Saturday, December 30, 2017

12-31-17 -- The Holy Family, Year B

Dec. 25, 2017 - Christmas, Year B
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

If your family is anything like mine, I’m sure there was a bit of family drama over the holidays.

Someone got upset about something, someone got their feelings hurt, someone said something that was hurtful, and maybe someone had too much to drink.

Why is it such a challenge to love those who are closest to us?

Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta said, “It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us. Bring love into your home for this is where our love for each other must start.”

On this Feast of the Holy Family can we bring love into our homes? We are called to imitate Jesus, Mary and Joseph. In this New Year we want to work on being like the Holy Family.

And in our second reading, Saint Paul tells us exactly what we need to work on.

Avoid bitterness. Let go of grudges. Bear with one another patiently. And forgive one another.

He also gives us a list of virtues to work on: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

Then he reminds us of the Christmas message we heard just a week ago. He says, “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you.” Let Christ dwell in your hearts. Let Christ be a welcomed guest in your homes.

We invite the Word made Flesh, Jesus Christ, into our hearts. Not just today, but throughout the entire New Year.

This will give us the grace and the strength we need to imitate the Holy Family.

Pope Francis encourages us to use three key phrases that will give us a more peaceful family life. May I. Thank you. And I’m sorry.

In this way, all family members can work on showing honor and respect. In this way, all family members can work on being more charitable. In this way, all family members can work on being more like the Holy Family.

There might have been some drama in our families this holiday season. That’s definitely something we want to work on in this New Year so that we can make our families more like Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the Holy Family.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

12-25-17 -- Christmas, Year B

Dec. 25, 2017 - Christmas, Year B
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

Do you know where the tradition of putting a candle in the window at Christmas time comes from? It is an old Irish tradition. It is a symbolic gesture to travelers that one could find shelter in the home with a candle in the window.

It is a symbol of Irish hospitality, a family’s way of welcoming Mary and Joseph and any travelers who might happen to pass by looking for a warm place to stay.

In the days when it was illegal to practice the Catholic faith in Ireland, the candles in the windows of Irish homes was also a signal to traveling priests that the home would welcome them and they could safely celebrate the traditional Catholic Christmas mass together.

The candle was a sign of welcome. Do we show welcome to our God? What would happen if Mary and Joseph were to knock at my door? Do we welcome Jesus into our homes this Christmas? Do we have room for God when God seeks to enter our hearts?

Or do we turn God away? Do we have time for God? Do we make room for God?
The good news is that God keeps knocking. God keeps waiting to be invited into our hearts into our homes and into our lives. We should pause for a moment to invite God into our hearts, into our homes and into our lives.

When we begin to make time and space for God in our lives then God comes to live with us. When we turn got away, God keeps knocking.

And so as we celebrate the birth of Jesus so many years ago and as we remember Mary and Joseph were turned away from the inn, we are reminded to welcome God this Christmas.

Yes, there should be candles in our windows. But not only in our windows, but also in our hearts and in our whole lives.

We need to invite God to come into our hearts and into our homes and into our lives this Christmas. We need to make a space for God. God will come when invited into the situations in our lives. And God will come bringing hope.

Mary and Joseph are not turned away because they are welcomed here. And so our God comes to live with us. Jesus, the Christ Child, Emmanuel, God with us.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

12-24-17 -- 4th Sunday of Advent, Year B

Dec. 24, 2017 - 4th Sunday of Advent, Year B
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

I have lived through many profound changes in my lifetime.

We’ve put a man on the moon and we’ve flown space shuttle missions. We’ve gone from payphones to smartphones. When I was little, we had a console television. Now I have a flatscreen HD TV.

In high school, I took typing on an IBM selectric. My first computer was a Commodore 64 and I didn’t get it till I was in college and there was no internet when I went to college.

There have been medical breakthroughs as well. Things that used to be major surgeries are now routine outpatient procedures.

These miraculous technological advances and miraculous medical advances can leave us speechless. We are left to ask ourselves, “How can this be?”

It’s hard to miss all these astonishing things that are happening in our lives. But we can easily overlook a young girl who is pregnant or an old one who is barren teaming with new life.

We have to look very carefully to see God doing these remarkable things? Do we even look for God to bring about remarkable things?

Mary is filled with wonder and amazement and some puzzlement. She asks, “How can this be?”

What God is doing is amazing but we have to be paying attention to notice.

God is forgiving. Can I forgive someone who has wronged me?

God is loving. Can I love even when loving this difficult?

God is patient. Can I be patient even when I’m flustered and in a hurry?

God is generous. Can I be generous even if I don’t have much?

How can I do what God wants me to do? How can I say yes like Mary. How? How can this be?

The only answer is the one given by the angel to Mary. The Holy Spirit will come upon you in the power of the Most High will overshadow you for nothing is impossible for God. With God, all things are possible.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

12-17-17 -- 3rd Sunday of Advent, Year B

Dec. 17, 2017 - 3rd Sunday of Advent, Year B
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

How do I know if I’ve got my life on the right track? We try to do what is right. We try to lead good lives. We try to be more loving and more forgiving. We try to live with honor and integrity.

But we fail a lot. And sometimes we want some assurance that at least we are walking down the right road. Yes? Yes.

Saint Paul gives us a simple little spiritual exercise to use to see if we are headed in the right direction. He says, “Test everything. Retain what is good.”

We can use this little exercise in almost every situation in our lives to see if we’ve got ourselves on the right path, to see if we are on the right track, an assurance that we are headed in the right direction.

To test everything we simply have to ask ourselves some self-reflective questions like these:

Does this activity help me become a better person? Does this way of thinking help me grow in my relationship with God?

Does this way of behaving help me grow in love for my spouse or my children are my family? Does this activity or hobby help me grow as a person?

An example: does talking about my neighbor with others help me grow as a person? Does talking about my neighbor with others help my neighbor grow as a person? Does talking about my neighbor with others help me get along better with or grow closer to my neighbor?

If my answer to any of these questions is no, then this is a signal to me that I’m not on the right path. But if the answer is yes, if I’m saying good and positive things about my neighbor to others, then this is a signal to me that I’m on the right path.

We can use this little spiritual exercise in almost any aspect of our lives. Is this helping me to become more generous? Is this helping me to be more kind? Is this helping me forgive? Is this helping me prepare for the coming of the Lord? Is this helping me grow in faith and hope and love?

If we would use this simple spiritual exercise every day of our lives, we would quickly see a dramatic shift. And we would certainly be following John the Baptist’s command, “Make straight the way of the Lord.”

The changes we would begin to see in our lives would allow us to echo those beautiful words of Saint Paul from our second reading, “Rejoice always. In all circumstances give thanks.”

The one who calls us is faithful and can accomplish this in us, with just a little bit of our help.

We really do want to lead good and holy lives. And we want some assurances that we are heading in the right direction. Test everything. Retain what is good.

12-10-17 -- 2nd Sunday of Advent, Year B

Dec. 10, 2017 - 2nd Sunday of Advent, Year B
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

John the Baptist is preparing the people for the coming of the Messiah. “Prepare the way of the Lord,” we hear him cry out annually on this Second Sunday of Advent.

John’s call is an invitation for people to turn their lives toward God by turning away from sin.

How does John say we accomplish this? He is very clear: a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

So our Advent preparations must include forgiveness. Forgiveness is not easy. In fact, it can be as difficult as making rough ways smooth, or filling in valleys and turning mountains into leveled places.

What can we learn from these images? Forgiveness may be difficult, but it is not impossible. Forgiveness takes work.

Forgiveness is not about forgetting. Forgiveness is about moving forward.

How does forgiveness work? God forgives us first. Pope Francis has said that because God forgives us so readily, we should never tire of asking for forgiveness.

We have to learn to forgive ourselves. We have to accept the reality that from time to time, we walk down the wrong path and make bad choices.

We say, “I’m sorry” and accept the forgiveness that is offered. We have to learn to receive forgiveness gracefully when it is offered.

And finally, we have to learn to forgive others. If Jesus can forgive those who condemned him to death and nailed him to a cross, then Jesus can certainly forgive us. So we have no excuse when we fail to forgive.

Forgiving others is our first step into a place of healing. When we stop carrying around grudges and resentments and wrongs, we are freed from them.

Advent is the time for turning toward God and righting the wrongs we have done. Forgiveness is life changing. Forgiveness gives us a life of second chances.

Forgiveness brings a life of grace. Forgiveness puts us back on the road to life with God.

Prepare the way of the Lord with a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins and the rough ways will be made smooth.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

12-03-17 -- 1st Sunday of Advent, Year B

Dec. 3, 2017 - 1st Sunday of Advent, Year B
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

In this three week run up to Christmas, we can lose ourselves in everything that’s wrong with this season. Christmas has become so commercialized that we can get caught up in having a completely secular Christmas.

We can get lost in Black Friday and Cyber Monday and all the promotional emails that flood our inboxes. We can forget that Christmas is about the birth of Jesus Christ.

So the church gives us the season of Advent to remember that it’s almost the season. And the season of Advent is a time for us to watch and wait and prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ into our lives.

In order to combat everything that’s wrong with Christmas, I think we need to do something during the season of Advent to help us prepare. I think we need to do something to help us watch and wait for the coming of Jesus Christ into our lives.

I do have a few suggestions. Thanks to the generosity of our friends at Dynamic Catholic we are able to provide, at no cost to you, a book to read during the season of Advent. Copies of the book can be found at the entrances of the church. The book we’ve chosen is, “Everybody needs to forgive somebody.”

And that is so very true. Everybody needs to forgive somebody.

But not only that, we each need to be forgiven by somebody for something we’ve done. So, we could spend this Advent season working on forgiving and being forgiven.

Another thing we could do is visit our friends at Dynamic and sign up for the best Advent ever. We would then receive, via email, short Advent videos each day.

These meditational videos would be a daily reminder that Advent is almost the season, a time to watch and wait for Jesus Christ to come into our lives. This could be our daily reminder of everything that’s right with Christmas.
Or we could all make a special effort to attend the ecclesiology class this Wednesday evening at 6 o’clock in the cafeteria. I’m going to have a special Advent stand-alone class. It’s not necessary for you to have come to any of the other classes in order to come to this one.

We’re going to be looking at the two most important documents from the Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et Spes and Lumen Gentium. Studying these two documents can help us grow in our understanding of and appreciation for our Catholic faith.

If none these things speak to you, then you could just watch and wait as Jesus calls us to do.

The anticipation builds during these next three weeks, the excitement we feel waiting for a package to arrive or waiting for a guest to come. We watch and wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior Jesus Christ.

If we choose to do nothing, it’s likely that we will get caught up in everything that’s wrong with Christmas. Christmas is not a secular holiday. Christmas is a religious holiday.

Christmas is our religious celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Christmas is not about wishing others happy holidays. Christmas is about what God has done and is doing for us.

And Advent is almost the season. Advent is the time for us to remember everything that’s right with Christmas, the time when we watch and wait and prepare for the coming of the Lord.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

11-26-17 -- Christ Our King, Year A

Nov. 26, 2017 - Christ Our King, Year A 
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

Jesus paints a picture of the final judgment for us. There is a king seated on a throne surrounded by angels.

The king is judging and the judgment requires a separation into two groups: sheep and goats.

Sheep are domesticated. They are able to follow the voice of the shepherd. Goats, on the other hand, are undomesticated. They are unruly. They cannot follow.

So the final judgment Jesus describes is very simply about those who are willing to follow and those who are not.

And to be honest, Jesus is showing us God’s tenderness and mercy. And in showing us God’s everlasting merciful love, God sets the bar pretty low.

And for that we should be eternally grateful. For that, we should be willing to make an even greater effort.

If you notice, Jesus is not judging sins against purity. We usually put those sins at the top of our judging list.

Rather, look at what Jesus puts the top of the list: sins against charity, the corporal works of mercy.

Feed the hungry. Give drink to the thirsty. Shelter the homeless. Visit the sick or those in prison. Bury the dead. Clothe the naked or give arms to the poor.

What we do for the least among us, we do for Jesus. And why do for Jesus? Listen again to what the Prophet Ezekiel says Jesus does for us.

I will look after and tend my sheep. I will rescue them when they are scattered. I will seek them out when they are lost. I will bring them back. I will bind them up. I will heal them.

The Lord Jesus, Christ our King, is tender and kind and merciful and loving to those who follow him.

Let us pledge during this holiday season, to listen more carefully to his voice and to be more attentive to the least in our midst.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

11-19-17 -- 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Nov. 19, 2017 - 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A 
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

The writer of the book of Proverbs says that a worthy wife has value far beyond pearls. Pearls are very expensive. There are precious. They are prized possessions. Is it just a worthy wife that the writer is saying is so valuable?

Or could the writer be giving us an example? Could the writer also be talking about a worthy husband, or a worthy son or daughter, or even a worthy friend?

Love, appreciation, generosity, charm, helpfulness and kindness are all prized possessions. These characteristics are precious.

We all want that. We want to be that. I want to be a worthy pastor. I am not, but I want to be.

You want to be a worthy friend or a great wife or a treasured husband. Yes?

Yes, of course. In reality, maybe not so much, but deep inside that is what we want. There is a desire. Or at least there should be.

The Psalmist sings, blessed are those who walk in the ways of the Lord. They shall be fruitful.

We want to be fruitful. Better yet, Jesus wants us to be fruitful. That’s why he tells us the parable of the talents.

Jesus has called us and entrusted his possessions to us. Our children, our husbands, our wives, our parents, this parish church. These are very precious to the Lord.

So what do we do with these? This is very important. We have been entrusted with much. We cannot say peace and security. I will sit back and do nothing for everything has been taken care of for me.

No. We must be vigilant and take good care of the possessions Jesus has given to us. Of course we are not there yet. We are not yet worthy wives. We are not yet worthy husbands. We are not yet worthy friends. We are not yet worthy children. We are not yet worthy pastors.

But that’s no reason for us to stop trying. We are on our way and the effort we make is never overlooked or tossed aside. And we must continue to struggle to do better. Jesus has entrusted his very own possessions to us, and we must work vigilantly to be good stewards.

So that when the time comes, Jesus will say to us as he said to so many before us, well done my good and faithful servant.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

11-05-17 -- 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Nov. 5, 2017 - 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A 
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

The Scribes and the Pharisees want to be noticed. They want seats of honor. They want fancy titles. Look at me, I’m important. I’m somebody.

They are puffed up and full of themselves. They are arrogant and boastful. They want others to bow down and defer to them.

But Jesus says don’t be like that. Don’t follow their example. Be humble instead.

Humility is having a modest view of our own importance. Humility is freedom from pride and arrogance.

But humility is not weakness. Humility requires character and strength. It is more difficult to be humble than it is to be arrogant.

The proud always want to do something that will gain the admiration of others. However, one who is secure does not need to gain the admiration of others. One who is secure is free to do what is good and right and just.

So a humble person is a happy person. A humble people is thankful. A humble person is helpful. A humble person is tender. A humble person is kind.

Humble people don’t feel a need to boast and to brag. Humble people put others before themselves. Humble people see everyone as equal.

The Pharisees and the Scribes are not humble. They think they are better than everyone else. Jesus says don’t be like them.

Jesus says, be humble and be kind.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

10-29-17 -- 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Oct. 29, 2017 - 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A 
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

How do people become mean? People who are violent, people who are angry, people who are mean, people who are bullies?

What happens inside a person to make that person so hateful, so twisted? I can’t believe that a person is born that way. God doesn’t make people that way.

Could it be that people become mean because they feel like they are in competition with others? Could it be that people are mean because they feel like they are less than and have to make others look worse to feel good about themselves?

People who feel a need to measure up, people who are jealous might become mean as a result of this perceived injustice.

They feel wronged and have to do something about it. Instead of improving themselves, they choose to tear others apart. After all, it’s easier.

I know of several priests and seminarians in our diocese who have been victims of this kind of attack. Someone in the church, a priest, a deacon, a seminarian, an employee has felt so threatened by that person that they actually made a real attempt to get rid of him.

In some cases character and reputation had been maligned so badly that the person had to appear before the bishop to try to defend himself against the attacks, all lies, completely fabricated, designed to destroy.

In many cases, though not all, the attacker has either eventually left the church or has been removed from ministry. And I promise you, that sort of behavior is not unique to the church.

Think about all the injustices at school or in the workplace. Think about all the injustices you’ve seen because someone was mean to someone else. It doesn’t have to be that way.

I don’t have to totally destroy a person to make myself look good. We don’t have to do that. We destroy ourselves in the process. It is better for me to work on myself rather than tear down someone else.

The Lord says in the Book of Exodus, you shall not molest or oppress, you shall not wrong the weak. If ever you wrong them and they cry out, I will surely hear them for I am compassionate, says the Lord.

If I am generous, I will receive generously from the Lord. If I am compassionate, I will be shown compassion by the Lord. If I am kind, the Lord will treat me with kindness.

If we practice these things, we become these things. This is what the Lord means when he says love your neighbor as yourself. It means we are called to live with charity in our hearts, kindness in our souls, and good thoughts in our minds.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

10-22-17 -- 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Oct. 22, 2017 - 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A 
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

Jesus says give to God what belongs to God. So our gospel reading this weekend asks one question. What belongs to God? Some part of my time? Some part of my talent? Some part of my treasure?

No! Everything belongs to God. God wants everything. God wants all of me. God wants my whole heart, my whole soul, my whole life, my every prayer, my every thought, my every action. God wants it all.

The famous Catholic writer Matthew Kelly, founder of Dynamic Catholic, says that God wants me to become the best version of myself.

When our hearts are divided, we cannot become the best versions of ourselves. When our hearts are divided, we cannot give everything to God. We are pulled this way and that.

And if we are being pulled this way and that, we have trouble giving God just one hour of each week. And that means we aren’t even close to giving everything to God.

So we’ve got work to do. Are we gonna get it perfectly right?

No. Should that stop us from even trying? That would just be lazy, or apathetic, or even irresponsible.

We come to Mass each week to learn how to give God everything. We come to confession to get rid of the trash in our lives that keeps us from giving God everything.

The more we give to God, the more open we are to receiving what God wants to give to us. God’s grace. God’s guidance. God’s forgiveness. God’s mercy. God’s love.

The Prophet Isaiah teaches us that the Lord is God and there is no other. The Lord grasps my right hand. The Lord opens doors before me. The Lord calls me by my name.

Paul echoes this by reminding me that I am called. I am chosen. And you are called. You are chosen. For faith. For hope. For love. You are called to become the best version of yourself.

God loves us and wants our whole lives to be a response to that love.

Jesus says give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar. Giving to Caesar does means taking care of all of our civic responsibilities so that we can live in a functioning society.

But we must always remember that Jesus also says to give to God what belongs to God. And what belongs to God? Everything. Everything belongs to God.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

10-15-17 -- 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Oct. 15, 2017 - 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A 
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

The invitation has been extended. The invitation is from God. Many people have been invited. But none of the intended guests want to take part in the feast.

Why? Well, many people have made all kinds of excuses. Some say they have other things to do. Others are indifferent. And a few are even annoyed.

God is good to us. God freely offers friendship. God freely offers joy. God freely offers salvation. God freely offers an invitation to the banquet.

What kind of banquet? Isaiah describes it as a rich feast. Rich food and choice wines for all peoples, juicy rich food and pure choice wines; a banquet where death will be destroyed; a banquet where God will wipe away the tears from every face.

This is the great feast for those who say yes to God’s invitation. It is a banquet of salvation, a banquet of redemption, a banquet of forgiveness, a banquet of love.

When so many make excuses and do not accept the invitation, God is not discouraged.

God doesn’t get upset. God doesn’t throw a fit. God doesn’t cancel the feast.

No, what does God do? God simply invites some more people. God invites everybody.

God simply sends the invitation to the ordinary, to the poor, to the marginalized, to the neglected, to the forgotten, to you and to me. All are invited without distinction.

Everyone is given the opportunity to respond to the invitation. We are called. We object, sometimes with our “I’m not worthy” excuse. God doesn’t want to hear our excuses. God wants us to accept the invitation.

Saint Paul tells us that God will supply whatever is needed to accept the invitation. I can answer the invitation because I can do all things in the Lord who strengthens me.

The invitation has been extended. The invitation is from God. Many people are invited. What are you going to do?

Saturday, October 7, 2017

10-08-17 -- 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Oct. 08, 2017 - 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A 
Saint Martin de Tours Catholic Church

The landowner in Jesus’ parable does everything he possibly can to make the vineyard successful.

He equips the vineyard by planting the vines and building the wine press. He protects the vineyard by building the hedge wall and constructing the watch tower.

He tends the vineyard by hiring tenant farmers to work the land, to prune the vines, to gather the harvest and to press the grapes.

All he wants is a share of the crop. He is entitled to a share, isn’t he/ After all, it is his vineyard. And the initial investment needs to be recouped.

The tenants are either already bad people or they become bad people. The tenants want what is not theirs. They are greedy. They are disrespectful.

They begin as thieves and end as cold blooded murderers.

It is a disturbing story because they end up killing the owner’s son so that they can take the vineyard. But that doesn’t happen.

The vineyard is taken away from them. And they are all put to death. The vineyard is given to those who will be loyal, to those who will be faithful.

Jesus’ warning is clear. If we become like the bad tenants, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from us and given to others who will produce its fruit.

Are we becoming a nation of unruly tenants, ungrateful, self-absorbed thieves who take and take and take and do not give?

It does seem that many in our nation are slowly becoming more and more like these violent unruly tenants. There is an unease in our nation, racial tensions, economic insecurity, mass shootings.

It is my opinion that many of these signs of unrest are the result of a nation that has turned its back on God.

But there are also signs of goodness, signs of heroism, signs of great courage and bravery and loyalty and fidelity and generosity.

There may be countless examples of violence, but there are also countless examples of people going beyond themselves to help others in need, heroes doing what is good just because.

For example, even with all our own needs, the people of Saint Martin de Tours gave twelve thousand dollars to help strangers who were affected by the disastrous hurricanes this season.

In that act of kindness, we have done what Saint Paul says to do. Saint Paul tells us to be true, to be just, to be lovely, to be honorable, to be pure, to be gracious.

Let us resolve, here and now, to continue to be good tenants of God’s vineyard. Let us accept the challenge to be self-giving, to do what is good and right and just, because the Kingdom of God belongs to those who produce its fruit.