Saturday, July 14, 2018

7/15/18 -- 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

There are many biblical passages that recount the call from the Lord to be a prophet or the call from the Lord to be holy or the call from Jesus to follow him.

God called Moses at the burning bush to lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt to the promised land.

God called Jonah to preach to the great city of Nineveh telling them that if they didn’t change their ways, the city would be destroyed.

In the first reading today we hear the story of the call of the Prophet Amos. Amos was working as a herdsman in his native land of Judaea when he heard God calling him. 

God called Amos to leave those pasture lands and go to Israel to challenge the sophisticated priests and rulers at Bethel. 

In the Gospel we hear the story of Jesus calling the Twelve Apostles. Jesus sent them out to proclaim the good news of repentance, a call to holiness.

We think this call to holiness is for someone else, for the prophets, for the Apostles, for the saints of old, for grandma but not for me.

But the truth is, God calls ordinary folks to do extraordinary things. And this call to holiness is a call for all the baptized.

In the Bible we hear the call from God to holiness over and over again. These stories capture our attention. We think only others are called to holiness but the truth is God calls each one of us by name.

Matthew Kelly, founder of Dynamic Catholic, says that we have come to believe that holiness is only possible for someone else. 

He challenges us to create holy moments each day of our lives. What is a holy moment? It is a moment where you are being the person God created you to be and doing what God has called you to do in that moment.

If we can create one holy moment each day, then we can also create two. Once we learn how, we can do it over again. And by learning to string these holy moments together we can, in time, learn how to lead holy lives.

This weekend, we have heard two stories of this call to holiness. We should be able to write our own call story. It could be modeled off the story of the Prophet Amos: 

I was doing “this” when I heard the voice of the Lord God calling me to go do “that” instead. I objected but God sent the Holy Spirit upon me so that I would have to courage and strength to answer the call.

If you had to write the story of your call to holiness, how would it go? 

Saturday, July 7, 2018

7/8/18 -- 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Reading

You would think Jesus’ neighbors and friends would have been proud of him. But they were not. He wasn’t doing what they thought he should do. He wasn’t being who they thought he should be.

Imagine if Jesus had been worried about what others expected of him. He would have remained a carpenter all his life.

Imaine if Jesus had not had enough confidence and self-esteem to step out and to step up. He would have never become who he was truly called to be.

How often do we limit ourselves because we are afraid of what others might say or think about us?

How often do we fail to reach our own potential because we are worried about what other people expect from us. And then, we spend all our time trying to meet those expectations?

Jesus and the prophets teach us that we cannot possibly live up to everyone’s expectations. And they show us that we shouldn’t even try.

Look at how young people are affected by social media. Studies are now coming out that show the impact of social media on our self-esteem.

Social media causes anxiety and adds stress to our lives. We count the number of likes we receive when we post a new picture. We fret over negative comments. 

Young people are even learning how to portray different versions of themselves online to seek the approval of others. 

When we spend our entire lives worried about what others will say or think, or about whether or not so and so will like us, we can emotionally exhaust ourselves trying to please others.

We can get so caught up in trying to meet others’ expectations that we lose ourselves, and in losing ourselves we lose our self-esteem and our self-respect.

Then we worry. We worry about whether or not we are thin enough, or pretty enough, or smart enough, or funny enough.

But we seldom worry about whether or not we are kind enough or generous enough or honest enough.

The Prophet Ezekiel was sent by God to a rebellious house of Israel. The people were mean spirited and hard headed.

The Prophet Ezekiel had to have self-respect and courage and inner strength to speak the Word of the Lord to people who would ignore or reject or even hate him.

Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, speaks about a thorn in his side that affects him greatly. He is worried and anxious and upset, like we often are. The Lord says to Paul, “My grace is enough.” 

Being liked by all the people on Facebook will never be enough. Meeting everyone’s expectations completely will never be enough. 

Until we give into the call of the Lord to do God’s will freely and completely, all the world has to offer us will never be enough. But the Lord’s grace is enough. 

People may not love us or adore us. People may try to force us to behave or believe in a certain way. People may even say, “Who does he think he is?” or “Does she think she is better than us?”

But when we answer the call of the Lord, then we discover that Jesus’ grace is enough. Jesus’ strength is enough. Jesus’ love is enough.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

7/1/18 -- 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

Dads roughhousing with their young children is crucially important in the early development of kids. 

Australian researchers concluded that rough and tumble play between fathers and their young children is part of their development, shaping a child’s brain so that they are able to manage emotions and thinking and physical action together.

Mothers, on the other hand, take on a more tender and soothing and nurturing role. They hug and kiss and sing and make things better when they go wrong.

Touch is so crucial between parents and children. Think about an infant reaching out to grab the finger of a parent or grandparent or older sibling, discovering touch for the first time. 

Friends hold hands and hug and let their shoulders touch. Sports players fist bump and huddle and swat each other on the backside. Lovers kiss and caress.

Our Catholic church has long recognized the important of touch. 

In Baptism, the priest signs the child with the sign of the cross, he lays hands on the child while praying silently, he anoints the child’s head with Sacred Chrism, and touches the mouth and the ears so that they are open.

In the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, the couple holds hands while they are exchanging their sacred vows. And the priest lays hands of them as he blesses their marriage.

In the ordination of men to the priesthood, the bishop and all the priests lay their hands on the forehead of the one being ordained.

And in the Anointing of the Sick, the priest lays his hands on the sick person asking for the healing power of Jesus to bring comfort.

In the gospel, Jesus is touched by the old woman and she is healed. In the gospel, Jesus touches the young girl and she is healed.

Touch is vital. Touch is necessary. Touch brings comfort, Touch brings healing. Touch expresses love and affection.

We need to seek to touch Jesus for healing. We need to ask Jesus to touch us and heal us.

In the way that dads roughhousing with their young children is vital to their early childhood development, Jesus’ touch in our lives is vital to our spiritual development and well being.

Jesus took the child by the hand and said to her, “Little girl arise.” And immediately the girl arose. The people were astonished.

So we beg Jesus to come to us and touch us and astonish us. 

Saturday, June 16, 2018

6/17/18 -- 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

The crepe myrtles in our church square have gone through a few tough years. It seems they were infected with tiny insects that cause a whitish gray bark scale.

We became aware of the problem last summer and have taken steps to help our trees and shrubs become healthier. We have also begun paying closer attention to caring for all the trees on our beautiful square.

We can plant those trees and shrubs and flowers. We can fertilize them. We can water them. We can prune them. But we cannot make them grow. We cannot make them bloom.

God makes things grow. God makes things bloom. God makes things spring to new life. The same is true of the crops in our fields. 

The farmers can till the soil. The farmers can plant the seeds. The farmers can fertilize. And the farmers can harvest. But those farmers cannot make those crops grow. Only God can.

So as we set out on our spiritual renewal, we must look to the things we can do. And leave the things we cannot do to God.

We can sow the seeds. But what kinds of seeds are we sowing. Are we sowing seeds of love and kindness? Seeds of generosity? Seeds of care and concern? Seeds of forgiveness and mercy?

This takes willpower. We have to want to do these things. We can and should be sowing good seeds.

We can nurture what was planted. We can water and fertilize and prune. This takes work. We have to work at these things.

We can and should be taking good care of our bodies: Proper diet. Exercise. The right amount of sleep. 

We can and should be taking good care of our souls: Spiritual readings. Quiet prayer. Spiritual direction. Retreats. Regular confessions.

We can harvest what is ripe. We can enjoy the fruits of our labor: The good fruit that comes from sowing good seeds. The ripe grain that comes from nurturing what was sown.

We can be nourished by the Eucharist where Jesus gives us his body and blood as a rich harvest for our souls.

We can enjoy our lives and our loved one as a result of all our hard work taking good care of our bodies and souls. Because we have done what we can, God can do what God does. 

Just like we are making an effort to take care of our crepe myrtles, we should be making an effort to take care of our souls, because our souls are certainly a far greater treasure than our crepe myrtles.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

6/3/18 -- Corpus Christi

Scripture Readings

On a recent episode of Code Black, a doctor and an EMT were kidnapped while responding to a 911 call. 

The kidnapper wanted them to treat his girlfriend who was shot during a robbery that went bad. He pointed a gun at them and demanded that they “fix” her. 

In an attempt to foil the kidnapping they told the gunman that they needed to make an incision to check if the lung was inflating properly. They warned him that the incision would cause a lot of bleeding. 

Then they told the kidnapper that his girlfriend would need a blood infusion or she would bleed to death. While allowing the woman to bleed out, they pretended to check everyone’s blood type.

The kidnapper was informed that both he and his girlfriend shared a rare blood type and he was the only one who could save her. 

They began what the kidnapper thought was a blood transfusion, but they were actually allowing him to bleed out slowly only pretending to be transfusing the blood. 

Once he was weakened by the loss of blood, the doctor tackled him and the kidnapping was over.

The blood flowing through our arteries and veins gives us life. We need it to survive. It is absolutely necessary. Hospitals rely on the donated blood of good samaritans to save patients every day.

Even the people of the Old Testament realized the importance of blood. They sacrificed goats and calves offering the blood to the Lord as a sign of the covenant.

Moses sprinkled it on the people saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you.”

Jesus, at the Last Supper, offers his blood to replace the blood of these sacrificed animals. “This is the blood of the covenant which will be shed for many.”

Jesus’ blood was shed for you and for me. Just as the kidnapper offered his own blood to save his partner in crime, Jesus offer his blood to save us.

At this Mass I will take the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord. In response to this offering of a cup of wine, the Lord will change the cup of wine into the Blood of Christ.

The Blood of Christ is given to us to transform us. It is absolutely necessary for us to live. 

Without Jesus’ blood poured out on us, we would lose our way. We would get lost in the darkness of sin and despair.

So as we approach the table of the Lord on this feast of Corpus Christi, we receive the Precious Body and Blood of Christ in the form of a communion wafer as a sign of the new and everlasting covenant sealed with Jesus’ blood, poured out so that we might live.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

5/27/18 -- Trinity Sunday

Scripture Readings

The Word of God that we read Sunday after Sunday is a masterpiece of the history of our God wanting a relationship with us.

It was not enough for God the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth, to sit alone in heaven. God the Father desired to be near his creation. God the Father desired to be close to us. 

In the Book of Genesis, we are told that God would visit Adam and Eve in the garden. After the fall, when they were cast out of paradise for their sin of disobedience, God desired all humankind to be redeemed from this sinfulness.

So God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to redeem us, to draw near to us, to walk with us, to love us, to forgive us and to save us. The fullness of God’s blessing comes to us in the person of Jesus.

After Jesus’ death upon the cross, his wondrous resurrection from the dead and his ascension into heaven, God still desired a way to be close to us so God breathed the Holy Spirit upon us.

The Holy Spirit at work in us makes our lives beautiful. The Holy Spirit at work in us refashions us into God’s masterpieces.

We come here to this holy place to hear the voice of God speaking to us:

The voice of God the Father saying, “I love you so much that I created you and I cannot possibly imagine my creation without you.”

The voice of God the Son saying, “I love you so much that I died on the cross to redeem you from every sinful choice you have ever made and will ever make. I am yours and you are mine.”

The voice of God the Holy Spirit saying, “I love you so much that I come and dwell in you so that you remain in my love and I remain in you.”

We are blessed because God the Father created us.
We are blessed because God the Son redeems us.
We are blessed because God the Holy Spirit lives in us.

Through the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, we receive adoption, we belong to God, God claims us and his own, we are God’s children. The Holy Trinity of God with us always until the end of the age.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

5/20/18 -- Pentecost

Scripture Readings

In the Book of Genesis, the activity of the Holy Spirit is inseparable from the work of God. It is the Spirit that is hovering over creation bring order from chaos. The Spirit is the very breath that gives life to humanity. 

In the Book of Exodus, it is the Spirit who engraves the stone tablets at Mt. Sinai

There are examples of the Holy Spirit at work throughout the Old Testament. The Holy Spirit takes possession of Gideon. The Spirit grants Samson extraordinary strength.

The Judges settle disputes, answer questions, solve problems and comfort people all through the power and working of the Holy Spirit.

The Prophet Isaiah tells us that the Spirit anoints the Servant of God. Other prophets are filled with the Holy Spirit as they announce the coming of the long awaited Messiah, the consolation of Israel.

Zechariah, Elizabeth, Simeon and Anna are not surprised when the Son of God becomes flesh in the womb of a virgin through the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit.

John the Baptist announces that the coming Messiah will baptize with the Holy Spirit and when he baptizes Jesus in the Jordan River, the Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus in the form of a dove. 

It is that very Spirit that drove Jesus into the desert wilderness where he fasted and prayed for forty days.

At Pentecost the Holy Spirit comes upon Mary and the Apostles in the Upper Room as tongues of fire.

Even today the Spirit still moves, sometimes in a gentle whisper and sometimes as a roaring wind which we hear, but cannot tell from where it comes or where it is going.

The Holy Spirit purifies, illuminates, cleanses, refreshes, consoles, heals, strengthen and anoints. The Holy Spirit gives the gifts of peace, hope and love.

The Holy Spirit is omniscient, eternal and holy. The Holy Spirit teaches, testifies, judges, witnesses, intercedes, reveals, speaks and glorifies God.

The Holy Spirit is the way that the Holy Trinity of God touches and transforms over lives today. 

And so at this Eucharist, we call down the Holy Spirit to transform simple gifts of bread and wine into the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus.

This Eucharistic miracle makes us sharers in the divine life Jesus offers. 

And so we call down the Spirit to hover over us, to fill us, to comfort us and to enlighten us so that we have the grace and the strength and the courage to become the children God is calling us to be.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

5/11/18 -- Ascension

Scripture Readings

You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and to the end of the earth. Be my witnesses. How? How can we be witnesses to the Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus Christ?

We think that being a witness to Jesus must be an extraordinary thing reserved for priests or nuns or saints. But nothing could be further from the truth. 

Usually witnessing to Jesus is not something incredibly difficult. We don’t have to discern for years. We don’t have to ask again and again. “What is Jesus asking of me?”

We simply have to do what we are supposed to do; by living our everyday lives with honesty and integrity; by being people who live with faith, hope and love in our hearts, and with generosity and charity in our actions.

Even though Jesus has ascended and is seated at the right hand of God the Father, the presence of Jesus is powerfully at work in our world through good people like you and me; people who are inspired by the inner promptings of the Holy Spirit.

Witnessing to Jesus Christ in our everyday lives means choosing hope over despair, generosity over greed, and mercy over vengeance.

Witnessing to Jesus Christ in our everyday lives means choosing kindness over cruelty, compassion over judgment, and love over hatred.

Witnessing to Jesus Christ in our everyday lives means choosing life over death. This is how we bear witness.

Jesus calls us to witness to our brothers and sisters. Jesus calls us to witness to our friends and to our coworkers. Jesus calls us to witness to our spouses, to our children and grandchildren not in some extraordinary, heroic way, but in our everyday actions.

Yes, some are called to witness in heroic ways. But the vast majority of us are called to witness with the everyday events of our lives by becoming the beautiful, loving, and caring people Jesus has called us to be.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

5/6/18 -- 6th Sunday of Easter

Scripture Readings

John Robert Fox was a first lieutenant during the second world war. He was directing artillery fire in Italy when a large German force moved on his position. Fox called a final artillery strike on himself. His body was found next to hundreds of dead German troops.

Arland Williams was a passenger on Air Florida Flight 90 when it smashed into a frozen lake. Twenty minutes later a helicopter arrived to rescue survivors. After getting one man to safety, Arland gave the life ring to the passenger next to him. 

The helicopter came back a third time, and again Arland gave the ring to someone else. When the helicopter came back again, Arland was dead.

When Ryan Arnold’s brother Chad needed a liver transplant, Ryan immediately checked to see if he was a compatible donor. Ryan died following the procedure but the transplant was a success ensuring that his brother Chad would live.

Gianna Molla was pregnant with her fourth child when doctors discovered a cancerous tumor that needed to be removed. 
The surgery would mean her unborn child would not survive. She wanted her baby to live. Gianna died seven days after her baby girl was born.

Maximilian Kolbe was a Polish Franciscan priest who was arrested and imprisoned during the German occupation of Poland. When ten prisoners escaped, ten more were randomly chosen to starve to death. Father Kolbe volunteered to die at Auschwitz in the place of a stranger.

When the floods ravaged the Philippians in 2009, 18 year old Muelmar Magallanes decided that if nature was going to kill people, it would have to get through him. He tied a rope to his waist and rescued his entire family. Then he rescued his neighbors and then his other neighbors. 

Exhausted after rescuing as many as two dozen people, Muelmar saw a mother and baby being dragged by the current. With no regard for danger he lept once more into the water to rescue the mother and child before finally succumbing to the current.

Their lives were just as precious as yours and mine. Their lives were cut short by a decision to love. They were all ordinary folks testifying to the extraordinary power of love.

Not the “I love pizza” or “I love ice cream” or “I love New York” kind of love. Nope. The “Jesus” kind of love. The “I would give my life for you” kind of love. The “God” kind of love. The love that gives without counting the cost. 

Saint John says, “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God.”

Love that gives without counting the cost is of God.

Love that sacrifices itself for another is of God.

Jesus loves us so much that he sacrifices himself for us.

Jesus calls down artillery upon himself to save us. Jesus hands us the life ring every time. Jesus ties a rope around his waist and rescues us from the ravaging flood. 

Jesus dies is Auschwitz again and again in someone’s place. Jesus doesn’t just give part of his liver; Jesus gives us his very body and blood. 

Jesus calls us to love with this kind of love, a love that sacrifices itself for another. This I command you: love one another.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

4/22/18 -- 4th Sunday of Easter

When our pilgrim group was in Avila at the convent founded by Saint Teresa of Jesus, the first woman to be proclaimed a doctor of the church by Pope Paul VI, we were told a wonderful story about an experience Saint Teresa had there.

One day when she was the prioress of the convent, she found a young boy running about in the convent. You understand, the convent Teresa founded is a cloistered convent. 

Even to this day, the sisters have little to no contact with the outside world. Their lives are filled with work and prayer.

She asked the little boy, “Who are you?” “He answered her with a question. He asked, “Who are you?”

She said, “I am Teresa of Jesus. “The boy replied, “Well I am Jesus of Teresa.” And with that the boy vanished.

Jesus, the Good Shepherd, is at work in the hearts and minds of people everywhere, in every time, in every place. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, is at work in the hearts and minds of all of us.

We are all his. And he is ours. Every one of us belongs to Jesus, the Good Shepherd. Every one of us is part of the flock.

We all belong, one family, one flock, one body, one church, one faith, one baptism.

In our Eucharistic prayer we pray that by sharing in the body and blood of Christ we may be gathered into one by the Holy Spirit, becoming one body, one spirit in Christ.

When God looks upon us, all God sees are his beloved children, each and everyone. God doesn’t put us into categories of good and bad. God doesn’t favor some and not others. God doesn’t speak to a few and abandon the rest. 

Like the sheep who listen for the voice of their shepherd and follow, we have to listen for the voice of Jesus calling us to follow.

We live in a noisy world where we are bombarded with many different voices telling us many different things. We have to be quiet long enough to hear Jesus’ voice.

And once we hear his voice, we begin to recognize it. The more we listen, the easier it is to hear him when he calls our names.

We all belong to Jesus, the Good Shepherd. He knows us. He calls us by name.

When Teresa of Jesus asked the little boy his name, he said he was Jesus of Teresa. She was Teresa of Jesus. 

I am Rusty of Jesus. Who are you? And do you recognize Jesus’ voice when he calls you? Because he does call you.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

4/08/18 -- 2nd Sunday of Easter

Today the risen Lord appears to the disciples and says “Peace be with you.”

Jesus gives the gift of peace. Jesus’ gift of peace is so much more than the absence of conflict. Jesus’ peace is given so that the disciples don’t stay huddled in the upper room.

Fear has paralyzed them. But Jesus has a mission for them. To accomplish Jesus’ mission, they must first overcome their fears. Jesus’ peace brings courage and strength and resolve.

Jesus’ peace is given so that the disciples can go out into the world and be peacemakers. 

Jesus’ peace is given so that they have the strength and the courage and the resolve to go out into the world and proclaim that God raised Jesus from the dead.

Jesus’ peace requires something of us as well. Jesus’ peace is centered not on being nice but on doing what is right and just, treating people with kindness and dignity.

Jesus’ peace is a reconciling peace. Jesus forgives sinners and then sends those forgiven sinners out to forgive others. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them.

Jesus gives peace to the people who had denied and betrayed and abandoned him not so long ago and then sends them out to be peacemakers.

Jesus also breathes the Holy Spirit on them. The Holy Spirit dwells in their hearts so that Jesus is with them always, leading and guiding. 

Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit on us today and calls us to be peacemakers, peacemakers in our homes, with our families, peacemakers at school, with our friends, peacemakers in our community and in our world.

The first reading gives us an example of the early church trying to live in the peace of Christ. They were of one mind and heart. 

They shared everything with each other so that no one was needy among them. They found peace in working together.

We are called to be peacemakers who are not overcome by fear, peacemakers who speak truth with love, peacemakers who control our anger, peacemakers who work for the common good.

Today the risen Lord appears to the disciples and says “Peace be with you.” May we continue our work of becoming the peacemakers Christ our Risen Lord desires us to be.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

4/01/18 -- Easter Sunday

This morning all we have is an empty tomb. When Mary Magdalene stood at the tomb she didn’t encounter some perfect radiant glowing Risen Christ. Peter and John entered the tomb and all they found were burial cloths.

They did not yet understand that God had raised Jesus from the dead. 

We come here this Easter morning because we believe in the resurrection. We believe that Jesus is God’s only begotten son.

Jesus who went against the establishment, Jesus who insisted that the Kingdom of God was near, Jesus who touched the lepers and made them clean, who healed the blind, who said the first shall be last and love your enemies, Jesus who called a little band of misfits to follow…

If we believe that Jesus is who he says he is, God’s only begotten son, then we are left with an empty tomb because God raised his only son from the dead.

Our God has done as God has promised. Our God has saved Jesus. God has raised Jesus from the dead. And we come here because we want the Resurrection to have an affect on our lives.

Why? Because life is messy. The resurrection doesn't fix the messiness of life. We have to fix the messiness of life. The resurrection gives us hope. The resurrection gives us strength. The resurrection gives us grace.

The resurrection gives us the grace to face our pain and suffering. The resurrection gives us the strength to overcome our grief and sorrow. The resurrection gives us the courage to face our disappointments and struggles.

The resurrection heals our broken hearts. The resurrection rescues us from the darkness of sin and death and raises us to new life in Christ.

Christ is our light. We are joined to Christ in the waters of baptism and those waters are sprinkled upon us to remind us that our God saves us and raises us to new life. We are joined to Christ by receiving his body and blood in the Eucharist. 

This morning we may only encounter an empty tomb but that empty tomb points the way to the Risen Christ, Christ our light.

This morning is about our salvation. This morning we sing our Alleluia with joy because once again our God has come to save us.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

3/31/18 -- Holy Saturday

Tonight all we have is an empty tomb. When Mary Magdalene stood at the tomb she didn’t encounter some perfect radiant glowing Risen Christ.

All she had was a young man with a message telling her where to look to find the Risen Lord. We come to this Holy Shrine looking to find the Risen Lord.

We come here on this holy night because we believe that Jesus is God’s son.

Jesus who went against the establishment, Jesus who insisted that the Kingdom of God was near, Jesus who touched the lepers and made them clean, who healed the blind, who said the first shall be last and love your enemies, Jesus who called a little band of misfits to follow…

If we believe that Jesus is who he says he is, God’s only begotten son, then we are left with an empty tomb because God raised his only son from the dead.

Our God has done as God has promised. Our God has saved Jesus. God has raised Jesus from the dead.

Not only Jesus, This is what God does. Our God saves. Our God restores. Our God lifts up to new life.
Our God has saved throughout all of salvation history. That is the story we tell tonight. The readings speak about salvation.

Our God saved Isaac from his father’s attempt to slay him. 
Our God saved Abraham from the grief of losing his only son.
Our God saved the people from slavery in Egypt and led them to the promised land.

Our God still saves. Our God saves us from our pain and suffering. Our God saves us from our grief and sorrow. Our God saves us from disappointments and struggles.

Our God saves us from broken hearts. Our God saves us from illness. Our God rescues us from the darkness of sin and death and raises us to new life in Christ.

Christ is our light. We are joined to Christ in the waters of baptism and those waters are sprinkled upon us to remind us that our God saves us and raises us to new life. We are joined to Christ by receiving his body and blood in the Eucharist. 

Tonight we may only encounter an empty tomb but that empty tomb points the way to the Risen Christ, Christ our light.

Tonight is about our salvation. Tonight we sing our Alleluia with joy because once again our God has come to save us.

Friday, March 30, 2018

3/30/18 -- Good Friday

Words sometimes fail us. If you were asked to explain what Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross meant to you personally, you might find if difficult to put into words. 

Our emotions well up to the surface and get in the way. We Catholics know that. That’s why ritual is so important to us. When ritual is done well, words are not necessary to convey meaning. Words are simply not even needed.

Every Good Friday we do the same thing. The Good Friday service always begins in silence with the presider prostrating himself before the altar. This happens only once a year. What does it say?

Maybe is says that we acknowledge that we have had a hand in killing Jesus. We have killed the divine presence in one another with our callous words, our harsh condemnations and our mean spirited actions.

And what we’ve done to others, we’ve done to Jesus. Words can’t touch this tragedy so we lie face down on the floor to acknowledge our wrongs.

It’s like the aftermath of so many school shootings. People are left speechless because words cannot express the depth of the tragedy.

The other gesture is one that we all participate in. We venerate the wood of the cross. Some touch it lightly, others kiss the wood, others bow or genuflect, some even weep from a distance.

Those who venerate the cross come close to the crucified Jesus to find meaning for their own suffering.

The cross of Jesus can bring tremendous consolation and comfort to those who are imprisoned by addiction, those who are grieving the death of a love one, those who are struggling with health or self-esteem or identity issues, those who are tortured by scrupulosity or other mental health issues, those who are victims of abuse, neglect or torture.

Suffering runs deep and a tremendous amount of suffering is brought to the foot of the cross on Good Friday.

We don’t need words to know that Jesus is suffering with us. As a matter of fact, when we face this reality our words fail. So we rely on gesture and symbol and ritual. Our actions speak louder than our words. They are profound.

Our actions today unite us to the Passion of Christ. They do not fail. Our Good Friday ritual bring us tremendous consolation even in the face of suffering and death.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

3/29/18 -- Holy Thursday

Scripture Readings

We are called to serve. But what does that mean? To serve? Jesus washes the feet of his disciples as a model for all of us to follow. He takes the lowliest task and does it with great tenderness and affection. 

So what are we supposed to do? How are we called to serve? Sometimes we think too grandly. We think it must be complicated or extraordinary. 

But maybe we are called to serve in ordinary simply ways. Maybe we are simply called to do small everyday things with great love.

St. Therese of Lisieux believed that her way to heaven was to do little things with great love. She saw herself as weak and little, unable to climb the rough stairway of perfection.

For her, love was the key to holiness. Love made all the difference.

Her little way is one that we can understand. Her little way is one that we can accomplish. Her little way is simply doing ordinary everyday things with great love.

Love proves itself by deeds. Jesus stoops and washes feet. This Holy Thursday is not about me washing the feet of twelve parishioners. So tonight I’m not washing feet. 

After six years, you know that I am fully capable of stooping and washing your feet. The absence of that ritual this evening is a reminder that I’m not the only one who is supposed to be washing feet. 

Jesus says, “I have given you a model, an example to follow. As I have done, so you must do.” Jesus washes my feet lovingly. Jesus washes my feet tenderly. 

We must wash the feet of others. We must serve others. We must do this lovingly. We must do this tenderly. We must do this cheerfully.

This is easy to accomplish if we follow St. Therese’s little way. But there is one thing more we need. 

At the Last Supper, Jesus doesn’t only wash his disciples’ feet. He also institutes the Eucharist.

At the Last Supper, Jesus takes bread and says, “This is my body for you to eat.” He takes a cup of wine and says, “This is my blood for you to drink.”

Bread and wine become divine sustenance. Bread and wine become flesh and blood. Food for the journey. Food to nourish and strengthen.

Receiving Jesus in the Eucharist gives us strength to serve. Receiving Jesus in the Eucharist gives us grace to do simple, ordinary everyday things with great love.

We might cook for others with great love, or clean for others with great love. We might do the grocery shopping or the laundry with great love.

We might visit the sick with great love. We might encourage others to blossom with great love. 

We might laugh and joke and smile with great love. We might be cheerful with great love.

We might heal the hurts of others with great love, with tenderness, acceptance and forgiveness. 

We might say please and thank you with great love. We might listen with great love. Whatever ordinary things Jesus sets before us, we are called to accomplish with great love.

We are all called to follow the example Jesus has set. “As I have done, so you must do.”

Nourished by the Divine Food we receive tonight from God’s table, we go forth to serve. We go forth to wash feet in our weary world.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

3/25/18 - Palm Sunday, Year B

Scripture Readings

The characters in the Passion of Jesus Christ will forever be remembered based on their actions that day. 

The Passion is a story of betrayal by Judas, denial by Peter and accusations by the chief priests and other religious leaders. Jesus is condemned to death by Pilate and beaten, mocked jeered and crucified by the Roman soldiers.

These actions lead to the murder of an innocent man. The characters will be remembered for their cruelty and treachery. 

Only one that we know of was able to redeem himself. Peter’s later threefold confession of love wipes away his threefold denial.

There are other characters. The woman who anoints Jesus. Simon who helps to carry the cross. Veronica who wipes Jesus’ face. The women filled with grief who look on from a distance. And Joseph who places the body of Jesus in his own tomb. 

These are remembered for their kindness. We are remembered mostly for how we treat people during difficult times. 

To be remembered with fondness, we have to treat people with respect and dignity and charity.

How do you want to be remembered?

Saturday, March 17, 2018

3/18/18 - 5th Sunday of Lent, Year B

Scripture Readings

Each one of us will fall to the ground and die one day. Last Saturday night, I thought it was my turn. I thought I was dying.

Whatever was happening to me was mimicking a heart attack and respiratory failure. My heart was racing and I couldn’t breath. It really felt like the end.

The gospel speaks about a grain of wheat falling to the ground and dying. What do we do with that? Whoever loves his life loses it. I love my life and I wasn’t ready to lose it.

Whoever hates his life preserves it for eternal life. I don’t hate my life. It’s not perfect. Who’s is? I don’t want to lose my life just yet.

We get to where it seems that this gospel just doesn’t make any sense. So what do we do? Let’s read on. Jesus is using imagery to try to make a point. If we read on we increase the likelihood of finding the point.

Jesus goes on to say, “Whoever serves me must follow me.” That’s it, right there! Follow Jesus.

If last Saturday night was a near death experience, my doctor is not sure that it was, but I certainly felt like it was the end. I mean, I called 911. But I’m gonna tell you there wasn’t some great white light.

And I spoke to another priest who recently had a heart attack and he reported the same thing.

There seemed to be some battle between choosing good and choosing evil. And while the good was obviously the right choice, I must admit that the evil presented itself in a way that was very tempting.

Now, I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know from your own experiences.

Whoever serves me must follow me, Where I am, there also will my servant be. To choose the good, we have to be willing to follow. And in following, the key word is serves. Whoever serves me is following me. How do we serve Jesus? How do you serve Jesus? How do I serve Jesus?

What disinterested service do we do for Jesus, in his name or on his behalf? It must be disinterested service because we are doing it for Jesus. We are not interested in getting anything in return, except grace.

What do we do to show that we are followers of the Lord? What? It has to be something. I have to be able to say this is what I am doing to better serve Jesus, this is what I am doing to better follow Jesus.

Otherwise, when the time comes there might not be some great white light.

I am troubled now. Yet what should I say? God save me. Then a voice from heaven came. I have saved you and I will save you again.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Message from Father Rusty P. Richard

First, let me thank all of you for so many heartfelt prayers,kind thoughts and expressions of support and affection during my recent health concern.   I appreciate that more than I can ever express.

Fortunately, my concerns over this past weekend proved to be the result of some medication interactions rather than any issues relating to my heart.  But, as we all have experienced in our lives, it’s best to err on the side of caution. My weekend hospital visit and subsequent tests were all shown to be negative in terms of any physical condition related to my heart and all pointed to a medication interaction.   

I am now back home resting after being discharged and will return to my full duties very shortly. 

Life is often full of surprises and challenges, and while this one certainly got my attention, it is comforting to know that it wasn’t a matter of the heart. It is also comforting to have had the support of so many.  To me that made such a great difference.

God bless you all and again, thank you.

Rusty P. Richard, Pastor

Saturday, March 10, 2018

3/11/18 - 4th Sunday of Lent, Year B

Scripture Readings

Most of us get lost in the darkness at some point in our lives. Yes? Some of us for longer periods than others.

The priest who really doesn’t want to be a priest anymore because the church has changed and doesn’t seem as welcoming or relevant or spirit-filled as it used to. He’s unhappy but still effective in ministry and really too old to leave and do something else. 

The woman whose husband wakes up one morning and says, “I’m not the man you married. I’m not the man you think I am.” She feels for her husband but just can’t bring herself to accept what is happening and doesn’t want to start over.

The young man whose wife says after five years of marriage, “I don’t love you. I’m over you. I don’t care about you anymore.” He’s trying to make it work but she’s not giving anything at all.

The person who gets the medical diagnosis and knows that the future hold surgery after surgery after surgery with no hope of improvement.

You can add your own story of darkness. Anger. Illness. Mental illness. Despair. Grief. Addiction.

Without light, we stumble around in the dark. Without light, the darkness overcomes, overwhelms, frightens.

The light overcomes the darkness. The light helps us find our way. We have reached the midpoint of lent and maybe we are still wandering about in the darkness.

Being at the midpoint means we still have a chance to turn things around. Are we going to allow ourselves to be filled with fear and dread or are we going to be hopeful?

Jesus always gives us another chance to turn things around.

Jesus is the light that helps us find our way. We should not prefer the darkness. But sometimes we do. Rather, we should seek the light and the truth.

Saint Paul tells us God is rich in mercy. God doesn’t want us stumbling around in the dark. God wants to rescue us. That’s why God sent his son Jesus: to be a light in the darkness, to rescue us from our sins, to bring us to the truth.

Are we open to God rescuing us? Are we open to Jesus, the light, showing us the truth? Are we open to Jesus, the light, showing us the way?

We all get lost in the darkness from time to time. But because of the great love God has for us, we are brought to new life in Jesus Christ. We are saved. We are rescued from the darkness. We are brought into the light. 

Saturday, March 3, 2018

3/4/18 - 3rd Sunday of Lent, Year B

Scripture Readings

Because we had such a harsh winter, I’ve heard folks saying, “I need to get out into my yard and see what survived.” Some things will have to be uprooted and thrown out. New flowers, trees and shrubs will have to be planted. 

Flower beds need to be cleaned out. What survived needs to be pruned and fertilized. That way, everything will bloom with new life in the coming months.

Many of our homes could probably use a good spring cleaning as well. We can, without even realizing it, accumulate lots of clutter over the years. 

For example, I have an old collection of VHS tapes. I don’t know why I keep them. The tapes are probably dry rotted and the player is getting old too. The movie library could easily be replaced with DVDs.

We have a tendency to hoard things because we think there is a chance we might use them again. Believe it or not, we do that with stuff here at the church too. 

I can’t tell you how many dumpsters I’ve filled in my seven years here with stuff that’s outdated, stuff that’s gone bad, stuff that we will never use again.

If we haven’t used something since I’ve been here, it’s unlikely that we will ever use it again.

And while our yards and our homes could use some sprucing up, it would be sad if we stopped there.

Jesus cleanses the temple because, over the years, it had become more of a marketplace and less a place of prayer. This cleansing of the temple is an opportunity to look at our lives during this lent and do some good Spring cleaning.

There are some cobwebs in our hearts and some accumulated clutter that doesn’t belong, some bad habits, some sins, some hurts, some grudges, some prejudices, some selfishness.

If we do a good Spring cleaning, our bad habits can give way to new habits, habits that will help us grow closer to God and one another.

If we do a good Spring cleaning, our sins give way to virtues. We could pick one sin and identify the accompanying virtue. Then we could work on that one virtue this lent. Progress not perfection.

Selfishness gives way to generosity. Pride gives way to humility. Anger gives way to peace. Grudges give way to kindness. Prejudices give way to understanding and acceptance. Hurts give way to healing.

You get the idea? One sin giving way to one virtue.

Let us pledge here and now to undertake a good Spring cleaning of the temples of our hearts. Why? So that Jesus doesn’t have to do this for us. Look at what happened in the temple.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

2/25/18 - 2nd Sunday of Lent, Year B

Scripture Readings

We focus on God. When we hear the reading from the Book of Genesis, we wonder why would God ask this of Abraham? What was God thinking? Maybe our understanding of the reading would change if we would focus on Abraham instead.

We focus on Jesus. When we hear the gospel reading we say I want to be transfigured like Jesus. We are not God. We are the children of God and we will have to await the resurrection of the dead to be transfigured.

Maybe we should focus on Peter. Why focus on Peter and Abraham? Because they are like us.

Somehow Abraham convinced himself that God wanted him to sacrifice his only son Isaac.

Somehow Peter convinced himself that he and Jesus, along with James and John, should just stay atop the mountain.

Both were well intentioned but both were wrong. What they thought God wanted was not what God wanted at all. Even though they were way off, God was still on their side.

God is on our side. Saint Paul reminds us that if God is for us, who can be against us?

That’s why I think Matthew Kelley’s theme this Lent is so profound. Kelly reminds us that God wants progress, not perfection.

If you’ve been watching the daily videos from Dynamic Catholic you know that’s what the reflections have been about this Lent.

If you haven’t, it’s not too late. Visit and sign up for the Best Lent Ever and you will receive a short video reflection in your inbox each day. These videos are a wonderful way of keeping our focus this Lent.

Abraham is continuing to learn about God and grow in his relationship with God. He is continuing to try to discern. What is God calling me to do? Who is God calling me to become? Progress not perfection.

Abraham really believed that God was calling him to sacrifice Isaac. But the angel brings a very different message. Do not lay a hand on the boy. Progress not perfection.

Peter is continuing to learn more and more about Jesus. Peter is continuing to grow in his relationship with Jesus. Peter really believed that they should all stay on the top of the mountain forever.

But Jesus says come down the mountain with me and I will show you how to be my disciple. Progress not perfection.

We are not going to get everything right in our relationship with God during these forty days of Lent. That’s ok. We are seeking progress not perfection.

Each day is an opportunity to make progress. Each day is an opportunity to become a better version of myself.

God is trying to help us know ourselves. Jesus is trying to help us discover God’s will for us. This takes time. It also takes drawing closer to God.

We might have convinced ourselves that we have to be perfect before God will love us. But God loves us just the way we are and calls us to grow. So let us focus on progress not perfection. That’s the way to God’s heart this Lent.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

02-18-18 -- 1st Sunday of Lent, Year B

Scripture Readings

What does temptation from the devil look like? It’s that strong desire to do something I want to do, but I know is not in my best interest; something I might want, but I know is ultimately not good for me; something that might be fun right now, but I know there’s going to be consequences later.

Jesus was tempted to do things that might have seemed attractive in the moment, but there would have been disastrous consequences.

If Jesus had given in to the devil’s temptations what would have happened? Jesus would have been turned to the dark side. Jesus would have been beholden to the devil.

If the devil is trying to tempt Jesus after 40 days of fasting and prayer, the devil will certainly try to tempt us.

We find ourselves tempted to do all kinds of things that seem appealing at the time: drink too much, eat too much, self-medicate with prescription drugs or alcohol, for young people, it’s partying and doing drugs all night and calling that “chillin'.”

We might be tempted to take a little bit more than our share when we think no one is looking, or in some cases to simply steal because we think we deserve it, or to visit sites on the Internet that are sexual or explicit or violent.

We might be tempted to bully someone in order to feel good about ourselves or look good in front of our friends, or we might be tempted to manipulate or lie or cheat to become powerful.

We are tempted everyday by the devil to make bad choices that seem good at the time. But we are also tempted by God everyday to do good deeds, or maybe we should say we are tempted everyday by God to do God's deeds.

What makes a teacher jump in front of a gunman to protect his students? The temptation or invitation from God to do good.

What makes a mother fiercely protective of her child who is being bullied at school? The invitation from God to do good.

What makes a priest willing to continue to work in the vineyard of Jesus Christ in today’s world? The invitation from God to do good.

What makes a person donate a kidney to a complete stranger? The invitation from God to do good.

What makes a soldier stay by the side of an injured comrade even at the risk of being shot and killed? The invitation from God to do good.

What makes three young men on a train to Paris dramatically and successfully confront and take down a terrorist who was intent on killing everyone on that train? The invitation from God to do good.

What makes an ordinary person reach out and do a good deed, reach out and help a total stranger? The invitation from God to do good. 

What makes us desire to show love and affection to the people closest to us? The invitation from God to do good.

Some of these examples are heroic acts. Some are not. But we are all invited by God to do good everyday. We are tempted by God to do God’s deeds.

I suspect that if we were to focus more on the temptation to do good and less on the temptation to do evil, we would all be happier, healthier, more loving, more forgiving and more fulfilled.

Yes we are tempted by the devil, but we must always remember that we are also tempted by God. And when we give in to the temptation or invitation from God, we do God’s deeds.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

02-11-18 -- 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Scripture Readings

The lepers were estranged. They had to live outside the community. They were isolated, apart from others. As long as they had the sores of leprosy, they were not able to live with their families. 

That must have been a terribly tragic and lonely existence, calling out “unclean, unclean” everywhere they went. They were avoided by all, except Jesus.

Jesus does not fear leprosy, nor does he fear the lepers. He is moved with pity. He stretched out his hand and touched the sores. In touching them, he healed them. Jesus made the leper clean.

After Jesus heals the leper in the gospel of today, what happens? He says, “Go show yourself to the priest.” Why? 

The priest has the power to declare the leper clean. Once the leper was declared clean, that person was then able to return to the community.

So Jesus brings those who are outside back into the community. Jesus desires for those who are excluded to be included again.

Sometimes we find ourselves on the outside, on the fringe, excluded for any number of reasons. 

Maybe we are excluded because of our race or skin color, or our religious beliefs, or our sexual orientation, or our political views, or even our physical appearance.

Jesus doesn’t want this. Jesus wants us all to be included. Jesus doesn’t want these divisions. 

Yet we continue to divide ourselves into camps of us and them. And this continues to cause strife and even social unrest.

That’s one of the reasons why we try so hard here at Saint Martin de Tours to make sure everyone feels welcomed, to make sure everyone feels wanted, to make sure everyone feels like they belong.

Jesus comes to heal sin and division. Jesus wants those who are estranged to be brought back. 

We all need to feel like we are a part of something bigger than ourselves. We all need to feel like we belong. Otherwise, we are like the lepers who are forced to live apart from everyone.

The lepers were estranged but Jesus healed them so that they could return to the community. Jesus desires to heal whatever is keeping us from community. 

Jesus wants us all to belong. Jesus wants us all to feel like we are important members of his family.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

02-04-18 -- 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Job’s life unfolds in a way he doesn’t expect. We hear him lamenting.

I have troubled nights. I am filled with restlessness. My life is drudgery. Is this all there is? What has happened to me? What have I become? Why has my life turned out this way?

At some point, Job comes to the realization that all his whining and complaining does no good. He begins to understand that the question “why” has no answer.

Once he is no longer fixated on why his life has ended up as it has, he can begin to change. He can begin to see a new future. He accepts what is and begins to move toward what can be.

We ask plenty of “why” questions in our own lives. Why did this happen to me? Why did God do this to me? Why did you do this to me? Why did I do that? Why did I let this happen? 

Sometimes we get so caught up in our self-pity that we resign ourselves to what is.

Are we supposed to just resign ourselves to our struggles? Are we supposed to just accept our disappointments? 

Are we supposed to turn a blind eye when we see injustice in our world?

Are we supposed to just give in to our grief? Are we supposed to be resigned to the chronic pain we feel? Are we supposed to just live with our brokenness?

I don’t think so. And I think wallowing in our own self-pity is not very helpful.

Like Job, we eventually come to the realization that there are no answers to our “why” questions. And that if we just resign ourselves to what is, we could possibly end up living a pretty pitiful existence.

We are called to accept what is and work toward a different future. Jesus takes us by the hand, like he took Peter’s mother-in-law. Jesus grasped her hand and healed her.

Jesus is reaching out to you and to me. Jesus wants us to take his hand so that he can lift us up and heal us.

Our lives may be unfolding in a way we didn’t expect, but with Jesus by our side, we can take comfort that he can see us through anything.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

1-28-18 -- 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

I think sometimes we get taken up with the demon in the gospel. We get caught by the glamour of evil and we forget that there is a man standing there.

That poor man is tormented by something. He is gripped by some force that has power over him. He has lost control. The evil within seems to want to drag him down a dangerous and unholy path.
The demon challenges Jesus but Jesus isn’t taken up by the demon. Jesus is concerned with the man who is possessed.
Jesus doesn’t judge. Jesus doesn’t condemn. Jesus doesn’t ignore. Jesus encounters the man. Jesus casts out the evil. Jesus heals the man. And the man’s life is forever changed.
This gives us hope, because there are things inside of us that are unholy. Grudges. Prejudices. Anger. Lust. Selfishness. Things that aren’t healthy. Things that aren’t life-giving.
We might be broken and hurting and in need of healing. We might be running from and avoiding our problems. We might be possessed by loneliness or fear or despair or depression or grief.
Jesus doesn’t judge. Jesus doesn’t condemn. Jesus doesn’t ignore. Jesus encounters me. Jesus encounters you.
And Jesus loves. Jesus has the power to cast out the evil that is within us.
Jesus wants nothing more than to reach out to you and to me and to remove whatever is sinful, to heal whatever is wounded.
The evil that controls the man has the power to lead the man down a terrible path. But Jesus has power over evil.
If we stay close to Jesus, if we stay in relationship with Jesus, then Jesus can protect us from all the evil lurking in the world. This is what we pray every time we say the “Our Father.” Deliver us from every evil.
When the man, possessed by the unclean spirit, encounters Jesus in the synagogue, he is healed.
We encounter Jesus in this Eucharist. We eat his body that was nailed to a cross for us. We drink his blood that was poured out for us.
When we encounter Jesus here in this holy place, we ask Jesus to heal us. We ask Jesus to cast out the demons within us. We ask Jesus to strengthen us. We ask Jesus to draw near to us and to love us.
Sometimes we are tantalized by the glamour of evil. But the demons only come to destroy. Jesus comes only to love, because love conquers all.