Sunday, October 27, 2013

Combat entitlement with service: 30th Sunday of Ordinary Time

            A week and a half ago we had our first meeting for the Pope Francis Commission.  Fr. Rich and I were inspired first by how many people showed up and second, by how much service our parishioners volunteer in our parish and community.  One of the main objectives of our group is to get everyone on the same page in serving.  Having been part of this parish for several years, I have known about many of these.  Our youth programs—Sunday School, Junior High and Senior High—are all dependent on volunteer teachers.  (For the first time this year our high school seniors are leading junior high small groups).  One of our parishioners retired from her job in order to volunteer daily at our school.  We have programs like the Giving Tree, CHUM dinner and are active in the pro-life scene in Duluth.
            What I didn’t know was some of the devoted individuals and the work they are doing now.  For instance, one of our parishioners volunteers most days at the Union Gospel Mission—serving lunch or dinner.  Another spends time daily at our local hospitals.  Still others bring Communion to the elderly and homebound or bring them to Mass.
            Keep your eyes and ears open as the goal of our Commission is to make service opportunities well known and easy to fulfill and help where you can.
            The last few weeks we have been hearing a lot about serving the poor.  I think this is intentional as we are nearing the end of the liturgical year—we proclaim a preferential option for the poor and such opportunities must always be on our mind.  Today the book of Sirach states, “The LORD is a God of justice, who knows no favorites…he hears the cry of the oppressed.”  We also sang from the Psalms, “The Lord hears the cry of the poor.”
            The Gospel sheds light on a similar theme—entitlement.  I almost laughed reading the Gospel—this Pharisee bragging to God about all the good he has done!  What does he think, God is in heaven stating, “Pin the blue ribbon on this Pharisee’s chest!  This is the best yet!”?  It was the tax-collector who left right with God—“O God, be merciful to me a sinner.”
            I hope no one here thinks you are entitled to God’s love or salvation.  At the spiritual level, I don’t think too many overtly sin as the Pharisee did.  Yet as American citizens many of us do think we are entitled to material things.  We almost can’t help it as living in a society is like a fish living in an aquarium that breathes in its surroundings and entitlement is all around us. 
For example—and not to pick on our young people—how often do your children complain around the house?  Last week I spoke to one of our small groups about this as they prepared to go to Confession.  As we hit the fourth commandment I asked them, “Have any of you ever bought groceries for your family?  Have you paid a mortgage?  Bought gas?  Paid for insurance?  Everything you have came from your parents and for this alone you owe them obedience and respect.”
            The same is true with God.  Everything you have—job, paycheck, house, vehicle—is a gift from God. 
            The way to avoid the entitlement plague is to give of yourself to others.  Spending time with the poor not only helps them but also helps you to recognize the gifts you have and to discern how you can give more. 
            We thank God for the abundance of blessings He has poured upon us and we ask for the grace to avoid entitlement by serving those in need. 

Divisions by Jesus: Daily Mass Homily--Thursday, October 24th, 2013 (CSS Sisters)

            I love readings like this because it gives me permission to preach fire and brimstone.  And I’ve wanted to tell all you sisters where to go for a while!  (By now I hope you recognize this is not the way I like to preach).
            But we do need to take seriously difficult passages such as our Gospel.  It is easy to preach peace, reconciliation or grace.  How much more difficult is it to ponder when Jesus says, “Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth?  No, I tell you, but rather division.  Indeed, it is Jesus speaking and we must take all of his words seriously.
            What Jesus is saying is that we will all face decisions that may cause division.  For instance, do I choose a sinful action that pleases me, or a more difficult action that pleases God?  We must divide sin from our souls because “the wages of sin is death”.
            This is a big issue among the young people I work with.  They must make choices on who their friends will be because these friends will influence them for better or worse.  Some need to be divided from sinful influences.
            We pray that we will allow God to cut the sin out of our lives and make choices today that divides us and our community from sin.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Jesus the new Adam: Daily Mass Homily--Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

            One of my favorite teachings from Blessed John Paul II is the Theology of the Body—a series of Wednesday audiences which addressed human sexuality, marriage and the truth of our human bodies.
            JPII founds his reflections on the beginning—Genesis 1-3.  In a special way he proclaims Jesus Christ as the new Adam—following the thinking of St. Paul and Fathers of the Church.
            St. Paul writes to the Romans, “Through one man sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and thus death came to all men, inasmuch as all sinned…how much more did the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one man Jesus Christ overflow by the many.”
            It is amazing to note the similarities between Adam and Jesus.  Both were in a garden—Adam in Eden and Jesus in Gethsemane.  Both turned the course of salvation history around through a tree—Adam in eating the forbidden fruit and Jesus being nailed on the cross.  Both had a woman as a helpmate—Eve shared in Adam’s disobedience while Mary’s obedient fiat to God allowed Jesus to come into the world.
            The question for us is—do we live for Adam or for God?  

Monday, October 21, 2013

Promises to Abraham fulfilled in Christ: Daily Mass Homily--Monday, October 21st, 2013

            In both St. Paul’s letter to the Romans and the Responsorial Psalm, our father in faith—Abraham—is highlighted:  Abraham did not doubt God’s promise in unbelief; rather, he was empowered by faith and gave glory to God and was fully convinced that what God had promised he was also able to do.”  This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham: to set us free from the hands of our enemies, free to worship him without fear…”
            God promised Abraham three things: land, descendants and freedom from enemies.  Each of these promises were fulfilled in the Old Testament.  But more than this, it is awesome to see God’s providence work in salvation history.  Jesus, who came 2000 years after Abraham, fulfilled the promises to Abraham at a greater level.
            To the promise of land, Jesus opened to the doors to a whole new dwelling place: heaven.  To the promise of descendants, Christ gave us the gift of spiritual birth in Baptism to everyone.  To the promise of freedom we have the chance, through his cross, to be free from sin and death.
            God is faithful and we see His providence at work in the Scriptures throughout time.  We pray today that our faith may grow like Abraham’s, and that the promises God made to Abraham may be realized in our own lives.

Response to Relativism: 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time

           I would like to read you the rest of the section from 2 Timothy that we didn’t hear in our second reading.  It is one of my favorite passages in the Bible and describes succinctly our mission as evangelists:
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching.  For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths.  As for you, always be steady, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
Does this not sound like it was written for us?  “…people will not endure sound teaching…they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings…”
            We live in a culture that embraces relativism.  This philosophy says that if something is true for me it is true.  If something is true for you it is true.  Even if they contradict, individuals determine truth.
            At one level this is okay.  For instance, Fr. Rich and I used to play tug-of-war with the remote at breakfast.  I like watching ESPN while I eat my cereal and Coke as I am able to catch the top ten plays.  It is true that I like ESPN.  Fr. Rich, as a news junkie, hates ESPN and would rather turn on the news.  It is true that he likes the news.  (We have resolved our differences by agreeing that the presider of Mass gets the remote).  Subjective, or individual truths, can admit of contradictions because they are simply personal preference or opinions.
            Yet there are other truths that do not allow for contradictions.  We call these universal or objective truths that are despite an individual’s opinion.  For example, 1 + 1 = 2.  This is true, not because we all agree it is true, but because it is.  It is true independent of whether I agree with this statement or not.  It is true regardless of what a two or three year old might think. 
            There are many objective realities in our faith.  The most basic claim is that God exists.  This statement is either true or false and does not depend on my personal belief or understanding.  Spoiler alert—God does exist.  And it’s not like He vanishes from existence if an atheist believes He doesn’t.
            There is a clear theme in our readings about the virtue of perseverance.  The first reading is a cool story of when the Israelites fought the Amalekites.  When Moses kept his arms up, the Israelites kicked butt.  When they dropped the enemy had the upper hand.  Recognizing this, his buddies Aaron and Hur prop up his arms to help Moses endure.  (By the way, how would you like to be a guy named Hur?)  St. Paul encourages Timothy to be steadfast in the faith and to endure suffering.  And in the parable of Jesus the widow wins over the unrighteous judge by her persistence.
            Our job as Catholics is to be steadfast in the truth.  We do this by learning about our faith and by diving into why we believe what we do.  We approach hot button issues by reading beyond headlines to what the Church proclaims.  In so doing, we can trust that our Church doesn’t make things up as she goes along, but simply passes on truths that already exist.
            While being steadfast in the truth involves knowledge of beliefs, moral teachings and more, we must remember that the Truth is not a list to adhere to, but a Person—Jesus Christ.  He is the “…way, the truth and the life” and if we walk with him and his Church we will be persistent in living truth in our lives.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Faith and Works: Daily Mass Homily--Thursday, October 17th, 2013

            You Church historians will know that the book of Romans, especially Romans 2, caused quite the stir in the Protestant Reformation.  Since then a continuous argument between faith and works has ensued.  Do faith or works justify a person?  St. Benedict gives us a good answer—ora et labora—prayer and work.  It isn’t faith or works—it is faith and works.
            Some of our brothers and sisters in different denominations believe faith alone saves us.  I’ve entered into long games of Bible tennis with some of these people—they’ll quote Romans: “For we consider that a person is justified by faith apart from works of the law.”  I’ll quote James: “Faith without works is dead.”  And on and on.
            I’ve been asked several times by non-Catholics, “If you were to die can you be 100% sure you’ll go to heaven?”  I always respond, “I hope so!”  So much ink has been spilled on this question which, in the end, is mostly speculative and largely irrelevant. 
Yet all Christians believe it is only through God’s grace through His son’s death and resurrection that we are saved at all.  And we say this grace works to give us faith and help us live lives according to it.
One good metaphor for how faith and works go to together is a sailboat.  Without wind, a sailboat cannot move over water.  This is like God’s grace—without it no movement can happen in our souls.  At the same time, the sails of a boat must be open to the wind in order for the wind to do its job.  Both work together.
I pray that your living out St. Benedict’s maxim—ora et labora—will be an inspiration to our community and Diocese, especially to all Christians, to live out our faith by doing good in the world.  And we’ll leave the rest up to God.

The Basics: Daily Mass Homily--Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

            I typically look at our daily Mass readings before I go to bed at night.  Last night I wondered, what on earth can I pull from these readings to relate to our school children?  Jesus kind of goes off on the scribes and Pharisees! 
            I’d like to remind us of a couple key terms in our faith that are hinted at in the readings.  First, the word Catholic means universal.  I have personally been to Mass in the USA, Venezuela, Italy, Israel and Ghana.  While the people may speak different languages, come from different cultures and have different physical attributes, the Church and the Mass is there.  Our faith is all over the world.  Second, the word Christian means a follower of Christ.  For many years Catholic and Christian meant the same thing.
            As Catholics—as Christians—our most basic call is to follow Christ.  We do this not only by going to Church and praying, but by behaving well at school, home and with our friends.  We must remember to do good and to love God and our neighbor above ourselves.
            We are blessed to go to St. John’s School in an environment to live out our faith to the full.  May we be blessed in doing this for the rest of the week.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

St. Teresa of Avila and the Interior Castle: Daily Mass Homily--Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

           St. Teresa of Avila exemplifies St. Paul’s exhortation: “Brothers and sisters: I am not ashamed of the Gospel.  It is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes…For in it is revealed the righteousness of God from faith to faith; as it is written, “The one who is righteous by faith will live.”
            Teresa wrote one of my favorite books—one of five books every Catholic should read—The Interior Castles.  She writes in a vivid yet tender way as she describes God as a friend to whom we should not walk to, but run to.  God is at the center of the seven rooms (castles, mansions) in our souls, and it is our job to draw near to Him.
            One of the great images of the book is the temptations we all face.  She describes them as lizards and reptiles that try to scare us from entering deeper into the castle.  At times they even try to coax us away from progressing.  Last night I was paging through this book and I saw a note I had written, “What are my reptiles?”  It is a good question.  When we can name what distracts us from God we can better overcome these obstacles.  What are your reptiles?
            Finally, I appreciate how St. Teresa gives a tool to track spiritual progress.  Most of us, if we were asked to describe where we are at spiritually, would respond, “Not nearly far enough.”  While this is true, we don’t often recognize the growth that has occurred in our own faith journey.  Reading through her book showed me that, while I am certainly not in the seventh room, I am through the first few.  You are all here at daily Mass.  You got up this morning and made through a cold rainy day to come to Church.  This shows that you have experienced conversion in your life and are progressing spiritually. 
            On the Memorial of Teresa of Avila we pray for the grace to advance in our spiritual lives to God, Who is our best friend.  As we do so we ask St. Teresa of Avila—pray for us.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Lord has made known His salvation...gradually: Daily Mass Homily--Monday, October 14th, 2013

            “The Lord has made known his salvation.” 
            The Scriptures show how God has made his salvation known but in a gradual way.  For example, Moses knew more of God’s salvation than Adam and Eve.  The prophets knew more of it than Moses.
            Jesus chastised the unconverted men and women of his time.  He pointed to people in the Old Testament that had conversions—the Ninevites and queen of Sheba—despite their limited knowledge of God’s salvation and emphasized to the crowds, “there is something greater than Solomon here…there is something greater than Jonah here.”
            In a sense, we can say today, “There is something greater here”.  While we don’t have Jesus walking around as a human, we are more aware of God’s salvation than even his disciples and apostles.  Jesus’ work as a man was limited to a very concrete time and place.  Through the Scriptures, sacraments and 2000 years of reflection we have the chance for the fullest understanding of God’s work in our lives.
            May our hearts be truly converted to Jesus Christ because there is something great here today.

Exitus reditus: 28th Sunday of Ordinary Time

            This morning I’m going to pull out the geek card and teach you some Latin.  Don’t worry, it’s only two words and there will not be a quiz after Mass.  This short phrase captures our Catholic understanding of the movement of grace from God to us and then our response.  Exitus reditus.  Exitus refers to the grace which exits from God and reditus to what we give back to Him.  
            Ideally we readily recognize the gifts God has given us, especially those we take for granted.  For instance, I am standing here, a gift which many don’t have.  I can walk, even run.  I can see you.  My most basic human needs—food, water and shelter—are taken care of in abundance.  These are examples of the exitus of God.  I need to thank God for these gifts in my reditus—my response.
            This can be difficult because we are inherently selfish.  You parents know this better than I.  How many of your children started saying, “Please” and “Thank you” without you telling them to?  Have you ever told your teenage daughter she doesn’t need to share her clothes so much with her sister?  We are born to say and think, “This is mine” and need to be taught to share, have good manners, and show appreciation. 
            We see this principle at work in our readings about the lepers.  Naaman the Syrian was cleansed of this disease.  This was a complete gift from God and Naaman offered a good response to this gift: “…please let me, your servant, have two mule-loads of earth, for I will no longer offer holocaust or sacrifice to any other god except to the LORD.”
            Jesus heals ten lepers in the Gospel.  This in itself was more than a cure—it was a new start for these ten.  Lepers not only had a disease, but also a curse as they had to live outside of the community and away from their family and friends.  Jesus went out to meet these men and gave them a great gift—a concrete example of the exitus of God.  Only one responded by saying “Thank you.”
            The greatest response we can offer to God is by participating in Mass.  In fact, the Greek word for Eucharist means thanksgiving.  It is in the Mass we offer to God our thanksgiving for the abundant gifts he gives us.  We present to Him our joys and our sorrows to praise His name.
            This happens in a powerful way during a simple part of the Mass—the presentation of the gifts.  When I was a kid, I thought the collection was half-time of Mass—a time to catch a quick nap or hit my brother.  Yet so much happens, or should happen, as we present to God our tithing of money, the bread and the wine.  This is our opportunity to offer to God our reditus as we present to God not only physical cash, bread and wine but our spiritual offerings of everything we have from God.  We present everything to God at the altar and he consecrates our offerings into something miraculous—Jesus’ own Body and Blood.
            We pray this morning to grow in our reditus to God.  In so doing we say “Thank you” for His exitus in all He gives us.

Our actions hurt or please God: Daily Mass Homily--Friday, October 11th, 2013 (St. John's School Mass)

        “Whoever is not with me is against me.”  In this teaching Jesus shows us that every choice we make—whether for good or bad—are done for or against him.
            Our teachers work hard to teach you how to behave well in school.  These words of Jesus should be good motivation to show love and respect to your classmates, teachers and other school staff.  When you talk back, act disrespectfully, gossip or fight, you are not only hurting someone here at school but also God.
            On the other hand, when you do something well you are not just pleasing others at school—God is pleased too.  We are beginning a school-wide campaign this fall.  Your good deeds will be rewarded with a heart, and these hearts will be displayed around the school.  These are to help you learn that good deeds (and bad) are not missed.
            In all that we do we pray that we may always be with Jesus and not against him.  May our behavior at school reflect this important reality.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Thoughts on Recent Scandals

            I write this with a heavy heart, having in mind the scandals going on in the Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis and the Diocese of Duluth.  As a young priest, I would like to some thoughts I have been having recently.
            First—this sucks.  In the last year and a half I have already gone through many difficult pastoral situations—counseling men and women at death’s door, receiving a call to visit a family whose middle-age daughter died unexpectedly, funeral for an infant, etc.  This situation has caused me the greatest pain and it is all overwhelming.
            The events in the Archdiocese, with the possibility of mishandling procedures, is especially challenging.  Fr. Peter Laird, the former Vicar General for the Archdiocese, is a role model in my life and he served as my formation director for a year and a half while I attended St. Paul Seminary.  He also taught one of my favorite courses in my academic formation.  Jennifer Haselberger, the former Chancellor for the Archdiocese who made the story public, is a woman I also respect.  In her visits to the St. Paul Seminary to teach us Canonical and procedural issues I was inspired by her desire for holiness, intelligence and straightforwardness.  While I do not know all the facts, it seems that something went amiss in the Archdiocese in the reporting of sexual misconduct and that grieves me.
            The case in Duluth with Fr. Con Kelleher is sad as well.  This is a beloved priest who spent over forty years serving our Diocese and local church well.  He is a man revered and held in high esteem by the presbyterate.  Again, I do not have all the facts, and do not know exactly what happened, when it happened, where it happened or how it happened.  But from talking to priests in our Diocese it seems Fr. Con’s “credible accusation”—if it occurred at all, is much different.  He was a man of deep prayer who guided his parishioners into spiritual depth and holiness.  He prayed the breviary.  He was in a priest support group.  The signs as I read them point not to a predator who preyed on the innocent but an alleged single act of less grave wrongdoing.
            The Diocese of Duluth has “signed on” with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ 2002 Dallas Charter and thus adopted a zero-tolerance policy towards clergy misdeeds.  One credible accusation leads to a dismissal from active ministry—no clerics, no being addressed as “Father”, no administering the Sacraments publicly.  This is an obvious step dealing with a predator of the innocent, but causes concern for many priests.  All misdeeds are treated the same—a priest who sexually harasses someone (which is obviously horrible) is treated the same as someone who repeatedly acted in the most egregious ways.
            Personally, I think the trauma of priest abuse and the way many situations were mishandled in the past has forced us to adopt such a zero-tolerance policy.  At the same time it is odd that a priest, who has given his life to be a bridge to God’s mercy and forgiveness, may not be afforded the same mercy or second chance in his job.  I am no way saying a predator should get a second chance or that a priest’s rights trump childrens’.  What I do wonder is how to best respond to a priest who may have crossed a boundary decades ago and has since lived an exemplary life in the priesthood.  Our judicial system says, “Innocent until proven guilty.”  When it comes to priests, though, it seems like the reverse is true.
            I do not have all the answers here.  Responding to allegations is a complex situation in which the wishes of the victim, rights of a priest priest, Canon Law and Dallas Charter must all be taken into account.  I do not envy our Church leaders for the decisions they have to make, especially in non-predatorial situations.
            I can say this—Bishop Paul Sirba is one of the holiest men I have ever met.  I can affirm that if mistakes have been made in the Diocese of Duluth regarding Fr. Kelleher’s case it was not due to a coverup or impure motives.  Bishop is grieved by this whole thing as well and wants to do the right thing for the glory of God.
            And I do know, that despite confusion and hurt we must pray.  We must pray for innocent victims who have been hurt by criminals.  We must pray for our Church leaders, that they may respond to allegations swiftly, prudently and transparently.  And I would personally ask for your prayers for priests.  In many ways we are sitting ducks and each of us is one false accusation away from life taking a quick turn for the worse.
            Finally, I want to thank the men and women in our law enforcement and judicial system who have worked with the Church to ensure our civil laws focus on the good of society.  If you or a loved one has ever been hurt or abused by a priest or anyone else, please have the courage to call them immediately.  Christ is our light, and it is my prayer that we bring even the darkest of human sins into this light that he may radiate his love and mercy.

Our Lady of the Rosary--Our Diocesan Patroness: Daily Mass Homily--Monday, October 7th, 2013

            It is a great day in the Diocese of Duluth as it is our Feast Day.  Our Lady of the Rosary is the patroness of our Diocese.
            I have seen first hand the power of the Rosary.  Towards the end of her life my Grandma and I had a tender spiritual relationship founded on the Rosary.  In it, I saw some small miracles in her life that convinced me of the efficacy of the Rosary.
            I am grateful of the presence of the Rosary at our own parish.  Every day after Mass a group of our faithful pray this wonderful prayer.  I am proud of these women in their devotion.  Additionally, we pray the Rosary as a parish before the 4:30 Mass at St. John’s and before the 9:00am Mass at St. Joe’s.
            It is providential that we remember our Patroness on this day after it has been made public that a priest of our Diocese has been “credibly accused” of sexual misconduct.  As a young priest this causes me to have a heavy heart.  This is a complex situation that is not fully reported on by local media and one that leaves us—and me—with feelings of anger, sadness, helplessness and confusion.
            Yet greater than any possible misdeeds by members of our Church—remember that we are all sinners and in need of God’s grace and mercy—we have Jesus.  We also have our Mother.
            Please ask our Blessed Mother for prayers, especially through the Rosary, during these difficult times in our Diocese.

Reencountering God's Word: Daily Mass Homily--Thursday, October 4th, 2013

            Today we celebrate the feast of Guardian Angels.  First, we must recall what an angel is.  It is hard to picture as an angel is a person that is pure spirit—it has no body.
            In one sense, angels are the highest on the hierarchy of God’s creation.  In its lowest form, God made elements which have no life—soil, water, air.  He made the most simple life forms—bacteria, amoeba—then plants and animals and humans.  Angels, without a body are a step above all other creation in that they are with God in heaven.
            Yet in another sense, angels long to receive what we do.  See, we humans are a sort of amphibian—we live in both the physical and spiritual worlds.  Thus we can receive Jesus’ Body and Blood in communion, something the angels cannot.
            God has appointed each of us a unique guardian angel.  With all the billions of people that have existed, think of how many angels there are!  These angels walk with us and are present to protect us.  And they’re not cute little beings with wings.  They are powerful—almost intimidating—and they fight the spiritual war for us.
            Angels are real.  Though we probably won’t ever see them with our earthly eyes, our eyes of faith help us to see them.  You are never alone.  Certainly God is always with you, and your guardian angel is too.  Be sure to ask them to pray for you today.

Guardian Angels: Daily Mass Homily--Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

           Today we celebrate the feast of Guardian Angels.  First, we must recall what an angel is.  It is hard to picture as an angel is a person that is pure spirit—it has no body.
            In one sense, angels are the highest on the hierarchy of God’s creation.  In its lowest form, God made elements which have no life—soil, water, air.  He made the most simple life forms—bacteria, amoeba—then plants and animals and humans.  Angels, without a body are a step above all other creation in that they are with God in heaven.
            Yet in another sense, angels long to receive what we do.  See, we humans are a sort of amphibian—we live in both the physical and spiritual worlds.  Thus we can receive Jesus’ Body and Blood in communion, something the angels cannot.
            God has appointed each of us a unique guardian angel.  With all the billions of people that have existed, think of how many angels there are!  These angels walk with us and are present to protect us.  And they’re not cute little beings with wings.  They are powerful—almost intimidating—and they fight the spiritual war for us.
            Angels are real.  Though we probably won’t ever see them with our earthly eyes, our eyes of faith help us to see them.  You are never alone.  Certainly God is always with you, and your guardian angel is too.  Be sure to ask them to pray for you today.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Going to Ghana!

            I am very excited for an upcoming opportunity at St. John’s.  My youth minister (Kevin Pilon) and I will be leading a group of 26 people to visit my friends in Ghana, Africa.  We will be flying out on December 27th and spending ten days helping build a rectory (that was destroyed by flooding), visiting orphanages, distributing school supplies, clothes and toys, meeting the people, visiting parishes and experiencing Ghanaian culture.
            This trip is not cheap!  Our budget is close to $60,000 and we are in the middle of many fundraising opportunities at St. John’s, St. Joseph’s (St. John’s missionary parish) and Holy Family (McGregor).  Right now we have collected close to $25,000 and are well on our way to meet our goal.
            I write this to thank any of you reading this who have contributed so generously already.  I also ask for you to offer prayers, and if possible a contribution, to make this trip possible.  Any money received will go directly to our trip in which we strive to support our brothers and sisters across the pond.
            Tax deductible checks can be made out to St. John’s parish (with a memo Ghana trip) and can be mailed to St. John’s Parish/4230 St. John’s Ave/Duluth, MN 55803.
            Thanks so much!

Jerome and the Bible: Daily Mass Homily--Monday, September 30th, 2013

            St. Jerome’s famous quote—“Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ”—remains true today.  When you think about it, the Bible is all about Jesus.  This is most clear in the New Testament, but is also true of the Old Testament.  Indeed, “The Old Testament is fulfilled in the New, and the New Testament is hidden in the Old.”  The whole Bible is about Jesus.
            Jerome had another insight into the holiness of God’s Word.  You all know the care Fr. Rich, Deacon Walt and I take in purifying the vessels after Mass.  We do this to honor Christ’s presence in the Eucharist, even in the smallest crumbs of the host.  Jerome said that we should be as careful with the words of Scripture as the crumbs of the Eucharist.  It can be easy to daydream or zone out when listening to the readings at Mass or in our personal prayer with the Bible.  We must stay focused because it is in the Bible we hear God’s Word.
            Never let a day go by where you don’t read with and pray with the Scriptures.  Through St. Jerome’s intercession, we pray that the Word of God may be planted ever more deeply in our hearts.