in God’s unconditional love for us, we know all of God’s holy moments have not passed us by.  Every time we gather for Mass, we celebrate one of the most profound God moments known to humankind, and are invited to partake in one of the most profound ways that God is present to us.

          In this most Blessed Sacrament of Holy Communion, Jesus who is really and truly present nourishes us with the gift of Himself.  We come forward to receive the Bread of Life and the Cup of Salvation, so that we may be drawn closer to Him and then share His light and love with others by the witness of our lives.

          Let us be open to the many and varied ways that God wants to work in and through us, so that others might experience God’s love for them in and through our actions.

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

Scripture Readings:  1) Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18; 2) Philippians 3:17-4:1; 3) Luke 9:28b-36

FOCUS:  Prayer opens our hearts to the life-changing power of the risen and glorified Lord.

          One of the chief characteristics of Jesus’ life is His commitment to prayer.  At every key moment from His Baptism to His death, Jesus shows Himself as a person of prayer.  As disciples, we, too, are called to be people of prayer, so this might be a good moment for us to review our lives of prayer.

          Like all relationships, our relationship with God takes time and effort to grow – time to talk, share our lives and get to know Him in all His glory and life-changing power.  And just as God wants us to share our needs, He also asks that we stop and listen to His word.

          With all this in mind, we hear today St. Luke’s account of the transfiguration.  At first glance, it might seem an odd selection for Lent:  why not a Gospel passage on healing or mercy?  Well, actually this reading is chosen to encourage and strengthen us as we undertake our Lenten practices and to remind us that through them we hope to share in the glory of God, glimpsed here in Jesus on the mountaintop.

          Lenten practices by themselves will not have much meaning if they do not ultimately lead us to the glory of Easter.

          Jesus leads His disciples up the mountain to pray.  Suddenly, they are witnesses to something new as the glory of God shines through Jesus’ humanity, and the prophets Moses and Elijah appear in conversation with Him.

          Moses and Elijah were also what you might call mountain men in that they, in times of struggle and difficulty, sought peace in the mountains.  There they encountered God and were renewed and strengthened in their mission.

          Looking at Jesus’ glory for a moment, Peter, we are told, begins to panic and as so often happens in the face of what is new and unsettling, he falls back onto what is familiar and less threatening.  His suggestion for three tents shows how much he has yet to learn about Jesus.

          But from the cloud that covers the mountain comes the Father’s voice:  “This is my chosen Son, listen to Him.”  Here is the true purpose of God revealing Himself:  Jesus is more than just another prophet, He is God’s “Chosen” Son.  Here are words that all people must hear and accept if they are to be transformed.

          In the darkness of our sometimes sinful world, we need to hear these words again.  We, too, must be willing to climb the mountain and to experience the glory of God.  We need to hear again the words of the Father as Jesus is revealed as the one who speaks on His behalf and is worthy of our attention and obedience.

          This Lent ought to signal a transformation in our hearts and communities.  For as Peter said, “It is good that we are hear.”  It is indeed good that we are here today, for it is only when we are present to the Lord that we can be open to His Word and to the glory He desires to share with us.

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

Scripture Readings:  10 Deuteronomy 26:4-10; 2) Romans 10:8-13; 3) Luke 4:1-13

FOCUS:  Sustained by the Holy Spirit.

          Perhaps the most overlooked line in the Gospel story today is that Jesus had just returned from the Jordan.  He had just been filled with the grace of the Holy Spirit in the waters of the Jordan River.  He received this anointing that marked him as the Christ, the Anointed One.  That same Holy Spirit had come to Mary and led to her conceiving the Lord.

          That same Holy Spirit had inspired Simeon in the temple to recognize a small baby as the Messiah.  That same Holy Spirit goes out of Jesus when He performs miracles.  And that same Spirit will raise Him from the dead.

          It is the Spirit who now leads Him into the desert for forty days.  Certainly, that Spirit never parted from Him in that lonely desert, but instead inspired His prayer.  For prayer was Jesus’ usual way to discern and obey the will of the Father, and to prepare Himself for whatever event was ahead of Him.

          Sustained by only grace and prayer, Jesus encounters the devil.  Imagine – the devil tries to put God Himself to the test!  We are told the devil tempts Him three times.  The devil commands Jesus to turn stones into bread to satisfy His physical needs.  Jesus refuses because one does not live by bread alone (Deut. 8:3) 

          The devil asks Jesus to worship Him, claiming He will give Him all the kingdoms of the world.  Jesus refuse, stating that you shall worship the Lord, your God, and Him alone shall you serve (Deut. 6:13)

          Finally, the devil asks Jesus to prove that He is the Son of God by throwing Himself down from the highest point of the Temple because angels will guard Him.  Jesus refuses, saying You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test (Deut 6.16)

          Each time, sustained by the Spirit and with a command of God’s revealed word, Jesus can resist temptation.  He is victorious over temptation just as He will be victorious over death.

          Like that devil in the desert, how often do we put God to the test?  How often might we “negotiate” with God and ignore His will to suit ours?  How often do we pray that “yours be the kingdom, and the power, and the glory,” yet turn away to seek our own glory, to demand our own power and to build our own kingdoms?

          This Lent, let us resolve to be strengthened by the same thing which gave Jesus strength against evil.  Like Jesus, let us develop a deeper prayer life.  Let us turn to the Scriptures to discern God’s will for us and to hear God speaking to us.  Let us rely on the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit when we are weak, and thank Him when we are made strong.  And when these forty days of Lent are through, may we rejoice that Jesus has conquered sin and death.

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

Scripture Readings:  1) 1 Samuel 26:2, 7-9, 12-13, 22-23; 2) 1 Corinthians 15:45-49; 3) Luke 6:27-38

FOCUS:  We are being transformed into the image of Christ.

          As Christians, we worship a God who loves us so much that He became human for our sake and went the extra mile of love, dying an excruciating and humiliating death on a cross.  St. Paul reassures us in the second reading that, as we are human and in the likeness of Adam – complete with sin – so we will also take on the likeness of Jesus, the heavenly one.

          That is a reassuring thought when we read the Gospel, in which Jesus describes what He expects from those who follow Him.  We are called to see with God’s eyes – to see our enemies as brothers or sisters and to love them.  We are to return good to those who mistreat us.

          In the first reading, we get a glimpse of God’s ability to transform people.  David, even though he knows that Saul plans to kill him, spares Saul when he has the chance to do harm instead.  His reverence for God’s anointing of Saul is what keeps David from killing Saul.  David chooses the higher ground that, centuries later, would be taught by his descendant and Lord, Jesus.

          Often, we fall short of the standards Jesus set for us, but other times we might come close, as David did in the first reading.  Could we take time out of a busy day to listen to a friend who needs to talk, or give up a free day to volunteer at a place of need?  Do we call on reserves of patience to listen quietly when an angry friend or colleague complains to us?

          Because we are human, we might not live out these expectations consistently, but if we stay close to Jesus in prayer, we can trust that He is transforming us, step by step, into His image.  As Lent approaches, we can take advantage of this special season to spend more time with Jesus and more time serving others, allowing Him to transform us.

          The message here is clear:  We must do the best we can to be truly devoted to the works of the Lord.  In fact, that is the theme of the 2022 Catholic Ministries Annual Appeal:  “Devoted to the Works of the Lord.”

          There are indeed many ways in which we can be devoted to the works of the Lord.  One of those ways is to support the Appeal.  As you know, the Diocese of Joliet does many things than individual parish cannot do alone.

          Each and every one of us is a part of the Diocese of Joliet.  Without our support, the diocese cannot provide ministry, education and services to thousands of people.

          The Diocese serves over 545,000 Catholics throughout seven counties.

A gift to the CMAA is very important because it provides most, if not all, of the funding for the 30 ministries that serves hundreds of thousands of people in our Diocese, country and world.

-Some examples of ministries supported by your gift to the Appeal are:

-The Diocese provides priests to staff our parishes.  Right now, there are 26 seminarians being educated for priestly service in our diocese.  We can only imagine the total cost of each year of college and graduate school education.  The CMAA, through your gift, helps to pay these costs.

-Over 19,000 nights of shelter and housing are provided to the homeless.

-Over 18,600 free meals are served at the Shepherd’s Table.

-The Appeal helps fund Young Adult and Youth Ministry programs that serve over 25, 500 of our youth and young adults, many of them in our own parish.

-The Catholic Schools Office provides oversight, assistance and direction to our 51 elementary and high schools with over 16,000 students, including those at our own parish school.

-The Religious Education Office provides oversight, guidance, support and services for Directors and Coordinators of Religious Education, catechists and religious education programs across the Diocese that reach over 34,400 students a year, including those in our own parish religious education programs.

-The Diocese makes available employee insurance, property insurance and other items at a lower cost than an individual parish could afford.

-We must remember that this appeal is not a “Special Collection.”  This appeal is for our diocese, of which we are all a part.  The program allows for your donation to be made all at once, or you can make a pledge that enables a larger gift to spread over 10 payments.

-It is as part of the Diocese of Joliet that we can multiply the expression of the Word of God and touch many thousands of people whom we could never reach on our own or as an individual parish.

-I ask that you please read the information that will be in our parish bulletin and on line to learn more about the important work that takes place here in the Diocese of Joliet.

-If you received a mailing and have not responded to it, you can bring the completed pledge form to Mass next weekend.  If you have not received the mailing, please call or stop by the Ministry Center as forms are available for you.

-Next weekend, Bishop Hicks will speak to us about the Appeal via a recorded homily.  Thank you, in advance, for your prayerful consideration of supporting the 2022 Catholic Ministries Annual Appeal, whose theme is, “Devoted to the Works of the Lord,” in any way you can.

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

Scripture Readings:  1) Jeremiah 17:5-8; 2) 1 Corinthians 15:12, 16-20; 3) Luke 6:17, 20-26

FOCUS:  Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose hope is in the Lord.

          We may have said somewhere along the way in our lives, when we see someone behave a certain way, “What, don’t they know that’s not right?” or, “Why didn’t they know better?”  We witness so many actions and decisions that are quite contrary to what we expect of people, or that go against what we know to be right and wrong.

          The Catechism tells us, “Every institution is inspired, at least implicitly, by a vision of man and his destiny, from which it derives the point of reference for its judgment, its hierarchy of values, its line of conduct” (2244.)  There are rules for living properly in this world.  We have federal laws and state regulations.  But these are external rules.  These rules do not form us.  They can show some things, but it is from God that we properly learn how to act in the world.  God’s instructions show us how we can be our best selves.

          How does God guide us?  We can listen to the words of Jesus in the Gospel reading from St. Luke today.  This is a great place to start.

          The Beatitudes are the heart of Jesus’ preaching.  They tell us to love our enemies and love our neighbor.  At the core of the sermon is Jesus’ teaching on love.  This love is characterized by forgiveness and generosity.  These are characteristic of the Christian life.  They offer us hope in the midst of trials and tests.

          And they show us what is already ours by virtue of our salvation through Jesus.  They help us to see the fullness of our lives as God designs it.  According to the Catechism, “The Beatitudes respond to the natural desire for happiness.  This desire is of divine origin:  God has placed it in the human heart in order to draw man to the One who alone can fulfill it.”  (1718.)

          Just as there are consequences to disobeying rules and laws in our society, so, too, there are negative repercussions from straying from God’s vision of human happiness.  Unlike St. Matthew’s Gospel, St. Luke gives four “woes” after his description of the Beatitudes.  These woes are reminiscent of the cries of impending distress used by the Old Testament prophets.  Luke depicts Jesus as fulfilling the same prophetic role to warn that disaster comes upon those whose worldly comfort and prosperity has turned them away from God and fidelity to the demands of His covenant.

          The woes remind us that satisfaction in worldly wealth and prestige can give us a false sense of security and lead us to overlook our radical dependence on God’s mercy.

          Today, let us heed God’s warnings about the dangers of a life lived apart from His grace, and follow the path of blessing and human flourishing He has chartered for us in the Beatitudes.

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

FOCUS:  Jesus invites us to follow Him, little by little.  With His grace we will become faithful disciples.

          Looking back at our life, we may recognize a particular person or specific experience that caused us to make an important change or to go in a different direction than we would have otherwise.  Hopefully, the change was good; hopefully it caused us to think bigger, do better things, use our talents in ways that we did not imagine possible.

          This is what happens in today’s readings.  Isaiah is called by God to be His prophet.  In the beginning, however, Isaiah does not feel worthy to be in God’s presence, saying, I am doomed!  But by the end of the reading, Isaiah is ready; Here I am, he says, send me.

          It is a similar experience for Simon in today’s Gospel.  In the beginning, Simon and his companions are getting out of their boats and washing their nets, finished for the night. Yet by the end, everything has changed.  The same fishermen have abandoned their boats, left everything and followed Jesus.  What a turnaround!

          It is interesting to note how this happened.  It does not start with Jesus asking Simon to follow Him.  Rather, Jesus begins with something basic, something that Peter can do with relative ease:  Put out a short distance.  Now this may be inconvenient, especially since Simon has been fishing all night, is probably tired and has just finished.  But it is doable.  Simon takes the first step – he gets back in the boat, puts out a short distance, and in the process is able to hear Jesus speak and teach.

          Jesus has a second step:  Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.  Now this is getting much more inconvenient.  One can imagine Simon’s thoughts, “I really did not want to come out here at all, but I agreed to a short distance.  Now you want me to go into deep water?”

          Master, Simon says, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing.  Nevertheless, he agrees, and they catch so many fish that the nets are tearing.

          Simon is astonished.  By the time they return to shore, the men who had been finishing their work, are now beginning new work.  They leave everything and follow Jesus.

          This encounter applies to our lives as well.  Jesus does not necessarily ask us to leave everything right away.  Sometimes He comes to us in ways that we can accept, bit by bit.  Go just a little further.  OK, we do.  Then, like Simon on the boat, we hear something new, something different.

          Go a little further, “I’m not so sure Lord.  I have tried that so many times.  But at your command I will.”

          And this time things are different, because the work is not our own, but the Lord’s.  We have worked, we have worked hard, and have caught nothing.  Our efforts, alone, are insufficient. 

          But at the command of the Lord, at the Lord’s initiative, with His presence, our work is productive, fruitful, overflowing.  St. Paul says in the second reading that he has toiled harder than any, but he clarifies:  not I, however, but the grace of God that is with me.

          Jesus will meet us where we are.  Little by little, He will invite us to take the next step toward becoming faithful disciples.  Our efforts without Him will fail.  We may work hard, but our “catch” will be minimal to nothing.  With the Lord, however, saying yes little by little, our lives will change.  Our efforts will bear fruit.  Our “catch” will be overflowing.

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

Readings:  1) Jeremiah 1:4-5, 17-19; 2) 1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13 or 13:4-13; 3) Luke 4:21-30

FOCUS:  We are to walk in God’s way of love.

          Today’s Gospel tells of Jesus coming to His hometown of Nazareth and going to teach in the synagogue on the Sabbath.  Before beginning His teaching, Jesus reads a passage from the prophet Isaiah, which told of the Messiah and Savior God promised to bring healing, restoration and salvation to the people of Israel.  After reading the passage, Jesus proclaims that this passage was fulfilled in their hearing.  In other words, He was announcing Himself as the long-promised Messiah.

          How sad it was that the majority of the people gathered there that day were unable to see that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah.  It seems they were blinded by their experience of Jesus growing up humbly among them as the son of a carpenter.  The Messiah was supposed to be someone like the great King David, who threw off the oppressors and restored the nation of Israel.  Jesus certainly did not fit the bill.  And so they rejected Jesus and His message of salvation.

          Now we should not be too hasty in judging the people in Nazareth, because they had certain expectations, and they were not being met in the manner they expected.  How often do we think things should unfold and happen in our lives in a certain time and fashion because we have prayed for them?  And then when they do not, we feel discouraged and frustrated and turn away from God.

          For example, this can happen when we place the pursuit of money or material things before God, thinking they can bring us happiness or peace.  But ultimately, the only things that will bring us true happiness, peace and joy are loving Jesus and trying to walk in His way of love.  So let us try to keep our minds and hearts open to the Lord’s love, and to the many and varied ways that He wants to work in our lives.  Let us press upon our hearts the importance of remembering that God hears and answers all our prayers, but He answers them in His time and in the way that is best for us.

          If we bear these things in mind, it will help us to keep our eyes firmly fixed upon Jesus, and make slow and steady progress in growing in faith and holiness of life.  This will enable us to become more patient, gentle, kind compassionate and forgiving toward others.  Our goal is to live in such a way that we give glory to God, and invite others to know the joy we have found in Jesus.

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

Readings:  1) Nehemiah 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10; 2) 1 Corinthians 12:12-30 or 12:12-14, 27; 3) Luke 1:1-4, 4:14-21

Gospel related:  Catechism of the Catholic Church:  436, 544, 695, 714, 1168, 1286, 2443; CSDC:  28

FOCUS:  As followers of Jesus, we are called to bear witness to the Gospel and help build up God’s Kingdom on earth.

          All of us are familiar with inaugural addresses, especially when presidents take office and begin their elected terms.  Some of these addresses are, of course, more memorable than others.  Unfortunately, much of the content of these inaugural addresses bears little relationship to the subsequent actions of these leaders.

          Similarly, Jesus gave an inaugural address of sorts shortly after He returned to Nazareth from the desert, where He had spent forty days and forty nights preparing for His public ministry.  We heard His inaugural address in today’s Gospel account.

          He came to Nazareth, where He had grown up, and went according to His custom into the synagogue on the Sabbath day.  He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah.  He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written:  “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.”

          Rolling up the scroll, He handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at Him.  He said to them, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”

          Can we carry the torch and make Jesus’ saving mission our own?  It seems to me the answer is “yes.”  This is because Jesus entrusted the continuation of His saving mission to the Church and because each of us, by virtue of our Baptism, has become a member of Christ’s Body, the Church.  As such, each of us is called to use our unique gifts and talents to further the work and mission of the Church and help build up God’s Kingdom on earth.

          How can we further the mission of the Church and help to build up God’s Kingdom on earth?  The first thing we can do is to seek to set aside our differences, and work together with people of good will to help bring peace and healing to the world.  Ultimately, the way we live our lives, should say to others:  “Today this Scripture passage is being fulfilled in your hearing.”

          Jesus’ saving mission, example and activities matched the words of the inaugural address He gave at the beginning of His ministry.  He did bring freedom to those held captive in webs of lies and deceit, to those held captive in addictive behavior patterns, along with freedom to those held captive and victimized under exploitative power.  In and through His life, death and resurrection, Jesus defeated the power of sin and evil and opened the way to eternal light. He is the true light of the world that illumines our minds and hearts, and allows us to see the truth plainly.

          The Bible is not so much a creed to be accepted as it is a mission to be accomplished.  We, walking together in Jesus, are to be out there in the world, working to advance and move Jesus’ saving mission toward its fulfillment.  We can bring good news to the poor, liberty to those bound by addictions and compulsions, and we can give the light of knowledge and vision to those who are blinded by this world’s darkness.

          Living our Christian values by respecting life, living in honesty and truth, establishing justice, working for peace and building up our families allows us to further Jesus’ mission on earth.

          The Spirit of the Lord is upon us.  He has anointed us and given us His gifts of wisdom, understanding, knowledge, steadfastness and courage.  Let us live our commissioning boldly and courageously.   Let us proclaim and give witness to the Gospel by the example of our lives so that many others may come to know the new life, healing, peace, freedom and salvation that Jesus offers.

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

Readings:  1) Isaiah 62:1-5; 2) 1 Corinthians 12:4-11; 3) John 2:1-11

Gospel related:  Catechism of the Catholic Church:  486, 495, 1335, 1613, 2618

FOCUS:  God has tender compassion for each of us.

          Today’s readings tell us about the tender compassion of our God.  In the first reading, we hear language that is tender, passionate and definitive.  The Lord says to the people of Israel – and to us today – that we will not be called forsaken.  Our land will not be called desolate.  Rather, the Lord wants to call us “delightful” and “loved.”

          In the second reading, St. Paul teaches us that the Spirit gives each of us different gifts, such as teaching, knowledge, healing or amazing faith.  We are not given these gifts solely for our own benefit, but to help further the work and mission of the Church and to serve the needs of others in the midst of our daily lives.

          Today’s lesson does not end there.  In St. John’s Gospel, we hear the familiar story of the wedding at Cana.  Marriage has long been an analogy of God’s intimate love for His people.  It is fitting, then, that Jesus performs the first miracle of His public ministry at a wedding.

          It is Mary who notices the problem with the wine and decides to intercede.  She does not do so because the couple will be punished for running out of wine.  At worst, the couple or the families will be embarrassed by their lack of resources.  But Mary exemplifies God’s tender and personal loving care so well that she wants to protect this young couple from any undue anxiety.  She steps in, and is persistent with Jesus, who first denies His mother’s request for help.

          Jesus does not just give this couple ordinary wine.  He provides them the best wine.

          Our three readings communicate one important truth:  Our God utterly delights in each of us and loves us unconditionally and without limits.  Some of the ways God shows His love for us are by giving us special graces that allow us to serve each other; giving us His own mother Mary, who watches for our slightest need and anxiety and who intercedes for us; and by giving us more than our heart’s desire.

          God’s tender and compassionate love for us extends throughout the centuries to today.  Let us all pray that we become more open to His transformative love in our lives.

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

Scripture Readings:  1) Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7; 2) Acts 10:34-38; 3) Luke 3:15-16, 21-22

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.”  (Catechism, 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 (Catechism, 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

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

FOCUS:  The Magi help to make known God’s presence in the world in a particular way.

          As we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany today, we hear the familiar story of the Magi:  the Magi, who help to make known God’s presence in the world in a particular way.  They are the first visible and tangible recipients of the mystery of which St. Paul speaks.  A mystery now revealed…by the Spiritthat the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel.

          We enjoy hearing this familiar story of expectation, wonder, joy and faithiful homage but we may forget something essential to the importance of the story:  The Magi were not Jewish.  They were Gentiles!  They were not children of Abraham, people of the Covenant, or Israelites.  They were “foreigners,” most likely Persian, whose religious affiliation and actual occupation are still debated among Scripture scholars.

          Yet, they knew about Jesus.  They knew about the coming of the Messiah.  And they had the courage to approach the Roman-appointed King of Judea, King Herod, then the current “king of the Jews” and ask him:

          Where is the newborn king of the Jews?  We say His star at its rising and have come to do Him homage.

          Asking such a question – essentially implying Herod’s successor and one who might overthrow him – could have been looked at as a threat, if not outright treason.  But that did not deter the Magi in their quest.

          Their journey in faith, and their strength in following God’s prompts and witnessing to His faithfulness, is a model for our own discipleship.  With one exception:  God is already made manifest to us – we do not have to seek Him out; He seeks us out. 

          And when we respond to His call, there are things we can count on – as if they were a star in the sky – to help us make our way to Him:  His word, His sacraments; His grace; and the gifts He has given us that we might in turn offer back to Him.  We are not alone in this endeavor.

          As the Magi were a community of support for each other, so we, too, gathered here, are a community of support and belief.  We have come here because we have heard about the coming of the Messiah and we wish to offer our gifts to Him.  Gifts that will be returned to us in the gift of Jesus’ body and blood, making His presence just as substantially real to us as He was to the Magi.  What a powerful, mysterious gift that transcends time.

          May this and every encounter with Christ empower us and direct us to go forth and witness to the faithfulness of God’s promises, and His enduring presence within and among us.

Fr. David’s Homily for the Feast of the Holy Family

Scripture Readings:  1) 1 Samuel 1:20-22, 24-28; 2) 1 John 3:1-2, 21-24; 3) Luke 2:41-52

FOCUS:  Our family life is enriched when we worship the One who created and loves us.

          Each year, as we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family, we have the opportunity to reflect on their lives.  What can we learn from these holy people?  How might we imitate them?  Perhaps the answer is clear.  In an age when we are faced with all kinds of messages from social media, television and competing ideas of what is the best for us, modern families need to have as their foundation prayer and religious traditions.

          We know very little about Jesus’ life between His birth and the beginning of his public ministry.  We know that He was born in Bethlehem in a humble stable.  Soon, His young life was threatened and His family escaped to Egypt.  Eventually, they returned to Nazareth. 

          We can only imagine Jesus growing up in a simple household with Mary, His loving Mother, and Saint Joseph, His protective guardian.  We picture Him in Mary’s lap or learning a carpenter’s trade at Joseph’s workbench.  The early years of Jesus’ life are often referred to by scholars as the “hidden life” of Jesus.

          The beginning of today’s Gospel states that Mary and Joseph went to Jerusalem annually for the Passover feast according to festival custom.  On one such occasion, when Jesus was 12, He remained at the temple. His parents found Him there, discussing Scriptures with the rabbis.  It is important to note that this story of finding Him in the temple “is the only event that breaks the silence of the Gospels about the hidden years of Jesus” (Catholic Catechism, #534.)

          These visits to a house of worship are important.  The temple in Jerusalem was seen as God’s dwelling place.  Even Jesus (God’s dwelling among people) took the time to go there.  The temple was a house of prayer, where sacrifices were offered and God’s praises were sung.  At the temple, in the synagogues, and in His home, a young Jesus would have learned His people’s prayers.

          Like Jesus, Mary and Joseph, we are part of a holy family.  We, too, are children of God.  Just like Mary and Joseph, our family life is enriched when we go to church to worship the One who created and loves us.  Like Mary and Joseph, we must be attentive to the presence of Jesus in our lives, to hold all He did and said in our hearts, and to willingly participate in God’s divine plan.  By being attentive to God’s Word and by keeping His commandments, we, too, will grow in wisdom, grace and favor.

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

Readings:  1) Micah 5:1-4a; 2) Hebrews 10:5-10; 3) Luke 1:39-45

FOCUS:  The Blessed Virgin Mary is a model of humility and obedience who helps us grow in our love for Jesus.

          With Christmas days away, it is appropriate for the Church to shine a light on Mary, the mother of God.  Of course, Jesus is the ultimate center of attention, but Mary’s humble cooperation made the Incarnation a reality.  Today’s Gospel provides opportunities to see even more deeply how important Mary is to our salvation.

          In today’s Gospel, Elizabeth calls Mary blessed.   One definition of blessed is holy; another is favored by God – because God chooses her to be the mother of Jesus.  This helps us understand the important role Mary played and continues to play in God’s unfolding plan of salvation.  Mary is the model of the Messiah, the Savior of the World.

          To grow in our love for Jesus and to be with God one day in heaven, we must strive to imitate Mary’s example of being faithful to God and God’s plan for our lives.  We must also turn to the Blessed Virgin Mary, our spiritual mother, to intercede on our behalf so that we might receive the grace needed to remain steadfast to grow in faith and love for the Lord Jesus.

          In the Gospel, Elizabeth gives Mary credit for believing that what God had told her would be fulfilled.  This message likely touched Elizabeth more than it might have affected others.  This visit from Mary probably strengthened her cousin to believe even more in God’s message to her and her husband about their own son (John the Baptist.)

          The angel had said their son would be great in the eyes of God and man, and that he would prepare a people fit for the Lord. (Luke 1:17)  This was not easy for them to believe, since even having a child seemed out of the question at their ages.  Nevertheless, the word of God was fulfilled a few months later when John – who would become known as The Baptist – was born.

          Mary continues to help people believe in God’s promises.  Her example is a comfort to us, even today, as we seek to understand the mystery of the Incarnation.  How is it possible, Elizabeth asks, that the mother of my Lord should come to see me

          We still ask similar questions.  “Am I worthy to be in God’s Kingdom?  “Who am I to think Jesus came to save me?”  “What does God expect of a lowly person like me?”  Mary’s example helps give us answers.  We are to believe.  We are to trust.  We are to obey, as she did.

          Mary’s example may even have helped her own Son know how to respond to such questions.  Our second reading says that Jesus, Himself, told the Father, I have come to do your will.  It is likely He learned those words from His mother.

          So, as we continue to prepare for the celebration of the Lord’s birth, let us remember Mary’s example.  Let us give thanks for her.  Let us also stay close to her so she can guide us in the way of the Lord.

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

FOCUS:  Rejoice in the Lord, again I say rejoice!

Scripture Readings:  1) Zephaniah 3:14-18a; 2) Philippians 4:4-7; 3) Luke 3:10-18

          The Third Sunday of Advent is traditionally called Gaudete Sunday – a rejoicing reflected in rose vestments and the choice of Scriptures.  We are more than halfway through our season of preparation, as we ready ourselves to both celebrate the coming of Jesus in history and look forward to His return in glory.

          For Christians, this theme of rejoicing lies at the heart of our faith.  Even if we are still struggling with life’s great issues, we are still called to be people of joy and to be ready to share that joy with others.

          So what does this spiritual or holy joy look like?  Clearly, it is not the same as pleasure or human satisfaction – these are emotions that are short-lived and derived from the external, they are what we perceive and experience.

          Spiritual joy arises from our interior life – our relationship with the divine.  Like a well bubbling up from the depths of the earth, spiritual joy wells up even in the midst of life’s struggles and becomes the hallmark of the true Christian.

          Zephaniah is exultant in his description of God’s faithfulness and promise.  St. Paul, too, wants his community in Philippi to be joyful, not with a superficial rejoicing but with a joy that flows from the Lord as they await His imminent return in glory.  To maintain this joy, Paul reminds them to stay prayerful at all times.

          Yet in the midst of all this rejoicing, we hear another voice – St. John the Baptist calling us to repentance and justice.  But it is in the question put to John that catches our attention – what should we do?  It is a practical question, and John has practical answers.  They are not to retreat from life, but be converted to a just way of living.

          They are not simply to put on sack-cloth and ashes or retreat to the Temple, but be sensitive to the needs of justice – to be sharers rather than takers.  Tax collectors are not to resign but be just.  Soldiers are not told to desert but to use their power fairly.  This is a Gospel of people power, where the message can change the world.

          And what must we do?  How can we bring about change in our world?  As spouses and family members, we can strive to love with a God-like love.  As parents and guardians, we can teach our children that their true value lies not in material things or the latest gadget or brand, but in how they treat others and serve the less fortunate.

          As civic minded people, by using our freedom to serve our community.  As employers and employees, by paying a just wage and working hard.  And as Christians, by being faithful to the Gospel and rejoicing in God’s presence and promise!  The list is endless – and it is only when we are faithful to Jesus that we will know real joy and understand the challenging hope of Advent.

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

Scripture Readings:  1) Baruch 5:1-9; 2) Philippians 1:4-6, 8-11; 3) Luke 3:1-6

FOCUS:  The Lord will purify us, perfect us and prepare us for Himself.

          Many of us have likely heard the phrase “All roads lead to Rome.”  The Roman Empire prided itself on its complex system of roads connecting every part of the empire with the capital.  These stone-paved roads stretched through Europe, Asia, North Africa and the Middle East.  They were built by slaves and paid for by taxes from the conquered lands.

          These roads were feats of engineering, passing over hills and mountains, under aqueducts, taking many twists and turns to avoid nature’s obstacles.  They were anything but straight.

          John the Baptist would have traveled Roman roads many times in his life, as did those who came out into the desert to hear him preach.  It was there, where the roads end in the desert, that John tells his disciples to build a new road – one for God’s Son:

          Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight His paths.  John was not telling them to pick up shovels and pick axes.  Rather, he prayed that they might pave a way for the love of the Lord to enter their hearts and touch their souls.

          John is the last prophet before Jesus, as well as the first disciple of Jesus.  For those willing to undertake this ambitious task of making a straight path for the Lord, John tells them they will be met along the way by God in the flesh.

          He comes alongside us to help us in our “road-making” and bridge building, making winding roads both straight and smooth, by forgiving us our sins and removing obstacles from our path.

          Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low.  The Lord will purify us, perfect us and prepare us for Himself.

          This road work began in us on the day of our Baptism, and it continues until we meet the Lord at our death, as Paul told the Philippians:  I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it. 

          To help things along, the Apostle encourages us to increase in knowledge, love and perception, discerning what is of value.  This Advent season, what is of greatest value is not the large number of gifts soon to appear under the tree.  Rather, it is the gift of God’s only Son who hung on the tree of the cross for us and for our salvation.

          During this busy season, we do so much to prepare for the coming of Christmas.  Let us make sure we spend at least as much effort this Advent season preparing for the coming of Christ, both celebrating His birth in Bethlehem and His return in glory as our King.

          At this Eucharistic table, we partake of the promise found in the words of Isaiah and John:  and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.

          May we too, then, prepare the way of the Lord as we go forth and proclaim the Good News we have heard and received.

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

FOCUS:  In looking forward to the return of Christ in glory, our hearts are full of hope and expectation.

Scripture Readings:  1) Jeremiah 33:14-16; 2) 1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2; 3) Luke 21:25-28, 34-36

          As we hear today’s readings, two temptations can easily appear:  First of all, we might presume that since we have been waiting so long for the return of Jesus, that it won’t be anytime soon and so we will have all kinds of time to prepare.

          The other temptation is, we may assume that His return is any moment now, so that we live in fear of that day – unable to hope or to embrace all of life’s adventures. 

          Neither of these temptations is worth embracing.  Instead, we look forward to His return, and as we wait, we use the time to grow in our relationship with the Lord, while understanding that this world is not our ultimate home.

          Today’s Gospel can seem very sobering.  Jesus does not mince His words – there is going to be a reckoning, a judgment – and we do not know when.  But we know it is coming, and therefore we need to be vigilant, prayerful and ready.

          This is after all, a tenant of faith that we profess in our creed.  He will come to judge the living and the dead.  The judgment will be a real one; the review of our life with its many choices and options will be laid out before us in the bright light of God’s revelation and mercy.

          But there are also two other themes in this Gospel passage that we need in order to see the full picture.  First of all, as Christians, we are encouraged to stand tall in the knowledge that our redeemer is at hand, and to hold fast to the hope that our faith gives us even in times of trial and tribulation.  We know the final outcome in the great battle between good and evil – Jesus’ triumph over death. 

          Our task is to ensure that we are on that winning side by living lives worthy of Him.  We cannot take it for granted, but instead daily renew our commitment to fulfill the hope that is within us – and live our lives in the sure and certain knowledge that our redemption is at hand.

          Secondly, as Christians we are called to be realistic, to face up to the fact that our world is broken and in need of healing, and yet we are never hopeless.  Indeed, the Christian view is to see imperfection not as a lost cause but as an opportunity for healing and redemption.  All is never lost until that moment of final judgment.

          That is what we celebrate in the Advent season – a time of preparation and anticipation.  We look forward to the coming of Christ, and as we look forward we strive to be vigilant, prayerful and worthy to stand before Him when He comes in glory.

          In the readings, we hear of cosmic signs like the dead rising and stars falling from the sky.  That might sound like science fiction.  But make no mistake; this is not fiction.  Jesus reminds us that His words shall not pass away

          In the Gospel, Jesus describes these signs leading to His coming again – the sun being darkened and the stars falling from the sky.

          We can well imagine that upon hearing this, His disciples were struck with fear or confusion.  Jesus knows this and so – as in other parables – He speaks about something they can understand:  a fig tree.  When the fig branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near.  In the same way, when you see these things happening, know that He is near.

          Jesus uses this simple image of the fig tree, and the way it comes to life in the summer.  It is not an image of crisis or violence.  It is a sign of new life after winter.

          In our lives, we all experience difficult times.  We even use the phrase “our whole world is coming to an end” to describe our tribulations.  Our crises feel like they take on cosmic proportions.  But Jesus assures us, When you see these things happening, know that I am near.

          Our times of personal trial teach us how to be faithful and faith-filled.  We may not always get it right, but these times prepare us for that time – the days that Jesus describes.

          We need not be afraid.  The Letter to the Hebrews reminds us we have an eternal high priest who, through His own sacrifice, gives us His Body and Blood.  We are being perfected through this Body and Blood for His coming again.

          Our story does not have a scary ending.  While this year is coming to an end, our story, the story we hear and celebrate and live from one Church year to the next, is never ending.  We profess it:  He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and His Kingdom will have no end.