Saturday, May 30, 2015

05-31-2015 -- Holy Trinity, Year B

May 31, 2015 - Holy Trinity, Year B
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

God, our God, is relational. Our God is social. God, the Father, is God the lover. God, the Son, is Jesus the beloved. God, the Holy Spirit, is love. They are a family, the family of God.

How do we know this about our God? We discover this about God here in our liturgy, in the lyrics of our songs, in our reading of sacred Scripture, and especially in the Eucharist.

Here we discover the divine message of God's love, that God's love is a beautiful work of art. The story of God’s love and care for us is a masterpiece of Divine Revelation.

God, the lover, the creator of heaven and earth, has molded us and fashioned us in the divine image.

Jesus, the beloved, has loved us to the point of dying on the cross for each one of us. He gave his life that we might be saved for sin and death and hell.

The Holy Spirit of love has filled us with love and made us all beautiful, beloved creations.

If we are made in the image and likeness of God, then we are created to be relational, to be social, just like God.

It is for this that we derive our human dignity. We come to discover that we are the adopted children of God, that we don’t live in isolation, that we belong to this community of faith.

We are God’s children. So, we belong to God's family. That's why baptism is so important. It is our entry into God's family. It is also our entry into this community of faith.

If God, our God, is relational and social then our God is the model for how we should interact with one another.

When we look at the Most Holy Trinity, we notice that there is no god the gossip, there is no god the thief, there is no god the controller. Our God is not god the malicious or god the mean-spirited.

And yet in our social interactions with one another we can be gossipy, we can take from one another, we can try to control and manipulate others into doing what we want, we can be mean-spirited.

In our interactions with one another we need to learn to be more like God: God, the lover, God, the beloved, and God, the Spirit of love.

We are called each day to the task of becoming more like God, God, the generous, God, the merciful. We are called to become more like God who is just and acts with great kindness and tenderness and charity.

Moses, one of our great fathers of faith, says to us that we should fix in our hearts that the Lord is God, the Lord who molded and fashioned and created us and breathed life into each of us, the Almighty, is God in heaven and on earth.

There is no other who loves us as much as God loves us. There is no other who cares for us as much as God cares for us. And in return we are called to change our ways so that we become more like God.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

05-24-2015 -- Pentecost, Year B

May 24, 2015 - Pentecost, Year B
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

Do you ever feel spiritless? Has your life become dull and boring? Do you feel uninspired? Have the struggles of life left you weary?

When our lives are spiritless, we can become world weary; without pleasure in our meals, without purpose in our work, without passion in our love.

What is needed is a thirst for the Spirit, the Holy Spirit of God and a desire for the gifts that the Holy Spirit pours out upon us.

In our scriptures we find many listings of various gifts that come to us from the Holy Spirit: wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, discerning spirits, charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, long-suffering, humility, fidelity, modesty, chastity.

Saint Paul tells us that the gifts vary from person to person. We are not given the same gifts. And we are not given all the gifts.

But each of us has some gifts given to us by the Holy Spirit. And on this Feast of Pentecost we celebrate those gifts.

Now, it is totally up to us whether or not we use the gifts given by the Spirit. Some among us probably have not even identified the gifts that have been given.

And when the gifts are left unused or unnoticed, then our lives become spiritless and uninspired.

Some gifts are subtle, so subtle they almost go unnoticed. But they are gifts and when used they fill us with God’s Holy Spirit.

Some gifts are as simple as giving kind words, loving service, moral support, a listening ear. Simple, but effective and life giving.

Other gifts are bold. They require leadership and tenacity. They are public, charismatic gifts: the gift of preaching, the gift of proclaiming the word, the gift of serving God at the altar, the gift of song.

We are not all given the same gifts, but we all are given some gifts.

Once we identify our gifts, then we have to decide whether or not we are going to use those gifts to build up the Body of Christ in our midst.

The gifts that are given are meant to be shared. When we begin sharing our gifts, new life is awakened within us. The spark of the Spirit is fanned into flame.

What was spiritless becomes Spirit-filled. We find new pleasure in our meals, new purpose in our work, new passion in our love.

The Holy Spirit has the awesome power to turn those among us who are spiritless into passion-filled folk with faith and purpose.

If the struggles of life have left you weary, maybe it’s time to ask for an outpouring of the gifts of the Spirit.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

05-17-2015 -- Ascension, Year B

May 17, 2015 - Ascension, Year B
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

Jesus says there must be outward signs that show our discipleship. And that these signs will accompany those who believe.

We are told that disciples will drive out demons in Jesus’ name. They will speak new languages. They will pick up serpents with their hands and if they drink any deadly thing it will not harm them. They will lay hands on the sick and the sick will recover.

It seems like a strange list to us today but let’s unfold each a little bit.

The authority to drive out demons. When someone comes to me anxious or depressed or in a dark place, and we are able to work through those feelings to bring that person to a place of peace and joy and happiness; then we have, in effect, driven out the demons.

Speaking in tongues. When we learn to communicate with the Holy Spirit at a deeper level some of us can become aware of the moanings and groanings and promptings of the Holy Spirit.

Also when we learn to speak in different languages a whole new world of experiences is open to us.

Picking up serpents and drinking deadly things is not an invitation to handle snakes or drink poison or walk on hot coals to prove our faith.

Rather, it is a promise of divine protection for Christians who encounter deadly perils.

Laying hands on the sick. I carry on this healing ministry of Jesus each time I celebrate the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.

Ask anyone who has been anointed if they didn't feel some comfort, some relief, some healing as a result of the laying on of hands.

We continue to do the things that Jesus commissioned us to do. It's just that in our modern times they might look a little different than they did 2000 years ago.

Jesus calls us to be witnesses by our actions. Some among us may be able to perform some of these actions we just spoke about. But there are many other less dramatic ways for us to go into the world and proclaim the good news of what Jesus has done for us.

We proclaim Jesus by the patience we have with each other. We proclaim Jesus by the little acts of kindness that we show to one another. We proclaim Jesus by our joy. We proclaim Jesus by our humility.

We proclaim Jesus by the choices we make in our daily lives to do good instead of doing evil, to help instead of hurt, to lift up instead of tear down. We proclaim Jesus by the way we stand up for and protect those who cannot do for themselves.

Our holy father Pope Francis says go out into the world and proclaim the Gospel, and if you have to, use words.

We can talk, talk, talk, talk, talk all we want, but we must bear witness to the Lord most clearly by the way we live our lives.

Our good and holy actions confirm that Jesus is risen, that Jesus is ascended to heaven, that Jesus is Lord.

The call is clear: Go out into the world and proclaim this good news, and if you have to, use words.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

05-10-2015 -- 6th Sunday of Easter, Year B

May 10, 2015 - 6th Sunday of Easter, Year B
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

By now I'm sure you know that the parishioners who attended the pilgrimage to Rome had an audience with Pope Francis. It was an amazing and inspirational moment in the lives of each one of us.

When Pope Francis, riding in the Pope Mobile pulled into St. Peter's Square I noticed immediately that there was no more bullet proof glass around him.

We could all see him clearly. He was right there. He is not afraid. He understands what Jesus says: there is no greater love than this, to lay down one's life for his friends.

Pope Francis is willing to lay down his life to be close to God’s people, to show the faithful, some of whom have traveled great distances to see him, that he loves them. In this he imitates Jesus and shows all people that God loves them.

As he passed by us we could see in his eyes and in his smile that he is full of life and full of joy. Our Holy Father radiates peace and love and is clearly filled with God's Holy Spirit.

And during the audience he imitated Jesus again by calling us friends and expressing his great affection for all of us, our families, and all our loved ones especially our children and those who are sick and suffering.

At the audience he spoke of the husband and wife at the Wedding at Cana. Many of you have already heard this story but I think it's worth telling again at Sunday Mass for all of us to hear.

He explained that the story shows us of Jesus’ concern for this newly formed family, for the husband and his wife. He spoke of the role of motherhood and the role of fatherhood.

He went on to speak about how important a family is for children. He also spoke about all the things in our world today that work against the family.

He reminded us that Jesus’ miracle at the Wedding at Cana shows us that Jesus care about our families as well.

As our Holy Father was speaking a pair of doves flew into St. Peter's Square and several times, they flew around the place where Francis was seated.

And then together, they flew around the entire crowd that had gathered for the audience.

There were 4000 seats placed in the Square. But there were many more people who did not have seats filling up the rest of the square. There were probably some 10,000 people gathered and those two doves flew around and circled all the people.

After this, the two doves, always in tandem, always together, flew back to where Pope Francis was seated and circled him one more time. Then they flew off in a different direction from where they came.

Where else do we see doves behave in this manner? We see one in the Gospel come down at Jesus's baptism and hover over him.

And who is it that the gospel writer says the dove represents? The Holy Spirit. And what does the Holy Spirit say to Jesus at his baptism? You are my beloved with whom I am well pleased.

Those doves, representing husband and wife, flew over not only Francis but the entire crowd gathered. The Holy Spirit hovered over all of us announcing: you are all my beloved with whom I am well pleased.

And if you're tempted to say, well it seems that Father Richard has gone crazy, let me remind you of what St. John said in his first letter from which we just read.

Beloved let us love one another because God is love. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love. You are my beloved.

It is not that we have loved God, but that God has loved us and sent his Son to save us from our sins.

This is the message of the Gospel. This is the message of our Holy Father. This is the message of our church. This is the message of the Holy Spirit. This is the message of God:

You are my beloved with whom I am well pleased.

As we sit today in this holy place basking in the love of God, knowing that God is already well pleased, I think there is only one simple question we need to ask ourselves:

Now that I have heard this message from the Gospel, from Pope Francis, from the doves, from Saint John, from the lips of Father Richard that I'm loved, how am I going to love in return?

Saturday, May 2, 2015

05-03-2015 -- 5th Sunday of Easter, Year B

May 3, 2015 - 5th Sunday of Easter, Year B
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

The people of God are the vineyard of the Lord; and God, the planter, is expecting, is hoping for, is greatly desiring a good harvest of grapes.

How do I know this? Because Jesus says that God who is the vinegrower takes away every branch that does not bear fruit and prunes the ones that do, so that they will bear more fruit.

In doing this, we are shown that God greatly desires a good harvest.

Please pay attention that this clearing away and pruning is God's action. It is not our own. The plants and trees and vines in our yard cannot prune themselves. Can they?

God does the work so that the branches on the vine produce more fruit. This shows that God cares for the vine and desires that the branches produce fruit in abundance.

Jesus is the vine. And this reveals the intimacy between God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the people of God who are led by God’s Holy Spirit.

I just returned from Rome with a group of parishioners. We were on a ten day ten pilgrimage to visit some of the holy sites in Italy and the Vatican.

We celebrated Holy Mass in all the four major basilicas of Rome, at the burial place of Saint Francis of Assisi and at the Duomo in Orvieto which houses the relic of one of the Eucharistic miracles.

The pilgrimage was a treasure for us. At times I felt like a sponge soaking up every bit of the journey that I could possibly take in, every moment, every grace, every experience,

Brothers and sisters, I think that we all must learn to be like sponges and soak up everything that God wants to give us, everything that God desires for us.

In the gospel this weekend Jesus uses a very similar image. Everything that gives us life comes from Jesus the vine.

We get everything from the vine. We take it all in and it gives us life and breath and nourishment. Everything.

But this only happens if we remain connected to the vine. If we are connected, we produce fruit. But if we are connected, we are also pruned so that we can produce more fruit.

Remember, God is the one who does the pruning and the pruning is very painful because God cuts away the dead parts. God cuts away the diseased parts. God cuts away the sinful parts. And, to be quite honest, the cutting away hurts.

So this is very important for us to remember: when we are hurting or troubled but remain connected to the vine, then we can rest assured that it is God, the divine grower, who is simply pruning away so that we can produce more fruit.

Just like the branch that is connected to the vine, taking all its nourishment from the vine, we must learn to be more like sponges, more like branches connected to the vine.

We must absorb everything that the vine, Jesus the vine, wants to give us: all our food, all our nourishment, all our life, all our breath. Everything we have and everything we are comes from the vine.

We are all still branches connected to Jesus the vine, all of us, no exceptions. How do I know this with the certainty of faith? Because we are here today, we are still branches on the vine, we are not cut off, we are not withering the fading.

We are all part of God’s vineyard, some merlot, some chardonnay, some sauvignon blanc, some riesling, some zinfandel, some malbec, some cabernet, all the different types of grapes. So many different types of grapes. So many different types of people.

Yes. And our differences are a blessing. We are all part of God’s vineyard and God is expecting a good harvest of grapes from all us so that he can produce the choicest of wines.

When God picks the grapes that come from your branch, what kind of wine will God be able to make?