Saturday, September 8, 2018

9/9/18 -- 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

Ephphatha is the Greek form of the Aramaic word meaning “be opened.” In English, it is an imperative.

An imperative gives a command: sit down, stand up.
Issues an invitation: come to the party.
Expresses a wish: have a nice day.
Makes an apology: pardon me.
Or gives a general prohibition: no smoking.

In the gospel, Jesus is giving a command: be opened. In the first reading, the Prophet Isaiah is also giving a command: be strong, fear not.

If Jesus is commanding us to be opened, then we could look at examples of being closed and understand that Jesus is calling us to change those things about ourselves.

We can set examples of being closed and being open side by side to see how Jesus is commanding us to grow.

Close minded people are stubborn. They are not willing or eager to try anything new.

Open minded people embrace change. They are willing to try new things.

Close minded people are often judgmental. They focus on differences. They are obsessed with the things that divide us.

Open minded people are not judgmental. They respect people’s differences. Open minded people are willing to accept others as they are. They focus on what unites us rather than what divides us.

Close minded people lack humility. They have to be right all the time. And they don’t like being challenged.

Open minded people are willing to listen to others. They are humble and open to the possibility of being wrong. 

Open minded people see opportunities and possibilities. Open minded people are willing to listen to others. They are curious. They live in the present and don’t mind being different. Open minded people are comfortable in their own skin.

If we are strong like Isaiah commands and open like Jesus commands, then the prophecy of Isaiah comes true and the healing Jesus brings is ours.

The eyes of the blind are opened. The ears of the deaf are cleared. The lame leap like stags and the tongues of the mute sing for joy.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

9/2/18 -- 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

Our traditions are important to us. We Catholics understand this really. We have a rich treasury of religious traditions and practices.

Everybody knows Catholics do things a certain way. We worship in a particular way. We have certain readings and prayers for certain days.

We light candles. We bless crucifixes and other religious articles. We pray novenas and rosaries. We canonize saints. We use incense and holy oil.

We sometimes sing songs and say prayers in ancient languages. Priests wear different colored vestments for different celebrations. And we share a sacred meal when we gather around the Lord’s table.

These are our traditions and there is a purpose behind these holy actions. They are not ends in themselves. They are meant to lead us to holiness.

If we lose sight of this, our religious practices and traditions can become empty, They lose their meaning.

This is what has happened to the scribes and pharisees in the gospel. They are so concerned about keeping all of their religious traditions and practices, and enforcing those traditions on others that they have forgotten that the traditions are supposed to lead them to holiness.

Jesus calls them out by naming all theirs sins: theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, unruliness, arrogance.

Their traditions have become empty practices. Their hearts have become hardened. They have turned to sin.

Instead of seeing this as an opportunity to change, they retreat farther into their sinfulness. They become angry with Jesus and begin to look for a way to put him to death.

From time to time we really have to look at our lives and our religious practices to make sure they aren’t empty, to make sure they haven’t lost their meaning, to make sure that they are helping us grow in holiness.

That’s why we are having a revival this fall, to help us grow in holiness. I think these five Wednesday evenings of renewal are going to be vital to us. I really want to encourage all of you to prayerfully consider attending this special event. It will help us renew ourselves and our church community.

This is so important so that our rich Catholic heritage is not just empty religious practice. 

This is our call to holiness so that our hearts are drawn closer to the Lord. This is our call to holiness to that we are purified from the inside out. 

Our religious traditions and practices are important to us. We must ensure that they don’t become empty. We must ensure that they are leading us to holiness.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

8/26/18 -- 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

Letter to Be Read at Mass, Aug. 25 and Aug. 26 by Order of the Most Reverend J. Douglas Doshotel, Bishop Diocese of Lafayette.

What has happened in our church is beyond belief, it is beyond comprehension. It is a failure of leadership at every level. For years and years popes and cardinals and bishops and priests have used a secret system to cover up child sex abuse by priests.

But this failure of leadership is nothing new. The prophet Jeremiah in the Old Testament cries out woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my flock. 

Jesus says it would be better for you if a millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea than for you to cause one of these little ones to stumble.

The media is now using the term predator priests. And yes those who used their positions of power and authority to sexually abuse children are predators, monsters really.

And that makes me embarrassed and ashamed because every priest is not a predator. Those of us who are good priests trying to do the right thing are just as devastated and dismayed and hurt as you are. 

Why do you think I don’t wear clerics. I stopped wearing them in public when the abuse cover up broke in Boston almost 20 years ago.

But the media would have you believe it’s only priests who are predators. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Statistics show that children are 100 times more likely to be sexually abused by someone in the public school system than by a Catholic priest. 

And for decades there have been more new cases reported annually in the protestant and non-Catholic churches than in the Catholic church in the United States.

Child abuse is not a Catholic problem. Child abuse is not an American problem. Child abuse is a global anthropological problem. 

Child trafficking. Child sexual abuse. Child labor camps. Child pornography. Child slavery. The statistics are staggering. To use and abuse those who are most vulnerable and impressionable is a horrific crime. To take away a child’s innocence is a terrible sin. 

In the gospel the people don’t want to hear about Jesus giving his flesh and blood as food and drink. Many are so disturbed that they simply walk away. 

To me that sounds very much like us today. People are leaving the church in droves. So we should ask ourselves will we also leave?

To whom should be go? To the Protestants? To the Evangelicals? The risk of abuse is still there, it’s everywhere. Wherever we go, we must be vigilant. But we cannot leave Jesus. Jesus is our only answer out of this mess.
I want to assure you that abuse and cover up is not happening here. All of our staff, all of our volunteers and myself, we are all background checked. We are all trained. And we are never alone with minor children. 

When our servers come into the sacristy before Mass the door is always open and unlocked and there are many adults coming and going. When our young children come for religion classes their parents must accompany them. 

And to those who are victims of sexaul abuse, I say to you we are so sorry for what has happened to you. It is a terrible tragedy. And you didn’t deserve it, but there is hope. There is healing. There is life. There are those of us out there who can help bring about that healing. 

But you have to seek us out and you have to be willing to do the work necessary to bring about that healing. We cannot live as victims wallowing on our own self pity. We must move forward.

People may ask us, will you also leave? Lord, we are embarrassed, ashamed, horrified, disgusted. Some of the reports leave us sick to our stomachs but Lord to whom shall we go?

Lord, you are our only way out of this mess. Lord, come quickly and help us.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

8/19/18 -- 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

Recently someone said to me, “I wish I could do more for this community.” I reminded that person of what he is already doing and said that if everyone did their part the result would be amazing.

A couple approached me and said, “We’ve noticed that this isn’t getting done. We think it’s an eyesore and we want to volunteer to take care of it. Would that be okay?”


When I take inventory of our volunteers here at Saint Martin de Tours, they number around 110 to 120. These volunteers give of themselves, some in small ways and some in big ways, all on a regular basis.

That’s about 10% of our regular church going congregation. 

Then, maybe another 50 or so folks volunteer somewhere out there in the community. That’s my best guess. Which means about 15% of us are giving back.

Where does that leave the other 85%? I know that there are people in this world who take and take and take and they do not give. But I would hope that wouldn’t be 85% of us.

This does seem to be the case with the people confronting Jesus in gospel. They take and take and take but they do not give.

Jesus gives. Jesus feeds them with 5 loave and 2 fish but they want more.

So Jesus gives them his flesh and blood to eat and drink. In other words, Jesus gives his very life, his very self. All that he has, he gives.

For what? We’re told right there in the gospel. For the life of the world. For the life of the world.

Saint Augustine tells us that we become what we receive Jesus. Here at the Eucharist we receive Jesus, his flesh and blood. For the life of the world.

If we receive Jesus’ flesh and blood for the life of the world, this means we are tasked with doing something that brings life to the world. We are tasked with giving back something that gives life to the world.

We cannot simply take and take and take. We must give. We are tasked with volunteering some time or some talent to make the world a better place. 

Because we receive Jesus in here, we are supposed to be Jesus out there. 

This fall I promised some renewal. Over the next month you we be hearing about an exciting event we are hosting here over the course of five Wednesday evenings for our renewal. 

But not just a spiritual renewal, there must also be a renewal of self giving, a renewal of volunteerism. For the life of the world.

Imagine what would happen if everyone did their part to make our church or our church grounds or our cemetery or our community or our world a better place. 

If you see something around here that’s not getting done, don’t ask me when I’m going to take care of it. I’m only one person. 

It would be better if you asked me if it would be okay for you to do it.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

8/12/18 -- 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

What happened to the great prophet Elijah? When we encounter him in the first reading today, he’s worn out. He’s discouraged He’s sitting under a scrawny broom tree praying for death.

How did the great and mighty Old Testament prophet who defeated 450 pagan prophets end up like this? Well, the gods of those pagan prophets were also the gods of the evil Queen Jezebel. 

And instead of being converted to the Lord God of the Prophet Elijah, Jezebel is furious with him and sends her army after him. 

Elijah escapes into the desert wilderness. It is there that he loses heart and wants to die.

He’s done what God has asked of him and still he finds himself in this dark place. But the angel of the Lord God urges Elijah to eat. Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you.

Elijah is reminded that he is on a journey and he needs his strength. The food the Lord God gives him nourishes him. Rejuvenated by this food from heaven, Elijah continues his journey to Horeb, the mountain of God.

Our lives can be very difficult. Problems plague us. Tragedies strike us down. Violence seems to be all around us. We are no strangers to sickness and sorrow and death.

Like Elijah, we sometimes find ourselves at the end. The will to live has been completely drained out of us. It is at this very moment, this low point, that we are in most need of bread from heaven to revive us and help us on life’s journey.

I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever.

Like Elijah, we need to let Jesus be our food for the journey. Like Elijah, we need to come to this holy shrine to receive Jesus who is our bread of life.

Saint Paul in his letter to the Ephesians reminds us that Jesus loved us and handed himself over to us as an offering, as the bread of life. And we should imitate him in our lives.

Saint Paul says that we should not hold grudges, instead we should be forgiving. We should not be cheap or stingy, instead we should be generous.

We should not lose our tempers, instead we should be compassionate. We should not call each other names, instead we should be kind and understanding

We should not raise our voices in anger or frustration, instead we should be respectful. We should not be spiteful, instead we should be loving and forgiving.

In this way, we become the children of God. In this way, we put aside our grumbling. 

We come here week after week to eat this living bread come down from heaven. 

Strengthened by the food that comes from heaven, we leave this place with the courage and the strength and the grace to continue on our journey. 

Saturday, August 4, 2018

8/5/18 -- 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

In Jesus’ time, a daily wage was just enough to feed a family for a day. When Jesus teaches the people to pray, the prayer includes the petition, “give us this day our daily bread.”

But when Jesus says do not work for food that perishes, the people would have been puzzled, maybe even confused. You see, that’s all the people of that time could do. They could hope for a day’s wages that would buy enough bread for that day.

The Israelites in the first reading don’t even have that. That’s why they grumbled against Moses. In the desert, food was scarce. But at least they had their freedom. Moses had led them out of Egyptian slavery. 

But are they grateful? No. Why not? Because they are hungry. They say to Moses it would have been better to die as slaves then to die of hunger in the desert.

Does the Lord God punish them for their grumblings? No. God sends them manna (bread) from heaven. And Moses tells them, “This is the bread the Lord has given you to eat.

After Jesus feeds the five thousand with the five loaves and two fish, he goes off alone. But the crowd pursues him. 

When they find Jesus, he asks, “What are you looking for?” 
He is asking if they are looking for another free meal. He tells them, “I am the Bread of Life.”

The Israelites failed to recognize that their freedom from slavery was a gift. And the bread from heaven was a gift.

The people in the Gospel failed to recognize the gift was not the five loaves and the two fish, nor was it the miraculous feeding. The gift is Jesus.

Sometimes I think we fail to recognize the gift Jesus is for us as well. Jesus desires to fill our loneliness. Jesus desires to quench our desires. Jesus desires to sooth our hurts and to heal our wounds.

I am the Bread of Life. Believe in me, not in the five loaves and the two fish.

It is a treasure to discover that Jesus wants to satisfy our hungers. Jesus wants to feed us. Jesus wants to fill us.

Jesus says that if we come to him, we will never hunger again. Jesus says that if we believe in him, we will never thirst again.

Jesus wants to be our bread from heaven. Jesus wants to be our food for the journey, so that we never hunger and thirst again.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

7/29/18 -- 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

Notice how Jesus challenges the Apostles. Where can we buy enough food to feed all these people?

The simple answer is that they don’t know and they can’t possibly buy enough food anywhere to feed all these people. It’s just not possible. 

But, it’s a test to see how generous the Apostles will be. Do they have the same love and care and concern for the people as Jesus does? 

I want to suggest to you that we often take the same approach in our lives. The river’s too deep. The mountain’s too high. The valley’s too low. The world has gone to hell in a handbasket. 

Awe, the Presbytere is too far gone. It was neglected for too long. What do you want me to do? I’m just one person. 

So the Apostles don’t even try. How fatalistic. They just make excuses. Well, there’s a boy here with five loaves and two fish. What good is that? We can’t do anything with five loaves and two fish. 

And they’re right. It’s just five loaves and two fish. What can I do with five loaves and two fish? Not much.

Well, the miracle in today’s gospel takes place because of the little boy’s selfless act. Just look at what Jesus does with five loaves and two fish. Jesus takes what the little boy gives and is able to feed everyone because of that small offering. It’s miraculous. 

Jesus can take what little we have to offer and work miracles. Jesus can take what little we have to offer and make it enough.

We’re really good at saying, I don’t have much to offer. We’re also really good at selling ourselves short. What good is what I have to offer?

Jesus takes what is offered and give thanks. Jesus never complains that it’s too little or too late little because for Jesus it’s always enough. And from that little bit, a great multitude of people were cared for.

Imagine what would happen if we all brought Jesus our five loaves and our two fish.

Imagine if we all brought Jesus the little gifts and talents we have to offer. It would be enough. It could even be miraculous. So much in fact, that there would always be some left over.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

7/22/18 -- 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings

How is it that we become lost, like sheep without a shepherd? I think it starts with this simple reality. We don’t want to be shepherded today, do we? 

We don’t want to be told what to do. Come here and do this. Go there and do that. Our response usually goes something like this: “Who do you think you are? You can’t tell me what to do.”

Those who are not shepherded can easily become lost and scattered.

We tend to be proud and confident. We think we don’t need a shepherd. But then, we make a mess of our lives and we wonder what happened. We get lost. 

But the reality is we wanted to do what we wanted to do. But then when things go badly we don’t want to take responsibility. We want to find someone else to blame. And sometimes we even blame God for the mess we made.

Jesus as shepherd emphasises God’s kindness to us. Even in the midst of the messes we make in our lives, and especially when we get lost, it is a grace to allow ourselves to be found. 
It is a grace to recognize that we need to be shepherded. It is a grace to realize that we need Jesus.

The Lord is my shepherd. Jesus wants to be our shepherd. Jesus wants us to be shepherded. Jesus wants to care for us as a shepherd cares for the sheep.

In the Gospel, Jesus is touched by the needs of the crowd. 
Pay attention to what he does. He teaches them. He heals them. And then he feeds them. Now, we will have to wait till next weekend to hear about the miraculous feeding.

First, Jesus teaches. Jesus desires to teach us. Of all the saints, not one of them ever thought they knew enough about Jesus. They were always looking for more. 

We should always desire to learn more about Jesus. We should always seek out opportunities to learn more about our faith. Discovering who Jesus is, is a lifelong project we should each undertake. 

Next, Jesus heals. Jesus lays hands on the sick and heals them. Some of us need healing in our souls. Some of us need healing in our bodies. Some of us need healing in our hearts.

Jesus desires to heal us. We need to beg Jesus to lay his hands on us and heal us.
Maybe we need to go to confession to heal our souls. Maybe we need the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick to heal our bodies. Maybe we need to forgive someone to heal our hearts.

And finally, Jesus feeds the crowd. Jesus feeds us here at our Sunday Mass. Sunday Mass is so important in our lives because it is our weekly opportunity to give thanks to Jesus for the ultimate sacrifice he made for us. 

Sunday Mass is our weekly opportunity to remind ourselves that we need to be shepherded by Jesus, who is the Good Shepherd. 

Sunday Mass is our weekly opportunity to be fed at the Lord’s table, where Jesus gives us his very body and blood as food for our journey.

It is a difficult journey, and we can easily lose our way. We are blessed to have such a Good Shepherd who seeks us out when we are lost, who heals our wounds and soothes our hurts, who teaches us the right way to go and provides food for the journey.

The Lord is my shepherd. The Lord teaches me. The Lord heals me. The Lord feeds me. There is nothing I shall want.

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.