Saturday, October 29, 2016

10-30-2016 -- 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Oct. 30, 2016 - 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C 
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church



Zacchaeus was a tax collector. He collected taxes for the Roman Empire. But he was Jewish and collected those taxes from Jewish people.

He had to collect enough to pay all the taxes the Jewish people owed to the Roman Governor, but he had to collect his salary as well.

For this, his people considered him a traitor. So this made him an outcast, an outsider, one who had a difficult time belonging. So, the wealth he earned came at a great price. It must have been lonely always being on the outside.

Those who have trouble fitting in with the crowd know what it means to be on the outside. There is a yearning to be a part of something, but it never happens.

Zacchaeus had heard about Jesus and the mighty deeds and miracles he had been performing. He had heard that Jesus was changing people’s lives, giving them reason to hope again.

This must have sparked some interior desire within Zacchaeus. Maybe he could make a fresh start. Maybe he could be given a reason to hope again, a place to belong again.

Isn’t that what he wanted? Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus because Zacchaeus was ready for a change. Jesus was offering something worth more than Zacchaeus’ wealth. Jesus was offering hope. Jesus was offering belonging.

When Jesus invited himself to Zacchaeus’ home, Zacchaeus didn’t hesitate. He sprung into action to offer hospitality. He received Jesus with great joy.

But when the Jewish people saw this, they grumbled. Jesus had gone to dine with that traitor.

But Zacchaeus had found what he was looking for, so he stood his ground. He promised Jesus that he would make restitution for any ill-gotten wealth. His encounter with Jesus transforms him.

The Book of Wisdom gives us some insight into why this transformation takes place. The Book of Wisdom tells us that the Lord has mercy. The Book of Wisdom tells us that the Lord Jesus overlooks sin.

The Lord Jesus loves all creation, and so the Lord Jesus is a lover of souls. Because Jesus is a lover of souls, Jesus has the power to transform those souls. Love has the power to overcome sin.

The Lord Jesus loves Zacchaeus. The Lord Jesus invites himself to Zacchaeus’ home. The Lord Jesus invites himself into Zacchaeus’ life.

The Lord Jesus loves us. The Lord Jesus invites himself into our homes. The Lord Jesus invites himself into our lives.

The Lord Jesus seeks us at the very time we are most lost.

The Lord Jesus calls to us at the very time we feel most alone.

The Lord Jesus forgives us at the very time we are most trapped in sin.

The Lord Jesus loves us with a fierce tenderness that can transform us.

We come here to this Holy Shrine week after week just like Zacchaeus, in order to see Jesus.

And week after week Jesus says to you and to me, “Today I must stay at your house.”


Saturday, October 22, 2016

10-23-2016 -- 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Oct. 23, 2016 - 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C 
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church



As I reflect upon this gospel, I am very much aware that I am a sinner.

I rush to judgment, sometimes thinking the worst about a person instead of giving the benefit of the doubt.

I get frustrated and sometimes angry with people who are small-minded. I fail to consult as widely as I could when making pastoral decisions.

I can be short or even ill-tempered with people who make inappropriate requests of the church.

And through my own body language, I sometimes give the impression that I am aloof or unapproachable or even uncaring, when, in fact, the opposite is true.

In the Psalm we sing that the Lord hears the cry of the poor.

Does the Lord hear my cry for mercy?
The Lord hears the cry of the poor. Blessed be the Lord.

Does the Lord hear your cry for mercy?
The Lord hears the cry of the poor. Blessed be the Lord.

In the Book of Sirach from the Old Testament reading, we are told that the one who serves God willingly is heard.

We serve God in our worship. Do we come here willingly or out of a sense of obligation, begrudgingly?

We serve God willingly when we lift our voices in song. Do we pick up the songbooks in church when a hymn is announced and at least try our best to sing along?

We serve God willingly when we answer the call to help our brothers and sisters in need. Do we give to some charity or do we do some good volunteer work in our community?

The one who serves God willingly is heard.

In the gospel, the Pharisee asks for nothing and he receives nothing. The tax collector, on the other hand, bangs his chest and asks that his sins be forgiven and his prayer is answered.

We must be careful not to be like the Pharisee. His prayer is not necessarily a bad prayer. But it is mostly about him.

It is self-absorbed. It is boastful. In his prayer, he tells God about all the good things he is doing. He is convinced that he has earned his place of honor. He thinks he is managing his own salvation.

The Pharisee believes in a God who is quick to judge and condemn anyone who falls outside the norms of what he considers to be acceptable behavior.

As a result, he is also quick to condemn those who are not like him. This makes him proud and arrogant; and his temple worship becomes self-centered.

The tax collector, on the other hand, confesses his sinfulness and begs for mercy. He cries out to God in despair.

He is overwhelmed at what he perceives to be the great gulf separating him from God. The Lord accepts his sacrifice of a broken contrite heart and draws near to the tax collector.

We are called to acknowledge our own sinfulness and entrust ourselves to the generous mercy of God.

Our God is bigger than any particular sins we have committed.
God’s mercy is much stronger. God’s love bring forgiveness.

Jesus teaches us to never look down upon our fellow sinners.
If we do, we are like the Pharisee. “Thank you God that I am not like so and so.”

Rather, we are called to help our neighbors in their search for God.

Our church community should be an open, welcoming place for all God’s children, sinners every one.

It is in this place that the humble broken contrite heart is exalted and made new.

It is in this place that the Lord hears the cry of the poor.
Blessed be the Lord.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

10-16-2016 -- 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Oct. 16, 2016 - 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C 
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church



Those of us who went on the pilgrimage to Canada had the great honor of being able to visit with the Cardinal Archbishop of Quebec, Gerald Cyprien Lacroix.

Because we invited him to be a part of our 250th anniversary a year ago, he invited us to pass with him through the Door of Mercy at his Cathedral church, Notre Dame de Quebec, and then to celebrate mass.

During the homily, he said, “As a gift to each and every one of you today, I would like to give you a master key to this Cathedral and to all the Cathedrals in the world and all the churches in the world, to open for you all the doors.

“Would that be of interest to you?” he asked. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a master key that opened the doors of any church anytime?

The master key that he wanted to give us is not made out of metal. It is someone. Jesus Christ is our Master Key.

The Master Key opens the door to our hearts so that we can experience the love and mercy of God. The Master Key opens the door to our minds so that we can grow in our understanding of our faith and our church.

Jesus is our Master Key. We lift our eyes to look to Jesus. We open our ears to listen to Jesus. We ask him to unlock for us the doors that lead to God, the father of mercy, the father of love.

Why? Because Jesus is the one who opens all of the doors. Jesus is the door.

We do not have to stand outside knocking on the door. We can use the Master Key to enter. We enter into the house of God. We enter into the heart of God.

By entering into the heart of God, we draw closer to Jesus who wants to share his life with us. And Jesus invites us to share our lives with him.

Our Master Key also opens for us the scriptures. The scriptures tell us of God’s unconditional, unyielding love for us. The scriptures show us how to live and how to love. The scriptures show us how to pray.

Look at the widow in the Gospel who calls out to the unjust judge. Eventually justice is done for her. We need to call out to Jesus every day. But unlike the unjust judge, Jesus is good and just. Jesus cares about us deeply.

So if the unjust judge rules in favor of the woman because she keeps nagging him, how much more will Jesus, our Master Key, respond to us when we cry out to him in prayer.

So we can feel free to come to Jesus again and again and again and again. This is how we are to pray, like the widow, with persistence and determination. Jesus will never grow tired of us.

Those of us who went on the pilgrimage to Canada were given a precious gift, the opportunity to renew our ties with our motherland and with our friend and shepherd, the Cardinal.

He reminded us that we have all been given another, more precious gift, the Master Key to all the cathedrals and all the churches in the world.

Jesus Christ is our Master Key. He opens for us all the doors that lead to everlasting life.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

10-9-2016 -- 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Oct. 9, 2016 - 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C 
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church



For the lepers to be cured, what was the one thing they had to do? They had to go show themselves to the priest. They had asked for healing and this is what they were told to do.

It's not that the priest was going heal them. It’s because in Jewish religious practice at that time, only the priest could declare that they were now clean, and rejoin their community.

We all ask for things from the Lord all the time, favors and healings and the like. I don't think Jesus’ answer today changes. Go show yourself to the priest.

It's not that the priest will heal you. It’s Jesus who heals. And where do we typically encounter the priest today? Mainly at Sunday Mass. And so, you would be fulfilling the religious obligations that you are supposed to fulfill. Our church tells us that doing the things will help us lead better lives.

So then, it is here at Sunday Mass that we begin to find the healing that we need.

Now, if we choose, we can also find the priest in other places. The pilgrims who traveled with me to Acadie have been changed. They have begun to find some healing that they needed

Notice if you will please, that these lepers are somehow healed along the way. Did they go away from Jesus feeling downcast? Was it gradual? Were they expecting the priest to heal them? How and when did they come to the realization that they were cured?

We're not sure. But we know for they were healed. That’s clear. There’s no question about that. Their prayers were answered.

But sadly, only one returns giving glory. He falls at Jesus' feet. In his return, he proclaims to all the world that faith and prayer and obedience to God really do save.

You know, the same thing happened to Naaman the Syrian in the first reading. He was a man of power, a mighty warrior accustomed to getting his way.

Elisha, the man of God, knows that the Lord God wants to teach Naaman a lesson in humility. And the healing Naaman so greatly desires does not come until he submits and does exactly what the prophet tells him to do. That’s when the lesson of humility is learned, and so the healing comes.

For us, then, it's not enough to just show ourselves to the priest. We must participate. We must pay attention. We must listen. We must pray.

Doing these things helps us learn the lesson Jesus desires to teach us. These things are important because they help us grow in that special relationship with the Lord Jesus that we all seek.

Participating, paying attention, praying and listening are the very things that begin to change our hearts. And as this happens we gain a spirit of thanksgiving. As this spirit of gratitude grows within us, we learn how to say thank you to God.

And Jesus notices. Has only one come to say thank you? Jesus notices. Jesus watches and waits for us to run to him so he can fling his arms around us and embraces us with love, and only then will he say to us, “go your way, your faith has saved you.”

What an honor to be able to come show yourself to the priest to say thank you to Jesus. We an honor to be able to come show yourself to the priest to say thank you to his mother, to our mother Mary.

We light candles in good times and in bad, but we also light candles to say thank you. We pray the rosary for our loved ones who have died, but we also pray the rosary to say thank you.

We come to Mass to pray for all the people we love and for all those who love us in return, but we also come to Mass to say thank you. We pray to the Lord to ask for healing, but we also pray to the Lord to say thank you for the blessing we have already received.

Maybe Jesus is hurt when we don't come to say thank you. “Where are the others?” he asks. After all, they had all prayed. They all were heard. They all had their prayers answered. They were all been healed. At the very least, could they not say thank you?

This thanksgiving is absolutely necessary. It must become the center of our lives. Without out it, we become cold, bitter, heartless, lifeless and devoid of love. We become petty, selfish, jealous, resentful, angry and cynical. It's so difficult to receive the healing the Lord Jesus desires for us when this happens.

So, if there’s some healing you wish to receive from the Lord, come here Sunday after Sunday and show yourself to the priest to say thank you. And gradually, somewhere along the way, you will be healed.